LiquidPlanner’s Best Kept Feature Secrets

Charles Seybold | January 5, 2011

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Powerups 1As the world collectively readjusts its beltline and heads into a new year of making plans, we thought it would be useful to recap five of LiquidPlanner’s best kept feature secrets.

The first of these has been hiding in the LP Lab and we’re finally going to let it out of the box: we call it Virtual Teams.

#1 Virtual Teams

If you use LiquidPlanner, you already know about Virtual Members, the super-handy placeholder for tasks that you don’t want to assign to real workspace members. Planners often use these for new hires, outside contractors, etc.

Suppose you use an outside testing service and they promise you 5 full-time contractors. Until now you’d have to create 5 virtual members and juggle task assignments, but in many cases this detail is abstracted by the sub-contractor and not worth the plan clutter just to get a reasonable size block on the schedule.

That’s where Virtual Teams come from.  Now you can create a single virtual member with the strength of 5 (or 3, or 7.5, or 2) just by tacking a special suffix on the end of the name.

Powerups 2For example, replace these 5 virtual members:

•    Contract Worker Bee #1
•    Contract Worker Bee #2
•    Contract Worker Bee #3
•    Contract Worker Bee #4
•    Contract Worker Bee #5

With just one virtual member with the (@x5) suffix added to the name:

•    Contract Worker Bees (@x5)

Doing this means any task assigned to this owner will get done 5 times faster. A word of caution, use this feature thoughtfully because it will let you make a baby in 1 month by creating Moms (@x9). It is best used for long range planning where tasks can be load-balanced and the dependencies are few.

#2 Overdrive Scheduling

Powerups 3Sometimes you need to schedule a resource that has an unlimited force. This is where overdrive comes in.

Suppose you use an outside testing lab and no matter what you throw at them, they get it done in 3 to 5 days.  You could throw two dozen tasks at them on a Monday and 3 to 5 days later all of them will be done.

Scheduling this is no problem in LiquidPlanner, just create a new Virtual Member and check the overdrive option.

Jedi Project Managers beware, you must learn to use this wisely because with infinite force (i.e. availability), comes great responsibility. An over-driver will start any task immediately. It is as if a new clone trooper gets synthesized and dispatched to each task owned by the over-driver. Use delays or dependencies to control your destiny.

Learn more in our help guide.

#3 Critical Path Highlighting

If you’re the type of Project Manager that likes to hassle everyone, then move along; this feature is not for you.

On the other hand, if you think your time is best spent working with the team members and tasks that actually present the most risk to the plan, then step right up; Critical Path Highlighting will light the way.

In a project with 25 or more tasks, it starts to get hard to see the dependency chains and who is loaded up to the point he is the long pole on the project. If any task slips for this guy, the whole project slips. Remember, it’s the critical chains that need attention — not chains that have slack (yes, slack time is a good thing).

Read about the feature in our help guide, or learn the theory by reading Critical Chain by Eliyahu Goldratt; it’s on our reading list.

#4 Chatter roll-ups

A lot of people ask for filtering on LiquidPlanner’s chatter stream which tells me we’ve done a good job of hiding a great feature: the Chatter View.  It’s the 2nd menu option under the Collaborate tab. Go there and select any task container to see a roll-up of comments on just that set of tasks.

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#5 Customizing Columns

Speaking of hard-to-find views, the Detail Sheet is an alternate view on the Plan tab and a great one to trick out. Both views have customizable columns. The easiest way to do it is to right-click the column headings to get this menu…

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You’ll find a bunch of new columns that you can add to your view that you might not have known were there. “Watched” is a great example; you can click the star to quickly toggle notifications on tasks or projects on or off.  If you use timers, you might like adding the timer column.

Wrap Up

We hope you have a chance to try these “power-ups” soon; let us know what you think.

Meanwhile the LP Dev Team is coding away on LiquidPlanner 3.0 which, among other things, will be making it easier to find the special purpose views with totally new navigation design. We’ll publish sneak peeks and more as the ship date gets closer.