Next Generation Project Planning Tool: LiquidPlanner 2.0
- Posted on March 2, 2009 2:33:PM by Steve McConnell to 10x Software Development
- Methods & Processes, Technique, project management, estimation, Management, Tools, Project Planning
I receive several requests a year to sit on various advisory boards, and I always say no--I just don't have the time. Last year I received a request I couldn't refuse from Charles Seybold, Bruce Henry, and Jason Carlson at LiquidPlanner. I had known Charles and Bruce when they were at Expedia and thought highly of their work, but the real appeal was the tool they were building.
They started with the vision of an online project planning tool that would include probabilistic scheduling, in a sense a more flexible, on-line replacement for Microsoft Project. As LiquidPlanner took shape, their tool concept grew far beyond a Project replacement. The name of their tool is apt: Liquid Planner has created an online project community that supports work in modern-style projects and managing them far better than any other tool I've seen.
Key features of the tool include:
- Online tool can be used by individual contributors at different development sites
- Individual contributors enter and update their own estimates, priorities, dependencies, and so on; the tool calculates the overall project plan
- Dashboard allows a "big picture view" of the whole project
- Individuals can view their own tasks and the tasks lists for other team members
- Task-level estimates can be entered in ranges; LP computes the overall project "landing zone"
- Integrated email and issue tracking
- "Workspace chatter" allows project members to collaborate on tasks, ask questions, throw out ideas, and so on, all the while maintaining discussion threads for future reference. A wiki-like area allows for central storage of reference information about the project
- Time tracking is integrated
LP recently released LiquidPlanner 2.0, and I think this release achieves the elusive goal of synergy--where the interactions between the different parts add capability that goes well beyond each part considered individually.
For example, we've seen time tracking fail in many organizations because it's a standalone activity whose purpose has been poorly communicated, and many people just refuse to do it. In LP, time tracking is integrated with estimation, scheduling, and the online project community. There's no task-switching overhead to enter time into a different tool, and the purpose is much clearer (entering actuals against estimates). Time tracking becomes a seamless part of working on a project.
Another example is bottom-up task estimates. In other tools, individuals create estimates for their own work, perhaps in a spreadsheet, give them to their manager, who re-enters them into Project or perhaps a different spreadsheet. The manager tracks progress by going around and asking people what they've completed. Estimation is done in one environment, planning is done in another environment, tracking is done in a third environment, and so on. In such an environment estimates often get of date; we've even seen estimates entered post facto, i.e., after the work has been done. In LP, estimating the work, organizing the work, tracking the work, and commenting on the work are all integrated into the same tool.
LP becomes a project ecosystem in which it's just easier for the team to stay in the environment than to move out of it, and have the team working in a planning-aware environment produces all kinds of benefits.
Liquid Planner calls all this Social Project Management. In essence it simultaneously democratizes the project management task by facilitating greater contributions from all team members while empowering project managers with richer, more detailed, and more current project information. LP offers a 30-day free trial, and I encourage you to check it out.