Blog Archive

  • Why Manufacturers are Switching to the Cloud (12/7/2017) by Angus Stocking

    The title of this article, ‘Why Manufacturers are Switching to the Cloud’, can be unpacked into two questions:

    1) Are manufacturers switching to the cloud?

    2) And if so… why?

    The answer to the first question is clearly, absolutely, and definitely yes—the 2017 State of Manufacturing Technology, an annual report, says that, “90% of respondents are using cloud-based productivity applications, double the number in 2016.” In fact, manufacturers are moving to the cloud so quickly that some are referring to the change as the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

    Now a Fourth Industrial Revolution is building on the Third, the digital revolution that has been occurring since the middle of the last century. It is characterized by a fusion of technologies that is blurring the lines between the physical, digital, and biological spheres… When compared with previous industrial revolutions, the Fourth is evolving at an exponential rather than a linear pace.

    But this very rapidity of adoption points to something a bit unusual about cloud use by manufacturers; in this arena, manufacturing (like AEC) has lagged behind other sectors, and is now playing ‘catch up’.

    Until recently, the industry has struggled to adopt cloud computing technologies outside of the relative simple Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) platforms that are available, because the cost of “moving to the cloud” has often been regarded as too high, or because of perceived security threats. (Scale or fail: Manufacturing companies must leverage cloud and interconnection, Data Centre News, Nov. 9, 2017)

    Of course, the reluctance of manufacturers to move to the cloud is not due to a general suspicion of technology—of all sectors, manufacturing has made the most efficiency gains in recent decades by adopting digital technology. Rather, cloud-based services specifically are perceived as a challenge, for a variety of reasons that fall under two main headings.


    As mentioned above, “perceived security threats” of the cloud are a major reason for lagging adoption by manufacturers. A report by Jon Peddie Research (CAD in the Cloud) provides interesting insight on this issue.

    “This should not come as a surprise,” says Jon Peddie Analyst Kathleen Maher in an article on the report. “CAD customers are very protective of their data, and they are security conscious, but most of all, they are not a monolithic group.” She adds, “We also think that the past few years, which have been punctuated every few months with major security breaches, have confirmed many people’s misgivings about the security of cloud-based applications.”

    Still, this perception is being overcome. Maher says:

    “The study also found that workers in manufacturing fields were more likely to be adding CiC (CAD in Cloud) capabilities to their workflow than those in AEC. We have some thoughts about why this might be. The manufacturing industry is more advanced in its CAD use, having moved to extensive data management (including PLM) for more than a decade before the AEC industry, and PLM almost necessarily requires centralized data access, for which the cloud is ideal.” (emphasis added)

    And in connection with the security breaches discussed above, Maher says, “We won’t go into the arguments that say cloud-based workflows might be safer than traditional methods, other than to point out that most of the breaches have not happened in applications using cloud resources such as SaaS or servers-as-a-service, but rather in companies relying on traditional—and often out-of-date—systems.” (emphasis added)

    In other words, concerns about cloud security are fading as manufacturers begin to leverage their already extensive knowledge of digital data management, and as services specifically designed for the cloud—as opposed to ad hoc extensions of existing solutions—begin to emerge.


    Manufacturers also worry that productivity will take a hit if some—not all—processes move to the cloud. Maher says, “We’re not particularly surprised that so many respondents were not interested in CiC. The cloud has yet to prove itself as a hospitable environment for design. At this point, it is more useful for collaboration, design validation, and document management than design itself, and the report bears this out.” (emphasis added)

    Much of this productivity hit comes down to latency (or lag), that is, the tendency of Internet speeds and bandwidth to drop unpredictably and slow down cloud-based applications. Latency remains a challenge for CAD work and, by extension, CAM, SCADA, and other traditional ‘shop floor’ processes.

    But it’s not necessarily a problem for other manufacturing processes. “A certain amount of latency can be tolerated and maybe not even noticed in data management,” says Maher.

    “People send off data for processing and their machine is freed up for other work.” Plus, cloud-based solutions for project management, EPM, PLM, and other data management/processing tasks can take advantage of connectivity, realtime updating, automated monitoring, and all the other major selling points of the cloud.

    [Further Reading: How Cloud-Based PM Software Saves Time and Money]

    It’s not really accurate to say that manufacturers have been slow to adopt cloud-based solutions. Rather, their move to the cloud has been nuanced, recognizing that cloud-based applications are not (yet) appropriate in some areas, like design, and that more secure solutions were being developed for processes like project management.

    Many manufacturers are finding ways to make use of mature cloud capabilities now by using a hybrid approach. “While businesses of all types make a steady march to the cloud, manufacturers are pursuing a hybrid strategy, opting to retain some foundational plant-floor systems on premise while earmarking analytics and production applications for migration to the new environment.” (Manufacturers’ Slow, but Steady Migration to the Cloud, Automation World, May 10, 2017) (emphasis added)

    Part two of this series will address why manufacturers are moving to the cloud. But for manufacturers wondering just how to begin taking advantage of cloud computing’s many strengths, this hybrid approach offers an obvious way forward; continue, for now, with existing on-premise solutions for design and traditional shop floor processes, while aggressively adopting cloud-based solutions for ‘data forward’ processes like project management.

    Why Manufacturers are Switching to the Cloud was last modified: December 4th, 2017 by Angus Stocking
  • The 10 Most Read LiquidPlanner Blog Posts of 2017 (12/5/2017) by Sam Sauer

    With 2018 just around the corner, it’s easy to get caught up in the frenzy of resolutions and new year planning.

    But, before we say goodbye 2017, we’d like to take a moment to look back at our most popular blogs from the past year.

    1. 5 Ways AI and Automation Will Change Project Management

    Automation, big data, and the Internet of Things were hot topics in 2017. In our most popular post, Andy Crowe looks at how emerging technologies will impact project management, now and in the future, and how project managers should prepare for these changes.

    2. Need to Know Stats from the 2017 State of Project Management in Manufacturing Report

    To better understand how manufacturers practice project management, we surveyed more than 100 executives, engineers, and project managers, resulting in the 2017 State of Project Management in Manufacturing report. This post highlights the most interesting findings from the report.

    3. Engineers, This is Why You Need Project Management Skills

    Fifteen years into his career as a civil engineer, Christian Knutson began studying for the Project Management Professional (PMP) course. In this post, he talks about how his newfound PM skillset has benefited him and why engineers need to seek out project management education and development.

    4. Boost Your Productivity with Kanban Boards

    Have your standups been turning into sit-downs lately? You may want to try Kanban boards, says PM expert Andy Makar. He walks through the Kanban philosophy, the benefits of using Kanban boards in daily stand-ups, and how to visualize your tasks using LiquidPlanner’s Card View.

    5. How to Run an Effective Meeting: Lessons from Pixar, Apple, and Amazon

    Ed Catmull, president of Pixar Animation Studios and Walt Disney, invites candor and controversy to his meetings. Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos invites only the most essential people. Check out this post to borrow meeting strategies from some of the most successful companies in the U.S.

    6. How to Get Buy-In for a New Project Management Tool From Your Executive Team

    Have you found a new project management tool, but first you need to sell the idea to your executive team? Kevin Crump walks you through how to do just that.

    [Further Reading: How to Build a Business Case for a New PM Tool]

    7. 6 Top Project Management Books for Engineers and Manufacturers

    If you’re an engineer looking to grow your project management skillset, this post is for you. We perused review sites, blogs, and forums to find engineers’ most recommended books about project management.

    8. Good Questions to Ask in a Project Management Job Interview

    Interviews are two-way streets. While they’re trying to figure out if you can do the job, you also need to ask the right questions to ensure you want the job. PM expert Elizabeth Harrin shares her favorite questions to ask and what to watch out for during an interview.

    9. 43 Resources for New and Experienced Project Managers

    This is an exhaustive list of our favorite podcasts, books, blogs, websites, courses, and MOOCs about everything project management. Whether you’re an experienced PM or just beginning, you’re going to find something interesting and valuable on this list.

    10. 6 Simple Ways Project Managers Can Improve Their Writing Skills Today

    You may not have the word “writer” in your job title, but I’m willing to wager that you spend at least an hour or two every day writing. Read this post to learn six easy ways to improve your writing game.

    Thanks for reading!

    Thanks for being a loyal LiquidPlanner blog reader! As we prepare for another year of blogging, we’d love to hear what you’d like to see covered in 2018. Leave us a comment or shoot us a note if you have an idea. We’d love to hear it!

    Happy New Year from all of us at LiquidPlanner!

    The 10 Most Read LiquidPlanner Blog Posts of 2017 was last modified: November 10th, 2017 by Sam Sauer
  • Recruiters Reveal Their Favorite Project Manager Interview Questions (11/30/2017) by Sam Sauer

    You’ve memorized answers to the “Tell me about a time when…” questions. You’ve practiced your STAR stories. And if anyone asks about your spirit animal, you’ll be ready for that too.

    And so have the other candidates. If you want to stand out from the competition, you need to prepare for the curveballs and the PM-specific questions.

    We asked recruiters, hiring managers, and talent acquisition specialists for their go-to project manager interview questions. Take note of what they’re asking and what they’re looking for in a response, and you’ll be ready to ace your next interview.

    What do you do when you realize a project is off deadline?

    “This question will be 90 percent of my evaluation. I want candidates to walk me through, in detail, the steps they take to alert the stakeholder and make a plan to get the project back on track. Hitting deadlines is the most important issue in my industry. In fact, it’s the first, second, third, fourth, and fifth most important thing.”

    Cody Swann, CEO of Gunner Technology

    The project team is clearly not working well together. What are three different ways to address this?

    “Every project is full of the unexpected. A critical skill for project managers is the ability to solve problems flexibly and with agility. Thus, asking project managers to present multiple solutions to a challenge is a great interview question!”

    Eve MacKnight, Lead Consultant at

    Tell me something you have never told anyone else.

    “When recruiting for project managers, I’m looking for sound communication skills. Asking this fun question and hearing the candidate’s response allows me to recognize what the person in front of me is actually like.

    If the interviewee comes up with an interesting answer, I know they are creative and can communicate well. Their response obviously shouldn’t be negative, but needs to be something honest and interesting enough to remember.

    It also allows me to see if the candidate is a quick thinker, which is another important skill required from a project manager. As this is not a particularly common question a candidate would expect to be asked, it’s fascinating to see what they come up with.”

    Steve Pritchard, HR Consultant for Cuuver

    What do you do when you are overwhelmed by all the moving parts in any given project?

    “I love this question because it allows the candidate to show if they are aware when they are overwhelmed. You can learn if the candidate gravitates toward being tight (follow the blueprint, no matter what) or loose (wait too long to address their own confusion). Lastly, it shows whether the person knows how to ask for help, whether that’s for coaching or resources.”

    Joyce Wilson-Sanford, Executive Coach and Author

    Who would you put on your personal Mount Rushmore?

    “It always gets a laugh and creates a comfortable mood in the room. It’s also enlightening to hear who they choose and why they value them enough to have their heads immortalized on a mountain.”

    How many stacked pennies would it take to equal the height of the Empire State Building?

    “The candidates that use critical thinking as opposed to dismissing the question as silly are the ones you want to keep around. I once had a candidate jump up to the whiteboard and mathematically find his way to an answer that was within 100 feet. Needless to say, he was the type of person that we wanted on our team.”

    Sean Killian, People Operations Lead at Enola Labs Software

    What’s the most critical or difficult issue you’ve had to deal with while managing a project?  How did you solve it?

    I ask this question all the time because it allows me to understand what kind of problems the candidate feels are critical. What is difficult for one person might be all in a day’s work for another. It also demonstrates their thought process, creativity, and sense of urgency.”

    Karla Pooley, Head of Talent Acquisition, Blue Spurs

    If the rest of the members of our PMO were in a bus accident tomorrow, what would you do? How would you handle it?

    “I think this gives us insight into two key areas. First, the candidate’s ability to think on their feet. Very few candidates expect a question like this, especially junior candidates. Second, it gives us a little bit of insight into what kind of leader they are. Would they start by collecting data? Would they immediately take action? Would they delegate or try to do it all on their own? There are a million possibilities in this kind of hypothetical.”

    Jonathan D. Rogers, Operations Director and a Certified Scrum Master at AndPlus

    What do you do when your project is in trouble?

    “Most project managers will say they’ve never failed on a project, and they easily steer things back on course. But, in reality, a lot of projects fail based upon original estimates in budget, time, resources, market conditions, and stakeholder time/expectations.

    This question allows for further investigation and probing.  I like to hear how a project manager adapts and deals with tough situations; their thought process and level of humility; dealing with difficult and unreasonable stakeholders. All these are part and parcel with being a project manager.”

    Ken Kwan, Founder of Career Prophets

    More Resources for PM Interview Prep:

    10 Killer Interview Questions for Project Managers, LiquidPlanner

    Project Managers, Here’s What to Ask the Hiring Manager, LiquidPlanner

    9 Must-Ask Questions When Hiring a Project Manager, HubSpot


    Recruiters Reveal Their Favorite Project Manager Interview Questions was last modified: November 10th, 2017 by Sam Sauer
  • Project Manager Talent Gap: How to Make the Most of It (11/28/2017) by Alison Coleman

    Skill shortages are now a global phenomenon, impacting organisations in virtually every industry sector. In the field of project management, however, the skills gap is growing at a faster rate than was anticipated just a few years ago.

    The implications for organizations and project management professionals are highlighted in new research from the Project Management Institute (PMI). The Project Management Job Growth and Talent Gap 2017–2027 report, the third commissioned by the PMI, explored the problem in depth across a number of global markets, including China, India, the U.S., Japan, Brazil, Germany, UK, Canada, Australia, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates, which collectively represent the world’s developed and growing economic powers.

    Wanted: 87.7 Million Project Managers

    The findings reveal that employers in those countries will need 87.7 million individuals working in project management-oriented roles by 2027. The previous PMI Project Management Talent Gap report in 2012 had estimated that the number of project-related jobs would reach 52.4 million by 2020. This figure has already been exceeded, topping 66 million at the start of this year.

    One of the main drivers of talent shortages is the fact that the global economy as a whole has become more project-oriented, giving rise to a sharp increase in the number of jobs requiring project-oriented skills, particularly in the fast-growing economies of India and China.

    Another factor is that demand for project management skills extends beyond traditional sectors, such as manufacturing, engineering and construction, into financial and professional services, publishing, and healthcare. This trend looks set to continue with industries that are currently not highly project-oriented likely to experience growth in project management-related openings.

    New Technologies Bring Increased Demand

    In order to remain competitive, organizations are increasingly relying on technology, such as artificial intelligence and machine learning, to boost productivity and efficiencies. This trend is creating additional demand for project managers with the skills to deliver and support technology implementation projects.

    As a profession, project management is mature and well-established. The inevitable result of which is an increase in attrition, as long-time project managers begin to retire. Their gradual departure from the ranks will further impact the skills shortage; there are not enough experienced project managers to take their place.

    The shortage of project management talent is of huge concern for organizations that are more reliant than ever on that talent to remain globally competitive.

    However, this talent gap makes experienced project managers incredibly valuable right now and in the future.

    Taking Advantage of the Talent Gap

    In high-performing organizations, talent management strategies are aligned with the overall strategies of the business. In keeping with the rapid pace of change that these organisations must adapt to, there have been shifts in what is expected of project managers in terms of their competencies, both now and in the future.

    They no longer excel just at technical skills, but also at leadership and strategic and business management expertise. This broader set of skills is known within the PMI as the talent triangle, and are the key skill areas that today’s qualified project professional should possess in order to successfully complete the project.

    Technical Project Management Skills

    Technical skills and knowledge enable a project manager to perform specific functions or tasks that help them to achieve their organisation’s business goals. Project managers will be expected to have technical knowledge of the project activities needed to complete a project.

    Leadership Abilities

    Although technical skills are essential, soft skills are also a priority to employers. Good leadership skills are crucial for developing a vision for the team members and inspire them to achieve the target.

    Team Building and Training Skillset

    Project managers must also be inspirational, proactive, and able to motivate people from the start of the project to its successful completion. An additional responsibility is ensuring that members of the team have the skills they need to successfully complete their job, and if necessary to provide any training or coaching that is required.

    Strategic and Business Management Experience

    Employers rate this one as one of the top three in the “ideal skillset” for project managers. A project manager who is skilled in strategic and business management is better able to analyse business decisions before implementing them. These analyses include cost benefit analysis, strength and weakness analysis, market conditions, legal requirements, and compliance, etc.

    Change Management Expertise

    Change is a constant in business. In addition to the key skill areas detailed above, many organisations are now looking to incorporate some of the softer change management and organisational development skills into the project management function, and will seek out project managers who can provide that more integrated approach to large project management and the inevitable organizational change.

    With the predicted rise in new project-orientated jobs, competitive salaries and opportunities in global markets, career prospects have never looked better for project management professionals.


    Project Manager Talent Gap: How to Make the Most of It was last modified: November 16th, 2017 by Alison Coleman
  • Laser Manufacturer Gains Visibility Into Project Status and Resource Utilization with LiquidPlanner (11/21/2017) by Scott Barton

    Access Laser, a manufacturer specializing in gas lasers, has grown rapidly over the past four years. At any time, the company’s engineering team may have several dozen active projects, ranging from small efforts that take one to two months to larger projects that take more than a year. Many of the larger projects require a mix of research, experimentation, and engineering work, making them especially hard to estimate and track.

    In the past, all projects were planned by a single engineering manager, using Microsoft Project. However, project plans weren’t shared or revisited over time, resulting in a major lack of visibility into who was doing what, how to bring those efforts together, and when projects would be done.

    “Projects were planned in silos and were out of date as soon as the planning was completed,” says Courtney Rickett, Manufacturing Process Engineer and Quality Manager at Access Laser, who joined the company in early 2015. “We had very limited visibility into the status of any given project, which resulted some in really late delivery dates.”

    Lack of effective project management presented other problems, too. A general lack of cohesiveness resulted in frequent mistakes and errors—from duplication of effort to things not getting done at all. Project designs diverged, time was wasted, and some products even had to be redesigned while they were in production.

    “When one product release went horribly wrong, we knew it was time for a change,” recalls Rickett. “Senior management made the decision to hire a full-time project manager, and I was tasked with making sure that person had the right project management tools to do the job.”

    Rickett immediately set out to find the optimal project management solution, evaluating a list of candidates that included Basecamp, LiquidPlanner, Targetprocess, and Workzone. “We needed a solution that was real-time, flexible, and easy to use,” says Rickett. “It also had to support many projects, accommodate changing priorities, and allow for many users.”

    Access Laser purchased LiquidPlanner at the end of October 2016. Kody Todd, the company’s new Senior Project Manager, had years of experience with Microsoft Project. However, she immediately saw the value of LiquidPlanner and enthusiastically supported its adoption.

    To help accelerate time-to-value, Access Laser took advantage of LiquidPlanner’s Quick Start Onboarding, which included dedicated support, training sessions, templates for training materials, and other tools.

    “Quick Start Onboarding helped us get up to speed very quickly—probably a month faster than had we attempted to do everything on our own,” says Todd. “We created a LiquidPlanner playbook, which helped us think through things and get them right the first time. The training videos were also great—I watched every single one.”

    Through its use of LiquidPlanner, Access Laser now has full visibility into project status and resource utilization. Individual work priorities are now aligned with project priorities, resulting in faster project deliveries. Project estimates are more accurate, less time is spent determining project status, and separate timekeeping mechanisms are a thing of the past. The company’s use of LiquidPlanner is also helping Access Laser to capture, formalize, and evolve its business processes—all leading to a strong return-on-investment.

    “Being able to effectively schedule, monitor, manage change, and deliver projects on time makes our modest investment in LiquidPlanner well worth the cost,” says Rickett.

    Yong Fang Zhang, the company’s CEO, who was skeptical whether Access Laser really needed LiquidPlanner at first, is in full agreement with Rickett. “LiquidPlanner enables us to manage multiple projects with cross-functional teams, where everyone participates in more than one project,” says Zhang. “It allows us to quickly adapt to real-life changes in customer requirements and priorities, and to see the impact on the overall picture. We are an innovative company, and we need to quickly evaluate market changes and emerging opportunities. I’m convinced of the value of LiquidPlanner as a powerful tool to help us satisfy the needs of our customers.”

    Read the full case study here.

    Laser Manufacturer Gains Visibility Into Project Status and Resource Utilization with LiquidPlanner was last modified: November 10th, 2017 by Scott Barton
Blog Archive was last modified: April 28th, 2017 by Scott Swanson