Category Archives: LiquidPlanner

5 Ways AI and Automation Will Change Project Management

Technology has made our lives easier. If you don’t believe that, go watch a few episodes of the PBS series, The Frontier House. While technology and automation have lessened some of the strain, they’ve also stirred up a lot of fear.

The Luddite movement in the early 1800s is one of history’s more famous examples of humans lashing out at automation. During a period of low wages and England’s war with France, English textile workers saw automation and textile machinery as a threat to their livelihood. The Luddites burned and smashed looms and other machines they believed were destined to replace them.

Since then, there have been numerous backlashes against technology and automation. In the 1980s, United States postal workers protested the introduction of letter sorting machines. Today, taxi drivers are protesting over ridesharing services like Lyft and Uber.

At its heart, automation is about solving a problem or a task that can be reliably offloaded from a person to a machine. Manufacturing has seen amazing progress due to automation, and now there are several opportunities for automation in project management to make our lives easier.

Rather than replace the role of project manager, which I don’t see happening any time soon, I think automation will relieve us from some of the more mundane tasks and help bring consistency to our daily lives.

Technology has been steadily impacting the jobs of project managers for years now, but recently the pace has quickened dramatically. Now project managers, like almost everyone else, are seeing automation on the horizon. Rather than run in fear, I suggest that we may find this technology is the friendly kind that can help.

Here are five ways I believe automation will impact our jobs in the near future.

1. Offloading Truly Routine Tasks to Increase Value

We are already making progress in automating things like tracking time, updating estimates, and reporting schedule progress. When put together, these have the potential to reduce meeting time and improve accuracy. All of this can free up your team to focus on the more valuable tasks.

The project manager can use a central hub to collect information and updates from team members, which will help ensure that updates are timely and thorough. We have seen some of this already. But, with heuristics and quality assessment algorithms, the best is yet to come.

2. Improving Assessments to Identify Risks

In the 2002 movie Minority Report, authorities were alerted to serious crimes before they even occurred. You would think all of this proactivity would make life easier, but that would have been a boring story.

Imagine, however, that you had a list of likely delays, risks, and problems before they occurred. This technology already exists in the supply chain world, and it’s only a matter of aggregating the right pieces of data for it to work for project teams.

Some projects already receive weather, traffic, and shipment notifications to alert them to problems before they manifest. Add to that the possibility of supplier problems, failed quality checks, delays, and personnel issues, and suddenly you have the potential for a robust risk tool.

3. Employing Metadata to Detect Problems

You may have noticed how your phone has become smarter in recent months. It can predict what you are going to type next and even anticipate where you are walking or driving. While this is the result of a relatively straightforward process of monitoring and then predicting your behavior and routines, the impact is downright amazing.

We now can unobtrusively collect metadata and look at how team members do their jobs. Many thought leaders believe that we can understand more from this metadata than by looking at the actual work product. There is a gold mine of information waiting. We just need to learn to mine it effectively.

In fact, many industries, including credit scoring, counter-terrorism, and financial institutions, are using metadata to predict events before they happen. In my community, a large EMS provider uses metadata and analytics to predict where and when traffic accidents will occur and proactively station ambulances near those intersections. The results are uncannily accurate.

Soon, project managers will have tools that give us a treasure trove of information about our teams’ performance. A lot of predictions can be made by analyzing the habits, the communication, the focus, the time spent on task, and other attributes of the person responsible for doing the work.

4. Facilitating Communication to Improve Accuracy

Automation can offload mundane tasks. For example, an application could get updates from the team, produce key reports, and raise triggers and alerts when problems were detected. Communication is one of the trickiest areas for a project manager to master. Software already exists to correct grammar, but other algorithms are being deployed to help identify potentially problematic phrases, and improve accuracy and truthfulness

5. Coordinating Tasks to Increase Efficiency

When I started out in project management, the ideal project manager was a directing and controlling figure who handled everything and everyone. Over time, the idea of monitoring more and controlling less has emerged. Today, the role of a project manager is trending toward that of coordinator and coach and less of dictator. This concept of monitoring becomes important because the project manager is supposed to be proactive, and if something can alert us to an emerging problem then we are ahead of the game.

And the good news is that coordinating is something software can help with. Everyone is connected, and now real-time decisions can be made about tasks and their priorities. This allows an algorithm to make decisions about who completes which task in a way that can optimize the project. This has particular potential with agile projects where “generalizing specialists” who can be deployed somewhat interchangeably within the team are favored over siloed individuals. All of this holds the potential of freeing up the project manager from refactoring the schedule repeatedly.

There will always be the need for project managers to get things done (or as Snoop Dogg says, to “put paint where it ain’t”), and the fundamentals of project management remain the same today as they have been for decades. It is our job to develop a solid understanding of success, build a good team, plan carefully, communicate well, adapt, resolve conflict, and manage the value delivery. Automation has the potential to make many of those tasks easier, but it likely won’t replace people any time soon.

June Product Update: New Custom Fields for Better Work Management

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

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

Add New Color to Your Dashboards

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

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

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

Track and Report the Values Unique to Your Business

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

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

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

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

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

The Case for Multiple Project Management Methodologies

A multiple-methodology approach to project management may lead to happier project teams, according to a new report by LiquidPlanner.

The 2017 State of Project Management in Manufacturing report found that 74 percent of the respondents who said they were highly satisfied with their existing project management methodology actually used a combination of methodologies.

At first glance, using multiple methodologies seems odd, especially in manufacturing organizations optimized with repeatable processes. The natural reaction is to respond “What’s wrong with my methodology?”

PMOs and process specialists spend months developing standard processes, methods, and templates to achieve predictable results. Believe it or not, the PMO doesn’t create a new template or a new process out of sadistic pleasure. Many PMOs seek to provide structure and guidance while letting project teams adjust and scale the methodology to the project.

Despite the amount of focus user group surveys, subject matter expert collaboration, and thoughtful process analysis, there will never be a single, perfect methodology for getting work done. It’s natural for project managers and teams to use a combination of processes and templates from multiple methodologies, such as waterfall, scrum, lean, and Six Sigma.

Here are six reasons why:

1. Methodology is not a silver bullet.

A methodology is merely a tool in a team’s toolkit to guide them to a successful outcome. The team delivers the project using methodology as a guideline. Effective teams still need strong leadership, project management, and clear communication to deliver. The best methodology in the world won’t help a struggling team from failing; it will help them fail according to the standards. This is why effective teams know to pick the best tool for the job, independent of prescribed methodologies.

I’ve participated in several project turnarounds where the project manager followed the methodology but failed to actually lead and manage the project.

One of my favorite projects successfully launched and delivered its objectives without a signed project charter. Methodology should be used to provide directional guidance and teams need to know how to adjust accordingly.

2. Projects don’t always follow a predictable path.

Projects are not a production assembly line. Methodologies are developed to provide guidance to produce a predictable result. However, few projects follow a predictable path.

When you’re working on a project, it’s likely that there is a methodology to follow. Yet, the journey to get there won’t always be a predictable journey. No two projects are the same; the people, environment, project constraints, and potential risks will be different.

Even my commute to work doesn’t follow a predictable path, and I drive it every day! Traffic, weather, and delays getting the kids into day care all impact my “project” to drive to work. If we can’t exactly predict when we’ll get into the office, how can we be expected to be 100 percent accurate on project end date six months out?

The key is to adapt and adjust. This also means tweaking the methodology.

3. People deliver projects, not methodologies.

We staff projects with talented people to leverage their professional experience and ensure project success.

I’ve met several certified PMPs, Black Belts, and Scrum Masters who shouldn’t ever lead or manage a project. People may be experts in a methodology, but if they lack the professional experience and subject matter context, the chance of project success is lower.

A few years back, a process quality assurance (PQA) analyst wrote me up as “out of compliance” because I wasn’t using a prescribed methodology template for meeting minutes. Instead, I used a mind mapping tool to capture the notes and actions and sent them out in a Word document. The team found the mind mapping format easier to follow and it actually lowered the administrative burden.

I understand the PQA analyst had a role to play, but it wasn’t in delivering the project.

4. Methodologies lag behind best practices and feedback loops.

The time it takes to introduce methodology changes, gain consensus, update documentation, and communicate the change doesn’t enable a project team to shift easily. Within the PMO, methodology changes can be launched quarterly to ensure best practices are incorporated and teams have time to learn and adjust. The lack of an updated methodology should not stop a team from implementing their own best practices.

Project teams need short feedback loops (an Agile principle) and should be encouraged to fail fast and experiment to find the best solution. Just because a methodology has a design phase, doesn’t mean the team can’t run small incremental proof of concepts to validate the design. As humans, we do this all the time and course correct.

5. External pressures and politics influence project decisions over process.

How many times have you presented a project launch date only to be told “not acceptable” or “go back and sharpen the pencil”?

You can incorporate every step of the methodology into a project schedule, but senior management’s requirements (or mandates) will always have an impact on the project.

After all, people are not machines. Politics play a role in project decisions and predictable outcomes. Unfortunately, teams that seek to skip “all that process stuff” end up with a troubled project that fails to deliver the intended result. Consequently, teams look to multiple approaches to solve project problems.

Project teams will always find a reason why a specific methodology won’t meet their needs because their project is “different”. Rather than constraining them to one methodology, allow them to pick the best tool for the job.

Of course, project governance still needs to be in place to ensure the project doesn’t “run off the track.” At the organization level, a portfolio manager or the PMO needs to ensure standard project milestones and checkpoints are being met regardless of the tools, templates or processes used in specific methodology. If project teams are encouraged to use the tools and processes that best fit their projects, the PMO and the project team need to align on the approach upfront.  Otherwise, some project teams will take this advice as not following a methodology at all.

The best way to strike a balance between methodology, delivery, and process-centric organizations is to tailor the methodology to the project and gain agreement. If I had done this one my past project, I may have avoided a non-compliance report from the quality assurance analyst!

After reviewing the 2017 State of Project Management in Manufacturing report, it doesn’t surprise me that more than half of respondents use a combination of methodologies. Those teams are selecting the right tool for the job. While that may not be 100 percent process compliant, it sure is smart!

Case Study: Scientific Equipment Manufacturer Adopts LiquidPlanner for All Product Development

At Lake Shore Cryotronics, a scientific equipment manufacturer, the lack of a project portfolio solution for project management made it difficult for the company’s 50-person product development team to track and manage its complex workload. The company’s move from Microsoft Project to LiquidPlanner gave the team a single view of resource allocation across all projects, including sustaining engineering work. The team can now quickly adjust to changing priorities, and is working together more effectively because LiquidPlanner pulls the entire team into the project management process—in a way that’s easy and natural for all.

 

 

Founded in 1968, Lake Shore Cryotronics develops, manufactures, and markets measurement and control sensors, instruments, and systems for precise measurement and control of temperature and magnetic fields. Users of these products are typically scientists, physicists, and researchers in universities, aerospace, government, and corporate R&D labs, with applications that range from electronics and clean energy to nanotechnology and deep space.

Download a PDF of this case study here.

The product development team at Lake Shore Cryotronics consists of about 50 people, including engineering technicians, design engineers, manufacturing engineers, software developers, and managers. At any time, the team’s workload includes roughly a dozen new product development projects, as well as a continual stream of sustaining engineering efforts. All team members support multiple new product development projects and are expected to ensure that sustaining efforts remain a high priority.

Lower Participation, Inaccurate Schedules, and Reduced Visibility

Prior to mid-2016, the product development team at Lake Shore Cryotronics lacked a comprehensive solution to all its project management needs. At the time, the company used Microsoft Project Professional. Each project resided in a standalone Microsoft Project file, and the team’s single Development Process Manager was the only Microsoft Project user.

“We chose to have only one person manage schedules due to the complexity of Microsoft Project,” says Rob Welsh, who assumed the role of Development Process Manager a few years ago, when the company decided it needed a full-time focus on project and process management.

During the planning phase for each new project, Welsh would work with that project team to define a work breakdown structure and project schedule, upon which Welsh would create a new Microsoft Project file. As the project progressed, Welsh used Microsoft OneNote to collect status updates from the project team. “We utilized OneNote to maintain project records and help keep project schedules updated,” explains Welsh. “Every week, for each project, I would create a table of current tasks in OneNote and ask the resources to update their progress and estimate remaining work. After I received that information, I used it to update the project schedule.”

The major problem with this method was that projects often deviated from the original plan very quickly. Technical issues, changing priorities, new tasks, and changing resource availability all resulted in the tasks that Welsh was asking people to update in OneNote each week not matching what they were actually doing. “The result was lower participation, inaccurate schedules, and reduced visibility to what people were working on,” says Welsh. “The only way to counter this was with frequent meetings that pulled entire project teams away from their work and negatively impacted project completion.”

As Welsh points out, all of this wasn’t due to poor planning or coordination. For example, during the course of a project, the team would often find a way to deliver greater value for customers. “The problem we had, however, was that we had no good way to determine the effect of that change on that project or other ones that shared the same resources,” Welsh explains. “This made it difficult to examine the tradeoffs, if any, and make quick yet fully-informed decisions on how to reallocate resources.”

A Better Way

Lake Shore Cryotronics now uses LiquidPlanner for all its project management needs. “Our adoption of LiquidPlanner was something that I initiated; there was no mandate from management,” Welsh explains. “We had already tried several approaches—to the point that most people were experiencing ‘changing project management methods fatigue’ and there was much skepticism with trying yet another method.”

However, Welsh was dealing with the issues the team faced on a daily basis, and wanted to find a better way. “I kept looking for a project portfolio solution where we could view all projects and tasks in a single place, a collaborative platform that was easy to use by all team members, and a tool that people would want to use because it would help them get their work done,” he recalls.

Welsh found LiquidPlanner through a simple web search. “Upon visiting the LiquidPlanner website, I immediately jumped to the FAQ section, read the paragraph on ‘Why should I give up on traditional project management tools?’, and was intrigued by how well it described our current situation,” he recalls. “Upon closer inspection, LiquidPlanner offered just what we needed: a priority based scheduling engine, a project portfolio solution, and accessibility for all team members to enter and update tasks.”

After signing up for a trial subscription and confirming that LiquidPlanner could indeed meet his team’s needs, Welsh took his recommendation to upper management. Their response: “We now have a new requirement: whichever solution we adopt has to integrate with our ERP system for time tracking.”

Fortunately, LiquidPlanner was built to do so. Welsh spent a few hours designing such an integration, had it setup and tested in less than a week, and received the go-ahead to purchase LiquidPlanner subscriptions for all team members in June 2016.

Today, Lake Shore Cryotronics manages all product development using LiquidPlanner. This includes more than a dozen new product development efforts, which typically range from 3,000 to 5,000 hours of effort. “Users took to LiquidPlanner right away,” says Welsh. “The entire team is using it for all aspects of our work, including electrical design, mechanical design, firmware development, software development, user manuals, marketing literature, and manufacturing process development.”

The product development team at Lake Shore Cryotronics is benefiting from its use of LiquidPlanner in many ways. Schedules and tasks are continually updated throughout the day, with at-a-glance visibility into potential issues and estimated completion dates. Ranged estimates make it easier to estimate tasks, enabling people to apply a best case/worst case approach instead of trying to come up with a single, hard number. All team members now have a consistent method for planning their work, always know their top priorities, no longer need to report their hours in two places, and are able to collaborate more effectively.

“LiquidPlanner is enabling us to work together more closely as a team,” says Welsh. “The key enabler: users have access to relevant project data, including the ability to add, modify, and report on tasks. It’s much more efficient than our previous process, where I had to query all users on a weekly basis, collect their information, and then update the project schedules manually. It also promotes more accurate and complete schedules because it takes the ‘middle man’ out of the process. In the past, with weekly updates, schedules were usually out of date. Now, with the LiquidPlanner scheduling engine always running, our schedules can be considered ‘real time.’”

Read the full case study here.

What Project Management in Manufacturing Looks Like Today [Infographic]

Manufacturing is essentially a series of sequential steps in a longer process. Because each step must be completed before moving onto the next, even the smallest delay can have a significant impact on delivery. That’s why proper planning, scheduling, and risk management are so important.

We recently asked more than 100 manufacturing executives, engineers, and project managers about their day-to-day project management practices and how these play a role in their work and businesses. To learn what they had to say, check out the infographic below.

Want to read the complete findings? Read our 2017 State of Project Management in Manufacturing report.

 

 

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.

IMG_0566

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.”

A-15_Seattle_Girls_School3

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.

A-15_Seattle_Girls_School4

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:

Devon_Burns

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.


Adam_Sanderson

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.

TextCustomFields

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:

sub-folders image

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.