Liquidplanner Review: Introduction
LiquidPlanner is an online Gantt chart based solution, with an interesting approach to task prediction and “what-if.” The company developed a method to project each task with a set of optimistic and less optimistic assumptions, hence being able to better predict and control the project status as it progresses. Putting Gantt limitations aside, LiquidPlanner came up with an interesting approach and it is refreshing to see ingenuity in the field.
Other than the fresh approach to prediction mentioned above, there is nothing really to shout about here. Using a Gantt chart as a project planning tool comes with a known set of pros and cons. It is accurate and enables all kinds of task hierarchies and task networks, but at the end of the day it is still a long unreadable chart that is hard to see at once with large projects – and it is something that people like to avoid. The extra features provided by LiquidPlanner can bring additional value, but require a fair amount of effort to operate to enjoy it. My experience in the field tells me that things are moving so fast that prediction methods will probably fail to adequately deal with project changes. Without that feature, LiquidPlanner is a poorly designed Gantt interface with muddling controls.
Pro Tip: Right click to bring up a menu for adding tasks. Amazingly non-intuitive, that is how you input your tasks into the Gantt chart view.
LiquidPlanner’s task management system is straightforward. A team member will open a task card, probably from their “My Work” dashboard, start the work timer, and get to work. You can track budgeting expenses, leave notes for team members (a poor substitute for a real chat option), drag files for upload, and share links within the card. There’s nothing flashy here, but it’s a stable system and it works. Sometimes simplicity is a tool of its own – team members have nowhere to get lost, nothing to be distracted by, and a simple interface to keep their data flowing into the Gantt.
Pro Tip: The work timers report into timesheets – this is an invaluable resource for knowing who has done what and for how long. Project managers can get a quick view day by day and identify trends and backlogs before they really come up.
Project Portfolio Management
There is a project portfolio management view – and it is a Gantt of Gantts. Serviceable, but not great. The PPM view doesn’t capture all the moving parts of a project. It’s more of a summary or overview than a real look into where things are at the moment. PMOs will probably hate it, as there is little here to assist them in their work. The timeline is plain, lacks detail, and requires multiple clicks to bring up the important information. Running a management update meeting using this software would be an exercise in patience, and if this was the tool I had to use I would have everything planned beforehand or I’d be really nervous of embarrassing myself trying to hunt down the critical piece of information I need during the presentation. What you absolutely need, bare bones style, is here, somewhere…but make sure you know where it is!
Pro Tip: The estimating tool shines here, as the estimate bar is embedded within the Gantt view. The option to highlight the critical path is also a nice touch.
Ease of Use and Clarity
Liquid Planner is really not that intuitive. Just building a new project Gantt chart took a few minutes of rooting around the site. Finding tools within the software can often be a pain. There are no drag and drop dependencies, you need to right click to bring up most of the steps you want to take, such as add tasks, and you cannot drag bars on the Gantt to adjust the dates – you need to change them manually. This is a serious pain, and a fail! The tutorials are helpful, but it’s a shame that they are so necessary. A good project management platform should be intuitive and easily understood. LiquidPlanner fails here.
Once you have a working understanding of the software, LiquidPlanner is a solid tool. It has the functionality of a Gantt chart, and the estimation tool is somewhat helpful for foreseeing possible delays – you have to be already aware of the worst case scenario to input it, which kind of defeats the purpose, but the visual presentation on the Gantt chart helps.
Pro Tip: The “Task Report” in the Analytics tab has an easy, at-a-glance view of work hours expended by task in graph form.
Productivity for the project manager is not a strong point for LiquidPlanner – the lack of intuitive design really affects your work! The time tracking tool is helpful, and so is the “highlight critical path” option. But these are not the bread and butter of a project manager’s needs. My impression of using the software was that I had to work for it, not that it was working for me. The analytics and generated reports are helpful for a project manager, but many are things you ought to already know.
Pro Tip: The card view works with drag and drop for updating what stage a task is in – you can move, Kanban style, a task box from one status to another.
Liquidplanner Review: Summary
Overall score: 7.9
After trying to use their software, I was not sure if the overhead is worth the value. It provides good predictive capability, but assumes that things are overall constant. At pricing of $45 per user for a limited suite of functions, and $69 per user for full functionality, I think you can find much better value for your money elsewhere, even with Projectmanager.com.
Liquidplanner simply costs too much for its features to outweigh its problems. Its biggest feature is the prediction/estimation tool, but if it requires your input for the worst case scenario, what it is really showing you? The design is underwhelming.