The week before last, LiquidPlanner co-founder Jason Carlson, Senior Product Specialist Jen Ash, and yours truly attended the PMI Global Congress in New Orleans. We were there to spread the gospel of LiquidPlanner, meet customers and talk to project management practitioners about the latest trends driving their business (and perhaps there might have been the occasion to drink a hurricane or two).

PMI

The PMI Congress is the annual confab for project management leaders to gather and share best practices. Unlike other conferences we attend, PMI Congress is populated by what one might label “hard core” project managers. These are typically senior level, certified project managers at major enterprise companies or large government agencies. They run large, complex projects and consequently, also use sophisticated project management solutions to manage their projects. For me personally, it was illuminating to talk to these hardened project managers and hear their impressions on the expanding landscape of project management solutions and how they are adapting new collaborative technologies into their workflow.

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Here are a few of the insights and highlights from this year’s event:

Stay focused and set clear priorities: This was the official theme of this year’s Congress. We’re big advocates of creating plans around clear and realistic priorities at LiquidPlanner. We work this way every day since priority-based planning is one of our star features (and differentiators). It was great fun telling our visitors about how our scheduler lets users drag and drop tasks by priority, and then see an updated plan across the entire project. Setting clear priorities is such a significant part of our DNA here at LiquidPlanner, so it was nice to see that reflected as a unifying theme for this year’s Congress!

People are overwhelmed by tool complexity: Naturally, one of the first questions we’d ask people who stopped by the booth was which tool they were using to manage their projects. And it came as little surprise when most folks told us they were using the 800-pound gorilla in the market, Microsoft Project. But that didn’t mean they were happy about it. Most people we spoke to said they were mandated to use Project but remained frustrated by its complexity and the simple fact that the people on their team didn’t like using it. However, in a sign of things to come, many of these same individuals were attending this year’s Congress with the goal of identifying and evaluating the next generation of Web-based project management tools. I suspect that next year we’ll hear a more varied response.

 Ranged estimates resonate: When we first introduced the concept of best and worst-case estimates back when we launched the first version of LiquidPlanner six years ago, we talked about it a lot since it was of the capabilities that truly differentiated us in the market. However, after 40 plus sprints of adding new features we tend to forget how fundamental this functionality is to building schedules that you can actually trust. Consequently, it’s always fascinating to give demonstrations to people who have never seen LiquidPlanner and to show off this unique capability. For project management professionals who have been in the trenches, it’s fun to see the “ah-ha” moment wash across their face when they realize how employing ranged estimates could radically change the way they run their projects.

 The market is ripe for collaboration: Most of the conferences we attend are pretty heavy on the theme of collaboration. However, there was a marked difference between this year’s Congress and last year’s event in terms of how much people were talking about putting collaboration practices to work in the context of managing their projects. We also heard from many people how frustrated they were about having to use disconnected solutions for managing their projects and collaborating with the rest of their team. And of course we would tell them: there is an online app for that!

 Did you attend this year’s PMI Congress? What surprised you? Tell us in the comments!

Impressions from PMI Congress 2013 was last modified: November 18th, 2013 by Michelle Flandreau