5 Lessons From My First Year Using LiquidPlanner
I still remember the first day my colleague trained me on LiquidPlanner. I had used other project management tools in the past with frustration, so the thought of learning about another one made me cringe. However, by the end of my orientation, I felt optimistic and actually excited! This project planning software seemed different.
I’ll say right up front: I’m not a superuser. I use LiquidPlanner as an account coordinator/copywriter in an online marketing agency setting to delegate tasks, track time, set billing statuses, communicate with coworkers, and make sure that client work is getting done in a timely fashion.
A bright project management future
At its core, LiquidPlanner’s project management functionalities can benefit any company that depends on a reliable system to track project progress and time, and increase accountability. However, the tool’s complete benefits require an organization’s full adoption and a plan for how to use it. Believe me, there is more than one way to use your workspace.
It seems impossible to learn everything about LiquidPlanner without experimenting with different ways to use it to see how it can benefit your organization.
What worked for me won’t necessarily work for you. But, hey, if you can learn a thing or two from my trials and tribulations, why not?
So here goes! Here are 5 top lessons from my first year of using LiquidPlanner.
1. Keep all project-based communication in LiquidPlanner.
In a marketing agency, I cannot express enough how important it is to make sure every person involved in a project is on the same page. The designers, copywriters, developers and project managers all need to know where a project sits in the pipeline to ensure progress is being made, and that it fits into existing schedules.
So, how did we do this? All project-based communication lives in LiquidPlanner under the Comments section. I’m not talking about your core task or project description. That’s what the Task Description and Notes sections are for in the Edit Panel. I’m talking about making comments in lieu of sending emails.
Make sure you get every single person on your team using the Comments feature. It’s a pain when someone new hops into a project, scrolls through the comments, and feels like a piece of the puzzle is missing.
2. Don’t let LiquidPlanner replace face-to-face communication.
This is a lesson I learned the hard way.
While LiquidPlanner is a really great place to keep a record of project status when it comes to time remaining, billing status, comments, etc., it’s not meant to replace the kind of meetings that are needed to get the project team on the same page.
If you’re working on a large-scale project, kickoff meetings help all team members understand their roles within the scope of a project. Put the project scope in writing and make sure it’s available to everyone involved. We use Google Docs and attach a link to the task in LiquidPlanner. Occasional check-in meetings can also help confirm that your project is moving along, as it’s unlikely that project team members only have one thing on their plate at the time.
Using LiquidPlanner in addition to face-to-face communication can also increase accountability. After meetings, project managers should create and assign tasks to individual team members according to the roles delegated during the meeting.
3. Try different time logging methods
It may sound silly, but there is more than one way to log time. It’s true!
Our company has employees track time for everything (even internal work) in 15-minute increments. We all have eight hours logged at the end of the day and forty hours by the end of the week.
How do we recommend logging time? Here are three different approaches:
- Use the timer in LiquidPlanner. Then add it to your timesheet.
- It’s the most accurate way to track time down to the second.
- You have to be diligent about starting, pausing and recording timer time.
- Works especially well for team members who have limited interruptions throughout their day (i.e., developers).
- Log time manually after working on a project.
- This way, the time spent on a project is fresh in your mind and is logged in real-time so project managers have an idea of how many hours are left.
- You have to be diligent!
- This works especially well for team members who have several small-scale projects, but are not interrupted a lot.
- Log time at the end of the day and track project time using your work calendar.
- This way you can do all your time logging in one go, at the end of the day
- The drawback of this method is that project managers can’t see project progress in real-time.
- Might work best for team members who are interrupted and become sidetracked 100 times per day.
Here’s how I do it: I plan out my entire day on my Google Calendar and then update it as events/projects change. Before I go home, I go back into LiquidPlanner and enter my time.
Encourage employees to do what works for them as long as time is being tracked accurately, and everyone’s on the same page.
Tracking time might be difficult, but after a while you’ll notice where you’re wasting time, and the habit will save time in the end. Plus, eventually you’ll be able to say, “I conquered time logging. Booyah!”
4. Make sure that individual users are updating their max efforts.
Have you ever had a team member reach the maximum number of project hours allotted and then say, “Um, I need at least five more hours to finish this”? Eek! How about the opposite, where your colleague uses half the amount of time that was assigned, and ends up twiddling an otherwise useful pair of thumbs by week’s end?
Have everyone update the max effort and time remaining on tasks daily so work can be distributed evenly, and projects can stay on budget.
5. Be an advocate of LiquidPlanner.
If you’re in a project management role, you need to be LiquidPlanner’s number one fan. Make sure others know you feel that way. Without getting your entire organization to adopt the tool, it won’t do what it’s meant to do—which is keeping everyone on the same page and projects on schedule.
Here are two crucial steps for getting everyone on the team on board:
- Provide multiple training sessions.
- Organize meetings where employees can provide feedback.
If team members use the workspace similarly, it will save everyone resources and headaches in the long run.
Our agency, and myself, are still experimenting with how we can improve our internal processes to better utilize LiquidPlanner. I hope you can take these lessons and make this your best project management year yet!
Amanda Oberg is an Account Coordinator turned Copywriter at Click Rain. Amanda has experience marketing and writing for a variety of industries and shares her online marketing know-how on Twitter at @amoberg.