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Improve project collaboration with LiquidPlanner

LiquidPlanner's collaboration features and its approach to scheduling make it a standout tool for project execution and delivery. A project manager discusses his favorite features of LiquidPlanner.

I'm a fan of Microsoft Project, but that doesn't mean it's the only tool in my project management (PM) toolbox. LiquidPlanner is another one of my favorite go-to PM tools.

LiquidPlanner is a Web-based project scheduling and collaboration tool that provides task management, scheduling, and effective team collaboration in an integrated environment. In this follow-up to my TechRepublic article about LiquidPlanner's scheduling capabilities, I highlight LiquidPlanner's collaboration features.

Project collaboration features in LiquidPlanner

As more projects are delivered with distributed and virtual teams, the need for an effective collaboration platform at the task level is more important. Integrating a project schedule with a Web-based collaboration tool isn't an easy task because tools such as Project Server and Clarity have different integration points with different scheduling packages. Since LiquidPlanner is a Web-based platform, the team collaboration features are already integrated with the scheduling engine. I recently managed a Web development project using LiquidPlanner, and these are the tool's collaboration features that I found most useful.

My Tasks view I like being able to log in to a Web site and see my view of the tasks that I need to accomplish. The My Tasks view (Figure A) lists all my assigned tasks and my planned start and finish dates — it even includes timers to track time on each activity. The application supports a list view and a calendar view if you like to plan your work across a calendar view. Figure A

My Tasks view. (Click the image to enlarge.)

LiquidPlanner now offers desktop integration with your Outlook calendar or your iPhone or iPad calendar application. With other applications, I've been hesitant to integrate project task activities with my meeting calendar, but this approach highlights the tasks planned for the time period. From a collaboration perspective, the task view provides timely information without requiring a separate review of the project schedule.

Collaborate tab

Projects are social engagements; tools and processes are useless unless you have an engaged team using them. LiquidPlanner provides a social collaboration feature across tasks and at a project level.

Task completion often requires input from other team members even if that task is assigned to one person. LiquidPlanner's Collaborate tab (Figure B) lets you provide detailed descriptions about a task, conduct threaded discussions, add links, and attach project documents at the task level. Figure B

Collaborate tab. (Click the image to enlarge.)

For document-centric project organizations that require a lot of documentation, sign-off, and approval of project deliverables, this collaboration feature will be a pleasant surprise. Instead of obtaining physical signatures, saving e-mails into a special sign-off folder, or creating a separate document, the task or work product approver can simply log in and add a sign-off comment to the task. If your organization requires a sign-off document, you can upload it to the specific task in the schedule. By using a tool to manage the PM process, you reduce the administrative tax that affects all projects.

Dashboard view Similar to a Facebook or Twitter microblog, LiquidPlanner provides a dashboard view of the project chatter and further enables engagement from all team members (Figure C). Each user's homepage displays the project chatter and comments for the entire project or just for a specific resource. Figure C

Dashboard view, which shows project chatter (Click the image to enlarge.)

Instead of receiving one-off e-mails, project team members can organize the workspace chatter to specific tasks and still view the tasks across the micro-blog collaboration stream. If a stakeholder needs to sign off on a deliverable, the chatter feature will record the sign-off and maintain it within the chatter stream.

Client portal Every LiquidPlanner project comes with a project portal that you can share with clients; this is my favorite feature. The project manager can control which tasks are published to the portal and set permissions for task sharing, viewing estimates, file sharing, commenting, and real-time status and trend reports (Figure D). Depending on your client's management and communication needs, you can use some or all these features to share project status and collaborate across the project. Figure D

Project portal, which enables you to collaborate with clients. (Click the image to enlarge.)

In my project, I needed several Photoshop files loaded into the project environment. I could have used e-mail, but it was so much easier to have my client load files into the collaboration environment.

LiquidPlanner also has built-in change notification, so as project activities change, I am notified whenever a new task is added, a task is completed, a comment is made, or a file is added in the portal.

iPhone application With LiquidPlanner's iPhone application (Figure E), team members can interact with the collaboration platform and initiate tasks, track status, track time view notes, and send chatter messages all via their iPhones. See also Figures F and G. Figure E

iPhone app, which offers collaboration on the go.
Figure F

LiquidPlanner's iPhone application
Figure G

LiquidPlanner's iPhone application

Conclusion

I'm intrigued by true collaboration platforms, but I wasted weeks resolving Microsoft Project .mpp file integration issues with Web-based solutions. LiquidPlanner's collaboration features and its human-thinking approach to project scheduling make it a standout tool for project execution and delivery.

I encourage you to check out LiquidPlanner's 30-day free trial and give Web-based collaboration and scheduling a try.

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About

Dr. Andrew Makar is an IT program manager and is the author of How To Use Microsoft Project and Project Management Interview Questions Made Easy. For more project management advice visit http://www.tacticalprojectmanagement.com.

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