Category Archives: LiquidPlanner

The 10 Most Read LiquidPlanner Blog Posts of 2017

With 2018 just around the corner, it’s easy to get caught up in the frenzy of resolutions and new year planning.

But, before we say goodbye 2017, we’d like to take a moment to look back at our most popular blogs from the past year.

1. 5 Ways AI and Automation Will Change Project Management

Automation, big data, and the Internet of Things were hot topics in 2017. In our most popular post, Andy Crowe looks at how emerging technologies will impact project management, now and in the future, and how project managers should prepare for these changes.

2. Need to Know Stats from the 2017 State of Project Management in Manufacturing Report

To better understand how manufacturers practice project management, we surveyed more than 100 executives, engineers, and project managers, resulting in the 2017 State of Project Management in Manufacturing report. This post highlights the most interesting findings from the report.

3. Engineers, This is Why You Need Project Management Skills

Fifteen years into his career as a civil engineer, Christian Knutson began studying for the Project Management Professional (PMP) course. In this post, he talks about how his newfound PM skillset has benefited him and why engineers need to seek out project management education and development.

4. Boost Your Productivity with Kanban Boards

Have your standups been turning into sit-downs lately? You may want to try Kanban boards, says PM expert Andy Makar. He walks through the Kanban philosophy, the benefits of using Kanban boards in daily stand-ups, and how to visualize your tasks using LiquidPlanner’s Card View.

5. How to Run an Effective Meeting: Lessons from Pixar, Apple, and Amazon

Ed Catmull, president of Pixar Animation Studios and Walt Disney, invites candor and controversy to his meetings. Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos invites only the most essential people. Check out this post to borrow meeting strategies from some of the most successful companies in the U.S.

6. How to Get Buy-In for a New Project Management Tool From Your Executive Team

Have you found a new project management tool, but first you need to sell the idea to your executive team? Kevin Crump walks you through how to do just that.

[Further Reading: How to Build a Business Case for a New PM Tool]

7. 6 Top Project Management Books for Engineers and Manufacturers

If you’re an engineer looking to grow your project management skillset, this post is for you. We perused review sites, blogs, and forums to find engineers’ most recommended books about project management.

8. Good Questions to Ask in a Project Management Job Interview

Interviews are two-way streets. While they’re trying to figure out if you can do the job, you also need to ask the right questions to ensure you want the job. PM expert Elizabeth Harrin shares her favorite questions to ask and what to watch out for during an interview.

9. 43 Resources for New and Experienced Project Managers

This is an exhaustive list of our favorite podcasts, books, blogs, websites, courses, and MOOCs about everything project management. Whether you’re an experienced PM or just beginning, you’re going to find something interesting and valuable on this list.

10. 6 Simple Ways Project Managers Can Improve Their Writing Skills Today

You may not have the word “writer” in your job title, but I’m willing to wager that you spend at least an hour or two every day writing. Read this post to learn six easy ways to improve your writing game.

Thanks for reading!

Thanks for being a loyal LiquidPlanner blog reader! As we prepare for another year of blogging, we’d love to hear what you’d like to see covered in 2018. Leave us a comment or shoot us a note if you have an idea. We’d love to hear it!

Happy New Year from all of us at LiquidPlanner!

Laser Manufacturer Gains Visibility Into Project Status and Resource Utilization with LiquidPlanner

Access Laser, a manufacturer specializing in gas lasers, has grown rapidly over the past four years. At any time, the company’s engineering team may have several dozen active projects, ranging from small efforts that take one to two months to larger projects that take more than a year. Many of the larger projects require a mix of research, experimentation, and engineering work, making them especially hard to estimate and track.

In the past, all projects were planned by a single engineering manager, using Microsoft Project. However, project plans weren’t shared or revisited over time, resulting in a major lack of visibility into who was doing what, how to bring those efforts together, and when projects would be done.

“Projects were planned in silos and were out of date as soon as the planning was completed,” says Courtney Rickett, Manufacturing Process Engineer and Quality Manager at Access Laser, who joined the company in early 2015. “We had very limited visibility into the status of any given project, which resulted some in really late delivery dates.”

Lack of effective project management presented other problems, too. A general lack of cohesiveness resulted in frequent mistakes and errors—from duplication of effort to things not getting done at all. Project designs diverged, time was wasted, and some products even had to be redesigned while they were in production.

“When one product release went horribly wrong, we knew it was time for a change,” recalls Rickett. “Senior management made the decision to hire a full-time project manager, and I was tasked with making sure that person had the right project management tools to do the job.”

Rickett immediately set out to find the optimal project management solution, evaluating a list of candidates that included Basecamp, LiquidPlanner, Targetprocess, and Workzone. “We needed a solution that was real-time, flexible, and easy to use,” says Rickett. “It also had to support many projects, accommodate changing priorities, and allow for many users.”

Access Laser purchased LiquidPlanner at the end of October 2016. Kody Todd, the company’s new Senior Project Manager, had years of experience with Microsoft Project. However, she immediately saw the value of LiquidPlanner and enthusiastically supported its adoption.

To help accelerate time-to-value, Access Laser took advantage of LiquidPlanner’s Quick Start Onboarding, which included dedicated support, training sessions, templates for training materials, and other tools.

“Quick Start Onboarding helped us get up to speed very quickly—probably a month faster than had we attempted to do everything on our own,” says Todd. “We created a LiquidPlanner playbook, which helped us think through things and get them right the first time. The training videos were also great—I watched every single one.”

Through its use of LiquidPlanner, Access Laser now has full visibility into project status and resource utilization. Individual work priorities are now aligned with project priorities, resulting in faster project deliveries. Project estimates are more accurate, less time is spent determining project status, and separate timekeeping mechanisms are a thing of the past. The company’s use of LiquidPlanner is also helping Access Laser to capture, formalize, and evolve its business processes—all leading to a strong return-on-investment.

“Being able to effectively schedule, monitor, manage change, and deliver projects on time makes our modest investment in LiquidPlanner well worth the cost,” says Rickett.

Yong Fang Zhang, the company’s CEO, who was skeptical whether Access Laser really needed LiquidPlanner at first, is in full agreement with Rickett. “LiquidPlanner enables us to manage multiple projects with cross-functional teams, where everyone participates in more than one project,” says Zhang. “It allows us to quickly adapt to real-life changes in customer requirements and priorities, and to see the impact on the overall picture. We are an innovative company, and we need to quickly evaluate market changes and emerging opportunities. I’m convinced of the value of LiquidPlanner as a powerful tool to help us satisfy the needs of our customers.”

Read the full case study here.

Lessons Learned as a First Time Medical Device Project Manager

In 2001, I joined Calypso Medical as employee number 18. Our goal was to create a remarkable medical device that could track the location of the prostate to a millimeter of accuracy during prostate cancer treatments.

This level of accuracy is important because the prostate has a tendency to move unpredictably during normal bodily functions, like coughing, going to the bathroom, or passing gas. This makes it difficult to direct the radiation to the correct spot. Healthy tissue may accidentally receive the radiation, which can lead to increased side effects.

We called it GPS for the body. Rather than satellites whizzing around the earth to pinpoint your phone’s location, a sensor array the size of a pizza box hovers directly over the patient’s abdomen. This sensor communicates with three transponders, about the size of a grain of rice, that had been implanted in the prostate in an earlier procedure.

During treatment, the radiation technologist (RT) monitors the location of these transponders. If the prostate moves outside of the radiation beam, the RT is immediately alerted and can reposition the beam so that it is once again focused squarely on the tumor. If you know where the device is, you know where to target the radiation.

For this to work, we needed another system that could determine the location of the sensor array. Figuring out the best way to solve that problem was my job.

Walk a mile in your users’ shoes.

As is typical in small companies, everyone wore multiple hats.  If I wanted to understand what was happening during treatment and how it would constrain my system, I would need to figure that out myself.

[Further Reading: A Look Inside Project Management at StarFish Medical]

Luckily, a local hospital was very helpful and let me hang out with the RTs as they did their job. I watched how they aligned the patients and moved about the room and spoke with the medical physicists about how they calibrated and aligned the equipment. I needed to design my system to work with what was already happening. Ideally, it would be invisible to the RTs and patient.

Build prototypes to simulate products in real-world settings.

After exploring several options, I settled on a ceiling mounted camera system that would see the array and could figure out its location. I used three cameras, even though two would be enough, so that the RTs could move about the room and not worry if they were blocking one of the cameras.

I developed simulations and was confident the system would work. But a prototype is much more convincing and can test errors in your assumptions that a simulation might miss.

I built the prototype with commercial-off-the-shelf tripods and cameras and software that I wrote. In testing we showed the concept worked even if you blocked a camera or the targets.

I then installed my prototype in an unused treatment space at the hospital, and we were able to simulate realistic usage. This work convinced the company leadership that I was on the right track.

Choose your partners carefully.

Once everyone agreed that my concept would work, I was directed to select a partner to implement my concept in a way that would pass muster with the FDA.

The perfect partner would have certain features:

  • An existing solution that could be leveraged for our needs
  • Their team had the desire and ability to customize their solution
  • Their solution had been through the FDA regulatory approval process
  • Geographically close to our office in Seattle
  • Reasonable business terms
  • A team that would be easy to work with over the long-term
  • A company that was stable enough that we didn’t have to worry about them going out of business

Not surprisingly, no such company existed.

One company had an FDA-approved camera-based solution, but the solution didn’t have the resolution we needed and wouldn’t work if someone walked in front of a camera. Any solution they created would have to be built from scratch.

Another company was a spin-off of a university in Munich, Germany. Their solution was technically solid, but they were a startup with no other customers and definitely not geographically desirable.

A third company had a technically solid solution and several customers in the movie business. They were a leading company for motion capture and had worked on movies like “The Hobbit”. Their location in California was not ideal, but at least they were in the same time zone and a single flight away.

The only missing element was that their device hadn’t been through an FDA approval process. We worked with a regulatory consultant and the company to develop an approach that worked for everyone. It’s been over 15 years, and this partner is still providing the camera system for the Calypso tracking system.

Anticipate and prevent product failures using failure mode and effects analysis.

When designing a medical device, it’s critical that it works as it’s supposed to. The alternative can be the death of the patient. One of the tools that we used to accomplish this was failure mode and effects analysis (FMEA), a structured way to analyze how a product might fail and what you can do to prevent it. In this context, failure means the product doesn’t deliver the required performance, not that it stops working.

For instance, if your requirement is accuracy no worse than 1.0 mm and a condition results in a location error of 1.1 mm, that’s a failure.

FMEA typically starts with a brainstorming session where you identify ways that failure might happen. Our failure modes included:

  • Changes in the room temperature causing the camera mounts to move, pushing the system out of calibration.
  • The radiation environment in the treatment vault (both gamma rays and neutrons) causes cameras to fail.
  • Partial obscuration of the targets on the array, leading to an inaccurate location solution that doesn’t trigger an error condition.

For every failure mode we stated a severity (how bad would it be if this happened) and an occurrence (how likely would it be to happen). For example, a failure mode that shuts down the system (like a dead camera) would be high, but not the worst. The most severe failure mode is one that could lead to accidentally targeting radiation to the bowel or bladder, resulting in serious side effects.

[Further Reading: Ask a PM: School vs the Real World]

An interesting failure mode that we discovered was exposure to neutrons, sub-atomic particles with no charge.  The process of creating the beam of radiation used to kill the cancer cells also created a flood of free neutrons that might damage our electronics.  I flew our cameras to one of the only two neutron test sites in the U.S. and exposed our camera to 10 years’ worth of neutrons in a few hours.

From that test, we learned that one component was sensitive to neutrons and needed to be replaced.

If we hadn’t done the FMEA work, our cameras would have started failing in the field. Until we figured out the pattern of failures, the cameras would have just been replaced. Once the root caused was determined, we would have needed to replace the part and recertify the cameras, delaying new installations. This would have hurt our reputation, which can be the death knell for a small company.

Take pride in your work.

There’s a special satisfaction of playing on a game system I helped design or seeing drilling equipment I worked on in action.  But nothing matches the satisfaction of talking to someone whose father’s cancer treatment was improved by a product that I worked on.

It’s even gratifying that the photos of the system never include my camera system. It’s a sign that I accomplished my goal of making my part of the system invisible. That helped prepare me to become a project manager, where our contributions are typically critical, but invisible.

Introducing LiquidPlanner’s Developer Hub

We’re excited to introduce our brand new interactive Developer Hub, a dedicated space for all things API.

The LiquidPlanner API itself is a powerful way to automate actions in LiquidPlanner and connect LiquidPlanner to the tools that you use on a daily basis. As great as the API is, we hadn’t made it so amazingly simple that developers could be off and running in a matter of minutes.

So, two of our own senior developers got together to fix that.

Showing Some Developer Love

When we started creating the hub, we wanted to address a couple of outstanding needs.

First and foremost, we wanted to make it easy for anyone to try out the API. That meant we needed to remove the roadblocks to getting started and make it simple to run some test calls to see how the API worked.

Second, we needed to consolidate and organize our documentation. That way, developers could quickly navigate through the reference material and easily search for and find what they needed.

Features That Developers Will Appreciate

Keeping those needs in mind, we’ve built a brand new hub that we think you’ll really like. Here are a few highlights you’ll notice on your first visit to the LiquidPlanner Developer Hub:

Documentation: This is where you’ll find detailed instructions and tutorials on using the LiquidPlanner API. It’s easy to navigate through the topics or search for a specific keyword.

Endpoints: The Endpoints section provides a comprehensive list of all of the things you can do with the API. For any tree item or association, you’ll be able to see the URL, what information you need to pass in, and you’ll even get sample code that you can copy and paste into your own environment.

The ‘Try It’ Button: Now you can make test API calls right from the hub. When you use the Try It button, you’ll be sending the call to whatever workspace you’ve authenticated from (meaning you could be impacting live data), so we recommend making GET queries instead of POST if you’re just getting started or unsure of the expected behavior.

Changelog: This handy section will keep you informed of any API changes and versions.

We hope this new developer experience opens the door to doing more with LiquidPlanner for you and your team. Visit the new Developer Hub, and let us know what you think by leaving a comment below!

The LiquidPlanner API is available to LiquidPlanner Professional and Enterprise edition customers. Start your free trial today.

Further Reading: Boost Your Business Intelligence with API Support for Analytics

October Product Update: A Faster Way to Add New Work

This month, we’re excited to introduce two new features that will make it easier to add work and focus on what’s important in LiquidPlanner.

Add Plan Items Faster with New Forms

You now have a faster, more efficient way to add new plan items, like tasks or projects, to LiquidPlanner. With a simple form, you’ll be able to easily add important information like owners, task estimates, project deadlines, or event dates. We’ve also made it easier to add add multiple items in one go.

This update is informed by recent research with LiquidPlanner customers. During user testing, we noticed that the old forms weren’t as intuitive as they could be. With this update, we’ve strived to make adding new work to LiquidPlanner as straightforward as possible.

Whether you’re transferring a plan from whiteboard to LiquidPlanner, creating a project from scratch, or copying from another source, this update will help you quickly build the plan.

Find the Right Tasks with these Dependency Updates

Also in this update are several new dependency status filters that will help you focus in on tasks that are ready-to-work and identify others that could be compromising your schedule.

Ready to Work: This new Status Filter narrows down your view to active items that don’t have any dependencies or that have a satisfied dependency for a predecessor task. This filter can be combined with a Person filter to give you a consolidated view of your tasks that are ready to be worked on.

Has Broken Dependency: This is a new rule that you can build into a custom Status Filter to filter down to any item that has a broken dependency alert, allowing you to quickly find and fix issues that could be negatively impacting your schedule.

A couple other new custom status filter rules to know are:

  • All dependencies satisfied
  • Has dependents

These updates are now available to all LiquidPlanner customers. Not a customer? Start a free trial.

Coming Soon: Our New Developer Hub

We’re getting ready to launch our brand new Developer hub and we want you to be the first to know!

This interactive hub makes the LiquidPlanner API much more approachable for developers of all skill levels. It offers detailed documentation, a comprehensive endpoint reference, a new changelog, and a simple way to try out API calls right from your browser. We’ll be sharing the news in just a few days, so stay tuned!

October Product Update: Focus on What’s Important with New Alerts

When you see a column of bright red flames running alongside your project plans, it can be a bit unsettling. That’s why we’ve added more intuitive alerts to help you understand the severity of a risk.

To learn more about these new alerts and what they mean for project plans, we talked to Nick Smith, Lead Product Manager at LiquidPlanner.

With the October update, LiquidPlanner customers will see new colors and new alerts in their workspaces. What has changed?

We’ve come out with new alerts that are more human-friendly and easier to understand.

There are two major categories: deadline or effort risks alerts and non-critical, informational alerts.

Deadline or effort risks get flame icons. Before, we had different icons that used orange and red. Now, we have an entire category for deadline or effort risks. If you’ve taken the time to tell LiquidPlanner that there’s a deadline you want to hit or a max amount of effort you’d like to stay under, we want to uphold our end of the bargain and show when that will occur, as well as the severity level.

The alerts in this category are yellow for slight risk, orange for moderate, and red for severe. It’s kind of like Google Maps: the higher the risk, the more alarming the alert level.

The second category is non-critical, informational alerts. There are three new alerts within this category:

Green Manual Alerts: These alerts are manually created by typing an alert message into the Manual Alert field in the Edit Panel.

Blue Schedule Input Error Alert: Blue alerts are input or output errors in the schedule. For example, someone is assigned to a project that they do not have access to. Or, someone is assigned to complete work, and they are no longer in the workspace. We use blue alerts to inform customers of an issue that requires action, so that LiquidPlanner can give an accurate schedule.

Purple Informational Alerts: Purple alerts notify you of a non-critical issue and offer next steps to resolve it.

See the Alerts article in the LiquidPlanner Knowledge Base for more details.

Why the change?

These new alerts work as a focusing mechanism for our customers. In our research, we found that customers were describing their workspaces as a “sea of red.” They didn’t know where to focus their attention.

We’re trying to elevate the importance of schedule- or effort-based risk, which is something that we can generate with our scheduling engine. When those risks materialize, we want to make sure we’re doing our part to help users understand where the risks are and what they mean.

Also, if there are issues in the workspace that aren’t contributing to schedule or effort risk, we want to help customers understand how to resolve those issues. Before, the red alerts were like the boy who cried wolf. People just stopped paying attention. This new category of informational alerts will draw attention to these issues without overwhelming customers.

Do customers need to change their responses to red alerts?

This update doesn’t change how customers should respond. The only change is that they now know that any flame icon is always related to deadlines or max effort.

When something is red, it means it should be looked into. A deadline is about to be missed or the maximum hours of effort has been met. The way to react to that is the same as in the past. But, it’s now easier to find those issues.

How do you use alerts in your work as a Product Manager?

I use alerts to look for issues. The color of the alert helps me decide how much attention I should give it. Alerts also help me figure out where I should be spending my attention as a manager and resolving roadblocks on projects or bottlenecks between resources on projects.

To learn more about the new alerts and what they mean for your project plans, check out the Alerts article in the LiquidPlanner Knowledge Base.

New Features Webinar

Sign up for our 2017 New Features Webinar on October 11 to learn all about this and other product enhancements from earlier this year. Register now.

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

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.

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.