I was reading a great blog post today on The Magic Numbers of Project Management by Scott Berkin.

His key points are:

  • Magic numbers in estimation are dangerous
  • Review your estimation performance
  • Learn from your mistakes

He also reminds us of the social benefits of estimating as a team (wideband-delphi), embracing the cone of uncertainty, and focusing on requirements.

We think Scott’s a planning genius and more people should read his stuff. Now if only where was some kind of tool, a collaborative planning system that we could use to put those ideas into practice? — Oh wait, there is, and it just got better.

LiquidPlanner’s latest graphing features

We’ve been quietly updating our analysis graphs this summer with a new rendering system which has allowed us to add new features like zooming.

LiquidPlanner’s simple project management reports go right to the heart of managing schedules and commitments. You won’t find this collection anywhere else since only LiquidPlanner captures uncertainty with ranged estimates and uses those ranges in its statistical analysis.

LiquidPlanner Total Trend

What does the cone of uncertainty look like for real projects and tasks? Not the ideal cone, that’s for sure. You have to work at it, but the rewards are very real. In LiquidPlanner, the total trend report plots the ranged estimate roll-up (low-high) over time so you can see the work expanding and contracting both in total work and range of uncertainty. The growing green mountain is the actual work done.

The project above shows an estimation miss. Look close and you’ll see that on 8/20/09 about 160h was the expected worst case but the actual final number was 200h three weeks later (a 25% miss). That’s actually not bad when you consider the average software miss is 100% or more. A little data mining with LiquidPlanner’s new power filters showed us the project had late requirements (imagine that).

LiquidPlanner Schedule Trend

The schedule trend report is like the clear light of morning streaming in an hour too early. We also like to call it the slip report. It shows you where your project was expected to exit at any point in it’s little project lifetime. This project was steady on the rails for a while but it blew past it’s promise date in the last two weeks. Why did it slip? All the answers should be in the comments and change history of the workspace.

LiquidPlanner Remaining Trend 1

Like burn down charts? The remaining trend chart shows the history of remaining work for projects and tasks plus a projection to the probable landing zone. Can your team hit that rate of progress?

How about this next slope tough-guy? Chart says the team has a 10% chance of hitting the promise date.

LiquidPlanner Remaining Trend 2

The last two charts are focused on manging “the now” and making routine status checks simple if not trivial.

LiquidPlanner Progress Report

It’s hard to believe there used to be a time when people had to write status reports (see, stone age). I don’t think I’ve seen a bigger waste or time or stronger incentive to whitewash the facts than narrative status reports.

The LiquidPlanner Progress Report and Upcoming Report (below) are generated from data. They pull key facts together for a weekly team meeting and focus on the important things: what got done, what’s upcoming, how is the load spread around, who has the most uncertainty, what’s remaining, and finally what’s at risk. In fact they are so informative, you can probably skip the meeting and actually get some work done instead.

LiquidPlanner Upcoming Report

There you go, five ways to get analytical insight into your project execution. Now go read Scott’s blog then come back and start a free trial of LiquidPlanner.

Happy planning!

Five Project Management Reports to Live By was last modified: March 16th, 2015 by Charles Seybold