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What is a Pert Chart and How Make One? [Examples & Templates]

Written by: Danesh Ramuthi

Nov 21, 2023

Pert Chart

PERT charts are a cornerstone in project management, offering an invaluable tool for project managers to chart the course of complex projects with precision. These visual tools lay out all the project tasks and their respective task dependencies, clarifying the project’s critical path and ensuring that every phase of the project is executed with efficiency.

The beauty of PERT charts lies in their ability to manage task progress and identify project tasks that are critical to the project’s timeline, making them an indispensable asset from the planning stage to the project’s completion.

For project managers ready to harness the benefits of this proven methodology, creating a PERT chart is made intuitive with tools like Venngage Diagram Maker and their suite of PERT Diagram Templates. 

These resources empower users to create PERT charts that not only connect project tasks in a clear diagram but also offer insights into the project scope, timeline estimates and critical path activity.


 Click to jump ahead:

What is a PERT Chart?

A PERT chart or also known as PERT diagram, is a project management tool that delineates all the project tasks necessary to complete a project. 

This visual tool is integral for project managers to identify task dependencies and sequence events that determine the project’s critical path.

It differs from a Gantt chart, which is more of a bar chart that shows the project’s timeline and task progress in a linear fashion.

Colorful Editable Blank PERT Chart Diagram

What does PERT mean in project management?

In project management, PERT refers to the Program Evaluation Review Technique, a method used to analyze and represent the tasks involved in completing a project. It plays a crucial role in project planning by allowing managers to identify project tasks and their dependencies, thus determining the critical path—the sequence of dependent tasks that determine the minimum project duration.

PERT charts are particularly useful in complex projects where task dependencies are less obvious and the project scope is difficult to estimate.

Project managers use PERT charts to manage complex projects by highlighting scheduling constraints and optimizing the planning stage to predict realistic project duration and end date. The ability to create PERT charts that clearly show the critical path, project milestones and task lines allows for a comprehensive overview of all the project tasks and the project lifecycle.

The use of PERT charts in project management ensures a comprehensive evaluation and review of the project’s progress, making them a preferred choice for managing complex projects and highlighting the critical path activity effectively.

History of PERT models

The PERT model was conceived in 1957 for the U.S. Navy’s Polaris nuclear submarine project, designed to simplify planning and scheduling of large, complex projects​. It was initially named Program Evaluation Research Task and became public in 1958. 

By 1959, it was renamed and described in detail by Willard Fazar of the U.S. Navy​​. PERT, alongside the Critical Path Method (CPM), emerged in the mid-1950s and has since been applied widely in civil engineering, construction and various large-scale developmental projects​. 

PERT chart examples

PERT charts are versatile visual tools used in project management to map out and coordinate all tasks within a project. 

They are particularly beneficial for identifying the project’s critical path, thus enabling project managers to effectively forecast project timelines and manage resources. 

Here are four PERT chart examples, each serving a specific purpose and showcasing different styles and levels of complexity.

Simple project PERT chart diagram

For those new to project management or handling straightforward projects, a simple PERT chart diagram serves as an excellent starting point. It outlines the project’s timeline and tasks in a clear, uncluttered format, making it easy to follow and understand. 

Neutral Simple Project PERT Chart Diagram

Its uncluttered format is easy to follow, making it an excellent display of a project manager’s organizational skills.

The simplicity does not sacrifice professionalism but rather enhances it by presenting a concise overview of the project’s structure.

Dark Simple Editable PERT Chart Diagram Example

Minimalist project PERT chart diagram

A Minimalist PERT chart diagram strips away any unnecessary elements to focus solely on the project’s essentials. 

Blue Minimalist Project Chart Diagram

This style of PERT chart is an effective communication tool, offering a clean and straightforward visual representation of a project’s achievements and progress. 

The minimalist design avoids overwhelming the viewer with too much detail, which can be particularly useful when presenting to stakeholders or team members who need to understand the project’s status at a glance without getting entangled in the minutiae.

Blue and Green Minimalist Project PERT Chart Diagram

PERT network IT diagram

The PERT network IT diagram is tailored for project managers handling IT projects who require meticulous oversight of all project tasks and their interdependencies. The diagram is not just a planning tool; it’s a roadmap that outlines the entire network of IT tasks, from system upgrades to software deployment, in a visually compelling gradient design. 

By using this diagram, IT professionals can pinpoint potential bottlenecks, allocate resources effectively and set realistic timelines for project milestones. It encourages a proactive approach to project management, where potential issues can be identified and addressed before they impact the project. 

Gradient PERT Network IT Diagram

This diagram serves as a canvas for IT project managers, allowing them to visualize and design their network with a clear understanding of how each task interlinks within the broader project scope.

Company PERT chart diagram

The Company PERT Chart Diagram is the strategic ally for businesses intent on converting complex projects into straightforward, actionable plans. 

This chart serves as a vital communication bridge, encapsulating the entire project from initiation to completion and providing a snapshot of all the tasks that need to be accomplished. 

Teal PERT Chart Diagram Example

It’s especially useful for visualizing the critical path of a project, ensuring that project managers and their teams are focused on the activities that directly affect the project’s end date. 

Company PERT charts serve as compelling instruments for project managers, allowing them to effectively showcase the structured organization and anticipated progress of their projects to stakeholders.

Dark Bold Online Company PERT Chart Diagram

By laying out a clear framework of tasks, dependencies and timelines, it allows for a shared understanding among all project participants, which is crucial for achieving project objectives. 

How does the PERT chart work?

A PERT chart works as a visual project management tool that breaks down the individual tasks of a project. It consists of nodes, often depicted as numbered boxes or circles, each representing a specific event or milestone within the project’s lifecycle. These nodes are the critical junctures where tasks either start or finish.

Directional arrows connect these nodes, symbolizing the tasks or activities that must be undertaken. The arrows denote the flow and sequence in which tasks need to be completed, moving from one milestone to the next. This layout helps to illustrate the dependencies that exist between tasks, which is crucial for understanding the order of operations within the project.

By laying out the tasks and their dependencies, a PERT chart provides a comprehensive overview of the entire project timeline. It identifies which tasks are critical, meaning their timely completion is essential for the project to proceed on schedule. 

With this visual representation, project managers are equipped to craft a project plan that effectively sequences tasks, allocates resources where they are most needed and identifies the minimum amount of time required to complete the project.

What is the use of PERT charts?

PERT charts are a fundamental tool in project management, offering several uses that enhance the planning and execution of projects:

  1. Clarifying project scope: They help in breaking down the project into individual tasks, providing a clear understanding of all the work that needs to be done.
  2. Identifying task dependencies: PERT charts are instrumental in mapping out the sequence of tasks, highlighting which tasks depend on the completion of others.
  3. Determining project timeline: By establishing the critical path, PERT charts enable project managers to set realistic timelines and prioritize tasks accordingly.
  4. Allocating resources wisely: They assist in identifying which tasks are critical, which helps in the efficient allocation and management of resources.
  5. Mitigating risks: PERT charts enable early identification of potential bottlenecks, allowing for proactive risk management and contingency planning.
  6. Facilitating communication: These charts serve as a visual aid that can help team members and stakeholders understand the project’s progress and complexities.
  7. Tracking progress: They allow for ongoing tracking of the project’s progress against the planned timeline, making it easier to adapt and reallocate resources as needed.
  8. Optimizing processes: PERT charts offer a way to analyze the project workflow to find and exploit opportunities to streamline tasks and reduce project duration.

Related: 40+ Charts & Graphs Examples To Unlock Insights

How to make a PERT chart?

Creating a PERT chart serves as a strategic exercise in project management, particularly beneficial when handling complex projects with numerous interdependent tasks. 

The process involves a series of steps that allow project managers to foresee potential scheduling constraints and effectively guide a project from start to finish.

Step 1: Identify all project tasks and milestones

The process begins with project managers listing every activity needed to complete the project, including significant milestones. Establishing the full scope of the project ensures that no critical task is overlooked, laying the groundwork for the PERT chart and setting the stage for detailed scheduling and planning.

Step 2: Determine task dependencies and sequence

Once all tasks are on the table, the next move is to map out the order of operations. Pinpointing task dependencies is critical to defining the project flow, involving the linkage of project tasks and noting parallel activities, thus delineating a sequence to guide the project’s trajectory.

Step 3: Estimate the expected time for each task

Project managers must calculate optimistic, pessimistic and most likely times for each task to establish project duration estimates. These time frames are essential for crafting a viable project timeline and are integral in managing the progress of tasks, allowing for a flexible schedule capable of adapting to unexpected changes.

Step 4: Draw the chart

With the sequence and duration estimates in hand, the next step is to create the network diagram. This schematic connects project tasks with arrows that define the workflow, with nodes representing milestones, providing a visual plan for the project’s unfolding.

Step 5: Identify the project’s critical path

Analyzing the network diagram allows for pinpointing the critical path, the chain of dependent tasks that determines the earliest possible completion date. This path shines a light on the tasks that demand immediate focus and resources, as any delay here will directly affect the project’s finish line.

Step 6: Update the PERT chart as the project unfolds

As the project moves forward, continual revisions to the PERT chart are necessary to mirror the actual progress of tasks. Keeping the chart current is crucial for maintaining project momentum and steering decisions regarding resource distribution and timeline modifications.

For those aiming to create detailed and professional PERT charts, Venngage provides an assortment of customizable templates and a diagram maker. No matter the project’s stage, Venngage can assist in visualizing and managing project tasks with precision and clarity.

PERT chart vs. Gantt chart

In project management, both PERT and Gantt charts are vital visual tools that serve distinct purposes and offer unique benefits. Understanding the key differences between them is crucial for project managers to choose the right tool for managing project tasks and timelines.

PERT chart:

  • Nature: A PERT chart is a network diagram that represents tasks and task dependencies.
  • Focus: It emphasizes the identification of the critical path in a project, which is essential for complex projects with many interdependent tasks.
  • Utility: Project managers use PERT charts to identify project tasks and their dependencies, making it easier to manage task progress and project duration, especially during the planning stage.
  • Project scope: PERT charts are better suited for projects where the time required to complete project tasks is uncertain, as they provide expected time estimates for optimistic, pessimistic and most likely completion times.
  • Detail: It provides a high-level overview of the project’s tasks, focusing more on the sequence and relationship between tasks rather than the timeline.
  • Complexity: Ideal for complex projects where task dependencies are not linear and require careful program evaluation and review.

Gantt chart:

  • Nature: A Gantt chart is a bar chart that represents the project schedule.
  • Focus: It highlights when tasks begin and end, as well as their duration but does not necessarily show task dependencies.
  • Utility: Gantt charts are used by project managers to schedule tasks, track task progress and manage project timelines, providing a clear visual representation of the project’s progress.
  • Project scope: Gantt charts tend to be more effective for projects with a clear sequence of tasks and a fixed timeline, making it easier to see scheduling constraints at a glance.
  • Detail: It provides detailed information about the start and end dates of tasks, including overlapping tasks and how individual tasks relate to the overall project timeline.
  • Complexity: Best for projects where the emphasis is on task duration and scheduling rather than on complex task dependencies.

PERT charts are often employed during the early stages of project planning, where the scope and task dependencies are being identified, while Gantt charts are more commonly used for the ongoing management of the project’s timeline and to communicate the project’s progress to stakeholders.

Project managers might use a PERT chart template during the initial phase and then create a Gantt chart for ongoing task management.

Professional Work Production PERT Chart Diagram

Wrapping up

PERT chart is an invaluable project management tool that assists in the organization and visualization of a project’s tasks, dependencies, and critical path, offering a strategic edge in complex project planning. 

With examples ranging from simple diagrams to intricate IT networks and company-wide project visualizations, PERT charts demonstrate their adaptability and utility in clarifying project complexities. 

As project management evolves, the PERT chart remains a staple tool, distinct yet complementary to Gantt charts, each serving specific needs within the project lifecycle. 

For professionals eager to craft their own PERT charts, Venngage Diagram Maker, a robust platform with plenty of PERT diagram templates to streamline the creation process, whether for identifying critical paths or contrasting with Gantt charts to manage project timelines effectively.