Instagantt is my new favourite project planning tool

Instagantt is my new favourite project planning tool

For simple projects, I can manage with just a task list or a kanban board. But for complex things, like the digital project I’m currently managing, I want to see how tasks relate to each other and to the project schedule.

I use Asana for most projects, and that has a calendar view. So does Trello, my other go-to planner. But those calendar views only cover the next month. How do you see the bigger picture?

For the bigger picture, Gantt charts are super awesome

Gantt charts are those bars and diamonds plans, that show your tasks visually by week, month or year. If you need to hit a delivery date, they’re a fantastic addition to your project planning toolkit.

With a timeline view, it's easy to scan down a week and see what’s supposed to be happening. As a project manager, that’s all the prompting I need to recall what’s on track, what’s late, and who I need to chase.

Integrated project planning tools are even better. They update the Gantt chart from the task list. As people complete work, you can see what’s been done. The tool often highlights things that are running behind too.

I like to draw my project plans. Not calculate them.

The problem with these integrated project planning tools is they take so much effort to set up. You can’t draw a timeline with tools like Microsoft Project. You have to calculate it, by entering tasks, durations, and dependencies. Until you’ve entered all the data, the picture doesn't tell you much.

Entering all that data takes a long time. And at the start of the project, it's not even accurate data. Most of your durations and dependencies are more like wild guesses than realistic estimates. It brings a false feeling of accuracy to your planning, which feels particularly odd on agile projects. So I usually end up drawing a timeline in something like PowerPoint.

There ought to be a better way.

Once in a while, I search for ‘gantt chart tools’ and ‘timeline tools’ to see if anything new is on the market. That’s how I found Wrike, which can draw a Gantt chart on the paid plans. I got quite excited and took Wrike for a spin.

My hopes were dashed. You’re still stuck with entering dependencies to get the picture to come out right. Back to PowerPoint.

And then, this spring, I tried again. And this time I found Instagantt.

Asana refuseniks can look away now

If you don’t use Asana, and you would never ever consider using it, you can stop reading. Instagantt builds on top of Asana, and you even sign in with your Asana account. As Asana has a generous free plan, I don’t see this as a dealbreaker. But I can imagine not everyone loves Asana as much as I do.

Once you’ve logged in, you connect the projects you want to view in Instagantt. It then takes your Asana tasks and turns them into an interactive Gantt chart.

An example of Instagantt in action. Image loaded from the Instagantt website

Instagantt turns Asana into a full-on project planning tool

If you’ve given you tasks due dates in Asana, Instagantt will use them to draw a timeline. I tend to work it the other way. I use the click-and-draw feature in Instagantt to mark when tasks should happen. Those new due dates sync back to Asana. You can add dependencies too if you like although they only show in Instagantt.

Just like a real Gantt chart, tasks change colour when they’re completed or late. You can override the colours if you want. There’s plenty of control over the information you see and how detailed your timeline is.

You’ll also notice that Asana sections translate to rollup tasks in the Gantt chart. Subtasks are supported too, and you can mark tasks as milestones. This only applies in Instagantt, to display milestones as diamonds.

Who’s doing what? Instagantt has you covered.

Resources (as in, who’s doing the work) also sync to and from Asana. Instagantt uses that info in a workload view, so you can see who’s overloaded.

At the moment, you can only add resources who are sharing the Asana project. Not all my clients are on Asana, so that’s a limitation for me. But Daniel, the developer of Instagantt, tells me this will be fixed at some point. Then I will be able to add all the clients I want, without needing to make them use Asana.

Clients don’t need to use Instagantt either. You can share snapshots of your plan with a read-only link.

So what’s the cost of all this loveliness?

Instagantt is free for up to three projects. For a single user it’s only $7/month for unlimited projects and project groups. If you use Asana, you can take Instagantt for a test drive here.

What's your favourite project planning tool? If you read my blog often, you'll know I love trying new things!

I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned.

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