I’m one of those strange people that actually like project management. I thoroughly enjoy diving into the details, juggling schedules and making sure all the moving pieces are set up for a successful project. My teammates regularly poke fun at the pure delight I take in spreadsheets. I like to think that what I lack in creative chops I make up for in organization.
I’ve found that every organization approaches project management a little differently. Some people have a software tool for everything, and others are more DIY with custom spreadsheets filled with color coordination and fancy formulas. Over the years, SmallBox has been a hybrid of both software and spreadsheets. We’ve used Harvest for time tracking, Basecamp for client communication and file sharing, and a master spreadsheet for scheduling.
As our team and our workload grew, we needed a tool that would help forecast weeks and months in advance. Not only would that intelligence be helpful for managing project deadlines and team bandwidth, it would also help us understand which team members would be available for new work coming in and help us see sooner than later when we needed to fill the pipeline with new projects to keep us on target for our sales and revenue goals.
As much as I hated to admit spreadsheet defeat, our old scheduling spreadsheet wasn’t cuttin’ it anymore.
We went back and forth about whether or not this should be an analog tool, like a whiteboard with all our project timelines & deadlines listed, or if we wanted something digital and more robust. We did also stumble across this most fantastic LEGO idea that we gave serious consideration to. We settled for using a whiteboard in the interim while doing research on various tools.
We did test runs with LiquidPlanner, Float, and 10,000 Feet. LiquidPlanner and 10,000 Feet were Cadillac solutions – super robust and would consolidate all our project management tools into one software. However, both would be a serious undertaking to transition our team to full implementation. Our most pressing needs were forecasting and scheduling. We weren’t necessarily looking for a complete overhaul of our project management process. Float was too simple and did not support our work process. Cue the frustration. Back to square one.
Enter Harvest. Soon after determining we did not yet have the right solution, Harvest rolled out their Forecast tool. While not perfect – which, of course, no software ever is – there were several factors that made Forecast super attractive. Because we were already doing our time tracking in Harvest, the ease of implementation was a huge bonus. You simply import the clients, projects and team members from Harvest with a few clicks.
Sample screenshot of Harvest Forecast
The tool itself is user-friendly and intuitive. You can customize each team member’s available bandwidth, which helps us keep scheduling cleaner and more relevant for team members with different internal and leadership responsibilities. You have the ability to grant different permission levels to team members, i.e. view only, view & edit, etc. Making edits to the dates of work blocks is as easy as drag and drop, and you can also duplicate tasks and/or reassign them to other team members. You can also add notes to provide more detail to work blocks as well as track deadlines and other project milestones.
We officially rolled out Forecast in December and have found it to be a really valuable tool. We have monthly scheduling meetings with Project Managers to plan for the coming month at a minimum, and even farther out than a month depending on what work we know is coming up. It has given visibility to our entire team from sales to production. It holds us accountable to making sure we have enough client work to hit our invoice goals. We can now see in advance when we have bandwidth to fill, which helps our sales team know when we are available to start new projects and can create urgency around closing new work. It gives the leadership team a better idea of what projects the team is working on and producers have the ability to see what work they have coming up. It has also given project managers more ownership of the scheduling process and has helped us load balance workload for internal projects across the production team.
All in all, Forecast has been a great addition to our project management process and has given us the insight we need to make more informed decisions for our entire production team. What project managment tools do you love?