Author: Sam Sauer

Getting Your Team to Use LiquidPlanner: Sell Benefits, Not Features

Congratulations–you’re the proud owner of a new project management tool. You made it through the evaluation process, the trials, the executive sign-off.

But your greatest challenge still lies ahead: convincing your team to actually use (and perhaps even enjoy) this new tool.

This challenge is not to be taken lightly. Do it poorly, and you risk failure. You don’t want that. Your boss doesn’t want that. The business definitely doesn’t want that.

So you have to do it right–the first time. Just one slight problem…

Change is hard.

“We’re too busy to learn a new tool.”

“Our current process is working fine. Why change?”

“I don’t use our current tool. A new one won’t help me.”

Convincing your team to adopt (and love) LiquidPlanner will take some work. But it’s definitely possible, and we’re going to help you do it.

Sell Benefits, Not Features

“Features tell, but benefits sell.”

This common refrain, uttered in marketing departments the world over, serves as a reminder to ask, “What’s in it for our customer?” In this case, your customer is, you guessed it, your team.

If you start by rattling off a whole lot of features, you’ll quickly lose their attention. Persuading your team requires a mix of features and benefits. To get to those benefits, you want to use the “So what?” trick.

Here’s how it works: Pretend you’re selling an in-window air conditioner to your team. (Just stick with me here.)

The particular air conditioner comes with a mounting kit.

So what?

It can be safely and easily secured in most windows.

So what?

You can use the unit in any room in your home.

So what?

The in-window air conditioner can be safely and securely installed in any room of your home. You can enjoy the cooling satisfaction of air conditioning without the high costs of installing and maintaining a forced air system. It’s an effective, efficient, and inexpensive solution for hot days.

By using the So what? method, you’ve shown how this solution can meet their needs. This method works for any product, including project management software. Use it to start brainstorming about ways to position LiquidPlanner as a solution to your team’s needs.

To get you started, we’ve compiled talking points around three team-focused benefits: consolidation, collaboration, and autonomy.

Benefit #1: Consolidation

On the tenth anniversary of the iPhone, the New York Times published a video about “all the things this ubiquitous gadget has laid to waste.” The list runs the gamut, from taxis to cameras to small talk in elevators.

What would have once filled a box (address books, photo albums, day planner, alarm clock, watch…you get the point) now fits in the palm of our hand. It’s an amazing feat for something that originated as a way to make telephone calls.

Were you anticipating this metaphor? Here it is: LiquidPlanner is like the iPhone.

Yes, I know. Project management software will never be as far-reaching or monumental as the iPhone. But, for the people who use the tools on a daily basis, it can sometimes feel like it, for better or for worse.

Like the iPhone, LiquidPlanner combines several tools into one:

  • Email (You can’t rid yourself of it completely, but the number of emails sent and received can be reduced.)
  • Slack, Yammer, and other IM communication platforms
  • Time tracking software
  • Spreadsheets
  • To-do lists
  • Calendars

If your team spends a lot of time jumping between different applications, this could be a major selling point. Consolidation also reduces time spent copying and pasting the same information across different applications. All conversations, documents, and plans are in one place.

Here’s a video you can share with your team to give them a quick overview and get them excited about LiquidPlanner:

Pitch It to Your Team

With LiquidPlanner, we can consolidate our project toolkit, workflow, and project plans into one. We’ll no longer need to juggle multiple applications, saving us time and headaches. Plus, we’ll all have real-time visibility into our projects with just one click.

Benefit #2: Faster Communication

Communication is almost always listed in those “5 Top Skills for PMs” listicles. If that’s the case, then why do so many project management tools make it so hard to communicate with the team?

LiquidPlanner knows that teams are often swimming in emails, attachments, and random Slack messages. That’s removing these roadblocks and making communication much easier is a major component of our tool.

Why teams love collaborating in LiquidPlanner:

  • Built-in collaboration features: Commenting within LiquidPlanner moves conversations out of email and IM, creating a “paper trail” that’s linked to the specific project task. @mention comments can be used to call team members’ attention and keep conversations focused.
  • Open, transparent environment: With a shared workspace, everyone can see all the tasks that make up the project and the schedule for project completion. This transparency makes it clear what needs to be done, who’s responsible for doing what, and when tasks needs to be completed.
  • Single, centralized workspace: A project workspace hosted online gives the whole team access to the information they need and a means to collaborate, via any Internet-enabled device. For geographically distributed teams, nobody loses out due to location or time difference. Information is available to the whole team 24/7, and team members don’t have to ask the project manager or wait to be spoon fed information.
  • Documents housed in one location: Team members shouldn’t have to visit several different repositories for documentation or other information they need to get the job done. This eats time and introduces version control issues (e.g., many different versions of the same document being emailed around). Documentation can be stored in the workspace itself, ideally with any associated tasks linked to it, which makes navigation a breeze.

Pitch It to Your Team

Everyone will know who’s doing what and when without having to search through email chains and multiple applications. Documents will be easier to find and organized within project plans and tasks. We can easily share documents, updates, and statuses through LiquidPlanner, giving 24/7 access to everyone.

Benefit #3: Increased Autonomy

Employing practices that make employees feel like robots on assembly lines, micromanaging for example, is a really effective way to reduce employee engagement. This leads to increased stress, higher turnover, and less effective employees.

But give them room to make their own decisions, think for themselves, and take ownership, and motivation will steadily begin to rise.

In his book “Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Really Motivates Us”, Daniel Pink cites a study conducted at Cornell University that looked at the effects of autonomy at 320 small businesses in the United States. Half of the companies granted workers more autonomy, the other relied on top-down direction.

Those businesses that gave employees autonomy:

  • Grew four times faster than the businesses using command and control management.
  • Experienced one-third of the turnover.

Obviously, there’s a fine line between giving employees autonomy over their work and letting the inmates run the prison. And, that’s where a project management tool like LiquidPlanner comes in.

One of the major differences between LiquidPlanner and a tool like Microsoft Project is increased visibility. With traditional PM tools, it’s difficult to fully collaborate. Sometimes only one person has access to the actual tool and, thus, the actual plan. Cloud-based tools allow all team members to access and work within the tool autonomously. No more waiting for updates. No more wondering what to work on next.

Now, everyone will have access to the same information at the same time. It’s easier to stay on top of what’s going on and know what needs to be done next.

And, greater autonomy = greater employee engagement.

Pitch It to Your Team

No more tracking down status updates and wondering what’s next in the project plan. With LiquidPlanner, every member of the team has 24/7, instant access our project plans. That means fewer surprises, less wait time, and the ability to see what upcoming work.

Tying It All Together

You now have three solid talking points you can use to describe the benefits of LiquidPlanner to your team. But don’t stop there. Seize the excitement and momentum of this conversation by introducing your plan for implementation.

These resources will help you build a successful rollout plan:

5 Steps to a Successful Rollout of LiquidPlanner

Preparing for Liftoff: Building an Implementation Plan

Getting Started Video Series

6 Simple Ways Project Managers Can Improve Their Writing Skills Today

I’ve been a “professional writer” for nine years. I should be able to effortlessly crank out the words by now, right? Well, if we’re being completely honest with each other, I’ve spent 15 minutes on this intro alone. It’s a slog. Every. Time.

Writing is a hard skill to master (and that’s coming from someone who does this for a living). And just when you think you’ve got it, you find yourself staring at an ugly first draft, wondering where the magic went.

But here’s the good news: you don’t need to master it. No one expects literary quality from your briefs and emails. In fact, if you’ve done it well, no one will notice your writing.

In business writing, you have a simple goal: to clearly and concisely share your message. You’re not going to begin a quarterly earnings report with, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” Unless you’re an aspiring business novelist (Eliyahu Goldratt, anyone?), you can leave the prose to Dickens.

Why Solid Writing Skills Make a Difference for Project Managers

When I give this spiel to fellow office dwellers, it’s sometimes met with an apathetic, “Well, I’m not a writer, so it doesn’t matter.”

Hold up, I say. How many emails, IMs, briefs, and memos have you written today? Tweets? Facebook posts? Text messages? That’s what I thought.

You may not have the job title, but I’m willing to wager that you spend at least an hour or two every day writing.

For project managers, solid writing skills become even more important. The success or failure of your project hinges on your communication skills.

It’s likely that a majority of your team communications are via email, IM, or comments. In the past, how many times have you gone back and forth with people who didn’t say what they meant the first time around? How many hours have you wasted trying to decipher poorly written status updates?

Project managers also need to write important documents like project proposals and charters, training documents, plans, and reports. Considering these documents build the foundation of a project, writing plays an important role in successful execution.

Tried and True Techniques

Here are six easy techniques you can use to improve your writing skills.

Think before you write.

Sometimes we panic when we’re presented with that blank page. Just get it out, we think, as we furiously type away. What’s left is a messy brain dump of a document. While that’s a great way to kickstart your writing, it’s not a great experience for the reader.

Those extraneous details muddy the waters, and the reader walks away confused. That’s how balls get dropped, deadlines are missed, and miscommunication happens.

Before you begin writing, answer these three questions:

  • Who am I writing for?
  • What do I want them to know?
  • What do I want them to do?

If you can’t immediately answer these questions, you’ll need to take a step back and collect your thoughts. Everything you write should have a clear audience and purpose.

Get to the point.

In school, we’re taught to spend our first four to five sentences warming up the reader. We then hit them with our main point at the end of the intro. While that format may have impressed your eighth grade English teacher, it’s not going to impress a hurried executive.

Instead, begin with your main point. Dedicate your first paragraph to a quick summary of the situation and the proposed solution if you’re writing longer memos. For emails, use the first sentence to summarize why you’re writing and what you’re trying to accomplish.

If you’re unsure, ask a colleague to read your email and summarize your message in two to three sentences. If he or she can’t do that easily (or gets it wrong), you’ll need to answer the three questions above and work on clarifying your message.

Cut out unnecessary words.

I once had a boss who was a former magazine editor. She was absolutely ruthless. When she’d return my articles, it looked like someone had squeezed a pomegranate onto the page. Red. Everywhere.

Her biggest pet peeve was needless words: very, like, that, in order to, suddenly.

The folder that you need is on my desk.

I’m reading the report in order to prepare for my meeting.

It’s very important to be on time tomorrow.

She taught me how to tighten my sentences by removing the unnecessary. Cut these filler words and your writing will immediately improve.

Empower yourself to ban the buzzwords.

Poor “empower.”

A word that once had so much meaning is now carelessly thrown around in business communications.

I mean, just look at this graph. From 1980 to now, the use of “empower” in publications has tripled.

Data from Google Ngram Viewer

Business writing is full of words like this:

  • World class
  • Circle back
  • Depth and breadth
  • Visionary
  • Disruptive
  • Innovate

While these terms are sometimes accurate for the situation, I’ve found that it’s more often a sign of lazy writing. These buzzwords tend to confuse or bore your reader.

Check out this handy “bizspeak blacklist” from Harvard Business Review for a list of words to ban from your vocabulary.

Read what you write.

Pretend that you’re the reader. Is your point clear and concise? Does it flow clearly from one idea to another? Or is it abrupt and confusing? Is the call to action obvious? Reading your work aloud can be incredibly helpful. You’ll quickly notice jarring sentence structures and words that trip up your reader.

Good writing is like music. It should have a rhythm. Watch what writing guru Gary Provost does here:

“This sentence has five words. Here are five more words. Five-word sentences are fine. But several together become monotonous. Listen to what is happening. The writing is getting boring. The sound of it drones. It’s like a stuck record. The ear demands some variety.

Now listen. I vary the sentence length, and I create music. Music. The writing sings. It has a pleasant rhythm, a lilt, a harmony. I use short sentences. And I use sentences of medium length. And sometimes when I am certain the reader is rested, I will engage him with a sentence of considerable length, a sentence that burns with energy and builds with all the impetus of a crescendo, the roll of the drums, the crash of the cymbals—sounds that say listen to this, it is important.
So write with a combination of short, medium, and long sentences. Create a sound that pleases the reader’s ear. Don’t just write words. Write music.”

Reading your work out loud (or loudly in your head if you don’t want to interrupt your colleagues) will help you hear the music (or lack thereof) in your writing.

Read other people’s writing.

Finally, if you want to be a writer, you also need to be a reader. Don’t limit yourself to business books. Read novels, newspapers, blogs, longform journalism. As you read, take note of the writer’s style and structure. Think about ways you can apply these things to your own writing.

And don’t forget to enjoy it. After you apply these techniques, you may find that maybe writing isn’t so bad after all.

My Favorite Books About Writing

Check out these books for more advice on writing:

On Writing Well: The Classic Guide to Nonfiction by William Zinsser

Everybody Writes: Your Go-To Guide to Creating Ridiculously Good Content by Ann Handley

HBR Guide to Better Business Writing

The Elements of Style by William Strunk, Jr. and E.B. White.

6 Top Project Management Books for Engineers and Manufacturers

While engineers learn a lot of valuable skills in school, project management isn’t always one of them. Many engineers end up learning PM skills on the job and on their own time.

If you’re an engineer looking to grow your project management skillset, you’re in the right place. To compile this list, we dug through Amazon listings, forums, blogs, and review websites to identify the best project management books specifically for those in the manufacturing and engineering industries.

[Further Reading: 5 Reasons Engineers Need to Learn Project Management Skills]

Critical Chain by Dr. Eliyahu M. Goldratt

Who said business books have to be a bore? Dr. Eliyahu M. Goldratt turned the traditional how-to book on its head with this “business novel.” Goldratt explore his Theory of Constraints (TOC) through the story’s main character, a university professor who has just returned from a large corporation that uses TOC. Over the course of the book, Goldratt walks readers through the five principle steps of TOC. This is an excellent overview of TOC packaged in a novel full of character development, conflict, and the occasional dramatic scene.

Epiphanized: A Novel on Unifying Theory of Constraints, Lean, and Six Sigma by Bob Sproull and Bruce Nelson

Management consultants Bob Sproull and Bruce Nelson borrow from Goldratt’s storytelling concept to explore the advantages of using Theory of Constraints, Lean, and Six Sigma together. This book tells the story of two consultants who turn around an ailing company by implementing a unification of the three methodologies.

In the appendix, the authors offer a closer look at how the methodologies described in the novel can be applied to your own organization and why a combination of the three creates the best results.

Project Management for the Unofficial Project Manager by Kory Kogon, Suzette Blakemore, and James Wood

In today’s workplace, most employees are expected to competently run and manage projects. The trouble is, many haven’t been formally trained.

This book offers practical, jargon-free advice for the accidental project manager. The authors use real-world examples of project successes and failures to illustrate the most important steps and practices for effective people and project management.

Industrial Megaprojects by Edward W. Merrow

When large-scale engineering and construction projects—think off-shore oil platforms, chemical plants, dams—go wrong, they go horribly wrong. In “Industrial Megaprojects,” Edward W. Merrow uses humor, conversational language, and 30 years of experience to explore why large-scale projects fail and what can be done to prevent this. While this book focuses on megaprojects, many of the insights can be applied to engineering and manufacturing projects of any size.

Project Management Case Studies by Harold Kerzner

If you enjoy learning from others’ mistakes and successes, this one’s for you. Project management guru Harold Kerzner dives into more than 100 case studies drawn from real companies to show what worked, what failed, and what could have been done differently. The book covers a wide array of industries, including medical and pharmaceutical, aerospace, manufacturing, and more.

Project Management for Engineering and Construction by Garold D. Oberlender

This book presents the principles and techniques for managing engineering and construction projects from the initial concerting phase, through design and construction, to completion. What sets it apart from other PM books is the focus on applying PM techniques and principles to the beginning stages of a project to influence the budget, scope, and timeline as early as possible. While other books dive right into the construction phase, Oberlender offers a solid argument for applying PM principles earlier in the process.

Bonus: LiquidPlanner Project Management Resources

How to Manage Chaos: Advice on Project Management and Workplace Conundrums

Every month, project management expert Elizabeth Harrin fields readers’ questions about the challenges, risks, and rewards of project work on the LiquidPlanner blog.

We’ve compiled our favorite columns in this eBook. Over 30 pages, you’ll get Elizabeth’s take on a range of project management and workplace topics, including:

  • Ways to get more resources for your project.
  • Strategies for juggling multiple project tasks
  • How to manage a micromanager

Solving the Top 9 Project Management Challenges

This eBook provides practical tips and solutions to nine common project management challenges. You’ll also see how LiquidPlanner helps you meet your challenges—and turn them into opportunities.

The LiquidPlanner Blog

Every week, we publish guest posts from active project managers.

August Product Update: Make Changes in a Flash with Inline Editing

At LiquidPlanner, we’re all about boosting productivity with time-saving shortcuts. That’s why we’re excited to introduce our latest product improvement: inline editing.

Whether you’re adjusting, updating, editing, or renaming fields, you can now do it in a single click. You’ll no longer need to open Edit Panel to make changes in LiquidPlanner.

Simply click on a field and the data will become editable. All changes are saved immediately, so you can quickly move on to the next thing.

Click. Edit. Tada!

Managers can make quick adjustments to assignments and deadlines, while team members can easily update their estimates―all directly from the Timeline View on the Projects tab.

These fields can be edited inline:

  • Item Name
  • Owner
  • Remaining Effort
  • Logged
  • Custom Fields
  • Deadline
  • Delay Until
  • Daily Limits
  • Max Effort
  • Reference
  • Contract Value

Inline editing is available to all LiquidPlanner customers. Sign in now to give one-click editing a try.

To learn more about the August update, read the release notes.

Not a LiquidPlanner customer? If you’re looking for ways to get better visibility into your projects and their performance, try us out!

A Look Inside Project Management at StarFish Medical

Before a medical device reaches a patient’s bedside, it must go through a rigorous multi-step process that includes design, development, testing, regulatory review, and manufacturing.

Andrew Morton, Engineering Project Manager at StarFish Medical

StarFish Medical, a product development consultancy based in Victoria, British Columbia, helps companies large and small navigate this process and create breakthrough products for a number of medical specialty areas.

They couldn’t do this without some serious project management muscle.

We talked with Andrew Morton, PE, PMP, who manages the project management group, to learn more about the medical device design process, how StarFish Medical project managers collaborate with clients, and what it takes to be a project manager in the medical device space.

Can you tell us about the role project management plays at StarFish Medical?

We have a project management office. At a very high level, the PMO is looking for consistency on projects. Do we have the minimum set of processes on our projects? Is that satisfactory to be successful for both internal tracking purposes, as well as to satisfy the needs of our clients? Are the PMs following those processes?

Being a consultancy, we have a lot of different clients and customers. The needs are very diverse. It’s often a tradeoff between what might work for 50, 80, 100 percent of the projects. We try to balance the needs of the majority with the needs of everything.

What was your path to project management?

My background is in engineering. I have a bachelor’s degree in engineering/physics, and a master’s degree in mechanical engineering. Most of my professional experience has been in project engineering or project management. I’m a certified PMP.

I started in engineering and was always very interested in the coordination piece. Bringing together the efforts of many different functions within the organization and doing that in a structured way to get something really meaningful at the end of the day has always been appealing to me.

Photo courtesy of StarFish Medical
And what drew you to the medical device industry?

There are three things:

Whatever I’m doing, I want it to be meaningful. It helps substantially. The day-to-day challenges are diminished when you think about the impact our work has on people’s lives.

Cutting-edge technology is a huge interest of mine. New medical device design is very much in that area. We are pushing the boundaries of technology and finding ways to apply that in a meaningful way for people and patient outcomes. For me, it’s also interesting to be in a cross-disciplinary design environment, where we’re working on hardware and software.

What attracted me to StarFish is the company’s great reputation for excellence. Being a consultancy, we work on many different products at any given time. Everything we work on is quite diverse.

How does StarFish Medical help clients from move medical devices from ideas to manufactured products?

Within StarFish, we have design, regulatory, and manufacturing capabilities.

We have a phase-gate design approach. Phase 0 is our proof of concept, development process. Phase 1 is detailed design. Phase 2 is transfer to manufacturing.

In Phase 3, which is less common, we focus on sustaining engineering. This a product that is already being manufactured. There may be enhancements or feedback from the market about needed adjustments.

We touch all of those in our different phases. Sometimes we only help a client with a piece of Phase 1. Sometimes we get involved in the whole lifecycle, moving from Phase 0 to getting the product to manufacturing.

Photo courtesy of StarFish Medical
What are some of the differences between being a project manager in the medical device world, versus other industries?

A lot of our work is around first of a kind development. I would put us in the category of new product development project management.

We are innovating a lot, and the path forward is uncertain. A lot of our projects lend themselves to Agile methods. We also do Phase 2 and 3 projects, in the manufacturing realm. Those are going to look like more traditional Waterfall approach to project management, where there’s very little design activities to be done.

Our project managers tend to focus more on the front-end design work, which I would put under the umbrella of new product development.

In regards to new product development, I think the major difference is that our products eventually need to be sold in a regulated environment, complying with FDA or Health Canada regulations.

While the regulatory piece is not uncommon in project management, I think it’s uncommon to be looking be looking at regulatory at the same time in new product development. We’re doing that from day one.

Photo courtesy of StarFish Medical
How are the project teams set up at StarFish Medical?

It really depends on the project. The one universal is that every project has a project manager. From there, one project can look very different from another.

Why is that?

Sometimes the client is one person, and he or she has a big idea. They have funding, but they don’t have any engineering capabilities themselves. They come to StarFish to do it all. In that case, there’s a project manager supporting them, and, basically, StarFish is wholly owning the design.

Or, a client has a team of their own. They may have a mechanical engineer and a software engineer, but they don’t have electronics and industrial design. They come to us to do those pieces. For that project team, we’d build around their capabilities. If the scope was fairly small, then maybe the project manager’s only spending half of his or her time on that project.

Sometimes a project may be a derivative of a project that the client already has. We have our own internal team, but we’re interfacing regularly with technical leads on the client team. The client wants ownership of the engineering, but they don’t have the resources at the time. Generally, they’re too busy.

The client team then becomes very embedded in the work that we are doing. We have to keep them updated more regularly than other projects where the client is very hands-off. We may have a weekly call or daily scrum just to touch base.

The teams look very different, depending on our clients’ needs. Having a dedicated project manager gives the clients a single point of contact.

What do you enjoy about your work?

The rewarding part is being a part of clinical trials. We get to see how products improve things. At the end of a project, our clients will hopefully be able to commercialize and manufacture the product. Being attached to this work is very rewarding. That’s true for everyone in the building. Everyone is very motivated by success in this space, which means it’s both helping people as well as getting products on the market.

Photo courtesy of StarFish Medical

What’s it like to hold that actual medical device in your hands, once you’ve gone through the whole process?

It’s hard to describe. It can be pretty amazing when you think of the effort that went into it and all of the challenges that were involved to bring it to life. It’s extremely satisfying. When you look at a finished product, it’s easy to underestimate the effort that goes into making these products come to life.

What qualities do project managers need to succeed in the medical devices field?

You need to have a good working knowledge of product development. There’s a whole set of processes around making something that wasn’t there before.

Systems engineering is also a key piece. It ties back to product development and what the FDA expects for regulatory submission, which is a structured design approach where you create requirements, specifications, and you go through the process of formally verifying and validating. It’s a pretty big part of medical device design.

On a personal level, one of the things that goes a long way is having the passion for improving lives. It can be difficult at times. There are a number of obstacles along the way.

That passion goes a long way in reminding yourself of what you’re doing, helping you reframe things, and moving past obstacles. The project manager is leading a team; that passion can help keep going and stay motivated.

Summer 2017 Reading for Project Managers

If your weekend plans look anything like mine, you’ll be reading. A lot. My favorite thing to do on a warm Saturday afternoon is stretch out on the hammock with a good book in-hand.

These five books are heavy on the storytelling, light on the jargon, and full of lessons and research we can apply to our personal and work lives.

THE UNDOING PROJECT: A FRIENDSHIP THAT CHANGED OUR MINDS by Michael Lewis

Michael Lewis, author of bestsellers “Moneyball”“The Blind Side”, and “The Big Short”, explores the work and friendship of Nobel prize-winning psychologists Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky. Forty years ago, the pair conducted a series of studies that challenged assumptions about our decision-making process. Their research demonstrated the ways in which the human mind erred, systematically, when forced to make judgments in uncertain situations. While the story could have ended there, Lewis builds the narrative by delving into Kahneman’s childhood in Nazi-occupied France and, later, his experiences as student, tank commander, and psychologist; Israel-born Tversky’s time spent as a paratrooper and mathematical economist; and the pair’s unlikely friendship that fueled their collaboration.

Good for: Becoming more cognizant of you and your colleagues’ decision-making processes.

SHOE DOG: A MEMOIR BY THE CREATOR OF NIKE by Phil Knight

In this memoir, Nike founder Phil Knight shares the inside story of the company’s early days and how it evolved into the iconic brand that it is today. While it’s a story about Nike’s rise, Knight doesn’t sugarcoat the challenges that come with launching a new venture. The book is “a refreshingly honest reminder of what the path to business success really looks like,” Bill Gates writes in his review. “It’s a messy, perilous, and chaotic journey riddled with mistakes, endless struggles, and sacrifice. In fact, the only thing that seems inevitable in page after page of Knight’s story is that his company will end in failure.” Spoiler alert: Nike doesn’t end in failure. For an honest look into what it takes to be a successful leader, we recommend “Shoe Dog”.

Good for: Getting an honest behind-the-scenes view of what it takes to succeed in business.

CULTIVATE: THE POWER OF WINNING RELATIONSHIPS by Morag Barrett

Project managers know that great people skills are essential to getting things done. To be truly effective, you need to be able to build relationships and communicate effectively with stakeholders and team members. In “Cultivate”, Barrett shows readers the four relationship behaviors and their dynamics that are at work in companies–and in life. Rather than preaching lofty ideas, Barrett offers an actionable game plan for identifying key relationships and moving them forward.

Good for: Learning how to develop, optimize, and nurture every connection in your life.

DELIVERING BAD NEWS IN GOOD WAYS by Alison Sigmon
When bad things happen on projects, telling people is difficult. This tough job almost always falls on the project manager. Packed with anecdotal stories, research-supported facts, and “in the field” tips, this book is built around a core process that guides project managers through several stages: learning the bad news themselves, creating a message tailored to their team’s needs, delivering the news in a way recipients can process it, and working with the team to develop ways to move forward.

Good for: Building skills needed for quickly assessing and delivering difficult news, especially when it comes to project management.

ORIGINALS: HOW NON-CONFORMISTS MOVE THE WORLD by Adam Grant

If you’re the kind of project manager that’s always pushing your team, challenging the status quo, you’re going to want to read this book. Using surprising studies and stories spanning business, politics, sports, and entertainment, Grant explores how to recognize a good idea, speak up without getting silenced, build a coalition of allies, choose the right time to act, and manage fear and doubt; how parents and teachers can nurture originality in children; and how leaders can build cultures that welcome dissent.

July Product Update: Seamlessly Allocate and Schedule Resources with Project Limits

Dedicating all of your work hours to a single project is becoming a rarity in today’s multi-tasking work world.

For many teams, working on multiple projects at the same time has become the norm, which makes effective management of resources and timelines even more important. Without it, project managers may spend hours seeking out status updates; team members don’t always know what work is the highest priority; and managers are left wondering how their team is allocated. This balancing act is time-consuming for everyone involved. (Been there, done that. We’re speaking from experience here.)

That’s why we’re excited to introduce Daily Limits on Projects. This new feature offers managers the ability to set a max number of hours per day for team members to work on a project.

For organizations that run multiple complex projects at one time, Daily Limits makes scheduling people and projects much easier. By setting Daily Limits, project managers can instantly see how their team’s limits impact delivery dates across the entire project portfolio.

Daily Limits offers managers the ability to set a max number of hours per day for team members to work on a project.

 

Daily Limits can be set on both projects and tasks. The applied Daily Limit will cap the amount of time that a team member is scheduled on a specific project or task for the day, which frees up their remaining availability for their next highest priority work.

In a world of competing projects and tight deadlines, Daily Limits helps teams understand these constraints and work more efficiently to get the job done.

Learn More About Daily Limits

Daily Limits is now available to all Professional and Enterprise LiquidPlanner customers. Not a LiquidPlanner customer? You can try out Daily Limits by starting a free trial.

To learn how to setup and manage Daily Limits, check out the video below, as well as this help article.

5 Ways Cloud-Based Project Management Software Saves Time and Money

It’s official: the cloud has gone mainstream. While early-adopters have been touting the benefits of cloud-based solutions for years, larger organizations, as well as those facing hurdles with new technology, have been slower to adapt. But, according to recent research from Gartner, Inc., that’s changing.

Recently, more organizations, even large enterprises and slow adopters, have begun turning to the cloud. The worldwide public cloud services market is projected to grow 18 percent in 2017 to total $246.8 billion, up from $209.2 billion in 2016, according to Gartner.

“As enterprise application buyers are moving toward a cloud-first mentality, we estimate that more than 50 percent of new 2017 large-enterprise North American application adoptions will be composed of SaaS or other forms of cloud-based solutions,” says Sid Nag, research director at Gartner. “Midmarket and small enterprises are even further along the adoption curve. By 2019, more than 30 percent of the 100 largest vendors’ new software investments will have shifted from cloud-first to cloud-only.”

Quick Cloud Stats

Larger organizations are now learning what early adopters have known for years: cloud-based software can help you save time and money.

Here are some reasons to consider the switch to cloud-based project management software.

Anytime-anywhere access

Design team in Seattle, and production facilities in Detroit? No problem. Cloud-based project management makes collaboration across distances easy. Thanks to the connectivity of high-speed Internet, it’s now possible to work closely with someone you may never meet in real life.

For international companies like Rotork, a leading manufacturer of industrial valve actuators, the ability to access information from anywhere in the world, on mobile or laptop, is invaluable. The company’s gear design team is based in England, while their manufacturing team is in the Netherlands.

With LiquidPlanner, “everybody can access their projects and tasks from different locations and different time zones in the business. We can share information and keep our plans up to date, which will also let us manage common resources across multiple projects.”

–Steve Watkins, R & D Engineering Manager at Rotork

Learn how the Rotork teams use LiquidPlanner to hit their deadlines.

Less time lying awake at night, wondering if your data is safe

Security concerns stop some companies from switching to cloud-based solutions. The idea being that having physical control over one’s servers makes it more secure.

However, cloud software can be just as secure as on-premise. Most reputable cloud-based applications have strong safeguards in place to protect customers’ data while in-transfer and at-rest. For example, LiquidPlanner is hosted with Amazon Web Services (AWS). Our customers’ data is housed at AWS data centers in different geographic areas that are completely independent from one another. With servers in multiple zones, failure in one zone won’t disrupt service.

Here are some of the security headaches avoided by using a reputable cloud software service:

  • Data replicated to servers in multiple geographic regions to guarantee maximum availability.
  • Daily data backups.
  • Uninterrupted power supply, guaranteed with generators.
  • Fire detection systems, temperature and climate control, and video surveillance.

Security is a genuine concern, so be sure to thoroughly vet any cloud-based software providers you’re considering. See the steps LiquidPlanner takes to protect customer data.

Fewer emails, less time searching for documents

How many times have you scrolled through a never-ending email chain, looking for that paper clip icon. “Aha! Here’s the file,” you think, only to discover that this attachment is not the final version. Or is it? The document has been updated so many times, you’ve lost track. Now you have to ask your colleague for the final final version. And wait.

Meanwhile, your manager is asking for updates because she was left off the email chain and has no idea what’s going on. Hopefully, your colleague will issue the final version quickly, so your manager’s questions can be resolved and the new final version distributed to the team.

With cloud-based project management, you can cut down on back-and-forth emails and multiple versions of documents. Everyone on your team can quickly access the latest document. Changes, status updates, and comments are automatically sent to everyone who needs them.

For companies like scientific equipment manufacturer Lake Shore Cryotronics, cloud-based project management means better organization and a reduced dependency on email.

“Many team members are using the commenting features in LiquidPlanner to communicate and provide task updates. In the past, these project artifacts would have been buried in emails, with little in the way of organization or visibility. Now, comments are tied directly to the tasks and items they’re relevant to, in a way that provides visibility to everyone on the team.”

– Rob Welsh, Development Process Manager at Lake Shore Cryotronics

Learn how Welsh’s product development team uses LiquidPlanner to track and manage its complex workload.

Lower upfront costs: no investment in server infrastructure required

On-premise systems tend to cost more upfront, due to onsite software and server installation, software license investments, and the extra IT staff needed to configure and maintain the system. With cloud-based applications, all you need to get started is an Internet connection and a device.

When comparing the costs of cloud-based and on-premise systems, you should also take extra costs like monthly maintenance, hourly customer support, backup software, and electricity consumption into consideration. With cloud-based applications, you won’t need to worry about electricity and backup software fees. Most offer online help articles and resources, as well as customer support and troubleshooting assistance.

If you’d like to compare the total cost of ownership over several years for an on-premise system and a cloud-based Software as a Service (SaaS) system, we recommend this calculator from SoftwareAdvice.com.

Zero time spent on software updates

You’re right in the middle of something, just hitting your groove, when a notification appears on your screen. “Restart your computer to finish installing important updates.”

Nooo. Not now, you think. And you ask for a reminder in one hour. Then you delay it again. And again. Before you realize it, you have 38 updates waiting for you.

With cloud-based solutions, you don’t need to stop your flow for updates. Once new features or updates are live, you have instant access. No download or upgrades required.

Many cloud-based solutions also offer integrations with tools you’re already familiar with. LiquidPlanner, for example, integrates with Google Drive, Salesforce, Zapier, and more. Also available is an open API, enabling you to build integrations with other tools.

Taken together, these five things make a compelling business case for switching to a cloud-based project management solution. Are you ready to join the millions of businesses who are managing their projects in the cloud? Start a free trial today to start saving time and money with LiquidPlanner, cloud-based predictive project management software.

June Product Update: New Custom Fields for Better Work Management

Custom fields are the perfect way to track and report on any part of your workflow. This month, we’re excited to share several new Custom Fields updates that offer increased visibility, insights, and customization.

Now you have more ways to capture and report on the things that matter to your team, like project health scores, approval dates, and project costs.

Add New Color to Your Dashboards

Bring your dashboards to life with new color indicators. Administrators can now set colors for Pick List Custom Fields on the Custom Fields settings page. Colors can be used to convey project status within the Projects tab, quickly visualize project status, and customize executive reports. The selected colors will show wherever Custom Fields are exposed: on the Edit Panel, in your Personal Columns Display, in Analytics Reports, on Dashboards, in Resource Workload Report, and on the My Work Tab.

To display Custom Field colors on a Dashboard Donut Widget chart, set the Ring Emphasis to your color-coded custom field and select the “Default” Color Palette.

Dashboard Donut Widget chart with colors assigned to custom field values.

Track and Report the Values Unique to Your Business

LiquidPlanner already allows you to track, monitor, and report on things that are common across business and industries, such as estimates and hours logged.

With our latest update, you can now create date, number, and currency fields to track and monitor what’s unique to you.

Date fields can be used to house and track important dates in the life of a project (e.g., kickoff dates, customer sign-off dates, ship dates). Currency fields will now create consistent formatting across all of your custom financial metrics, such as contractor costs or material budgets that are attached to your projects. Number fields can be used to track numeric values, such as quantities and weight of parts.

Ready to add that extra bit of personalization to your workflow? Log in now and give the new colors and custom fields a try.

To learn more about these updates, read the release notes.

Industry 4.0 Series | 3D Printing in Manufacturing: Three Sectors to Watch

This story is part of our Industry 4.0 series, which looks at the new technologies, techniques, and trends that are pushing manufacturers toward a new level of optimization and productivity.

There’s much more to 3D printers than plastic trinkets. The industrial market for 3D printing has been heating up, with manufacturers exploring new ways to capitalize on additive manufacturing’s latest technologies.

By 2020, 75 percent of manufacturing operations worldwide will be using 3D-printed tools, jigs, and fixtures made in-house or by a service bureau to produce finished goods, according to a 2016 Gartner report. Gartner also predicts that 10 percent of industrial operations will incorporate robotic 3D printers in their manufacturing processes by 2020.

While 3D printing is expected to grow in manufacturing operations, there are several sectors that are already utilizing this new technology.

Healthcare

When people think of 3D printing and medical devices, prosthetics or implants usually come to mind. But the applications for 3D printing within the healthcare space span beyond that.

The ability to quickly and inexpensively produce prototypes using 3D printers is a big win for the medical device industry. Engineers and designers can now produce prototypes in-house, making it easier to communicate ideas and designs to stakeholders.

By being able to hold the device in their hands, designers, engineers, and stakeholders can more accurately and quickly evaluate the device. Modifications can be made and tested in a day, rather than weeks. Using 3D printers to create prototypes can also help manufacturers avoid wasting time and money by finding issues in the device design before it moves too far in the development process.

3D printers are also being used to create life-size replicas of the human anatomy, allowing surgeons to practice complicated procedures on realistic replicas.

Such was the case when researchers created a 3D model of the brain of 5-month-old Gabriel Mandeville. To help treat his violent epileptic seizures, Mandeville’s parents consented to a hemispherectomy, a complex medical procedure that removes or disconnects the healthy side of the brain from the side of the brain that’s responsible for the seizures.

Using the Simulator Program at Boston Children’s Hospital, the doctors printed an exact replica of Mandeville’s brain out of soft plastic. Blood vessels were printed in a different color to differentiate them from surrounding tissue.

Before the surgery, doctors were able to do a practice run of what Joseph Madsen, director of the epilepsy program at Boston Children’s Hospital, called “one of the most challenging operations in pediatric epilepsy surgery.” The 10-hour surgery was a success.

Aerospace

The aerospace industry is at the forefront of the additive manufacturing movement. From NASA to GE, aerospace and aviation companies are finding new ways to use 3D printing to create more efficient processes, develop prototypes and parts, and create designs that are unachievable with traditional manufacturing.

In 2016, GE began creating the fuel nozzles for its next-generation LEAP jet engine using direct metal laser melting, a technique that fuses fine layers of metal powders together with a laser beam. Compared to earlier models, the 3D printed nozzles are 25 percent lighter, five times stronger, and printed as one component, rather than 18 individual pieces that required assembly.

Each LEAP-1B engine has 19 3D-printed fuel nozzles, made from a nickel cobalt alloy. Image credit: GE Aviation

Last September, GE acquired two European metal 3D printer companies, Arcam and SLM Solutions, for $1.4 billion, illustrating that GE believes 3D printing can bring big benefits to the company.

Automotive

Rapid prototyping, mass customization, and fast production are the biggest benefits automotive manufacturers will see from 3D printing.

With 3D printers, manufacturers can now quickly produce accurate prototypes to validate design. Previously, manufacturers relied on machine shops to produce prototyped parts. This process cost both money and time, especially if a part needed modification. With 3D printers, manufacturers can now print their parts in-house and test and iterate quickly.

3D printing will also help usher in the era of mass customization for the automotive industry. Last year, automaker Daihatsu partnered with 3D printing company Stratasys to bring customers customizable body panels for its Copen model. The 3D parts, known as “Effect Skins”, are available in 15 patterns available and 10 different colors. Customers can mix and match to create their own unique looks.

Local Motors’ Olli is the world’s first 3D-printed autonomous shuttle. Image credit: Local Motors

And, what about printing entire cars? The potential is there.  In 2015, Local Motors introduced the world to the Strati, the first road-ready 3D-printed car. A year later, they printed a self-driving electric shuttle, called Olli, that has been serving commuters in Washington DC and Berlin.

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