Diona Kidd knows what it’s like to wear a lot of hats. As one of the founders of Knowmad, an Inbound Marketing agency, Diona does a bit of everything – from marketing and sales to client management. But above all, she spends most of her time thinking about how Knowmad can exceed client expectations without overburdening the agency’s limited resources.
“We’re a small team of six so it’s critical that we not only understand the current amount of work on everyone’s plate but we also need to be able to predict with a degree of confidence what our future state looks like,” says Diona.
In the Spring of 2011, Diona realized that their existing work management system which consisted of spreadsheets, a time tracking application, and Basecamp for task management just wasn’t cutting it. “We knew that if we wanted to scale our business and continue to deliver at a high level of quality, we needed to invest in a dedicated project management and collaboration system.”
Diona evaluated a number of different project management tools, with key requirements being the ability to collaborate within the tool, integrated time tracking, and analytics to support decision-making. In June 2011, Diona decided that LiquidPlanner would be the best fit for her team and her journey to streamline Knowmad’s project planning process was quickly underway.
A project management crystal ball
Every agency, regardless of industry or size, eventually faces the same challenge: how do we accurately staff our accounts and ensure that all of our resources are being appropriately utilized? Knowmad is no different in this respect. But with a small team, the stakes were even higher.
“In addition to our full-time staff, we also work with a number of external contractors and of course, our client’s projects are always shifting in priority which means we have to continuously load balance our resources. Now that everyone on our team tracks their time in LiquidPlanner, it’s easy for me or one of our campaign managers to quickly analyze the workload, re-assign tasks if necessary, or bring on extra resources if there are competing priorities. LiquidPlanner is like having our own project management crystal ball, helping us to more accurately predict internal capacity and meet client expectations,” she says.
Intelligent time estimates
Diona also appreciates the way LiquidPlanner handles time estimation: “Our team is well versed in Agile methodologies so not only do we understand the value of estimating time using best and worst case scenarios, we love having that capability embedded in the tool itself. We have close to three years’ worth of time estimates captured in LiquidPlanner so there is quite a bit of intelligence to be gleaned by analyzing how people estimate their time. For instance, if someone on the team is consistently missing their estimates, it might indicate an opportunity to provide additional training. It has also been invaluable in helping us build proposals for similar project types since we can look back at the record to see how long a comparable project actually took us. This saves us from re-estimating the scope of a new project and ensures that we maintain our margins.”
The single most important benefit: collaborative transparency
When asked about the single most salient benefit that LiquidPlanner brings to her team, Diona doesn’t hesitate: “Without a doubt, it’s the collaboration aspect of the tool and the broad transparency that it provides. Because everyone on the team uses LiquidPlanner as their project control console, we’ve eliminated the dreaded monthly ‘traffic meeting’, saving our team at least 10 hours a month. But perhaps more importantly, this additional layer of transparency has improved the situational awareness of our team in general.”
For Diona, collaboration isn’t something that just happens between her and the rest of her team – it has also become an important conduit for keeping clients in the loop. Using the Project Portals feature in LiquidPlanner, Knowmad customizes the most important dimensions of a client’s project plan so their clients can see for themselves the status of key deliverables and mitigate potential blocking issues.
Diona concludes by saying: “LiquidPlanner has become such an essential part of our day-to-day operations over the course of the past three years. Not only do we use it to manage and run all of our client projects, it has improved our overall efficiency as a company and enables us to make more informed and intelligent business decisions.”