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.
Curious to see how other teams use LiquidPlanner? Our friends at Cognex showed us how LiquidPlanner helps them innovate and stay ahead of the curve.
Cognex is in the business of industrial machine vision. They are the world’s leading provider of vision systems, vision software, vision sensors, and industrial ID readers used in manufacturing automation. Cognex has been around for over thirty years and they continue to find ways to improve and expand into new markets.
One of Cognex’s slogans is ‘move fast,’ which is a reminder to be flexible and understand that change happens. With that mantra in mind, they searched for a tool that allowed them to properly capture and represent the frequency of change in the world. LiquidPlanner immediately stood out to the team because they could use ranged estimates to represent and quantify uncertainty—this was the missing piece that finally allowed them to create a reliable project plan.
In the video below, you’ll see how the team at Cognex uses LiquidPlanner to understand project status, adapt to change, and make data driven decisions.
At LiquidPlanner, we love hearing how teams are benefiting from our project management solution. Recently, we came across an article written by Chris Clegg, President of PortMA, about how his team of remote workers stays organized when there are a ton of complex projects running at the same time.
PortMA, or Portland Marketing Analytics, is a market research firm that specializes in the measurement and analysis of event marketing return-on-investment and advertising communication. In this work, they service a number of marketing and advertising agencies in the U.S. with design, data collection, analysis, and reporting services, doing anywhere from 50 to 70 projects per year in a wide range of industries.
After reading Chris’ article, we reached out to find out more! We asked Chris how he found LiquidPlanner and how LiquidPlanner has helped his team.
What prompted your search for a new project management solution?
“We outgrew Basecamp. As that platform advanced, it moved away from what we needed. At the core, we needed templates, task dependencies, resource planning, and risk management tools. LiquidPlanner fit the bill on all fronts and has shown us a number of additional features we didn’t know we needed. We’re a better, stronger business because of what LiquidPlanner allows us to do.”
How does LiquidPlanner help your team?
“We work entirely from within LiquidPlanner. All of our internal and external project work is spec’d out in detail with time estimates, assignments, and work orders within the LiquidPlanner system. And then our daily time tracking is submitted against LiquidPlanner tasks to help us monitor our progress against contract deliverable items in real-time. Research Managers and supporting staff are updating their projects and related tasks on a daily basis to keep things moving smoothly. At any given time, we might have 15 to 25 contracts running simultaneously, each with dozens of weekly task items. Without LiquidPlanner we’d be so lost in the weeds, we’d never get anything done. The flat resource planning model and how it defines deadline risks allows us to deal with reality and not bury staff under unreasonable deadlines.
Finally, I’d mention that the template function really serves as our playbook. We’ve built out detailed project templates with descriptions on what each task is, how it’s done, and why. We’ve then added extensive checklist items to define the specifics of what is expected on a given task. This services as our documented corporate processes that allows for work to be quickly handed off from one person to another seamlessly without cutting corners.”
How do you know when it’s time to consider a new tool or process for your business? In the case of project management, here’s a way to find out! Take ourProject Management Health Check,a 9-question multiple-choice assessment of your project management process.
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.
“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.
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.
When you use a data-driven project management platform like LiquidPlanner, you generate a lot of important information that needs to be organized, accessed and acted upon. So how do you corral key data as quickly and easily as possible?
We have a nifty three-pack of feature improvements that makes it easier to manage project data than ever before.
These updates are:
Additional Custom Fields
A new Analytics Totals row
Here’s a look at each update.
More Custom Fields
Enterprise edition workspaces now have more custom fields to work with–25 project fields and 25 tasks fields to be exact! (Up from 10.) For teams that run a lot of complex projects, custom fields help keep project data organized and properly categorized–great for capturing attributes that you can filter against.
For example, a business can use custom fields as a way to stripe work categories, process flows or geography–the choice is yours. Read more about custom fields here.
Our customers love their dashboards as a way to visualize data and share project information. But what do you do when the project ends? The new archiving feature lets you archive individual dashboards after they’re no longer needed. By archiving, instead of deleting dashboards, you can retrieve them through search whenever you want. Archives keep your workspace lean and mean. Plus, you can create more dashboards without worrying about your list growing out of control. Note: Dashboards can be archived by editors and creators.
Need to know how many hours were logged towards all of your client projects last quarter? Now, when you run an Analytics report, you’ll see a Totals row at the bottom of the data table that automatically calculates data for each column.
This saves the step of exporting reports into a spreadsheet or doing the math yourself. To sum things up–LiquidPlanner does the calculating for you!
Advanced Analytics reports are available with the LiquidPlanner Professional and Enterprise editions only. You can learn more about our Analytics feature here. For a full rundown, read the release notes.
We hope these upgrades get your year off to a great start!
If you’re not a LiquidPlanner customer and like what you see here, give us a try!
Are you grappling with a stubborn project management work issue? Ask Elizabeth! Email your question to: firstname.lastname@example.org. Anonymity included.
Dear Elizabeth: I’m currently running a large project that’s a mess. We’ve lost team members, the customer has asked for more features and now we’re scheduled to go well over our deadline. I’ve had endless conversations with my manager about the need to add more people to the project—I’ve even shown her my resource workload report. For some reason she won’t budge. How do I convince her that adding headcount is in the best interest of finishing this project—and our business? –Frantic
Dear Frantic: Oh, I’ve been there. I feel your pain! A good way to do it is to stop talking about people and start talking about money. It feels like a no brainer to add a $30k project coordinator resource to a project that will deliver $1m of benefit every year because if you can deliver faster, you get the benefits faster.
Large projects tend to have significant benefits, either tangible or intangible, so you might have a better argument around increasing resources than people working on smaller projects. If your project has no financial benefit, it still might have a significant risk. For example, how would it sound if you could add a $30k developer to the team that would help prevent you from incurring a multi-million dollar regulatory fine? Even projects that are being done for legislative or compliance purposes have a financial spin that you can put on them.
Failing that, you might have to put the project on a Red status. Red typically draws management attention, and you’re doing the responsible thing of flagging the point that you do not have the ability to deliver on time. You could enlist your customer in putting pressure on your manager if that’s appropriate.
By the way, just because a customer asks for more features, you don’t have to deliver them in the same timeframe. Customers – internal and external – will often try to get more work done in the same time, thinking that your resource is elastic. They’ll know that isn’t truly the case and could be sympathetic to you needing more time if you can’t get the extra hands to help.
Dear Elizabeth: I work on a team that’s always in a state of chaos. We’ve tried different organizational processes, task management software and tools. How do you know if you have the right project management processes and workflows in place? –Perpetually Disorganized
Dear Disorganized: Being in a state of chaos is a sign that you don’t have the right project and work management processes in place.
I know a couple of teams who work excellently together, and yet from the outside it looks like chaos to me, so the first thing is to establish what you think “not chaos” looks like:
Or do you want to be able to find documents within three seconds of someone asking for them?
Is the right workflow one where you can forecast your work for the coming month so that everyone knows what’s planned?
It’s probably a mix of all those things, but only you are going to know what will feel like nirvana for your team. Here’s where to start repairing your process:
Focus on one of your problems to fix, either by giving one of your processes another try (perhaps with a few tweaks) or trying something new. Once that area of chaos is under control, move on and try to bring some order to another area. Trying to change too much at once is a recipe for a different kind of disaster and it will unsettle the team to the point that it undermines what you are hoping to achieve.
Finally, you’ll have to accept that what is billed as “the perfect process” might not work for you. If you can’t make a best practice work, then change it. Tailor your software and processes so that they help you, and don’t hinder you. That’s a process of continuous improvement and if you work closely with your team to identify what is working and what needs to change then you can deliver incremental improvements and slowly bring that chaos under control.
Do you have a project-related question for Elizabeth? Email email@example.com
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!
What’s the most advanced, technically and physically demanding event on the planet?
It’s motorsports. The machines are purpose-built, designed to last for only one race at a time (a few hours). Manufacturing tolerances for these race cars require an insane amount of precision, to both increase power and reduce weight. Furthermore, in a motorsport series like Formula 1, the difference between winning a race and losing it can be measured in one-thousandths of a second.
How bf1systems Shows up on the Race Track
While fans and viewers are focused on the flashy drivers, their colorful cars, the loud noises and potential death-defying crashes, the race teams and factory engineers are focused on other details—like the amount of pressure in an F1 tire and how it helps or hampers tire performance throughout a stint. In order to get reliable data on tire performance, teams throughout major race series, from F1 to NASCAR, Formula 3 and FIA World Rallycross, turn to the engineering team at bf1systems.
The #1 Challenge for the bf1systems Team: Responding to Change
The bf1systems team juggles up to 40 projects at a time. These range from one-month projects (such as designing a new housing for an existing sensor) to major 18-month projects with multiple deliverables. One example of a major project is the development of an entirely new wheel sensor system for a Formula One Team, which might include sensors, control modules, antennas, embedded software and diagnostic software.
For years, the business struggled with managing fast-paced, highly design-driven projects.
For Peter Harris, Electronics Project Manager at bf1systems, the biggest problem this presented for his team was an inability to accommodate change.
“We have a huge push at the start of the Formula One season, when things can change on a daily basis,” he explains. “Without proper project management, if a customer wanted a change on Project A, we had no way of evaluating the impact on that project—let alone the effects it would have on Projects B, C, D, and so on. The lack of a consolidated view of resource usage across all projects only exacerbated this pain.”
Time to Find a Better Solution
With a list of requirements in hand, Harris considered a new list of project management solutions. “After I had a clear idea of what we needed, LiquidPlanner really stood out,” he recalls. “It was the only affordable solution that ticked all the boxes. It was also clear that LiquidPlanner had the right product direction: an effort-based approach to project management that could help us address rapidly-changing priorities and keep everyone on the team tied-into the current project plan. With the case for LiquidPlanner clear in my mind, I sat down with our Technical Director and Operations Director and got their buy-in.”
Benefits of Using LiquidPlanner
Harris’ team isn’t just using LiquidPlanner to capture hard data, such as task estimates versus the actual time required to complete that task. The team is also using it to capture “softer” aspects of project history, such as the email thread that may have led to a change in the plan. And because this information is accessible to all, it keeps everyone up-to-speed and on the same page in the face of continual change.
“We’re using the community tools in LiquidPlanner more and more,” says Harris. “I love the space it provides for notes; in fact, the extent to which team members are using the commenting features in LiquidPlanner has been a very pleasant surprise.”
For a data-driven engineering group, LiquidPlanner has enabled bf1systems to get a solid grip on historic project data and use this information to shape future projects. In addition, the team is able to deal with rapidly changing requirements and ad hoc projects throughout the race season in a more efficient way.
For more, you can read the full bf1systems customer story here.