Smartsheet – How to Use Cell Linking to Create a Master Gantt Chart

Gantt charts are an awesome resource for managing projects as they provide a visual timeline of the progress of each task. But are you checking multiple project sheets and drilling down to all of the details every day?  Nobody’s got time for that! Cell linking to the rescue! Let us show you how to make a “Master” Gantt chart – perfect for rolling together calendars or project schedules.

One group that has become the master of Masters is the marketing team at Behr.  Lisa Kudukis, director of professional products and services, uses a Master Dashboard in Smartsheet to keep a handle on her team’s widespread projects. Kudukis left Excel spreadsheets in the dust and is able to keep her team all on the same page, with a holistic project view.

“It’s been a tremendous help for me when I’m reporting to the executive team.  I can easily show the task lists that demonstrate my team has thought through every detail for each event,” said Kudukis when she explained her Master Dashboard.

With cell linking, cells from individual sheets with critical data (like status information) are linked to the Behr’s Master Dashboard, and automatically updated whenever a team member makes changes.  The Behr team is saving time, money, and stress with this simplified system.  <read the full case study>

Here are some steps to create your own Master Dashboard:

  • Create a new project sheet.  This will be your “Master” sheet.  One of the easiest ways to do this is to click the “Plus” tab at the top of your account and create a new project sheet.  This sheet comes pre-loaded with dependency columns and a Gantt chart ready to be filled in.
  • Double-check the order of the columns in your project sheets.  Project sheets have certain columns that communicate with their subsequent Gantt charts.  Make sure that all of the columns are in the same order in the project sheets you are planning to link to your Master Dashboard.

One thing to note about Predecessor columns: Predecessors indicate task-specified dependencies, so cell linking is not allowed in this column.

  • Start linking cells.  Pretty simple – click on the first cell in your new sheet, and then click the Cell Linking icon in the left toolbar. 

A screen will pop up and display all of your other project sheets.  Select one sheet from the left panel to display its content on-screen in the right panel.  Just click and drag your mouse around the cells you want to display in your Master Dashboard.  Then click Create Link at the bottom of the form.  The cells you select to link from the pop-up screen will appear in the same order in your Master Dashboard.

cel link graph sml

Rockstar Tip: Simplify cell linking to your Master Dashboard by taking advantage of parent rows from your project sheets (learn more about parent roll-up functionality).

In this example, I’m only linking to a single row from my project sheet, because it is a top-level parent row, meaning it gives an overall indication of the entire project’s progress.  It’s the only row I’m really interested in seeing from each of my project sheets.

cell link 22

  • Keeping linking!  Now that you’ve linked your first project sheet to your Master Dashboard, move on to the next one.  Click on the next empty cell – which in this example is Row 2 – and then click the Cell Linking icon again to pull in data from the next project sheet.  Keep going until you have all of the data from your project sheets reflected in one easy-to-access location.

Information from the rows you’ve linked will be displayed in the Gantt chart, and you can open the Calendar view to see task plotted out in the calendar as well.

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