In the world of project management, data is key. However, measuring and tracking the right information from project kickoff all the way to delivery is never an easy feat.
That’s why we’ve been cooking up product improvements that not only deliver better data for all aspects of your projects, but also give you a way to make sense of that data. Because data without analysis is just numbers.
This month, we’re excited to share two updates that will help you gain deeper insights, more accurately track information across all projects, and save time and money.
Track, Manage, and Organize with More Flexible Custom Fields
Every project is unique, and teams need to accurately track information that is specific to the way they work. There are a multitude of processes, communication, and metadata that needs to get captured, especially with more complex projects.
That’s where Custom Fields come in. You can track any aspect of your project by creating fields for things like project status, product lines, or business regions.
With the April update, we’ve added Text Custom Fields, a new type of field that offers even more flexibility. Now teams can enter a single-line text entry for specific task or project fields. Create fields for part numbers, unique codes, risk reasons, or any other part of your team’s process.
Workspace administrators can create Text Custom Fields in the Data Customization section in Settings. Once the field is created, anyone can add relevant information directly to their tasks or projects.
See the Whole Picture with Sub-Folder Reporting
Complex projects often have a number of distinct stages that project managers use to track progress or costs incurred. For some teams, getting meaningful data for these separate phases is just as important as reporting on the project as a whole.
That’s why we’ve introduced sub-folder reports to Dashboards and Analytics. In one click, teams can quickly see progress, financials, and risk information for any phase of a project.
Visit a dashboard to get a clear visual on how much work has gone into each phase:
Or, run a Sub-folder Report in Analytics to see where you stand for your billable hours:
Getting the right data and reports is only half the battle. It’s what you do with that information that makes project management a little bit art and a little bit science.
Getting the project data you need to understand the health of your business is now faster and easier than ever before. Our February update makes it possible to pull powerful Analytics reports from LiquidPlanner using the API — fellow data geeks rejoice!
Make the most out of your project data
The LiquidPlanner API lets you sync data, automate actions, and integrate with other systems to connect LiquidPlanner to all parts of your business. The key to accessing Analytics data through the API is a handy link you can now find for any Analytics report.
With this link, you or a developer on your team can use the report’s JSON file to connect LiquidPlanner Analytics reports to business intelligence tools or external reports that you’ve built in Excel or Google Sheets. This automates cross-functional reporting and is especially useful for parts of the organization that may not be directly involved with project management, but need the bottom-line numbers, like your finance department.
Once you’ve configured your reporting tool to use the API, all you need to do is sync the data. All of your real-time project information will automatically be fetched and applied to your charts, pivot tables, or any other data visualization you’ve built.
Increase your business intelligence
The LiquidPlanner API opens the door to a multitude of reporting possibilities. Here are just a few of the ways you can use the API to build and automate your business reports:
You can save the JSON file for an Analytics report and pull it into a BI tool, like Tableau. Depending on the tool you’re using, this is usually a simple process.
To get an idea of overall business performance over a timeframe, like month over month, you can use the reporting tool of your choice to pull LiquidPlanner data for a specific date range and compare the data across time.
Automatically sync billing and pay rate calculations with your accounting software to make your finance team’s life a lot easier.
The final LiquidPlanner update of 2016 is here! And so is the most wonderful time of the year: crunch time. Businesses around the world are pushing projects to the finish line and rushing seasonal orders; teams are reflecting on the past year and setting goals for 2017–all simultaneously. It’s enough to make you want to guzzle a few eggnogs at the holiday office party.
To help your team feel empowered to do their best work and finish the year strong, we’ve added some sparkle to your workspace: an updated Edit Panel.
For starters, a new streamlined design makes it easier than ever for team members to stay on top of changes, move project items forward, and do their best work every day. These layout improvements help everyone find important information fast and make updates as needed. Project contributors are able to track the nitty-gritty details that are critical to the success of their work, while project managers can check finish dates, add deadlines or reassign work.
Familiar Functionality, Cleaner Design
Here’s what to expect from your updated Edit Panel:
The organization of the Edit Panel has changed a bit. What we did was group common elements together, putting the most important information right at the top of the panel. In Planning, item details, custom fields and dependencies are separated into new, collapsible sections, so they’re accessible to the people who need them, and hidden from the people who don’t use them.
Project panels now show the entire project team in a grid view, making it a lot easier to see who you’re collaborating with on a particular project.
Comments and item history have been combined to show a timeline for an item, which helps you get the full story for what has happened in chronological order.
There are more updates to be found all around the Edit Panel. Log in to your workspace to see them.
To read more about our December product update, check out the release notes.
To learn about the ins and outs of the Edit Panel, read this Help article.
If you’re not a LiquidPlanner customer, but looking for ways to increase focus and productivity at work, try us out!
It’s been a busy summer here at LiquidPlanner headquarters! Just a couple of weeks ago, we released some product updates that we’re pretty excited about. We made big improvements to workload visualization and forecasting, and added a new way to find and run reports from the main projects view.
One report, in particular, got a major upgrade — it’s called the Project Workload report and it’s been the star of the show because it provides a simple and effective way to manage your project team and their assignments. We put this report in the spotlight by adding a new Reports menu on the Projects tab to make it easy to access while you’re monitoring your projects. In the same menu, you’ll find a supporting cast of powerful reports that have been around for some time. While these reports aren’t new, they’re great for understanding what’s happening with your projects and visualizing changes in the plan.
Read on to learn about Project Workload, Project Status, Remaining Trend, Total Trend, and Date Drift and find out why these reports have taken center stage in your workspace.
Project Workload is your resourcing crystal ball. It instantly shows you who’s working on a project, how much work they have left, and when they’ll be working on it. One of the best things about this report is that you can run it for client work, a specific initiative, or even multiple projects and get workload visibility across all of them.
The report puts the person who is expected to finish last at the top, so you know whose work is driving the end date of the project. It also highlights who’s putting the project at risk and gives you actionable information that helps you shift work around and load balance to keep the project on track.
If you want to show off the project team’s progress to your stakeholders, run the Remaining Trend report. Think of this report as a dynamic burndown chart. It shows how the estimated remaining work for a project has changed over time and shows you the probable landing zone. Ideally, the plotted lines should slope downwards, which would mean that the remaining work for the project is decreasing as time goes on — just what every stakeholder wants to see!
If the lines jump upwards, that’s a sign of either added scope or consistent underestimation of tasks. If they jump downwards, that might mean that scope was cut to meet the deadline or that your team is logging a bunch of hours all at once, instead of as they go.
The Total Trend report is the best way to understand changes in overall scope. The report plots the total amount of work, the range of uncertainty for a project, and the amount of work that’s been completed over time.
The goal is to keep the scope as close to the agreed upon plan as possible, so in a healthy project, you’ll see the plotted lines in the report to stay flat and narrow continuously. You also want the green shaded area to grow steadily and eventually meet the total trend lines, which means that your team is making consistent progress and getting work done. If this is what you see in your report, do a victory dance — it’s difficult to achieve!
For most projects, you’ll see the plotted lines move upwards and downwards as the project progresses. A little variation is okay, but drastic spikes are a sign of adding or cutting scope. Dig in to find out what happened and make sure that you can still finish on time without compromising the quality or deliverables of the project.
Date Drift, also known as the slip report, gives you a simple visual for how the calculated finish date of a project has changed over its lifetime.
You want the black Expected line to stay flat, which would mean that your finish date has stayed the same. The report below shows a more common scenario — the project’s expected finish date blew past its deadline in red. Then, the deadline was renegotiated and pushed back by a few days. Now, it looks like the project will finish under the new deadline despite it slipping by a couple of weeks from its initial projections.
Complex projects can take some pretty wild turns and cause unpleasant surprises if you’re not using the right tools. Make sure to stay ahead of the game with these five reports, all easily accessible from the Projects tab. Click on the Reports menu in your workspace and take ‘em for a spin!
The Resource Workload report on the People tab shows what teams or individual people are working on, when they’re working on it, and how much work they have over time — helping managers visualize team capacity and allocate resources where they’re needed most. Resource Workload is most useful when you are interested in seeing metrics by person across all of their assigned work.
When you want workload information for a specific package, project, or client, use the Project Workload Report on the Projects tab instead.
The Resource Workload report is able to accurately forecast workload for each person in your workspace based on LiquidPlanner’s unique priority-based scheduling inputs. In order to see useful workload data in this report, make sure that tasks have been assigned to real or virtual members and that you’re using these core features:
Ranged Estimates– Workload can only be calculated if the number of hours that the work is expected to take has been entered on tasks.
Prioritization – Work needs to be arranged in priority order on the Projects tab so that it can be scheduled appropriately and workload can be shown for different timeframes.
Deadlines – The report can only show risks (in red) if deadlines have been set on packages, projects, or tasks.
Availability – Every workspace member needs to have their profile Availability set to reflect the number of hours per day that they will spend on work that is represented in LiquidPlanner.
Configuring the report
Any workspace member can run the Resource Workload report from the People tab.
Go to the People tab.
Click on Resource Workload.
Filter to a single person, team, or set of people and/or teams.
Set the timeframe.
Add or remove columns to reveal different data (optional).
You can create custom groups of people based on skills or role by creating a Saved Person Filter.
To see details for a specific resource, expand the person row by clicking the + icon or by clicking directly on the workload bar. You will see any package or project that the person has work within.
Assigning and Editing Items
To re-assign work or make edits to plan items, click on the item name to open the edit panel.
To assign an existing task, hover over a resource’s name and click Add Work. A location picker will open allowing you to select any existing task and quickly add that member as an additional owner. This makes it easy and efficient to load balance resources directly from the report.
The report will reflect future expected hours and dates by person based on data from the current project plan.
For each person that is displayed in the report, you will see a row and the corresponding workload bar over the specified timeframe, like Next 14 days. This helps you visualize how much work each workspace member has to do in the next 2 weeks. Remember that the workload bars are showing when each resource is expected to start and finish their work; which is not necessarily when the plan item will start or finish.
The Expected Finish date is the only calculation in this report that doesn’t respect the timeframe. This is because it’s useful to know when a resource will be done with something, regardless of the timeframe. To adjust the timeframe of the report to include the expected finish date of a specific resource or plan item, hover your mouse over the finish date and click on the blue >> chevron.
The Resource Workload helps find resources that have free time to take on additional work. The Hours Available column shows how many hours that a resource has to take on additional work within a timeframe. Use this number along with the Remaining [E], which is the amount of work that is still left to do (based on ranged estimates), to get an understanding of their current workload.
If the workload bar is blue, the resource doesn’t have work that is at-risk for missing a deadline with the timeframe. If the workload bar is red, that person has one or more assignments within the timeframe that are at-risk. This makes it easy to scan the list of resources and see who might need attention. To find out which specific item is at risk, click on that person’s workload bar to expand the selection.
When to use Resource Workload
Below are a few scenarios for which the Resource Workload report helps functional or department managers and project managers understand resourcing information.
Know how your team is doing
If you’re a functional manager and your resources are contributing to different projects that are run by other PMs, you can use the Resource Workload report to get a sense for how your team is doing across all of their work in the near term or months out into the future.
Filter to your team or a group of people.
Set the timeframe to Next 30 days.
If you see that one of your team member’s workload bars is red, expand that person’s workload bar to find out what item(s) they are putting at risk.
Look at what other work they have around the same time by changing the timeframe, if necessary.
Have a conversation with that team member about what issues they may have run into on this item or other higher priority work. Also have a conversation with the project manager of the at-risk project to determine the best course of action, which could be reprioritizing that resource’s work or shifting work to another person.
Run weekly team meetings
As a functional manager or project manager, it’s important to understand the team’s progress and roadblocks. In weekly team meetings, use the Resource Workload report as a visual to help drive the discussion forward.
Filter to your team or a group of people.
Set the timeframe to Next 7 days.
Use the workload bars as supporting visuals as team members give updates.
If you see that one of your team member’s workload bars is red, expand that person’s workload bar to find out what item(s) they are putting at risk.
To find out which team members have spare cycles, check the Hours Available column or look for a gap in workload. If possible, reassign at-risk work from one resource to another resource who is able to take on the work. Re-assign work directly from the Resource Workload report by clicking on an item name to open the edit panel.
Resourcing for future projects
Before making assignments for an upcoming project, managers need to know who is available to do the work from a list of resources that they probably already have in mind.
Filter to the team or set of people that you’re considering.
Set the timeframe to include the future dates based on the project’s time constraints.
Look for a team member with a high number of Hours Available or a gap in the their workload. If no one is available, expand resources to see what type of work they are busy with. If the future work is lower in priority than this new project, you may want to have a discussion with that resource’s functional manager about business priorities and if it is acceptable to push out this lower priority work.
The report references hours remaining within the specified timeframe.
Hours from Events assigned to ‘Everyone’ will not be reduced from the per person ‘Hours Available’ calculation.
If an item is scheduled to start during one week and finish in another, the assigned resource’s workload will span across the weekend (non-working) days, however, the resource’s availability will be respected — members are only scheduled to work on days that they are available.
Hover over the workload bar of a single resource to view the person summary pop-up, which displays that resource’s team and availability settings per day as well as a utilization bar for the next 14 days:
In a self-service business world, it’s important to have quick access to the right kind of help articles. Whether you’re new to LiquidPlanner or you’ve been around for a while, there’s often something new to learn about, or brush up on.
There are a lot of features that make our project management tool rich and robust. As a product expert, I help people become experts in using LiquidPlanner to map to their process and business needs. This often means learning new tips and tools along the way, especially since we release updates and features on a regular basis.
When we redesigned our Help Center recently, we took the requests and needs of customers like you into consideration. We’re excited about how it turned out; have you seen it yet?
Here’s a walkthrough of the new Help Center.
Design and functionality
With a fresh new design and improved search and navigation, you’ll be able to find what you’re looking for faster than ever. Just start typing in a term in the search box and results will populate as you type!
The new Help Center has three main categories:
Knowledge Base – Detailed documentation and guides on how to get the most out of LiquidPlanner.
Training Videos – Short-and-sweet videos and on-demand webinars that explain concepts for visual learners.
Getting Started – A section of the knowledge base that has lots of helpful articles, user-specific guides, and downloads for teams that are getting up to speed.
You’ll also find links to our Developer Resources and our contact information. As always, our Customer Success team is ready to lend a helping hand whenever you may need it.
To check out the new Help Center, click here. It’s a living resource and we’re always looking for ways to improve it.
Let us know what you think of a help article by clicking on the thumbs up / thumbs down buttons at the bottom and be sure to leave an anonymous comment. We love hearing from you!
Plan items often need to be moved to different locations in the plan as priorities change. There are two ways that you can change the location of an item:
Drag and drop the item to a new location.
Change the location from the Package or Project Folder field of the item’s edit panel.
On the Projects tab, find the item you wish to move.
Select the item and hold down the mouse button.
Drag the item to a new location.
Release the mouse button.
Using the Edit Panel
Open the edit panel for the item you wish to move.
Click into either the Package or Project Folder field.
Choose the new location in the list.
Moving the item with this method will add the item to the bottom of whatever container (package, project, sub-folder) you’ve chosen as its new location.
If you would like to reprioritize the item within its new container, click the jump button to go to the item’s current location in the plan on the Projects tab. Then, drag-and-drop the item.
The Project Folder field will show the full hierarchy (breadcrumb) of the item’s location, including any sub-folder, project, and package that the item is located within. However, this field can only be used to move the item to a different project or sub-folder.
Moving an Item from a Packaged Location
If you are attempting to move an item from a project to a package or vice versa, LiquidPlanner assumes that you are creating a priority override, so both the Package and Project Folder field will show a location. This is because the task now has a priority position within a package and a placeholder position within a project. See Multi-Project Scheduling for more information.
If you did not intend to create a priority override, use the item’s edit panel to change the packaged location. Once you’ve changed a location field, make sure to click the Schedule Ready button to refresh the plan and see the changes.
To remove a priority override, simply click the x next to the Package field. The task will stay within its associated project and will now be scheduled according to its position within that project:
To move a task from a project to a package, add the new package location to the Package field and then click the x next to the Project Folder field.
To move a task from a package to a project, add the new project location to the Project Folder field and then click the x next to the Package field.
The Inbox is a special type of package. The same process and rules for packages apply to the Inbox.
Allowed Locations by Container Type
Containers (packages, projects, sub-folders) follow certain hierarchical rules:
Packages can contain projects, sub-folders, tasks, events, or milestones. You may nest packages within other packages. You cannot add packages to projects or sub-folders.
Projects can contain sub-folders, tasks, events, or milestones. You cannot add projects to sub-folders, nor can you nest projects within other projects.
Sub-folders can contain tasks, events, or milestones. Sub-folders can only be added to Projects. You may nest sub-folders within other sub-folders.
To save time in navigating and to reduce plan and reporting complexity, do not nest too many containers within one another. Instead of creating many levels in the hierarchy, consider using custom fields or tags to categorize projects and tasks instead of creating more containers.
Any plan item, aside from packages, can be given a priority override and be added to a package while retaining its current location in the plan.
On the Projects tab, click the View Menu (Timeline).
Select the project you want to print in the left navigation.
In the report, click on the Print button.
A browser window will open with options to save the report as a PDF or print the report.
Download a view of the schedule bars
You can save or print a static view of the schedule bars (gantt chart) from the Projects tab by using the PDF Snapshot. Make sure to adjust your filters and columns before running the snapshot to get the precise view you’re looking for. Once you’ve downloaded the PDF, you can print it using your PDF viewer’s print function.
To download a CSV file of all of the current schedule dates and details, filter to the items you wish to capture and use Export Tasks to File.
Print a timesheet
Use your browser’s print function to save or print a personal timesheet. The printed document will include the same information that is viewable from the timesheet.
Print the edit panel
You can print the edit panel for an individual item. The document will include all of the information that is currently visible in the edit panel.
Open the edit panel for the plan item.
Click on the Full Screen button.
Click on the Print button.
A browser window will open with options to save the item details as a PDF or print the edit panel.
The Download (PDF) option in Analytics will generate a PDF file that shows the data chart and data table in a single document.
Navigate to the Analytics report you wish to print.
Click Download in the upper right.
Select the Download (PDF) option.
Choose a paper size and orientation.
Once you’ve opened the downloaded file, you can use your PDF viewer’s print function to print it.
Print a dashboard
You can use your browser print function to save or print a static version of a dashboard. The left-hand dashboard navigation will be omitted from the version that you print, which maximizes the available space for your dashboard content.
Project Teams in LiquidPlanner provide visibility into who is working on a project and they enhance communication for everyone involved.
A project team is a dynamically created list of people that are working on a project. Specifically, workspace members that have assigned plan items within a project are automatically members of that project team. To contact just the people on the project team, you can create a project alias and send comments using the @alias. Members of the project team also have automatic access to an associated project dashboard.
Project Teams are useful for project collaboration, but can’t be used to filter or report by that team. Use the Teams feature to create formal team designations for groups of people in the workspace.
Managing Project Teams
The project team member list can be viewed from the project’s edit panel.
The project team is automatically generated and updated based on the active assignments within the project. In other words, any workspace member (including restricted members) who is the owner of an active plan item within the project (including checklist items) will be in the project team list and cannot be removed.
Any workspace member can be manually added to a project team by clicking Add Members at the bottom of the Project Team section of the edit panel.
Once a project team member has completed all of their active work, the option to remove them from the project team becomes available – just click on the ‘x’ that appears on their avatar photo (Grid View) or next to their name (List View). Once added, members must be removed manually if they no longer wish to be part of the project team – project team members are never automatically removed.
Portal guests with assigned work will not be added to the project team automatically. Portal guests must be added manually.
Creating an Alias to Communicate with the Project Team
To send comments to the project team, you can create an alias for the project. To create an alias:
Open the edit panel for the project.
Under Project Team in the People section, click the Add Project Alias button.
Enter a name for the alias, like @ApolloProject.
Once you have created the project alias, you can address a comment using that alias and all of the current project team members will receive the comment notification.
You can see a list of the members that are part of an alias directly from a comment by clicking on the @alias name.
Project Teams and Dashboards
Every project can have one associated project dashboard. All project team members are automatically granted access to the project dashboard and can easily jump to it by clicking the View Project Dashboard link in the edit panel. Only members of the project team will be able to see and use this link.
Any manager or full member that is assigned work for the project, and is therefore part of the project team, will be given automatic access to the project dashboard. Make sure that information presented in the project dashboard is suitable for the entire project team. Restricted members and portal guests are not automatically given access to the project dashboard and must be manually added.
Members of the Project Team can still be removed from a Project dashboard manually via the Share link from within the dashboard. Manually adding and removing viewer access this way will override viewer access as determined by Project Team association.
Some degree of multi-tasking is unavoidable (like taking a call from your spouse while writing that briefing for your boss). But when examined closely, it becomes clear that multi-tasking in general is certainly a very bad thing.
It is a well known fact that there is thrash when switching between tasks. Some of this comes from having to put what you were doing on hold and picking up a new frame of reference. Some of it comes from pure confusion over which task you are working on now. But let’s assume that you’ve got some kind of dream team that can switch tasks perfectly. We do this because we don’t want to get into a long discussion of “how good I am at multi-tasking”.
Suppose we have 4 projects of 6 months duration each. Let’s have the team multi-task and do all those things in parallel. They work one month on Project 1 , then move on to Project 2, and so on. Remember, we’ve assumed there’s no thrash so multi-tasking like this shouldn’t hurt much right?
Looking at this we see that the average time to complete the projects is 22.5 months or just short of two years.
Now let’s have our same team concentrate on one project at a time and see what happen
This time the average time to complete is 15 months. That’s 2/3 of the average for the multi-tasking schedule. But wait… it gets worse. What if those four projects are not of equal value.
But some projects are more valuable
We know that all projects are not created equal. Some are more valuable to your business than others. It is quite possible that your highest value project is a factor of ten more valuable than your least valuable project (or more). Let’s model this by saying that each project on our stack-ranked list is twice as valuable as the one below it. Remember that we’re talking value not effort here.
Let’s look 30 months out and see what each method has delivered in value to the business. Here’s what the plots look like when the vertical scale is business value per month. The light green shaded area is the total value the projects have generated 30 months after project initiation. In this model it is the total area of that light green shading that counts.
So the multi-tasking project management method has delivered 124 units of value (8*9 + 4*8 + 2*7 + 1*6 = 124).
But the single-tasking project…
That’s a whopping 294 units of value (8*24 + 4*18 + 2*12 + 1*6) for single-tasking. More than DOUBLE the value.
In other words, if Joe worked for Single-Tasking Enterprises and you worked for Multi-Tasking Incorporated Joe would be kicking your butt. (And no, you wouldn’t be an acquisition target since Joe doesn’t want your dysfunctional multi-tasking IP.)
Okay, so multi-tasking is bad. What can you do about it?
The most important thing is to work off of a single prioritized list. You need one single list stacked top to bottom by priority for your people to use. The list must be public within your company. That way everyone is on the same page as to which project gets worked on first.
But I can hear you saying, “Hey, we work on many things at once because we’re so busy and need to get all this stuff done yesterday!”
Yeah, and you can keep doing that. And as we’ve shown it will keep killing your business.
As leaders (and I mean anyone who has people under them) we must set hard priorities and stick to them. Constant switching of a person’s “top priority” is a sure sign of weakness as a leader. If you are doing this STOP.
But what if you made a mistake in the priority order?
Look, even if we reverse the business value order and deliver the lowest value projects first we still come out ahead single-tasking. We get 156 units of value at the 30 month mark (1*24 + 2*18 + 4*12 + 8*6). That’s still 25% more than the multi-tasking result with the “proper order”.
The lesson is that it is less important that you pick exactly the optimal order in which to do projects. It is critically important that you build teams that focus on delivering one project at a time. Your teams must be empowered to protect their time and their schedule by telling all distractions to “get lost”. Your leads must understand this and be rewarded for protecting their folks from distractions.
This is an ideal and it can be hard to sustain the discipline, but just knowing this perspective can help you be more focused in protecting your teams time, setting priorities, and running projects efficiently.
LiquidPlanner is a great tool for practicing this approach, if you need help adapting your process to LP, contact our expert support staff.