I don’t care what Tom Petty says—the wa-a-aiting is not the hardest part. It’s getting started, right? We have a goal and we know all of the pieces that must come together to make it happen. So why the struggle to dive in and get started already?
Psychological shenanigans aside, it’s usually just because we don’t know how to bring all of the pieces together. What are the options? So many choices! Sometimes I see this with new LiquidPlanner customers who are sitting down to build out their first project plan. The first step to conquering the blank slate in LP is understanding the various options for capturing your plan data.
Let’s dive in.
Building the Plan Hierarchy
The blue project folder is what you should use to represent an actual project. Some teams have projects with a defined start and finish, for example launching a new website. At other times, a project might represent ongoing work with no defined finish. That’s the case for our own LP developers, who use project folders to represent our product’s feature areas, which they’re always working on.
Sub-folders (grey folders) can be used to break down a project. For example, you can break a project into various phases or into its functional areas. The sub-folder is not intended to represent an individual action item.
Tasks represent the action items. This is where you capture effort estimates and log progress. Each task has a checklist which allows you to detail the more granular steps that make up a given task. You can even assign checklist items to other people who might be helping you with your task.
Milestones (marked with a black diamond) are used to mark fixed dates in the plan—for example, a focus group that must happen on a specific day. You don’t estimate milestones, so they can’t be used to represent work that should be included in the project’s total hours, or work that should pull availability from the milestone resource.
Packages can serve two purposes in your plan. First, they are the key way to schedule tasks when you are juggling multiple concurrent projects. Packages act like to-do lists where you can list tasks from various projects in the intended order of completion. This is what drives accurate priority-based dates for your tasks.
Second, packages can provide organizational structure in your plan. For example, you might group projects into team-based packages or into packages for active projects vs. pending projects. This makes your plan more intuitive and allows you to collapse packages that you are not concerned with at a given point in time.
Capturing Additional Attributes
Here are some ways to capture project attributes that don’t lend themselves to the classic plan hierarchy. They are useful for attributes that you’ll want to measure, use as filter criteria, or capture in plan exports and timesheet exports.
Clients – You can create any number of Clients for your workspace. A client can represent an external client or an internal client. Each project can be associated to a single Client. Client associations are picked up in plan and timesheets exports, and you can create dedicated Analysis reports by Client. You can also filter your plan and timesheet exports by Clients.
Custom Fields – You can create up to 10 custom project fields and 10 custom task fields. This is handy for capturing things like status, initiative, division, etc. Custom fields get picked up in plan and timesheet exports and you can create dedicated Analysis reports by custom field. You can also filter your plan by custom project fields.
Teams – You can create any number of teams for your workspace. Each workspace member can be associated to only one team. Team association gets picked up in plan and timesheet exports, and you can create dedicated Analysis reports by team. You can filter your plan and timesheets by team.
Activities – You can create any number of activities for your workspace. Activities are the way to categorize your plan’s hours and then classify them as billable vs. non-billable hours. Activities get picked up in plan and timesheet exports, and you can create dedicated Analysis reports by Activity. You can filter your plan by activities.
Now that you understand what the options are, your next step is to think about which of these features make the best sense for your projects. The answer isn’t the same for everybody, but that’s why we have options in the first place.
Take that, blank slate!