Curious to see how other teams use LiquidPlanner? Our friends at Cognex showed us how LiquidPlanner helps them innovate and stay ahead of the curve.
Cognex is in the business of industrial machine vision. They are the world’s leading provider of vision systems, vision software, vision sensors, and industrial ID readers used in manufacturing automation. Cognex has been around for over thirty years and they continue to find ways to improve and expand into new markets.
One of Cognex’s slogans is ‘move fast,’ which is a reminder to be flexible and understand that change happens. With that mantra in mind, they searched for a tool that allowed them to properly capture and represent the frequency of change in the world. LiquidPlanner immediately stood out to the team because they could use ranged estimates to represent and quantify uncertainty—this was the missing piece that finally allowed them to create a reliable project plan.
In the video below, you’ll see how the team at Cognex uses LiquidPlanner to understand project status, adapt to change, and make data driven decisions.
At LiquidPlanner, we love hearing how teams are benefiting from our project management solution. Recently, we came across an article written by Chris Clegg, President of PortMA, about how his team of remote workers stays organized when there are a ton of complex projects running at the same time.
PortMA, or Portland Marketing Analytics, is a market research firm that specializes in the measurement and analysis of event marketing return-on-investment and advertising communication. In this work, they service a number of marketing and advertising agencies in the U.S. with design, data collection, analysis, and reporting services, doing anywhere from 50 to 70 projects per year in a wide range of industries.
After reading Chris’ article, we reached out to find out more! We asked Chris how he found LiquidPlanner and how LiquidPlanner has helped his team.
What prompted your search for a new project management solution?
“We outgrew Basecamp. As that platform advanced, it moved away from what we needed. At the core, we needed templates, task dependencies, resource planning, and risk management tools. LiquidPlanner fit the bill on all fronts and has shown us a number of additional features we didn’t know we needed. We’re a better, stronger business because of what LiquidPlanner allows us to do.”
How does LiquidPlanner help your team?
“We work entirely from within LiquidPlanner. All of our internal and external project work is spec’d out in detail with time estimates, assignments, and work orders within the LiquidPlanner system. And then our daily time tracking is submitted against LiquidPlanner tasks to help us monitor our progress against contract deliverable items in real-time. Research Managers and supporting staff are updating their projects and related tasks on a daily basis to keep things moving smoothly. At any given time, we might have 15 to 25 contracts running simultaneously, each with dozens of weekly task items. Without LiquidPlanner we’d be so lost in the weeds, we’d never get anything done. The flat resource planning model and how it defines deadline risks allows us to deal with reality and not bury staff under unreasonable deadlines.
Finally, I’d mention that the template function really serves as our playbook. We’ve built out detailed project templates with descriptions on what each task is, how it’s done, and why. We’ve then added extensive checklist items to define the specifics of what is expected on a given task. This services as our documented corporate processes that allows for work to be quickly handed off from one person to another seamlessly without cutting corners.”
How do you know when it’s time to consider a new tool or process for your business? In the case of project management, here’s a way to find out! Take ourProject Management Health Check,a 9-question multiple-choice assessment of your project management process.
Project work is exciting and challenging, and brings teams together to create amazing products and technology. But if your stress level is chronically up a few extra notches and you feel like your excellent team is scrambling to do mediocre work, that could be a sign that something’s amiss with your project management software. The good news is: it’s fixable! But before fixing things, here’s a list of signs that your PM tool isn’t working:
The project schedule is rarely up to date, and nobody trusts it.
When it is solely the project managers job to update project progress and communicate changes and updates to the team, it’s never truly up to date. When project contributors do not have real time updates or constant access to the project plan, it is hard for them to have confidence in what they are working on.
Your team is in a constant state of chaos.
You and your team are stressed because priorities are changing and no one is working on the same project. When someone is asked what their priorities are, they shrug, scream or implode—their checklists won’t cut it and they feel like they are letting their team, manager and company down!
A PM tool helps organize and prioritize work, and allocate resources according to availability, change requests and shifting finish dates. The team can take a breath and even carve out time to think about what they’re doing, plan and strategize—instead of panting away in a state of overwhelm.
You don’t know what your team is working on.
As a manager or project manager it’s stressful to never quite know what your team is working on—or to stumble when your boss or client asks for an impromptu status update at lunch or in the hallway. An effective leader doesn’t micro manage (emailing, calling throughout the day), but how do you stay on top of work when things are changing so fast? A collaborative project management platform lets team members participate in the project’s lifecycle—and managers have visibility and access to see what’s going on, all the time.
Priorities are unclear. Or everything is a #1 priority. A team member can spend hours or days working on a project without knowing that it was either tabled, cancelled or there’s another task that has taken precedent. If you’re using static checklists, they might be great for weekend errands, they aren’t something you can depend on for insight into the changes that are inherent in projects. And what about multiple high priority tasks staring you down? A project management tool that aligns teams and gets the right work done—and on time!—is one that surfaces priorities and the most important work of the day.
Your resources are over-booked.
Doing more with less has been a sign of the times—whether you’re working on manufacturing or technology projects. When your team is overbooked and overworked that’s a sure sign that your project management tool isn’t working—or you don’t have a reliable process. A good PM platform helps you allocate resources across projects by showing you who has capacity, who’s overbooked, and how much work is distributed among individuals.
Your lack of time tracking is having a negative impact on your business.
If there’s not an easy way for team members to track time and log progress, a lot of things can go wrong. For example, without accurate data for client work, your guestimates could be off, which might result in disagreements, and in some cases, having to pay your clients money for work they feel you overcharged but under-delivered on. Also, time tracking numbers provides rich project data and analytics—used to create goals, ask for more resources and future forecast project work.
Your relationship with stakeholders and clients is strained.
You do great work but your clients and stakeholders don’t love working with you for a variety of reasons. They never have a clear sense of what’s going on, and you have a tendency to surprise them with news of a schedule change or a request for more budget to complete the project. All this could damage your company’s credibility and business, and it’s not because you aren’t capable or a fun person to work with. But if you’re unreliable, that could be the end game. What all clients and stakeholders want is honest, clear visibility into projects and their progress. Better yet is a plan they can access to feel part of the process.
As a LiquidPlanner product expert, I talk to a lot of people considering a new, better Project Management (PM) tool. A question I often get asked is how LiquidPlanner compares to a task management tool—something like Trello or Asana. Are we the same, different, better?
Let’s start by addressing how Project Management tools compare to Task Management tools.
Project Vs. Task Management
You can think of project management tools as offering functionality that’s a superset of what’s available in task management tools. Task management tools don’t usually have the heft to manage more complex projects, especially ones needed by technology and manufacturing teams who need to make estimations and see how every plan change effects the entire project or portfolio of projects.
In a nutshell:
LiquidPlanner can do everything that a task management software can do—and much more. In the task management department, we help teams organize their work and collaborate more effectively. But LiquidPlanner is also a full-service PM tool for more complex project needs. Our automated scheduling engine provides realistic project plans and finish dates that reflect a constantly-changing project environment.
Let’s take a deeper dive into how LiquidPlanner compares to task management software.
Everyone working on projects is juggling priorities and often the head-scratching question can come down to: What’s my top priority and am I working on it? More often than not, you randomly select a project to start on because you know there’s a lot of work to get done and there isn’t time to waste!
How task management prioritizes work
Prioritizing tasks within a task management tool is sometimes closer to a to-do list than a project schedule. In most task management tools, tasks and dates drive the schedule. This means you can organize tasks in priority order, but when priorities shift, these changes are not automatically reflected in the schedule. You can reprioritize plans all you like, but the changes don’t take into account the availability of people working on the tasks, so there’s no way of easily seeing if the re-prioritization is realistic based on available resources.
Also, while some task management tools do offer a drag and drop, many only let you keep your tasks in priority order within checklists. This makes it impossible to prioritize tasks across projects and see the impact of one change across a portfolio of work—which is important for those of you who work on multiple projects at once.
How LiquidPlanner prioritizes work
LiquidPlanner is driven by a priority-driven scheduling engine. This means that the priority of work items and the availability of resources assigned to each of these work items drives the schedule. So, every time a priority shifts, the schedule updates automatically to show how the entire plan is affected by that change, including how the reprioritization affects available resources.
In LiquidPlanner, you can change your priorities with a simple drag and drop within the project or across projects, and the scheduling engine will automatically update across all projects in your workspace—generating new start and finish dates based on those portfolio-wide resource commitments and the priorities you assign to your workflow items.
One of the biggest deciders of project success comes down to how effectively you manage your resources. Misallocate your people, overshoot your budget, and you’re in big trouble. Do it right, and you’re a hero.
How task management tools manage resources
In general, task management tools allow you to assign tasks to resources (people), but they don’t take into account resource workload (how much work is already on people’s plates). This makes it impossible to rely on meeting your set finish date. For example, in Trello each board has a member list on the right side of the board that allows you to simply add resources to tasks. Trello assumes the members on a task will be working together in order to reach a deadline. This way of managing resources assumes that people have infinite time, or that they will stand up and push back if they don’t have the bandwidth to take on a task, which can cause a lot of problems among teams, customers—and making deadlines.
How LiquidPlanner manages resources
LiquidPlanner is the only resource-driven scheduling tool out there. Here’s why: In LiquidPlanner each user has a personal profile where they set their available hours for project work each week. The scheduling engine takes this into account as tasks get created and assigned, providing start and finish dates based on team members’ current workload and availability.
LiquidPlanner’s resource management capabilities make it impossible to overschedule resources. If an issue arises, you can pull a workload report for a deeper look into an individual’s commitments, and see who might be available to take on more work.
Managing risks is one of the hardest things to get right—especially when you’re managing long-term projects with a lot of moving parts. LiquidPlanner was created to take project uncertainty into account, and let teams know well ahead of time of incoming risks. Most task management tools don’t offer risk management other than a notification that the deadline is a day or two away.
How task Management tools manage risk
The only true way to account for risk in a traditional task management tool is to set your due date for a task a day, a week or more before the actual deadline. Some of these tools will automatically notify you when you are one day away from a task being due, but at that point it’s usually too late to make any proactive changes or give stakeholders and customers due warning.
How LiquidPlanner manages risk
LiquidPlanner has a constantly running algorithm that accounts for the uncertainty inherent in all projects. Your plan will always alert you to risks well ahead of missing deadlines or running over budget. This way teams can make any necessary adjustments to priorities, resources, or have the conversations with stakeholders well in advance of disaster striking. If a project is slipping, you’re alerted within the LiquidPlanner app and via email notification.
Here’s an example of a LiquidPlanner Dashboard, customized to surface project risks well ahead of finish dates:
Scaling Up: From the Basics to Advanced
You don’t have to do everything at once. With LiquidPlanner, you can start with our task management features to organize work, share documents and collaborate more efficiently with team member through commenting, for example. From here, you can move on to using our more robust PM features: estimation, scheduling, analytics, and resource management (see how InDinero did this).
With a task management tool, you pretty much top out early in the game. What you see is what you get and that’s it. That might be okay to start but if your company or team grows, you need a system that can grow with you (see how Redapt grew their business with LiquidPlanner).
The good news with a Dynamic Project Management tool like LiquidPlanner is that teams can customize their workspace and processes to get the best work done in a manner that fits their philosophies, processes and business needs.
If you’re looking for a better option, something that can manage projects, resources and is reliable—a PM tool rather than a task management tool, start a trial.
Maybe you’re on the fence—unsure whether you need a better way to manage projects. We have a way for you to find out! Take our Project Management Health Check—a 9-question multiple-choice quiz that will assess how your PM process is working for you.
But there’s more that makes LiquidPlanner unique—and different from Wrike, as well as a lot of other work management tools.
As a product expert, I’m often asked how our platform stands out from the pack, and how we compare to other tools. Here, I’m going to give you more reasons we’re different from Wrike in three categories that are important to planning and scheduling projects.
1. Prioritizing work
One of LiquidPlanner’s key differentiators is our unique priority-based scheduling system that shows you what your top work priorities are every day. And, every time a priority shifts, the schedule updates automatically to show how the entire plan is affected by that change. In Wrike, you can organize tasks in priority order but when priorities shift, these changes are not automatically reflected in the schedule.
How It Works
Wrike uses folders to categorize work. For example, folders are used to group projects by team, clients, stage of work, etc. Within a folder, there are projects which are used to manage tasks; tasks are organized within the projects; and subtasks are the steps needed to complete a task. You can keep projects in priority order, but moving those priorities around isn’t so easy, and any shifts aren’t reflected in the schedule—i.e., resources, finish dates, etc.
LiquidPlanner uses packages to organize projects and prioritize tasks. For example, within packages you can create projects and add tasks to those projects. Then, you prioritize tasks across different projects by putting them in a high priority package, so that they are completed ASAP. You can change your priorities with a simple drag and drop, and the scheduling engine will automatically update across all projects in your workspace—generating new start and finish dates based on those portfolio-wide resource commitments and the priorities you assign to your workflow items.
2. Managing resources
Another key product differentiator is that LiquidPlanner provides you with resource-driven schedules. While LiquidPlanner creates a project plan based on resource availability and workload, Wrike allows anyone to be scheduled to a project/task without taking their current commitments into account.
How it works:
Wrike has a workload view that allows you to see what each person is working on. It also shows you where the bottlenecks are, or if someone is scheduled for more than eight hours of work per day. As long as you’re looking at the schedule in workload view, you’ll see highlights around any resource issues that need attending. You can also expand the view to see who has availability and reassign work.
In LiquidPlanner each user has a personal profile where they set their available hours for project work each week. The scheduling engine takes this into account as tasks get created and assigned, providing start and finish dates based on team members’ current workload and availability. LiquidPlanner’s resource management capabilities make it impossible to overschedule resources. If an issue arises, you can pull a workload report for a deeper look into an individual’s commitments, and see who might be available to take on more work.
3. Managing risk
LiquidPlanner’s scheduling engine works off of ranged estimates based on best case/worst case scenarios. You’ll know well ahead of time if a project is in danger of running over. Wrike takes on a more traditional practice of using hard start and end dates to create a project plan.
How it works:
Wrike lets you set email notifications to alert you of deadlines. On the timeline view tasks will turn red once they’re overdue. The only way to truly account for risk is by scheduling a project to be due on an earlier date so you’ll receive a warning email when your real deadline is approaching. Wrike does not take ranged estimates into account while creating project schedules.
LiquidPlanner has a constantly running algorithm that accounts for the uncertainty inherent in all projects. Your plan will always alert you to risks well ahead of missing deadlines or running over budget. This way teams can make any necessary adjustments to priorities, resources, or have the conversations with stakeholders well in advance of disaster striking. If a project is slipping, you’re alerted within the LiquidPlanner app and via email notification. And you can create a dashboard dedicated to surfacing project risks.
LiquidPlanner was created with the distinct purpose of helping teams work with project uncertainty, and respond quickly to real world changes in priorities and resourcing. Our Dynamic Project Management methodology is a fluid, supportive and responsive way of managing projects. It’s the realistic approach to project management that we were looking for, too!
If this article piqued your interest, or if you simply want to do your own comparison of LiquidPlanner to Wrike, start a free trial!
If you’re a project manager or lead, you’ve struggled to keep your team working on the highest priority task at some point in time. And you probably also need to keep work prioritized across multiple projects. Prioritizing work can be the bane of every project lead’s existence but it doesn’t have to be the status quo.
Here’s a scenario for you—sound familiar?
Your team is diligently working to reach their deadlines by the end of the week when out of nowhere you’re given a new project that needs to be completed in two days. And all other projects need to be pushed back! You need to let your team know ASAP. So you start sending emails, perhaps making some calls—but only half of your project teams confirms that they’ve seen the message and are shifting priorities.
This isn’t your fault; this isn’t your team’s fault—this is simply one of the most common problems that plagues project management teams everywhere.
As a sales representative at LiquidPlanner, I hear this stuff all the time, and I’m here to let you know, there is a better way! While some project managers accept that their jobs come with the constant battle of dealing with missed deadlines, overworked resources, uncommunicated priorities and a lack of communication with the team—you do not have to accept this! You can be the project manager that provides 100 percent accurate project plans with a productive team that is always working on the highest priority task and communicating progress!
According to the infographic article, “19 Frightening Workplace Mental Health Statistics,” 62 percent of workers say that their workload increased over 6 months, and over 80 percent of employees believe that companies expect too much work out of too few people.
Teams often feel this way because every project is considered a number one priority; and without visibility into a project plan, people become overwhelmed. But your team does not have to fall victim to these statistics.
Here, I’m going to share seven reasons why technology teams struggle to prioritize their work. Consider this a list of what to avoid (with tips on what to do about it):
1. Using email to communicate project status
We all know this. So why do so many of us still use email to manage project communication? The email thread that is constantly eating up your inbox is full of updates, documents, conversations and project plans. That’s a lot of very important data to be sending through a medium that is so notoriously unreliable.
Even if you’re constantly checking the thread and reading every email—emails fall through the cracks. Worse, when you have project statuses scattered throughout your inbox, how do you manage the arc of your project schedule and story? The black hole of your inbox should not be where project plans and priorities are communicated.
Instead, consider using a collaborative project management tool, with one location where everyone can participate and update their status, attach documents and make comments in context to the work. This way everyone knows what the top priority is—for each individual and the team as a whole.
2. No direct line of communication
Project managers and leaders can have multiple people reporting to them. Or at least they can have a number of people to keep track of. It’s challenging to remember who has been updated on recent changes and what everyone is working on. You can call and email your team every day, but sometimes things change between conversations; and suddenly, your team is focusing on something that is no longer the top priority.
One centralized space of communication needs to exist for the team to communicate and reference project plans. There are too many forms of communication, and it is easy for a message to get lost!
3. Scheduling out all resources across various projects
When project teams are sharing resources and scheduling multiple projects, it isn’t a surprise that the team members are all working on different projects. And the main problem with this is, sometimes no one notices how thinly everyone’s spread out until it’s too late and deadlines are running late.
If you’re using traditional project management software (or spreadsheets), then the only way to balance out resources and stay current on priorities is for the PMs to coordinate a meeting time, and redo all of their project plans every time as priorities shift. This means countless hours and days are spent in meetings, discussing priorities and project plans and how to avoid missing deadlines—taking time away from working on projects, making important decisions and creating strategies. Go with a PM tool that includes resources—availability, hours worked—in the schedule.
4. Sheer Confusion
With constantly changing projects, trying to keep up with email, manage resources, update plans and stay organized while worrying if everything is can lead to project disaster! Chaos may be the #1 reason your team can’t prioritize their work. This is why it’s important for PMs to teach their team how to prioritize their work and stay organized.
The best way to teach this is to implement a project management system that keeps everyone organized at all times by providing transparency into projects, plans and the portfolio. Even better—a tool that lets you drag and drop priorities around, so everyone knows at a glance what they should be working on right now.
5. Too many projects, too fewresources
Sometimes it is hard to balance resource workload when you, as a PM, are deciding when your resources are available and how long each project will take them. You’re being forced to make project estimates based on someone else’s expertise and time, which can also lead to too many high priority projects being assigned to one person. Without visibility into how resources are being allocated, it’s impossible for a PM to be certain about what their resources are capable of.
If you use a PM tool that lets everyone set their hours of availability per day per week, there’s no way to overbook team member beyond what their availability. And knowing what your team can really work on is a great way to prioritize work as well.
6. Saying “Yes” to everything
Don’t be that person who says Yes to every work item that comes your way. That Yes can trickle down to your team as well. And the result is that priorities get hazy as the project team becomes overloaded. Eventually, important tasks slip through the cracks.
Another thing: Keep your eye out for the team member who doesn’t know how to say No, and is an easy target for other PMs who slip in last-minute tasks and projects. This kind of over-volunteering can be managed when you have a schedule that is resource driven. In other words, your resources are accounted for in the schedule and no one’s overbooked passed their availability. So it makes it easy to say No for anyone who’s prone to saying Yes when they shouldn’t.
Using spreadsheets is a terrible way to manage projects. Almost everyone I’ve talked to who uses spreadsheets as a PM tool agrees. And yet . . . organizations continue to use them.
Constantly sending out spreadsheets with the project plan does give team members their most current priority tasks beyond the first hour of its creation. Since they can’t be updated in real time, and project work moves so fast these days, spreadsheets are often left to languish. In no time, they’re outdated—something all project teams soon come to learn.
How do you align project priorities?
Teams work best when there’s a centralized source of truth for everyone. I’m talking about a tool where executives, stakeholders, customers, PMs, contributors and contractors can all access; one that updates automatically every time an addition or change is made. One that accounts for resource availability and makes it easy to update priorities as they change. With the right set up, everyone involved on your project can always be doing the right work at the right time.
Using the right project management tool is the best first step toward managing your priorities better. If you’re curious about how effective your PM process currently is, we’ve got just the tool for you! This 9-question multiple-choice quiz will diagnose the health of your project management tool and/or process. Take the quiz!
Project management doesn’t need to be stressful. Of course, there are plenty of challenges and endless balls to juggle, expectations to consider—but you were made for this kind of work, right? Yes, it’s a demanding job, but it’s also a role that brings a lot of value to organizations, and let’s face it . . . it’s lively! It’s interesting; it’s ever-changing and engaging.
As a sales development representative for LiquidPlanner, here’s something I hear a lot: It’s not the job that’s causing endless stress as much as the underlying process of managing the work. When you’re running the project management train off the tracks because you don’t have a reliable system to oversee all the work, allocate resources, and access the big picture every hour of the day—well no wonder stress levels are off the charts.
What’s stressful? Not keeping up, that’s stressful
These days, technology teams are continually being asked to do more work with either the same or fewer resources. As technology teams scramble to meet these high expectations, competitive pressures, business priorities and economic trends, demands keep changing at an ever increasing pace. And unfortunately, legacy project management systems and spreadsheets have failed to evolve with this dynamic nature of work.
Instead, when you move projects through a dynamic project management system (one that keeps pace with the changing demands and status of projects), everything gets better. For starters, team members are always working on the right priorities, productivity increases, and engagement and quality of work goes up too. The dynamic process also gives teams access to real-time information on project risks, which helps mitigate issues and embrace change.
How LiquidPlanner decreases stress
Since inception, LiquidPlanner’s goal has been to make a dynamic project management system that supports teams in the way they actually work—in a way that reflects the way teams move through projects together.
In this post, I’m going to talk about how LiquidPlanner’s unique methodology takes the stress out of managing projects. Here we go:
When a new project—or task—gets added to the queue, an immense amount of pressure is placed on the project manager to fit that project into the current schedule and in correct priority order. Using a legacy project management tool, or spreadsheets, this would mean rebuilding the entire projects queue and re-estimating completion dates. LiquidPlanner offers a solution to this archaic method.
Now, when a new project needs to be added and assigned, simply add the project alongside existing projects, and drag-and-drop the project into its newest priority order. You will then immediately be notified of any at-risk projects and can quickly make adjustments to ensure all projects are on track to be completed on time. The ability to drag and drop projects as changes occur can save project managers hours of admin work a week. The ability to quickly make changes and see the effect of the change saves project managers from the stress of consistently rebuilding schedules!
Effort-based ranged estimations
Rather than throwing a dart at a project to determine deadlines, LiquidPlanner uses best and worst case estimations to obtain an accurate prediction of project completion. This means that when a resource is assigned to a task, that work is given a date range to completion; then, LiquidPlanner takes into account any dependencies, holidays or vacations that could interfere, and provides a reliable start and end date for the tasks.
When project contributors estimate how much time it will take to complete a task based on their expert opinion and experience, they’re creating a realistic schedule. This is another way to alleviate project management stress because the project contributors are now held accountable for their responsibilities. Long live autonomy! Also, project managers can assume the true role of doing their job—as project overseer, facilitator and making sure that no deadlines are at risk. Bringing projects in when they’re expected to—and having a good experience getting there—become possible and doable!
The ability to keep projects in priority order and make sure that all projects are on track to meet deadlines is great—but what about the resources assigned to those projects? Another problem project managers face is keeping track of resource workload and schedules. Being responsible for everyone’s availability and the well-being of a project is no easy task—it usually leads to hair-pulling and overbearing stress if you don’t have a reliable way to capacity plan and see who’s working on what.
LiquidPlanner is unique in that we have a resource-driven scheduling engine. For starters, each workspace allows each individual to input their availability to work on projects throughout the week. So, some people may be available for 8 hours of project work a day, others may only be available for 7 hours a day because they have at least an hour of meetings to attend daily. And others might work a wackier schedule—job share, part time, who knows. The reasoning for setting availability is to ensure no resource is over scheduled or overworked. LiquidPlanner only schedules resources for as much time as they have allocated as available.
By doing this, a project manager can easily see who is available to take on more work and who needs help completing a project. It’s a true, realistic view of how long a project will take to complete based on resource availability. This futuristic view saves project managers the stress of guessing and hoping that everything will go according to plan. Now, it’s easy to see a change that needs to be made in order to reach the end goal. Frantic last-minute changes no longer need to be a part of everyday work life!
If you’re managing a project, you have a lot on your plate: responsibilities and tasks to juggle, people to manage, resources to allocate, customers to please, and more. Sometimes things fall through the cracks. And when they do, someone is going to come looking for you. It’s enough to cause endless nightmares!
If you can relate, you’re not alone. Here’s a top 10 list of what keeps project managers up at night.
1. “I don’t know what’s going on with the project.” This is a common insomnia causer for PMs, and it occurs because there’s no visibility into the big picture of the project. Team members work in silos, they collaborate in email streams or spreadsheet, or they rely on plan updates by one person who’s manually updating changes to a schedule that is rarely current. And if you do have a collaborative scheduling tool, nobody’s using it. The worst incarnation of this is when a stakeholder asks for an impromptu status report and your answer is, “Um . . . “.
2. “We’re not going to make our deadline. What am I going to tell the customer?”
The fear of missing deadlines keeps PMs awake—especially when you’re the one stuck with the task of breaking the bad news. If this feels like a returning nightmare, blame it on working toward finish dates that have no basis in reality. Maybe your project team agreed to a customer’s imposed (but unrealistic) deadline because you wanted the work (reasonable), but didn’t have a way to create an accurate project plan that accounted for all the necessary work (ideal). The result: PMs are stuck with the responsibility of communicating these missed deadlines to the customers and trying to come up with an acceptable explanation other than, “I don’t know.”
3. “What am I going to do about that new project that just got prioritized over my last one?” You created the project plan, balanced all of the workloads, assigned tasks, rallied the team and then: a new “number one priority project” gets dropped in your lap. This means all other projects get pushed back and workloads are stacked. The stress from these changes and the backlash from the team keeps you awake and wondering how to make it all work.
4. “Half my team is out with the flu, how am I going to get the work done!?” Another insomnia causer is when your workforce suddenly diminishes. Then you have to reassign tasks while keeping resource workload in mind. Without a constantly updated view of resource availability and workload there is no guaranteed successful way to reassign tasks to ensure deadlines will still be met. So, there are only two outcomes: overload resources until the epidemic has passed, or push deadlines further out.
5. “Does my boss think I’m doing a good job?”
Not knowing how you appear in the eyes of your boss is stressful. You might stay up late wondering: Does she know you’ve been working 18 hours a day to make these project plans successful? Does she know that those deadlines were missed because your team was sick? Does she think you’re not working on top priority projects? Without a centralized, collaborative workspace that everyone is actively using, these are valid fears because nobody knows what anyone is doing. Plus, there is no data or pathway to prove and then address the problems. Creating reports to demonstrate workload or team priorities helps present your case. But how many hours in a day can be spent writing up reports?
6. “I think we have enough resources to finish the project on deadline . . . “ When there are 10 tasks left to be completed in three days by three people, how do you decide who will work on each task? And how do you capacity plan to bring the project in on time? This is where project guestimation comes calling at 2 a.m. It might be one of the top causes of sleep deprivation among PMs. Without visibility into the remaining tasks and your team’s workload, all you have to rely on is hope and team grit to get things done.
7. “Does my team trust me?” You can spend countless hours working hard to create the perfect plan that makes everyone happy—stakeholders, customers, clients, contractors, project teams. Does your team realize this?? Constantly wondering if the team trusts your ability to lead and make good decision can spawn an unsettling restlessness. The only thing you can do is push that nagging question out of your head, “Are they getting my emails?”
8. “I have no idea what my team is doing and if they’re working on the right things.”
Once tasks are assigned to the team, things can become a bit of a guessing game. Priorities change, features are added or subtracted so now what? You can’t stay organized and relay priorities through email strings and individually updated spreadsheets. Silos be damned!
9. “Am I making the right decisions?”
Second guessing—a shared problem among project managers constantly. Creating the project plan and guaranteeing a deadline can create a lot of pressure. When you’re the only person overseeing the project plan, making task estimation and creating schedules, you’re short changing yourself on the expertise possessed by the rest of your team. Great decisions don’t get made in a vacuum.
10. “There’s no margin for error on this project. If anything goes off plan we’re screwed!”
You can create the perfect project plan that ensures all milestones are hit and delivery comes in on time. The only caveat is that no one can get sick, take unplanned time off, or be a minute late. Worry seems to be a consistent symptom shared among project managers, waking you up in the middle of the night. In the back of your mind you know what happens when you don’t account for unexpected surprises and humans being humans. Plan for uncertainty!
There’s always a cure for professional insomnia—and it doesn’t come in a pill form. Instead, you need proven solutions that often take some planning, thought and skill building. To help you get there (and sleep like a baby at night), download our eBook, “How to Solve the Top 9 Project Management Challenges.”
As a LiquidPlanner sales development representative, I speak to a lot of IT Directors who are at their wits end with how their teams manage projects. Schedules are never up to date. It’s time consuming to make changes. Nobody really knows how their work connects to a bigger picture, deadlines are missed—the list goes on. Many have tried traditional tools, spreadsheets, or built their own software—but still no change. This is exactly why LiquidPlanner got into the project management software game in the first place: to offer a realistic and reliable solution to the challenges and demands of managing projects in the real world.
With this in mind, I wanted to walk you through three ways LiquidPlanner has helped our customers build reliable project schedules that helps drive business forward.
1. Accurate resource management
As an IT Director, you’re asked to take on new projects every day. You’re also asked for status and reports on the progress of those projects. If you’re using a project management tool (or a spreadsheet) that requires manual updating, it’s pretty impossible to give accurate reports or predictions on the progress of your team and what they’re working on.
LiquidPlanner is one of the only resource driven project management tools on the market. This means you get accurate data and insight into how your budget and team members are allocated.
This information also tells you if you can take on more projects. It takes away the fear of blindly working on more projects than your team can handle. Before using LiquidPlanner, customer Cristina Griggs, CFO of inbound marketing agency Inflow, was constantly in the dark about her team’s progress, how resources were allocated and if the company was capable of taking on a new project. LiquidPlanner gave her insight into how her team and her budget were allocated across projects—and in real time. As a result, she no longer struggles with accessing updated resource reports. These days, she knows at a moment’s notice where the company stands on resources, capacity planning and the progress of current projects. (You can read the case study here.)
2. Realistic schedule predictions
Trying to give a guesstimation on the progress of all projects and when they’ll be completed is impossible using a spreadsheet or a deterministic project management solution. LiquidPlanner’s predictive scheduling engine lets you make ranged estimates based on best case/worst case estimates. This takes the guessing out of project timelines, and gives you reliable plans for the company.
LiquidPlanner customer and Director of IS, Jim Burger at Taghleef Industries was sick of Microsoft Project. Making schedule changes was difficult and the schedules were never realistic. Even worse, every little change or problem that popped up threw the entire project off—and it would need to be rebuilt from scratch.
Since using LiquidPlanner’s reality-based approach of scheduling, Burger’s team can now set priorities and see an accurate picture of progress that is always current and realistic. The use of ranged estimates take the stress out of estimating because the best and worst case scenario is taken into account, giving customers and teams accurate predictions of project completion. (Read more information on why Jim made the move to LiquidPlanner here.)
3. Manage growth
When a company experiences rapid growth, it’s exciting and overwhelming. You need to hire more people, make schedule changes and balance an influx of concurrent projects. Methods that worked in the past—white boards, email chains and spreadsheets—don’t keep anything organized. LiquidPlanner’s priority-based scheduling guarantees that projects are being worked on in the correct order and gives managers insight into all the changes that have been made on tasks and projects.
David Cantu, COO and Co-Founder of Redapt started his company with only 500 dollars and an idea. The last thing on his mind was scheduling multiple projects and people. In a short period of time his company took off and in order to stay on top of all the work they had, he began the search for a project management solution.
LiquidPlanner immediately stood out to David because he saw it as the next generation project management solution that would allow the company to make the necessary changes to keep up with growth. Redapt program manager, Zach Milne was thrilled with the implementation, especially since it brought structure and order to flying in the dark. Since implementing LiquidPlanner, Zach is confident that when he assigns a task or project to a team member it will get done. Projects and progress are no longer lost in email but contained in one central, accessible location that keeps the company on track and moving forward. (View David’s testimonial here).
These are just a few examples of how LiquidPlanner has helped some of our customers organize their projects and get more done. Learn more about what makes us different by checking out our key features or by starting a trial.
Take us for a spin! See how LiquidPlanner can transform the way you manage projects.