When project team members are at each other's throats, the Project Manager must act fast to resolve. Onboarding new team members is a costly way to go, so communication and resolution is best. Here is my SLAP method...with a little help from 4 of my kids. Please watch and tell me what you think.
LiquidPlanner, founded in 2007, established a methodology I have written about before. Just this month, they released the next generation of their product.
With orientation to ranged estimates, resource availability, and task prioritization that powers a proprietary scheduling engine, LiquidPlanner has enabled insights and planning accuracy that saves teams time and delivers insights that increase confidence around project outcomes. As this series focuses on what makes a particular product standout for project management, especially for virtual teams, the improvements reflected in this new product release merit a closer look.
I think we can all agree, project management is hard. Project management without the right tool is harder. The best project managers embrace and oversee full adoption and utilization of technology that enables team collaboration, effective communication, and resource allocation to deliver projects on time and on budget.
Think for a minute about your favorite pizza. Like pizza, most project management tools are good, but some are far better than others. LiquidPlanner has continued to impress me for over a decade. The platform has earned accolades for its capacity to handle complex projects, portfolios of projects, and allocation of resources better than any other tool on the market. Here are five reasons why LiquidPlanner stands out...
1. Automated scheduling and forecasting
Many project tools do a nice job of task capture and assignment. Failures occur when change happens or tasks are reprioritized, each requiring manual updates across the project tool. These manual updates represent a burden we project managers are all too familiar with. There is a better way.
Built around a proprietary algorithm that calculates when your projects are expected to start and finish, LiquidPlanner’s scheduling engine dynamically updates in real-time. As change happens, which it always will, the tool automatically recalculates and updates, so project managers and team members have visibility into task status across the project or even across a large portfolio of projects.
2. Ranged estimates
Think of a time you hired a contractor to do work on your home, or an auto mechanic to fix a mysterious ailment on your car. Was the original estimate of time to complete or overall cost accurate? Probably not. The same holds true when projects get pitched, approved and start, then stumble, as unexpected or unplanned circumstances emerge. As the saying goes, life happens.
The LiquidPlanner founder, Charles Seybold, saw this happening time and again across project teams he led at his prior employers Microsoft and Expedia. Sometimes, work is easier than anticipated and tasks get completed sooner than expected. Other times, it is harder, or issues emerge that derail progress. As a result, the tool he built included a scheduling engine fueled in part with ranged estimates that accommodate real-world variation and realistic time-to-completion expectations. This enables project managers to more effectively allocate resources and ultimately take on more work, translating to higher productivity and organization success.
3. Global prioritization
Everyone comes to work wanting to do a good job. That said, most employees do not know what work should be done first, second or last. Without clear direction and a plan, team members may work on the wrong things and run the risk of severely impacting broader project management deliverables.
Naturally, some projects and tasks within projects take priority over others, yet most project management tools do not capture priority meaningfully, or even at all. LiquidPlanner does and, as a result, leaders can have confidence in their team to do the right work first and less important work later. This prioritization keeps project progress healthy, teams aligned, and companies productive.
4. Resource management
Today’s business environment and continuous increases in cost of talent combine to demand leaders find ways to achieve more with less. Teams who lack visibility into others’ work and have no place to plan, capture, or track progress are at a disadvantage. Some project team members end up being underutilized and others run the risk of burning out as they take on an unfair or unrealistic share of the workload.
Teams must be nimble, be able to spot risk early, have capacity to adapt to change quickly, and ensure accurate insights to empower decision making. Establishing and maintaining an accurate representation of work assigned across a team, and estimates of how long each task will require, delivers insights that reveal resource utilization and availability. Knowing when each task will be complete enables project leaders to allocate tasks more equitably and, most importantly, reassign team members to other tasks when resources are freed up. The result? Higher utilization of finite and costly human resources coupled with confidence and overall productivity. And, as on-time delivery becomes habit, workforce dynamics and company culture improve as well.
5. Planning intelligence
As I learn more about this product, I have concluded it fills a gap in the market around something the LiquidPlanner team refers to as ‘planning intelligence.’ Almost every other tool is rooted in classic, deterministic scheduling – where users input hard start and finish dates resulting in static schedules that do not account for real-world uncertainty. Today’s work environments are fast-paced and, as we learned from the year we have just been through, sometimes unpredictable change occurs. Traditional project management cannot keep up. The human brain is not capable of calculating accurate schedule dates across large numbers of projects and shared resources. And the valuable time of project managers is wasted when they need to manually track and enter information to keep comparatively simplistic tools up to date. The LiquidPlanner predictive scheduling engine does this work for you, helping teams in complex environments uncover key insights and gain competitive advantage.
While I pride myself in being an expert in project management, nothing is more convincing than a customer testimonial. In doing research for this article, one customer shared the following, “The major advantages of LiquidPlanner are its ease of use, seeing real-time availability of resources and the downstream implications of changes. When we reflect changing conditions, the tool recalculates completion dates, basically on the fly, enabling us to reallocate resources to ensure our projects are completed on time.” Sound too good to be true? I assure you it is a reality for this customer.
Working on this series has been rewarding and I have discovered new capabilities of established PM tools that I was not aware of. And, I have discovered some very good PM tools that I previously had little knowledge of. You will get doses of both of these as we move forward with more installments. Please check back for many more presentations of software and services I feel you should be aware of and am confident will benefit the work you do.
You will get better results and improve buy-in when your stakeholders are actively involved in the portfolio management process. Gone are the days when a manager would work on the project plans on their own.
With Portfoleon you can involve others into the process, test assumptions, prepare plan changes, and finally roll the updated plans out to the whole organization.
With a draft-publish-rollback system, your team members will be able to confidently perform experiments and make changes knowing that they will not interfere with the work of others.
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Everything started with Gantt Charts, right? Your first project management experiences involved Gantt Charts with hours on tasks, and interdependencies between tasks and critical paths and all those fun things that make up wonderful, colorful Gantt Charts. And then you showed those Gantt Charts to the customer and the senior execs with all the progress lines and percents of completion showing right down to all those 62% and 47% numbers and your team and everybody was wowed by them.
Even now, if you mention project management to the outsider in the business world, they're going to often say, “oh yes, you're the guy who creates all the Gantt Charts, right?” Sigh. Well, yes, we often do create all those Gantt Charts, but project management is – and always really has been – about much more than just the Gantt Charts.
Leadership. Project management is about team leadership, customer leadership, overall stakeholder leadership and making good decisions for the project and for all of those groups. Good project managers must make tough decisions on the fly – often with less than adequate information – and have the whatever-it-takes to stand behind those decisions.
Status reporting. What happened last week. What's happening right now. What is due to happen next week. The project issues that are being worked on. Risk management and status updates. Change orders. Resource usage and forecasting. All this can – and often should go into the project status report. The more you can make it a one size fits all status report, the easier your life – as the project manager – will be because you won't be creating seven different status reports to satisfy seven different specific groups of project stakeholders. Often this is helped along by the creation of a dashboard for the status report that shows project health in the key areas via a green light – yellow light – red light approach and possibly some percentages (like % of how over or under budget you are, etc.). A quick glance like this gives the execs in your company something to walk away with and stop tapping you on the shoulder and gives the project sponsor on the customer side something to hand to his management to satisfy their need to know that their money is making things happen.
Meetings. Project management is about conducting great, productive, and efficient meetings. It's about putting people in those seats every week so that you have the right people available, and participating and sharing information so that good decisions can be made and good information and communication is shared. The project manager who can plan for, prepare for and facilitate great meetings will have the highest attendance, best participation and most accurate and complete information shared...all of those being key ingredients for meeting – and project – success. And, don't forget to follow up post-meeting with notes to help ensure everyone is on the same page even after the meeting. If you conduct a great meeting but a couple of key attendees leave with different perceptions of next steps, you've still failed. Don't let that happen.
Customer engagement. Project management is most definitely about customer engagement. My motto is “You're only as successful as your last customer thinks you are...” so to me, the customer is everything. And keeping a customer engaged on the project is critical to getting the right information from them at the right time, having them available for key decision making, and keeping them informed and happy throughout the engagement.
Communication. Communication is Job One for the project manager. Yes, even more important than Gantt Charts and status reporting – although it is part of the status reporting process. Good, efficient and effective project communication, consistently running through the project manager as the central point of contact helps ensure that all stakeholders stay on the same page, information and assignments aren't falling through the cracks and a consistent front is displayed to the project customer throughout the engagement. All key ingredients for client satisfaction and project success.
Summary / call for input
And yes...it is still about the Gantt Charts. But it's about much more...and it always has been. Readers – what's your take? How much do you stick to the old gantt chart view and how many of you rarely bring that out for public display? Please share your thoughts on my list and Gantt Charts, in general, and let's discuss.
I can be available immediately if needed. I bring over 20 years of successful tech project management experience and a deep knowledge base in best practices. Private and public sector experience. High level security clearance obtainable - have held FBI level security clearance and Nevada Gaming Card. Contact me or email me.
Do you need long term or one-off expert project management help right now? I am a very experienced tech project manager with more than 20 years of successful project management experience. I can be available immediately and I can do remote or onsite, full-time or part-time, W2 or 1099. Contact me by email or through my contact form here. Let's discus. Thanks!
My motto is:
"You're only as successful as your last customer thinks you are..."
What does your organization look for in a project management leader? A 'yes' man? Do you want someone who will listen to you and do exactly what you ask them to do? Hopefully not. My clients are intelligent and experienced, but they don't always know exactly what they need. They often don't even know for sure exactly what they want - though they may think that they do.
That might be the case for you as well.
If you decide to seek out my services, what you will get is an experienced professional who is more interested in actually understanding your true needs, how you got to where you are now, and what will satisfy you in the end.
It's not about 'phoning it in' on a project. It's not always about getting it done in 'x' amount of time, either. But it IS always about customer satisfaction. It's about giving you - the customer - something you can live with and be happy with and that your end users can actually use.
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Many project tools do a nice job of task capture and assignment. Failures occur when change happens or tasks are reprioritized, each requiring manual updates across the project tool. These manual updates represent a burden we project managers are all too familiar with.
There is a better way. Built around a proprietary algorithm that calculates when your projects are expected to start and finish, LiquidPlanner’s scheduling engine dynamically updates in real-time. As change happens, which it always will, the tool automatically recalculates and updates, so project managers and team members have visibility into task status across the project or even across a large portfolio of projects.
OnePlan includes capabilities to capture and define your corporate strategy in the form of Objectives and Key Results (OKRs). This supports Strategic Portfolio Management. The solution enables the linking of your objectives and key results to your projects and programs to fully understand how the strategy is being realized and the key projects and resources needed to make it happen. It includes a wide variety of methods for prioritizing or sequencing portfolios, based on metrics of business value and constraint. For more information on our Strategic Portfolio Management features visit: Strategy Execution Management | OnePlan
In managing your project portfolio Portfoleon puts emphasis on visualization. Make every conversation you have with your stakeholders productive by instantly pulling the right data from a single source of truth and visualizing it in a way that enables your team to make decisions.
With Portfoleon’s powerful visualization capabilities you can make kanban boards, strategic timelines, spreadsheets, pivot tables, and charts to highlight different aspects and interact with your portfolio. Planning resource demand and supply in broad strokes will enable you to quickly find and address resource gaps.