Meet Project Workspace

Meet the New Project Workspace

Interview with SmartPM's CTO

Today, we're excited to announce that SmartPM has officially launched its new and improved dashboard: Project Workspace! 

We sat down with Rohit Sinha, CTO of SmartPM and general mastermind behind our analytics, to get his thoughts about the new dashboard and what it means for SmartPM and our customers.

But first, a little bit about his background. 

Although Sinha’s family was originally from India, he was actually born and raised in Florida and now resides in Georgia. 

Sinha has an extensive background in computer science and programming and graduated from Georgia Tech with a degree in Mechanical Engineering.  He began his first computer consultancy at the age of 12 and became a founding member of the software analytics start-up, SmartPM, when he was just 26. 

In his free time, he likes to spend time with his family and also research new and emerging technologies.

Come along with us as we pick the brain of one of the visionaries behind SmartPM’s latest product release, Project Workspace

 



SmartPM: How did you get started in software development, and what is your background?

Rohit: So I got started in software development when I was six or seven years old. My uncle who was working at Intel at the time brought me a book on Visual Basic 6. It came with Visual Studio and everything. And I started with that and, um, just started building little cool things and then slowly got more and more into it, started picking up HTML. And then eventually - because my father had a computer business in India - I spent summers there and talked to guys in the industry. Anytime new computers would come in, I would take them apart and put them back together again.

So I was just always really into computers, and by the time I got into middle school, I spent my summers looking for small contracts. When I was 12, I spent my 7th-grade summer building a portal for a real estate agency. The money was good and it kept me productive. That was essentially the start of my first consultancy!

SmartPM:  Wow. And so eventually, …you made your way to Georgia Tech where Mike Pink, CEO of SmartPM went to school as well. Is that right? Tell us a little more about that.

Rohit: So I went to Georgia Tech, and I did mechanical engineering, I wanted to do something different. I’d done software development my entire life at that point. That is kind of strange to say when you're 18 years old, but I just wanted to do something different. So I decided to go for a mechanical engineering degree. And then I was on track to graduate with my bachelor's in mechanical engineering in three years but was finding it difficult to find internships. I really liked Georgia and had a lot of family here and wanted to stay, so I decided to add a Computer Science minor just to have something on paper that says, ‘A university knows you can code.’

And so once I did that, I was able to find an internship for a company that makes software for the insurance industry — a document management system. After that, they gave me a full-time offer. And it was here that I had a very good experience with a good mentor who taught me a lot about architecture there. Soon after that, I got into the consulting world working for a small local boutique consulting company, and then a subsidiary of Accenture called Avanade as a senior consultant (becoming a manager at 24) on a project out in California. However, a 3-month project turned into a two-and-a-half-year project with long plane flights. So I decided to form my own consulting business with my brother.

While deciding to start my consulting business, I was also looking around for a director or senior director position and, maybe even a VP level position in the Atlanta market. Coincidently, Mike Pink of SmartPM was also looking to hire someone right at about the same time. He found me on some new recruiting site and reached out to me. He was a fellow Georgia Tech grad and hired me as a consultant initially to work on the online scheduling tool and then the delay analysis.… We started seeing some traction for those efforts and then Mike approached me for the CTO position in the middle of 2017, and the rest is history.

SmartPM: So why did SmartPM decide to revamp its old dashboard?

Rohit: Yeah. So going back to when we first introduced this to customers, so they could interact with it in the middle of 2019. Really, a lot of that was designed based on what we felt was important. We were very analytical, and very data-driven people. We weren't really thinking all that much about, ‘Okay, how does this information relate to the customer?’ We came up with terminology, such as “scenarios” that made sense for us, right? But that data was difficult to find and a bit convoluted. It wasn’t intuitive for customers.

So we started thinking… What is it that our customers need? We started talking to and listening to our customers. When they come into the system…What information do they really want to go in and see? And based on that, we learned that every customer needs something slightly different. Really at the beginning…They want a snapshot of everything. They don't have hours and days to spend really digging through all this, connecting the dots, and figuring out what happened where.

Really, what they need is a workspace that they can make their own, right? They want someplace where they can really pick what data they want to see, and then they want to have the ability to see all the data in one place, right, and make it their own.

SmartPM: Awesome. So, what's different about the new dashboard?

Rohit: Yeah. So what's different about the new dashboard is really, it's analytics first. And it's giving you the transparency to really see all of your analytics for all your different milestones, all your different models, things like that, that you've created upfront, and then digging deeper if needed for more detail.

We're also making it simpler. Before you'd have to kind of know-how to piece things together, to get to the analysis you want. We want to remove a lot of that, and we're gonna keep expanding on it. So that's the key thing. We’re also removing confusing technical terminology, and really have focused heavily on the user's experience with the different workflows. We want to make it where it's very easy for them to perform their day-to-day tasks.

SmartPM: So how does the new Project Workspace help save time?

Rohit: It helps save time by making complicated tasks simple. Before, things like “Track Activity”, which is very powerful, would be cumbersome and take you four clicks per activity. So let’s say I wanted to track ten different milestones. Before, I'd have to do 40 different steps. And I'd have to make sure that I'm consistently selecting the same schedule and consistently selecting those same rules. And that was just time-consuming and complicated, right? Now, that's all down to a single click. We’ve now simplified those steps.


ModelingMenu-min


And another time-saving change to Project Workspace is our new modeling menu. The new menu which is on the left-hand side has a few quick actions, to begin with. So it's got Test Workweek as an example.. and that is one of the use cases that we selected from what our customers were doing. We then pulled that out into this quick action where you can just click Tests Workweek, and it'll create the condition and the model. It'll select all of your different schedules it needs to do that analysis. It’s something SmartPM could do all along but you would need to know about all of the different functionality that exists, now it’s as easy as clicking the button and then selecting a couple pieces of information.

So as an example let’s take this scenario… You’re on the job, and you're behind, something you never run into construction, right? And you want to see, ‘Okay, how can I get my project back on track?’ Maybe I see that my electrical sub is driving the job. And I want to see if I should ask him to come in six days a week, instead of five days a week to get the project back on track, right? But before I'm even gonna go have that conversation with them. (Because I kind of know what it's gonna cost) I want to first figure out okay, how much will this help? How many days does that actually give me back? So what I'll do is I'll click Test Workweek, I'll say, ‘Okay, give me all activities that are tied to the electrical sub.’ You'll select that, and then you'll say, ‘Okay, update this to the six-day workweek,’ and then hit Finish. And what we'll see is…how much did the end date get pulled in. Did it get pulled in a day? Did it get pulled in a week? Did it get pulled in a month? And so with that, you can see, ‘Okay, it gets pulled in a week? Is that enough? I don't know, right?’ You can really make that decision about, do you want to go have that conversation?

“The Track Activity.. is so simple now.. and it’s a very powerful feature!”

SmartPM: Describe in detail three of the most important features and how you interact with them when managing your schedules.

Rohit: One of the most important features is the ease of use such as the Track Activity Functionality, which is so simple now. And it's a very, very powerful feature.

TrackActivities-min


Understanding your project as a whole is important. However, sometimes on a project, you may only want to track specific portions or phases at a specific time. There may be too much noise when looking at the project as a whole and you may not really see the issues impacting just phase one. And then, going further, you may want to track a specific activity such as tracking the completion of the electrical work to determine what all is impacting your electrical sub. So what our tracked activity functionality does is it effectively isolates that stream of work from the rest of the schedule, and excludes all other activities to let you look at those smaller pieces of information and data to quickly give you a clearer picture at a lower level. And then it updates itself as you progress.

So that’s just one of the features. The next feature I would say is the customizability - where you can rearrange the workspace to the layout that you need and see the information that's important for you.

And the third feature would be the quick actions, right, the modeling menu.

Really, all of these lend over to improve UX, right? At the end of the day, it’s all about how it's so much easier for customers to interact with the product.

SmartPM: Can you describe how the design principles of the new UI help SmartPM with its larger mission of solving chronic schedule mismanagement?

Rohit: Yeah. So really the design principles that are there are really around bringing the important data to the surface. Like what information is crucial for you to know and understand and just bring that to the surface. And when it's so easy for you to see that information, it'll make it really easy for you to manage your jobs. Part of what we're trying to do is make oversight simple. Detailed oversight. Not just checking for a few end dates on a PDF. We want you to understand… how is your quality doing? How's your compression doing? Are the changes being made valid? And when all of it is so easily accessible and so easily visible, there’s no reason not to do it. And that's what will help solve this issue of current schedule mismanagement.

Cards-min


SmartPM:  How is project workspace necessary for future product development?

Rohit: Yeah, so one of the key things that we kept in mind when we were designing the new project workspace is ensuring extensibility. We wanted to make it so that we can continue to add features and continue to add new metrics while continuing to make it easily accessible in a manner that customers are already used to. Before, we would come up with a metric, and then we would figure out a place to put it. This whole interface has been designed around us being able to easily add cards, and easily add new sections where you can drill into the information and see what's going on.

SmartPM: Oh, very good. So it's going to make it easier to add these new features and cards.

Rohit: Yeah, so as we introduce more and more functionality, more and more features, and more and more metrics, we'll just have the ability to drop in a new card. And it'll just be an interface that the customers are already used to just with more information. So it won't be a big learning curve for them to use any additional metrics that we add. We’ll have that ability to really expand on it. And really, we've designed all sections for that. Another example of that is the Reports section. One of the things we're going to be looking at in the future is a lot more reporting, and customizable reporting…automated reporting. And really the way we've designed the Reports section is really just built to add more and more to it. So that's one of the key things in mind. And it’s to ensure that we don't have to redesign the whole thing from scratch the next time we add a feature.

“ We're getting very positive feedback from customers and they're really liking it.… A lot of customers are saying this is exactly what they wanted and exactly what they needed to see.”

SmartPM: Okay! And so how do you feel about it now that it's released?

Rohit: It feels good. It's been a lot of hard work for quite a bit of time. And it's good seeing it all come together. We’ve all put a lot of time and effort into it. And it's good to see that we're getting very positive feedback from customers, and they're really liking it. They're able to easily navigate it and easily able to learn more, and dig deeper into it. A lot of customers are saying this is exactly what they wanted, what they needed to see. And so it's, it's good. And then on to the next thing.

SmartPM: Excellent. So that begs the next question. What’s next on the SmartPM product roadmap?

Rohit: Next is a company overhaul of the Gantt chart. We haven't started development yet, but we have completed the UI /UX, which is a part of our standard process now. And so we've gone through, and we've had quite a few sessions around, building the UX for the next phase. That’s going to be the next major feature that we're going to revamp. It needs it, right? It's by far the oldest part of our product. It hasn't been really touched in a long time, and so we're really working on making it modern and easy to use, as well as giving you the ability to easily navigate it, drill into the data, and really make it a part of the workspace.

SmartPM: And when do you see that release happening?

Rohit: Yeah, so that'll be coming up towards the end of this quarter, early next quarter. So very, very soon…We like aggressive timelines.


SmartPM:  Finally… What percentage of the product roadmap is driven by customers versus driven by the SmartPM team?


Rohit: Yeah. So that's actually an interesting question, because… it’s a little bit of both. A lot of what our customers are asking for are actually things that have been a part of the plan for a while now. And so it's really helping us to prioritize. Like, for example, automated reporting, or customized reporting is something our customers have been asking for. And we included that in our whole design of the Report Center. Where we are going to make it so that we can add more and more to it, and have those customized reports live there. So I would say it's pretty even right now, where half of it is really our long-term vision. And half of it is what our customers are asking for - which just happens to be very well aligned with our long-term vision.

SmartPM: So in closing… is there anything else you want to add…one final thought of inspiration that you want to leave us with about where software analytics is going and the future of the industry?

Rohit: The one thing we want to be sure to include is our very heavy focus on the interface and usability. That's something that's missing from the industry as a whole. Our goal is to really take this very complicated concept of schedule analytics and make it simple. And that's clearly visible throughout the new project dashboard, where you can easily see all of the information that is key for you to oversee your job in one place.

Have some burning questions about our new dashboard? Visit SmartPM’s Project Workspace FAQ page!



Author: Lane Langmade

Lane Langmade is SmartPM's Content Marketing Manager, where she develops content strategy and manages all content production and promotion.

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