Author: Alison Clancy

Project Portals: The LiquidPlanner Feature You’ve Never Heard Of

Project Portal OverviewThe project portals feature in LiquidPlanner has always been a customer favorite. Or at least, it is for the customers that know about it! After learning about priority-based schedulingcollaboration tools, and time tracking, project portals sometimes get overlooked. That’s why we wanted to use this blog post to shine the spotlight on one of the handiest features LiquidPlanner has to offer. So without further ado, here are the four W’s (and one H) about project portals:

WHAT are project portals? Essentially, they’re secure project “mini-sites” designed for collaborating with people outside of your workspace. You can use them to share documents or project updates, comments and more – all in a simple, streamlined view.

WHO are project portals for? Project portals are great for exchanging information with clients, stakeholders, contract workers, or senior executives.

WHY would I want to set up project portals? Here are just a few reasons:

    • You can keep important people in the loop about the progress you’re making on your various projects and tasks.
    • Your internal project work and your external collaboration are kept in one centralized location, making it easier to keep your internal team on track.
    • Transparency for the win! You can exchange files, comments, schedules, notes – anything important to the project with your portal guests. They’ll be kept in the loop, and you’ll look like a project management rock star.

WHERE do I set them up? After signing into your LiquidPlanner workspace, go to Settings > Members & Access Control > Portal Control. There, you can enable portals on any project in your workspace, determine exactly what you want to share, and invite portal guests in to view them.

Hint: Don’t forget to check the box on the task detail pane that says “Share on portal” for any task you want to be visible to your portal guests.

HOW much do portal guests cost? Nothing! You don’t have to pay for portal guests, so go ahead and collaborate to your heart’s content.

Hopefully this post will help get more out of LiquidPlanner. If you’re already using project portals, let us know what you think in the comments!

Hot Off The Presses: New LiquidPlanner Features

Over the weekend, we released an update to LiquidPlanner with some new features that were requested and inspired by our customers feedback. We hope these new improvements will make your lives easier, and don’t forget to leave a comment or tweet us your thoughts!

Workspace Page Renamed As Settings

The Workspace page has been renamed to Settings for the sake of clarity. You will still be able to find administrative functions here, such as Timesheet ReviewPortal Controls, and Billing Settings. We have also made the layout a little more user-friendly, and all administrative icons will now be displayed to all users (they will be faded and inactive for users who do not have the proper access level for a particular function).

S30 Release Settings

Timesheet Review: Multiple Selection

Owners can now select multiple people in the Members filter. Before, you could only select one person at a time. Now, a subset of members and their timesheets can be selected. Just go to Settings>Timesheet Review to try these new changes out.

S30 Release Timesheet

Dependencies

Along the same vein of the timesheet review filters, you can now add multiple dependencies to a task at once. Start by double-clicking the task and opening up the Details Pane. Select the Dependencies tab, and click “Edit.” You will see that you are now able to select multiple tasks. This new feature will make it so much easier to create one-to-many dependencies.

S30 Release Dependencies

Gallery View for Attached Files

When you attach documents to a task, you used to only see a generic file icon to represent that file. Now attached files will be presented in a gallery format, including image thumbnails.

S30 Release Files

Rate Sheets

It’s easier than ever to create a rate sheet in LiquidPlanner. Rate sheets allow you to associate both bill rate and pay rate with various clients, projects, activities, and members. Before the update, you had to build your rate sheet in a spreadsheet and import it into LiquidPlanner.  Now, you can build a rate sheet directly in the user interface. Give it a try at Settings > Timesheet Management > Rate Sheets.

S30 Release Ratesheet

In addition to these features, you’ll find a few more fixes and modifications sprinkeled throughout LP 3.0. We hope you enjoy them!

Tracking and Logging Time in LiquidPlanner

When I was first hired,  one of my favorite things about LiquidPlanner was that the software could be used as a full time tracking system. At one of my previous jobs, we had to go old school and record our hours by using a good ol’ pen and paper, which was incredibly tedious, not to mention completely inaccurate. LiquidPlanner’s system makes time tracking easy, and even a little fun (I promise).

1. Timers

Using Timers

Have you ever thought to yourself, “Oh, I’ll save writing this blog post until the end of the day, it should only take me an hour or so.” Eight hours, five cups of coffee and a lot of self-loathing later, you’re still not finished. And you’ll know exactly how long it took you to write that post because of LiquidPlanner’s timers.

For each task assigned to you, you will see a blue timer icon. When you start the timer, the icon will turn orange and the bouncing timer bar will appear. The timer will keep running until you stop it by clicking it again, or until you start a timer on a different task (only one timer can be active at a time). After you’ve stopped the timer, the accumulated time is held for you, and you can apply it to your timesheet. How easy is that? It’s really interesting to see how long it actually takes you to finish those “easy” tasks, or how long it takes you to finish something if you keep checking Facebook ever five minutes (you know who you are).

2. Logging Progress To Tasks That Don’t Appear On Your Timesheet

Add Task

Tasks can be sneaky little devils sometimes. They might not show up on your timesheet because they aren’t scheduled during or near the current date.  Or maybe you’re not the owner of the task.  In any case, to track time on a task that doesn’t show up on your timesheet, click the “Add Task” button at the top of your timesheet to locate and add the task. Or go to the Projects section, right-click that task, and select “Log Progress on Timesheet.”

3. Using Activity Codes

Billing Activity Codes

In LiquidPlanner, when time is tracked on a task, the time entry is associated to an activity code. “How the heck do you do that?,” you may be asking yourself. The workspace owner can define a set of activity codes via workspace > timesheet management > timesheet settings.

Activity Codes are great if you’re working with different clients. You can set up a specific activity code for each one, or use them for general categories of work (like Support, Sales, Accounting, etc.) Say you’ve set up an Activity Code called “Print Marketing.” Under the Project tab, you can multi-select the tasks that you want to associate with that activity code. After they’ve been selected, click Edit>Edit Item to open the Edit Pane. Now you can assign the same Activity Code to all of the tasks at once.

Again, when you log time to any of these tasks, the time entry will be associated to the “Print Marketing” activity.  All of this will show up on your timesheet export as well (more on that in a minute).

4. Timesheet Review and Approval

Timesheet Management General

TGIF! It’s Friday and it’s time for you to submit your timesheet, so you can go ahead and click the “Submit Timesheet” button. The status for that timesheet will then change from “not ready” to “ready for review.” Once the manager/head person in charge receives the submitted timesheet, they can approve it and change the status to “locked.” A timesheet can always be unlocked if additional edits need to be made.

For the Workspace manager: you can review and approve timesheets at Workspace > Timesheet Management > Timesheet Review. Here are some other handy tips for when you’re poking around that section of LiquidPlanner:

  • Use the filter tools to find the timesheets you want to review and approve. If you are following a formal review process, that’s typically just timesheets with the status “Ready for Review.”
  • Click the time period to open a specific timesheet.
  • Use the “approve & lock” button on the timesheet to take those actions.
  • Timesheets still in not ready state can also be approved & locked; or you can request attention from the timesheet owner.

5. Exporting Time Tracking from LiquidPlanner

Exporting Time Tracking

As I mentioned before, managers can also export timesheets. Need to generate invoices to send to clients or perform some in-depth analysis? LiquidPlanner’s got you covered! Workspace owners, co-owners and managers are all invited to the export party:

  • Go to workspace > timesheet management > timesheet export
  • Use the filter tools to identify the timesheets you want to export.
  • Choose the preferred export format (XML, CSV, or Quickbooks).
  • Quickbooks users please note: exporting timesheet data to Quickbooks requires that you complete a one-time configuration in advance.
  • Your export file will contain sufficient information to uniquely identify each time log entry.

If you are using timesheets for invoicing, we recommend that you export only locked timesheets and develop an internal protocol for coordinating your data transfers. Another great Help Guide article to check out on this topic: Timesheet Data Analysis in Excel.

Bursting at the Seams: Micro Nav Manages Growth with LiquidPlanner

Micro Nav Ltd LogoMicro Nav is an award-winning leader in air traffic and fighter control simulation systems. The company develops, delivers and supports systems worldwide for both civil and military aviation authorities, airports and other organizations.

Over the last few years, the company had seen a rapid increase in orders, and while they began to expand from their success, they also began to suffer from growing pains. Their project teams quickly found themselves overwhelmed by complex projects requiring the tightest communication and scheduling processes.

How could Micro Nav handle this constant flood of orders and also keep both their new and longtime customers satisfied? Was there a way to be more efficient and get more out of their existing resources?

For Operations Manager Kevin Crump, the solution would need to accomplish two things:

  1. Generate accurate scheduling, communication and information sharing across his project teams
  2. Supply management with clearly defined data for pin-point resource planning

Micro Nav had been using Microsoft Project, but according to Crump, they found that “we needed to improve communication within and across our project teams, and generate a better and more accurate flow of information around those projects. Specifically, we needed an online project management tool that would improve task time and collaboration.”

Efficient information was also an issue. “Unfortunately Microsoft Project spits out crummy data, and it’s also very difficult to get at that data, causing a constant struggle to put out realistic work estimates. Worse, updates would be reflected only in the master plan, so at the micro project level, we still had to verify everything that got booked on the schedule. Not very productive.”

One of the features that made LiquidPlanner so attractive to Micro Nav is its ability to set up adjustable or sliding schedules. Crump continued: “LiquidPlanner 3.0 is very intuitive, and based on very understandable, clear logic. You can enter task estimates as best/worse-case ranges, versus one hard number like with Microsoft Project and other systems.  You never know until you finish the job when it really will be complete. LiquidPlanner 3.0 matches the way our guys think. There are no barriers to using LiquidPlanner. It is built the way apps outside of work are built: easy-to-use, interactive and collaborative.”

As team members work on their tasks, the system encourages them to reforecast, which the Micro Nav team has wholeheartedly embraced.

“LiquidPlanner really enables you to see what your ‘real’ workflow is, compared to another program such as Microsoft Project where there is difficulty in making adjustments because schedules get so skewed,” says Crump. “Entering time, creating realistic schedules with LiquidPlanner is straightforward.”

Now, everyone on Kevin’s project teams can see what each team member is working on, so visibility across the board has been significantly improved. Moreover, Kevin can provide his executive team with significantly better data.

“We also use LiquidPlanner to provide our executive team with much more accurate resource management data. For example, they can see not only where we are more efficient, but also where we have deficiencies or are not so smart, and then correct.  Overall, there is also more confidence in the numbers and a real comfort zone based on the validity of that data. This has been a huge boon for us.”

Kevin’s Three Keys to Project Planning

  1. Plan (and don’t forget what the plan was!)
  2. Don’t underestimate the human element; getting buy-in can make or break a project
  3. Learn from previous lessons/take advantage of wisdom accumulated on past jobs

Infographic: How to Become a Project Manager

As an online project management tool, we’re usually focused on how project managers can better manage their resources, how they can use priority-based scheduling for multiple projects, and what they can do to keep their project team happy. But what if you’re not a project manager—yet? Whether you’re a student, or you’re thinking about changing careers, there’s a chance that you might want to know just one thing: “How do I become a project manager?” Though it might feel like an overwhelming question, we can show you how to get to where you want to go.

Infographic: How to Become a Project Manager . An infographic by the team at LiquidPlanner

Embed Infographic: How to Become a Project Manager on Your Site:

Related stories:

How to Be an Effective Project Manager
10 Project Management Dos
10 Project Management Don’ts

LiquidPlanner Tips and Tricks

At LiquidPlanner, we’re all about radically simple online project management, and now we want to show you how to make using LiquidPlanner ever easier with a few of our favorite tips, tricks and shortcuts.

Custom Filters

LiquidPlanner Trick 1

The filter buttons at the top of the “Projects” section are your best friends. With their help, you can filter your projects across five different options by simply clicking on the buttons. You can filter by:

  • Owner – the owner of plan items
  • Location – projects or (if relevant) the packages that they live in
  • Package – the packages you create to establish priority-overrides for individual tasks
  • Client – the client that projects are associated with
  • Item State – states like All, Active, Done, etc.

After you click one of these five filters, a dialog box will open up to that filter object:

LiquidPlanner Trick 2

Check the boxes to choose the appropriate criteria. If you’ve got a lengthy list, use the search box to easily locate items. Now here’s the best part: If you know that you’ll use this filter set frequently, save it as a custom shared filter. Now it’s accessible and easy to use, anytime, anywhere – for you and your team.

Custom Shortcuts

The shortcut feature allows you to save a link back to any view of your plan.  For instance, you might want to create a shortcut to an important group of projects. You can create and save shortcuts in the view gallery, alongside the standard views, like Schedule, Details and Comments.

LiquidPlanner Trick 3

My Tasks

Did you know that the “My Tasks” tab can show your more than just YOUR tasks?

LiquidPlanner Trick 4

By clicking the icon highlighted in this screenshot, you can view the upcoming tasks for any individual member in your workspace. Want to see what the developers are up to? How about over in accounting? It’s all right there in one single click.

What’s your favorite LP trick? Tell us about it in the comments.

How Should A Project Manager Capture Decisions?

PM Capture DecisionsIf you’ve been managing projects for a while, you know that little details that seem insignificant during the project can end up being critical as the finish date approaches. As a project manager, you want to make sure these details are organized and logged somewhere where they can be found easily, but you also need to avoid bombarding your stakeholders with too much information.

Many years ago, I found myself in a status meeting when the client asked “What was the decision we made about ____ ?” Boy, was I embarrassed. I had completely forgotten what had been decided. At the time I probably thought, “This is important, but I’ll remember it. I don’t need to write it down.” And then life happened and there were 100 other project details to deal with before this one came up again. I learned my lesson: I need a good system to keep track of all of project details. Back in the day it was a notebook and a pen and typing up notes when I had the time. Now our tools have evolved, and we have shared online workspaces to document and maintain project information.

What type of decisions should you document?

That will depend on your specific project, of course. But pay special attention to things like:

  • Product specification changes (new features, new functionality, or new requirements)
  • Deadline changes (especially when expectations have changed with stakeholders or clients)
  • Goal / strategy decisions (do changes to strategy impact execution that’s underway?)
  • Resource changes (people being added to or removed from the team)
  • Priority changes (certain aspects of the project become more important)
  • Design changes (especially when they may impact multiple areas of the project)

How much information should you document?

Being an effective communicator requires finding a balance between too much and too little information. Most people read as little as they can get away with! When you’re documenting decisions, it pays to go back to the “4 W’s & H”:

  • What the decision was
  • Who made the decision (and who else was part of the decision-making process)
  • When the decision was made
  • Why the decision was made (including why the alternatives were rejected)
  • How the decision was made (including links to supporting data or details)

In LiquidPlanner, the project details page is the natural place to log this type of information. If you put changes in as comments, you can notify other team members who need to be looped in, and they’re automatically date stamped for a chronological record.

When it comes to creating a valuable project decision record, be concise, be consistent, and be (factually) correct. Your project team will thank you.

FAQ: What Are The Benefits of SaaS Project Management Tools?

The CloudI saw this question floating around one of those “so hot right now” Q&A sites and I thought, who better to answer this question than us? Fun fact: LiquidPlanner was one of the first SaaS project management tools to allow users to express uncertainty in their task estimates by using ranges (it says so on Wikipedia, so it must be true). SaaS, or Software as a Service, is software (and all of its associated data) hosted centrally in one location, which is typically in the Internet cloud. We’re obviously huge proponents of this model, and it shows in the tools we use in our day-to-day operations. Some of our favorites include RingCentralSquareSpace, and SurveyMonkey. But let’s get back to something we know a little bit about: the benefits of SaaS project management tools. Let’s jump right in:

Easy Access. Nowadays, you can get an internet connection just about anywhere, so it makes sense that having your project management software available online would be a huge bonus for your team, especially when those team members could be sitting right next to you at their desk, or swinging in a hammock somewhere in the southern hemisphere. What about your international clients? Their information is available any time, day or night. There’s also nothing to install with SaaS models, so there’s no waiting around for IT to get to your support ticket.

Low Cost. There are no additional hardware costs with SaaS project management tools, since there isn’t any hardware to deal with. License fees? Most SaaS applications are subscription-based so you only pay for exactly what you need. Maintenance? The SaaS provider manages the IT infrastructure, so you don’t have to worry about that either. This all adds up to one thing: more money in your pocket, which is great for growing businesses out there.

Central Source of Project Information. With a web-based project management tool, you can keep everything from large projects to small tasks in one central place. This way, you don’t have to endlessly scroll through your email or get access to another team member’s desktop files. It’s also possible to attach documents, images and comments to each project and task, which leads us to our last benefit…

Encourages Collaboration and Participation. Project management is a social activity, which naturally fits with SaaS tools, which are available to everyone on a project team. Most people are already comfortable using the Internet, so SaaS applications typically have higher user adoption rates. LiquidPlanner makes collaboration even easier with Comment Streams, a roll-up of real-time discussions between team members. These project-related conversations are captured and automatically organized, available for you and your team to view at any time. Goodbye email avalanches, hello inbox zero. You also get timesheets and to-do lists created just for you.

Why do YOU like using online project management tools?

New LiquidPlanner 3.0 YouTube Videos

If you haven’t heard, we just recently treated ourselves to a major upgrade and facelift with LiquidPlanner 3.0, the radically simple online project management software. This version includes a smorgasbord of fresh features, a new priority-based scheduling structure (see the Help Guide section, Packages), and an innovative user interface to boot. To help you get up to speed on LiquidPlanner 3.0, we have spruced up our old YouTube channel and uploaded six brand-new training videos that will help you get familiar with the perks of LiquidPlanner 3.0.

Getting Started LiquidPlanner

Welcome to LiquidPlanner- Radically Simple Online Project Management

Just started a free trial with us? This video will help you get situated by taking you on a tour of the workspace belonging to fictitious gaming company, Game FX. Whether you’re a real-life workspace owner, member, or portal guest, we’ll give you some quick tips on:

  • Navigating between portals and workspaces
  • Collaboration features (like comment streams)
  • New navigation, buttons, and more
  • How and where to get help

For more information about the topics in this video, take the LiquidPlanner 3.0 tour.

Scheduling Multiple Projects

Scheduling and Managing Multiple Projects in LiquidPlanner

So how can you keep your projects from being late, over-budget, or full of mistakes? Use the LiquidPlanner Approach – a fresh and realistic take on delivering project schedules that make sense. Includes:

  • Priority-driven schedules
  • Ranged estimates (to better capture uncertainty)
  • Promise dates
  • Plan structure
  • Frictionless updates

Want to know more? Tour the Scheduling features.

Project Collaboration Video

Collaboration Features in LiquidPlanner

Collaboration puts the fun back into project management. LiquidPlanner 3.0 takes the idea of “social project management” to the next level, and this video will tell you more about how to:

  • Communicate with your team members in the Comment Stream
  • Attach documents, images and more to individual tasks
  • Share project information with portal members

Can’t get enough fun? Check out the Collaboration features page.

These are just some of the videos available on the LiquidPlanner YouTube channel, so be sure to check out the others. If you have any other questions (while we’re on the topic of being social), you can connect with us on Twitter or Facebook, and as always, our support team is here to help at support@liquidplanner.com.

What do you think about our YouTube channel? What videos would you like to see posted next?

Sneak Peek: LiquidPlanner 3.0

Sources have revealed that LiquidPlanner, radically simple online project management software, will release their latest updated version of the tool in the form of LiquidPlanner 3.0 as soon as this week. The news has been met with an overwhelming amount of joy as millions of people across the globe have been waiting for a simpler, easier way to track, plan and manage their projects.

Peekaboo iStockPhotoRumors have been swirling for days over what new features will be unveiled during the release, but it has been heavily speculated that LiquidPlanner 3.0 will have the following new improvements:

  • A fresh new user interface
  • Simplified commands and menus
  • Better controls and pickers
  • Easier and improved filtering
  • A new iPhone / iPad application

There have been multiple reports of people taking to the streets to celebrate by way of dance, drink and song as the countdown to the release begins. Though there was some initial concern over whether or not LiquidPlanner would be able to keep up with the high demand, we have been assured that the internet has plenty of 3.0 in stock for any and all who have dreamt of the day that they too could keep their multiple projects organized with ease.

THIS JUST IN: Screenshots have been leaked from LiquidPlanner headquarters and are setting Twitter ablaze with commentary and excitement. What are your thoughts?

Leaked Screenshot 1Leaked Screenshot 2

(Obviously we had some fun with this blog post, but LiquidPlanner 3.0 is really almost here! Follow us on Twitter for more updates)