Next Generation Project Planning Tool: LiquidPlanner 2.0

  1. Posted on March 2, 2009 2:33:PM by Steve McConnell to 10x Software Development
  2. 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.

Iain said:

March 6, 2009 9:24:AM

Looks potentially very powerful, however despite claiming that all it requires is "a modern web browser (like Internet Explorer or Firefox) and an internet connection and you’re good to go" it doesn't seem to work well in my locked down work environment, hangs, buttons don't appear etc etc.

Jason said:

March 6, 2009 9:46:AM

Hi Iain,

This is Jason with LiquidPlanner. It sounds like you are using Internet Explorer 6. We have identified the issue and will be releasing a fix soon. If at all possible, we recommend using Internet Explorer 7, Firefox 3, Chrome or Safari.

Alex said:

March 9, 2009 11:39:AM

Thanks Steve!

Never heard of "Social project management"! Cool buzzword!

Actually, it interferes with Enterprise 2.0 concept. And I suppose there're several models how people think of project management.

1. project management is messages exchange (via email). The best tool for such managers is mailing list.

2. basecamp-like agile management is all that's needed in project management. Looks like true for projects with quickly changing environment.

3. Gantt-oriented management. That's when time/task/resource is the most essential information. LiquidPlanner targets these projects, and most software is performed in this way

4. Managing project as a set of separate business processes. This requires the manager to define custom entities and track project in the way one likes.

We have a dream to integrate all these 4 methodologies within single integrated product.

What do you think of this idea?

software development services said:

March 26, 2009 1:58:AM

LiquidPlanner 2.0  is very social application.

Application said:

February 3, 2014 3:32:AM

You should also check out

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Steve McConnell

Steve McConnell is CEO and Chief Software Engineer at Construx Software where he consults to a broad range of industries, teaches seminars, and oversees Construx’s software development practices. In 1998, readers of Software Development magazine named Steve one of the three most influential people in the software industry along with Bill Gates and Linus Torvalds.

Steve is the author of Software Estimation: Demystifying the Black Art (2006), Code Complete (1993, 2004), Rapid Development (1996), Software Project Survival Guide (1998), and Professional Software Development (2004). His books twice won Software Development magazine's Jolt Excellence award for outstanding software development book of the year.

Steve has served as Editor in Chief of IEEE Software magazine, on the Panel of Experts of the SWEBOK project, and as Chair of the IEEE Computer Society’s Professional Practices Committee.

Steve received a Bachelor’s degree from Whitman College, graduating Magna Cum Laude, Phi Beta Kappa, and earned a Master’s degree in software engineering from Seattle University.
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