Last summer, LiquidPlanner made a bold move to add LiquidPlanner Analytics to its existing collaboration, social, and predictive project management toolset. With LiquidPlanner Analytics, you can slice and dice reporting options into the project management data your team is storing on LiquidPlanner. You can customize your reporting to include these project data points:
- Task estimates
- Timesheet entries
- Deadline dates
- Individual availability
- Maximum hours
Inside LiquidPlanner Analytics
I've been following the company LiquidPlanner almost since its beginning, and the team is a group of very careful thinkers about the state of project management, their platform, and the future. LiquidPlanner Analytics is a further testimony to their product-focused culture.
Based on my recent briefing from LiquidPlanner and from following their product over the years, I know that some key assumptions they made during the development of LiquidPlanner Analytics include the following (among others):
- Metrics don't include unassigned tasks;
- Events and milestones are treated as tasks;
- On hold tasks have no remaining hours;
- Tasks in the LiquidPlanner Inbox are not part of the metrics;
- Tasks with no activity assigned are assumed to be unbillable hours; and
- Metrics don't include projects with no tasks.
These assumptions promote purity in their analytics, which increases accountability and gives a true picture into the status of projects. This spares all parties from project status reports that may not be up to date or completely accurate.Liquid Planner Analytics brings a number of reporting options to the table. For instance, you should save frequently used reports and then access them from LiquidPlanner Analytics. Figure A shows an example of saved reports that could be one click away. Figure A
Saved reports in LiquidPlanner Analytics (Click the image to enlarge.)
The reporting tools are easy to follow when creating reports; it's narrowing down the reporting choices that may take you some time when setting up LiquidPlanner.The format of the Analytics reports follows the same standards as the rest of LiquidPlanner. Figure B shows an example of an Active Projects Analysis drawn from the entire project portfolio a development organization is tracking. Figure B
Active Project Analysis shows activity across projects. (Click the image to enlarge.)Another useful report is the Activity Analysis Report, which analyzes the hours put into individual project tasks. I like the report's potential, though it does take some consistency to ensure that tasks are broken down the same way across project teams. Figure C shows an example of an Activity Analysis Report. Figure C
Activity Analysis Report breaks down project activity by task. (Click the image to enlarge.)
The user documentation for LiquidPlanner Analytics is clear and concise, and LiquidPlanner has the good sense to separate videos into training vs. online help.
Automation of project data reporting
LiquidPlanner Analytics reports may change each time you open them based on changes in the underlying project data; this ensures project reports appear with the latest data. This powerful yet simple tool promotes consistency and the democratization of project management data, because LiquidPlanner is updating automatically and not when a user is running a report.
Save and export options
While LiquidPlanner's design and collaboration tools promotes wanting to keep reporting online, you might have cause to export LiquidPlanner Analytics data for use in documents and presentations.
To keep a static snapshot of a report, you have to download it after you run the report because LiquidPlanner continuously updates project reports in the background. After running a report, click Download within the report to capture a snapshot of it. While dynamic reports have their charms, it is up to the user to capture the data in a static format if needed for a report or presentation.
Another option is to download reports as a .CSV or PDF file, which includes all of the data columns exposed in the report. The PDF option includes a data graph for the metric you select at the time of download. Beyond these download options, it seems to be a matter of time when LiquidPlanner will need an API so it can integrate with other back office applications such as financial and CRM systems.
LiquidPlanner Analytics might be one of the ultimate tools for the democratization of project management data, because the reporting tools don't require a programmatic or even business intelligence background to run such a wide range of reports on project management data.
Will Kelly is a freelance technical writer and analyst currently focusing on enterprise mobility, Bring Your Own Device (BYOD), and the consumerization of IT. He has also written about cloud computing, Big Data, virtualization, project management applications, Google Apps, Microsoft technologies, and online collaboration for TechRepublic and other sites. Will also works as a contract technical writer for clients in the Washington, DC area and nationwide. Follow Will on Twitter: @willkelly.