|Initial release||January 27, 2008|
|Platform||Ruby on Rails|
|Type||Project management software
LiquidPlanner is a platform-independent, online project management system which features ranged estimates (e.g. 3–5 days) to express the uncertainty in project schedules. This collaborative software is accessible via modern web browsers and mobile applications for iPhone, iPad, and Android operating system-based devices.
LiquidPlanner was founded by Charles Seybold and Jason Carlson, both former senior managers of Expedia. The Seattle-based company employs alumni of Microsoft, Expedia, Google, and Intel. LiquidPlanner launched a public beta at the DEMO 08 conference. The Alliance of Angels named LiquidPlanner as a “Company of the Year” in May 2011. LiquidPlanner also received the “Innovation Award” from Info-Tech Research Group in 2011 and 2012. The company counts more than 1,500 teams across 50 countries as customers from a range of industries including professional service firms, financial services, manufacturing, retail, healthcare, government and education, and telecommunications.
Built using Ruby on Rails, LiquidPlanner is the industry’s only priority-based, predictive online project management solution and claims to be the first software as a service (SaaS) based project management solution to allow users to express uncertainty in their task estimates using ranges. The application employs a probabilistic scheduling engine that is claimed to build more accurate schedules.
Several authors have noted that estimating in ranges (e.g. 3–4 days, 1–3 hours) is preferable to single point estimates (e.g. 1 hour, 2 days). Steve McConnell states "simplistic single-point estimates are meaningless because they don't include any indication of the probability associated with the single-point." Project management and scheduling methodologies such as Program Evaluation and Review Technique (PERT) generate best-case/worst-case ranges. However the preponderance of popular project management software does not readily accept ranges as inputs for estimates.
LiquidPlanner accepts ranges as estimates and infers a probability distribution from that range. It then uses the distributions and the relationships between tasks and people to calculate a distribution for the project as a whole. By exposing the uncertainty in estimates the developers of LiquidPlanner claim that the uncertainty can then be managed. It then tracks the evolution of these estimates over time. From these uncertainty measures over time it can plot the history of the project estimates. This type of plot is often referred to as the Cone of Uncertainty.
Project managers create work spaces and invite users to participate in a way similar to LinkedIn or Facebook. The workspace can contain multiple projects and keeps a running narrative of tasks, comments, documents, and other project collateral.
In September 2011, LiquidPlanner introduced their free mobile app that connects the LiquidPlanner online project management workspace to the Apple iPhone and iPad. This app is available through the Apple iTunes Store. Significant updates to its mobile app were made in April 2013.
The LiquidPlanner application programming interface (API) enables project managers to programmatically interact with their LiquidPlanner workspace. With the API, most of the LiquidPlanner project management actions can be automated. For example, you can create a task and then post comments, track time against it, and mark the task done when completed.
While LiquidPlanner is a licensed software, the company offers a 50% discount on each seat for approved 501(c)(3) non-profits and 15 free seats for educational use.
LiquidPlanner is web-based software, and as such runs on any Internet-enabled computer. The Apple iTunes Store offers the free LiquidPlanner app compatible with iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad. This app requires iOS 4.0 or later. Google Play offers the free LiquidPlanner Android app compatible with Android version 2.1 and up. Users of both the iOS and Android apps must have a paid or trial LiquidPlanner account.
In February 2009, LiquidPlanner announced version 2.0 of its online project management software. Professional time sheets were the biggest feature to be introduced during this release. The idea of “social project management” was expanded upon with the Workspace Chatter feature (now known as “Comment Streams”). Every project and task in the system was automatically enabled for communication between team members. Comment Streams were modeled after social networks like Twitter, except in a more professional setting. Enhanced customization was also highlighted in this release.
LiquidPlanner 3.0 was released on June 4, 2011, and included a complete redesign of the user interface (new menus, pickers and controls, navigation, dashboard, etc.). LiquidPlanner introduced Packages, a new way to build and manage a multi-project schedule by dragging and dropping projects in the right priority order. Other software improvements included: improved search, timesheet usability enhancements, and the ability to drag and drop multiple files for upload.
LiquidPlanner 4.0 was released on December 11, 2012 and focused on usability enhancements with the goal of reducing the time it takes to manage projects. These design improvements included a fully redesigned project portfolio view as well as a new “My Work” and “Status Report” section to enable individual team members to view their tasks and workload.
- Project Management: LiquidPlanner’s online project workspaces provide a flexible structure for project/portfolio grouping, drag-and-drop reorganization, custom project and task fields, filtering, project access controls and change history, and unlimited clients, projects, tasks, and events in each workspace.
- Scheduling: Project managers can drag and drop projects or tasks into priority order (generating schedules automatically based on resource assignments, task owners, and estimates), create dependencies, estimate using best case/worst case effort estimates, set deadlines, create project pipelines, and delay, pause, or assign a maximum effort value to any item in their project plans.
- Collaboration: Project teams collaborate using comment streams and email notifications, document upload, rich-text descriptions and links, secure project portals for client/stakeholder sharing, Google and Outlook calendar integration, documents attached directly from Box, and 50 GB of document storage space. All collaboration material is automatically organized based on the portfolio structure of the related plan items.
- Integrated Time Tracking: LiquidPlanner offers integrated time sheets, task timers, customizable activity codes, time sheet review and approval, time sheet export to XML, Microsoft Excel (in CSV format), or Quickbooks, billing and pay rate sheets, and project cost analytics. Users can update the project plan and their individual time sheets in a single action.
- LiquidPlanner Analytics: Project managers can report on clients, projects, teams, people, custom fields, and activities with the customizable Report Builder. Reports combine past and forward-looking data, can be run against pre-set or custom date ranges, roll-up dynamically based on changes made by any workspace member, and export data in CSV or PDF format. Reports can be saved, shared, and re-run at any time by manager-level workspace members.
LiquidPlanner is privately held and has raised a total of $2.2 million in funding since incorporation, including a $1 million round raised through the Alliance of Angels Seed Fund. LiquidPlanner was the first recipient of capital from the Seattle-based Alliance of Angels seed fund in June 2009.
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