Category Archives: LiquidPlanner

Sparking Girls’ Interest in Tech Careers with Entrepreneur Day

“This girl came to play,” Marchant Couick said as she motioned toward 14-year-old Zanaasha, who was furiously taking notes at the front of the LiquidPlanner lunch room. Zanaasha smiled. She continued to write as Couick explained her work as a renewal specialist to the roomful of eighth-graders.

The five other panelists went down the line, telling the students from Seattle Girls’ School about their jobs. Then LiquidPlanner CEO Liz Pearce asked if anyone has questions.

A hand went up. “What framework do you use?”

“Ruby on Rails,” said Ellen Musick, a software engineer at LiquidPlanner.

Another hand. “This question is for you,” she said, pointing at Zareen Maurer, senior marketing manager. “How do you know what message to send?”

Maurer gave an overview of inbound marketing and the tools LiquidPlanner uses to deliver the right messages at the right time.

After the panel discussion, the students were quizzed on their knowledge of software, marketing, and sales terminology. Three students got perfect scores, earning them LiquidPlanner swag.

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The girls’ visit to LiquidPlanner on April 21 was just one stop on their “Entrepreneur Day,” which included stops at startups around Seattle. This is the third year that LiquidPlanner has hosted students from SGS. Pearce came up with the annual field trip idea with a group of female CEOs who visited Seattle Girls’ School.

“The goal is to show the girls what kinds of STEM jobs are out there,” said Pearce. “We want them to see that careers in technology, innovation, and entrepreneurship are all within the realms of possibility.”

During lunch, I sat down with Kyleigh, Grace, Zanaasha, and Belle, all 14, who have ambitious dreams for their careers.

“A lot of people make fun of me for this,” Belle said. “But, I want to be a museum librarian. I want to organize things, so people can enjoy them.”

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Zanaasha knows she wants to work in politics. Grace isn’t quite sure. “I really love nature, but I also really love dance,” she said.

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Kyleigh wants to be a fashion designer or an author. “She writes the best fan fiction,” Zanaasha told me. “I don’t know anything about Star Wars, but her stories made me like it.”

While none of the girls I spoke with expressed an outright interest in STEM careers before the talk began, they all listened intently, asked questions, and seemed to come away with a better understanding of career options in the technology field.

And that’s really the goal of events like Entrepreneur Day. Grace’s love of nature may lead to a career in biology. Kyleigh could use engineering skills to build better running shoes. Zanaasha may someday help bridge the gap between science and politics. Belle may design new ways to enhance museum-goers’ experience.

But first, they need that spark.

SGS Students’ Key Takeaways from Entrepreneur Day:

They have all the snacks that you could eat.  That would be awesome.

All the people had really different ideas of what they were going to be when they were younger.  No one really knew what they’d be when they grew up.

Free cookies at a job would be awesome.

More than 50% of the people that work there are women.  That’s pretty cool.

There are so many different jobs within a single company!

Sometimes you have to fail to succeed.

There is always a new idea to be discovered.

Feature photo credit: Erika Bailey, Seattle Girls’ School

7 Steps to Build a Continuous Improvement Culture

Kaizen is not flashy, nor instant. But it can have a profound impact on your business. Lean expert Andy Crowe offers seven steps to get you there.

After World War II, new theories about quality began to be implemented. Many of these ideas were brought to Japan and embraced by the country as it rebuilt in the years after the war. These ideas would ultimately change manufacturing and the world.

“Continuous improvement” was one of these ideas. The Japanese distilled the essence of this idea to a single word: “kaizen.” It is a quality philosophy that includes improvement of the product, the processes the design and produce them, and the way the teams carry out those processes.

For example, the old way would take a product, get it into its category, optimize the process, and sit back and make money. In fact, we even talk about mature products as being a “cash cow.” Or, something you milk for cash as long as it produces.

Kaizen, however, is part of a different way of looking at things. A product or a process will likely never be “good enough.” As the name implies, the goal is to never stop improving.

This idea can make a tremendous difference in the product you manufacture today and how you do it. But what if your company doesn’t practice kaizen? In this article, we will explore seven ways to create a culture of continuous improvement in your organization–even if you’re starting from scratch.

It’s important to remember that changing the culture of an organization is notoriously difficult. Companies are (in)famous for starting an initiative and then quietly abandoning it, and that is especially true for something like continuous improvement.

Kaizen is not flashy, and it’s not instantly transformative. It takes time to implement, and the benefits realization can sometimes be agonizingly slow.

This isn’t just some new initiative. It’s a culture change, and changing the culture is one of the most difficult things a leader can undertake.

In the 1990s movie “What About Bob”, Bill Murray plays Bob, a man paralyzed by decisions until his psychologist suggests that he practice “baby steps.” While this strategy backfires for the psychologist, those looking to implement a culture of continuous improvement will benefit from the advice.  It takes baby steps.

If you are ready to try to implement a culture of continuous improvement in your organization, these seven steps will help you get there.

  1. Commit throughout the organization. That is a big part of what makes this work. It’s not just the people at the top or the bottom of an organization that make continuous improvement possible. There is no more “us and them” mentality. Everyone needs to be moving toward the same goal.
  2. Make kaizen part of the new routine. At some automobile factories, small teams meet before work each week to talk about one tiny change they are going to try to implement in order to improve their process. Continuous improvement is something that needs to be revisited regularly. The routine is key to sustaining it.
  3. Tie it back to everyone’s job. Some people will almost certainly look at this as just one more new initiative that they simply need to outlive. To take it seriously, they may need to incentivized.
  4. Measure the results. (If it’s done right, these should be positive, and these are usually cumulative). Continuous improvement is metrics-driven. This means that terms like good, bad, and better become very objective. Continuous improvement works, but it takes time. It’s like saving money: at first, the benefits (e.g., interest) you earn is barely noticeable. But once you have enough, the interest income starts to add up. Before long, you are earning interest on your interest.
  5. Communicate. Unlike some initiatives, you may not have quick wins. It will probably take time, because continuous improvement is not instantly transformative. Keep everyone aware of what is going on while you are waiting for the results to speak for themselves.
  6. Be deliberate and patient. Creating a culture of continuous improvement is an exercise in demonstrating continuous improvement. You need serious commitment and sustained energy. Many of us make a practice to look for the quickest, highest value wins. Kaizen is more like the effect of oceans on the beach. It’s relentless and disciplined. It can take time to produce the results that many organizations want. A company with this kind of mindset may not be completely ready for kaizen. Also, keep this in mind: even if you have a healthy organization, it will likely be resistant to change.
  7. Repeat. These are baby steps, and this is the real heart of continuous improvement. Go over these steps again and again. This is continuous; you will never really be finished.

Creating a culture of continuous improvement will not only help make the product better. It helps make the teams and the organizations better, and like compounding interest, the benefits keep coming.

Looking for more tips to help you save time, increase productivity and motivate your team? Check out our guide, “5 Practical Habits for Today’s Project Manager”, as well as our productivity toolkit.  

5 Practical Habits for Today's Project Manager

Our Favorite Time-Saving, Productivity-Boosting Tools at LiquidPlanner

LiquidPlanner employees dish on their favorite time-saving tools.

I’ll be the first to admit: I’m quite technologically-averse, especially for a millennial who works for a SaaS company. I can count the number of apps I use regularly on one hand. I copy my husband’s digital grocery list to paper before I head to the store. I only use my GPS after I’ve already become hopelessly lost. Until very recently, my to-do lists for work were scattered across several notebooks and sticky notes.

But lately I’ve been wondering, am I missing out? How many hours of my life are wasted as I transcribe yet another grocery list? Are there apps out there that could help me “live my best life”, to borrow a phrase from Oprah, one of the most productive people in the world.

I had to know. But first I needed some recommendations, so I turned to my colleagues at LiquidPlanner. Obviously, LiquidPlanner is everyone’s favorite productivity-boosting tool here. So I posed the question: what is your second favorite time-saving, productivity-boosting tool?

Here’s what they told me:

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Devon Burns, Product Manager

My favorite time-saving tool is 1Password. It’s a great place to keep not only your passwords, but other important information that you want to keep secure. It’s easy to have it all in one place. With the browser extension, 1Password automatically enters usernames and passwords on your saved sites. That saves time. It’s also more secure than a notebook of passwords and using the same password for every account.


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Adam Sanderson, Engineering Manager

My wife and I use Wunderlist to share grocery lists. Before I started using the app, I would take her phone to the store. [Wunderlist] is easier. We can sync our lists now, so I don’t need to write out a list or steal my wife’s phone anymore.


Evan_Goad

Evan Goad, Software Engineer

My favorite productivity tool is Alfred. While it only saves a few seconds of your time when you use it, those seconds add up. It saves time on things I do a lot over the day, like searching for files or switching between applications. The keyboard shortcuts can be personalized. I use them to switch between Chrome, Outlook, and my developer terminal.


Lisa

Lisa Ma, Customer Success Specialist

When I went looking for something to organize my to-do lists, I tried three different tools: Remember the Milk, Todoist, and Wunderlist. My favorite was Wunderlist. I use it for managing my recipes. I can add the ingredients and steps to the app. If anyone asks for the recipe, I can easily share it with them. It’s easier than going to Pinterest, finding the board, finding the pin. Wunderlist also automatically groups tasks by deadline. And it’s easy to collaborate, if the other party is agreeable to that.


Sheri

Sheri Eames, Accounting Manager

My favorite tool is Zendesk. I use it to collect money and manage transactions. I like that I don’t have to filter through my email, looking for the related conversations. All conversations are saved in the app. It’s also helpful for a multi-person department. If I’m out of the office, my colleagues can check on status and communication without having to access my email. I’ve found it to be a huge timesaver.


As I mentioned earlier, my previous work management system consisted of to-do lists in three notebooks and sticky notes that could be mistaken for a Kanban board but were really just stuck on my desk without rhyme or reason.

I lived that way until five weeks ago, when I began my job at LiquidPlanner. Now my tasks and to-dos are neatly prioritized within the tool. I still keep a paper to-do list–though it only includes today’s tasks, which I pull from the My Work tab in LiquidPlanner each morning. Despite being a self-described technophobe, I’ve found LiquidPlanner to be the solution I needed to organize my professional world.

And for those hours I’m not at work? Well, I’m still copying grocery lists by hand. Baby steps.

What’s your favorite time-saving, productivity-boosting tool?

Looking for more tips to help you save time, increase productivity and motivate your team? Check out our guide, “5 Practical Habits for Today’s Project Manager”, as well as our productivity toolkit.

5 Practical Habits for Today's Project Manager

April Product Update: Improved Reporting and Recording Functionality

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.

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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:

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Or, run a Sub-folder Report in Analytics to see where you stand for your billable hours:

Sub-folder Analytics

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.

To learn more about the April 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!

 

CEO Liz Pearce Shares Insights on SIAA TechChats [Video]

LiquidPlanner CEO Liz Pearce was recently featured on TechChats, a web series by the Software & Information Industry Association (SIIA). The series offers a look into some of the most successful executives in the industry and what they’re doing to grow and innovate within their companies.
In the interview, Pearce chats with Rhianna Collier, VP for the software division at SIIA, about top project management challenges, the benefits of a data-driven approach to project management, and how an Agile approach can benefit software teams.

Watch the full interview below or at the SIIA website to hear Pearce’s take on project management and the software industry.

How Cognex Uses LiquidPlanner to Manage Projects

manage projects

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.

 


Interested to learn more about the methodology that helps Cognex be fast and flexible? Download our eBook, “
Introduction to Dynamic Project Management.”

An Introduction to Dynamic Project Management

How Market Research Firm PortMA Stays Organized with LiquidPlanner

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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.”

Take a look at the original article “How To Organize A Team Of Remote Knowledge Workers” written by Chris Clegg, President of PortMA.

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 our Project Management Health Check, a 9-question multiple-choice assessment of your project management process.  

Take the assessment!

February Product Update: Boost Your Business Intelligence with API Support for Analytics

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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

For detailed instructions on using the API, visit our developer resources.

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

If you’re not a LiquidPlanner customer, but looking for ways to increase focus and productivity at work, try us out!

 

7 Signs You Don’t Have the Right Project Management Tool for the Fourth Industrial Revolution

Vector illustration. Turning oil barrels into gold bars.

 “Adapt or perish,” said H.G. Wells, the father of science fiction. Some of us know all too well how right-on this quote is to succeeding in business these days—especially when it comes to staying competitive in what’s being called the  Fourth Industrial Revolution.

It’s an exciting time and a challenging time. Advanced technology, like in the previous industrial revolutions, is increasing the speed of manufacturing and doing business. This means that organizations and their product teams need to use software that supports faster turnover and accomplishes more with fewer resources.

Beware the trap of using yesterday’s tools 

Being flexible is going to be the key to managing productivity and to business success in Industry 4.0. Most importantly, teams will need new world tools to manage new world demands. In a recent LiquidPlanner survey of more than 100 manufacturers across the U.S., 62 percent of respondents said they were looking to build revenue and cut costs over the next year by “boosting productivity.” At the same time, almost 80 percent of respondents said they use spreadsheets to manage their projects. But. But—

How do you do increase productivity in a new world when using old world tools? Consider this: Gantt charts were first developed in the 1910s, a tool that uses rigid start and finish dates, which don’t reflect changes in real time. The first spread sheet was invented in 1979—and spread sheets still require manual updating. Consequently, they are famously neglected and out of date.

Signs you’re using the wrong project management tool for Industry 4.0

  • Interdependent teams work at cross-purposes because they have no way to stay on top of each other’s progress.
  • Projects and deliveries are often late.
  • Your supply chain is over-extended and chaotic.
  • A chronic state of panic runs through your projects.
  • Customers are dissatisfied. You’ve even lost a few over the years. Some are hanging by a thread.
  • Employees are leaving. Team members are overworked and burnt out.
  • Competitors are beating you to market. You risk becoming irrelevant.

Being flexible and using a platform that can respond to change and predict finish dates is going to be key to managing productivity and business success.

In our latest eBook, “Are You Ready for the Fourth Industrial Revolution?” we take a look at it means to thrive in Industry 4.0, and what tools are necessary to keep up with new world market demands. We’re going there right along with you!

Are You Ready for the Fourth Industrial Revolution?

What Does the Fourth Industrial Revolution Look Like?

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The future is no longer on its way. It’s here. Take these recent news items, for example: Las Vegas just launched the first electric autonomous shuttle on American roads. Airbus announced that they’ll test the first autonomous flying taxi by the end of 2017.

These are some of the cooler signs of the Fourth Industrial Revolution—powered by the radical technological advancements of AI, IoT, robotics, automation, quantum computing, biotechnology and more.

The fact that many of us can already turn up the heat or unlock the front door on the drive home from work, or from another state—or country!—is a sign of Industry 4.0 technology in action. Amazon using robots in their warehouses to manage inventory is another sign (scaling a 75-minute process done by humans down to 15 minutes). A LiquidPlanner manufacturing customer recently told us that using a 3D printer scaled a three-week process down to three days.

3D printers are also going to be able to produce complex projects in one place—from furniture to medical devices to prosthetic limbs. This means consumers will be able to buy the products they want with the functionality and design they need—at the same speed as something that is mass produced.

It’s exciting to be on the forefront of a new Industrial Revolution. It also means many of us working at jobs all over the world will be facing new fascinating challenges: around managing projects, distributing work, communicating among teams and being productive at a higher rate than ever—with a lower ratio of people power. The good news is we’re all in this together.

In our latest eBook, “Are You Ready for the Fourth Industrial Revolution?” we take a look at what it means to thrive in Industry 4.0, and what tools are necessary to keep up with new world market demands.

Download the eBook now!

Are You Ready for the Fourth Industrial Revolution?