This is the first in a new blog series that will provide quarterly updates regarding recent enhancements to SmartPM as well as some of the cool new things you can look forward to in the coming months. In addition, we will provide a “behind the scenes look” into how we built SmartPM, how we work, and what shapes our vision for SmartPM. This first post discusses how our roadmap is formed and how your feedback influences our roadmap.
Formation of the SmartPM Roadmap
Our product roadmap guides the features, functionality, and capabilities we add to SmartPM and we are consistently seeking ways to enhance the user experience, bring new capabilities to our users, and produce meaningful analytics to support business decisions. In developing our roadmap, we draw from two primary sources of ideas:
- our customers and
- our internal long-term vision and our team’s industry expertise.
Our customer base is the first and most important source of information and ideas for our roadmap and many of our most recent enhancements are a direct result of customer input. Our Customer Success team actively solicits feedback from our customers to understand what is working, what is confusing, and what additional data and reports would be beneficial. This feedback is then relayed back to our Development/Product Management teams and placed into our backlog to be prioritized. Our Development/Product Management team and Customer Success teams meet frequently to discuss and prioritize the feature(s) that would provide the most value for the greatest number of customers. Fortunately, we have a very vocal and diverse customer base that regularly provides feedback regarding enhancements to SmartPM, so our backlog keeps growing. The more customers that request a certain feature, the higher the priority and the more likely we will develop the feature.
The second source is our internal long-term vision for SmartPM, which is shaped by our team’s vast amount of industry expertise. Our long-term vision is guided by our experience, what challenges we see in the industry, and where we see the industry heading. As the world becomes more data driven, we see a tremendous amount of automation and machines driving critical business decisions and optimizing our day to day operations. Our goal is to leverage artificial intelligence to build a system that uses machine learning to optimize construction projects and identify potential pitfalls based on past performance. This AI system will feed data into many of our existing SmartPM features, such as Scenarios and Scenario Conditions. Not only will this allow users to understand what is happening on a project but also what could happen on the project, without needing to spend exorbitant amounts of resources to model every potential outcome.
2020 Q3 Updates
Q3 has been extremely busy with our development team releasing over 15 new enhancements or features. Below are some of the highlights:
- Schedule Export – “Just imports? No Exports?,” is what we often heard. Exporting files back to P6 or Microsoft Project was one of the most requested features from our customers. Users can now export schedules from SmartPM back to Primavera P6 or Microsoft Project. When we introduced the ability to model different Scenarios on a project which allowed users to test the validity of decisions that were made in the field and impacts that certain decisions could make on the future of the project, one thing was missing - the ability to export these Scenarios back to Primavera P6 or Microsoft Project. With Schedule Export functionality, users can export schedule files that include any changes modeled in a Scenario from SmartPM back to their native programs. Now that SmartPM is in the import/export business, we anticipate this feature increasing collaboration between all stakeholders.
- Schedule Change Log Enhancements – Overwhelmed with changes? … Large construction projects have numerous changes that happen between schedule updates. The volume of changes can be overwhelming for anyone reviewing the schedules. SmartPM already expedites the change analysis by evaluating the criticality of the changes made. However, on large schedules this can still be thousands of changes. To enhance the change analysis, we added the ability to sort, filter, and flag items on the schedule changes log in order to further drill down to the items which are of most interest. By flagging changes for further review, users can also leverage the flagged items in building out Scenario Conditions to model what happens if a change in the schedule had not happened or happened earlier.
- Simplifying the Gantt View – Taking the complex and making it simple….The SmartPM Gantt view dates back to original product development and was developed with features, information, and functionality based on the original intent of the product. While SmartPM has evolved considerably since then, the Gantt view has remained relatively the same and some of the original features are obsolete. In simplifying the Gantt view, we have removed and disabled obsolete features that confuse or clutter the user interface. While we may re-introduce some of those features in the future, our goal is to create an up-to-date Gantt view that provides a simpler user interface combined with data drill down capabilities from SmartPM’s analytics. As one of the top accessed features of SmartPM, we recognize the need to revamp the Gantt view to provide an even better and faster user experience.
- Calendar Audit/Analysis – What lies beneath…Calendars are one of the most overlooked parts of a schedule and during our own analyses, we frequently questioned why data looked a certain way; we often discovered mid-project changes to calendars or “interesting” calendars. The Calendar Audit feature provides clarity into calendar changes such as which calendars and worktimes were changed and highlights potential issues such as large periods of no work or hour discrepancies between worktime definitions and calendar definitions. Both of these conditions can cause differences that are difficult to ascertain and can be very impactful when delays are examined closely. The Calendar Audit feature provides users with a clear picture of what is changing on their projects as it relates to the allowable working periods.
What’s Coming Up (Q4/Early Q1)
We have many interesting features planned for Q4 which may bleed-over into early Q1 depending on testing; our rigorous testing process aims to confirm that each new feature we introduce operates as flawlessly as possible before deployment. Below are some of the highlights of what we are working on:
- Schedule Replacements – “Wait, I can’t delete a schedule I’ve imported”…A frequent comment we get is the inability to replace schedules or insert schedules in between currently imported schedules. We are working on addressing this and will be rolling out this functionality soon. Be on the lookout for an announcement from our Customer Success team.
- Overhaulin’ the Gantt View –The Gantt view is one of the oldest parts of SmartPM and it is time for a major upgrade. We are doing a complete re-write for the Gantt view to improve performance and the user experience. The new Gantt view will incorporate many user requested features, such as column customization and viewport scalability. Our goal is for the new Gantt view to perform as well, if not better, than P6 and Microsoft Project. Our team is working very hard on this and initial results have been very promising. We cannot wait to get this in the hands of our users because we believe this will empower everyone to get into the weeds of the schedule without the need to have a P6 license or open up Microsoft Project. It’s always great to push the boundaries of what we can achieve in the browser.
- Project Health – Getting heartburn trying to understand all the data and diagnose what’s causing your project’s problems….have no fear, SmartPM’s Project Health metric will make sense of it all. SmartPM currently provides many key metrics such as Schedule Quality, % Complete, Critical Path Delay, End Date Variance, and Compression which can be used to gauge the “health” of a project. With Project Health, users will have a single metric that combines key metrics and critical success factors to understand overall performance and the level of risk in the project schedule. Users will be able to use Project Health to determine which project(s) to focus on first. We feel that this will truly transform the workflow with SmartPM and will make it easier to know which projects require a closer eye.
- SmartPM “Drive” for Schedules – By now, most of us have used Box, Google Drive, DropBox, or some other file sharing/hosting mechanism to transfer files. Similarly, we want to provide users with a simple to use interface where schedules and other relevant project files can be uploaded for import and analysis. This interface will enhance and accelerate workflow within SmartPM and open SmartPM up for a tighter integration with your PC’s file explorer, search/finder, or directly with your CPM scheduling program in the future. When creating a new project, users will be able to easily access these files.
With a busy quarter ahead, we hope you are as excited as we are for the new features that are coming soon! As always, we look forward to continuing to deliver more value to our customers through new features and enhancements. Along with these items, we are always working on enhanced usability, scalability, and integrations, but more on that next time! If you have any feedback on our roadmap or a feature that you would like to see, please contact us at email@example.com
If you want to see the latest and greatest features live, contact us for a demo using your schedules