Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Liquid Planner and SmartSheet

Pretty much everything we do involves project management. Projects take on different shapes and sizes, from a few tasks done by one person to 20 year NASA projects involving hundreds of thousands of pieces and people. Perhaps for that reason of having a variety of different projects types and sizes, project management has become one of the most contested domains in web applications (office 2.0 applications). I’ve already covered such formidable web PM applications as CentralDesktop and Basecamp in my previous posts. I’ve also received quite a few inquiries from the vendors in the past couple of months to review their solutions. While they all do a fine job at allowing one to document projects and manage tasks, most of them fall short of heavy-duty project management. When I say heavy-duty, I mean projects that have task dependencies, lots of uncertainties, shifting priorities, surprises (what is boringly called change management), resourcing issues, etc. Best-of-breed project management systems like MS Project (IF USED RIGHT) are quite good at handling this dynamic, uncertainty-ridden challenge, however up until recently I have not seen a web app equivalent that approached complex project handling.

That’s until I checked out LiquidPlanner.
You can tell a system that’s been patched together by couple of engineers over couple of month’s worth of time from a system that’s been constructed by a dedicated team with good domain knowledge. Liquid Planner is one such fine system. From a very usable interface (separate post on that subject), to a very potent feature set, I believe they are the first formidable web app competitor to MS office. Work breakdown, task dependencies, estimation that includes uncertainties, resource leveling, schedule recalculation, - they’ve got it all covered. They are based up in Redmond (Microsoft land) and seem to have assembled a very capable management team – I would bet good money on them making it big. Oh, did I mention that their pricing model is also the right one for the web, with easy to start and scale pricing plans.

Another project management tool that I’ve found recently is SmartSheet.com


– they’ve taken a very different route to project management. Actually, a very familiar one to most of us. They figured that most people manage everything with Excel (who said email was the killer app). So they’ve taken that paradigm and extended it to the project mgmt domain. You start with a blank spreadsheet and start adding things to it just as you would with Excel, with the exception that the spreadsheets are smart and can link tasks to each other, link owners, send emails, etc.. Really a very innovative and very likely successful approach.
I love both solutions and will be using them myself.

Other web project management products/projects reviewed: