Project Management with Qlik – A Story of Efficiency and Growth

Managing projects has been an age-old task that’s only gotten more complex throughout the years. That’s why we’ve moved away from notepads and binders to computers and databases. Sure, project managers can do their work under very challenging circumstances, but it’s how efficient they are that really matters to a company. If a PM can overlook and guide a single project to fruition, that’s good, but if they’re able to do it with multiple projects simultaneously, that’s the jackpot. Every company wants its project managers to be as effective as possible, and it’s not any different here at B EYE. So, let us tell you how we provide an avenue to our PMs to be as productive and adept as they can, and of course, you’ve probably guessed from the title we’ll be talking about visual data analytics with the Qlik platform. But first …

… Let’s Talk About Issue Tracking

Here at B EYE, we use Atlassian’s JIRA for issue tracking and logging our time spent working on tasks. This helps our project managers keep an eye on all the projects we’re tackling. We probably need to clarify some bits here for the readers that aren’t familiar with that platform so that our Qlik implementation makes more coherent sense afterward.

First of all, we use the agile development methodology, which JIRA fully supports. The key part here is the ability to allow for an iterative development cycle, which happens in the form of sprints, each two weeks long in our case. The second vital feature is the EPIC. This is an issue type that can link up all the tickets pertaining to a specific project, kind of like a list. When we need to check how a project is going, we just open up the corresponding EPIC and go through the necessary info. Lastly, the time tracking works as you might expect; you provide an estimate of how many hours you believe a task will take you, and finally, you log your time when working on it.

It’s worth mentioning that JIRA has built-in reports in their system; however, they aren’t nearly as versatile as the ones in Qlik. The customization possibilities are what really shines here – from a wide variety of visual charts to the possibility of connecting to python or R for more complex machine learning analysis. Well, you’ll see some of that in the next section of this article.

If you aren’t using JIRA as an issue tracking system, that’s no problem. The implementation we’re going to talk about can be done with any platform, as long as you can extract your data from it, for example, through an API. With all that covered, you should now have a clear picture of how our PMs manage our projects – we create tickets, set time estimates, and work on the projects. Let’s show you how that simple-sounding loop can be improved upon with Qlik.

Project Management with Qlik

The application we created consists of several dashboards; we’re not going to cover all of them because some are quite niche. We get the data from JIRA through their API, and the hourly reloads make sure that we’re always looking at the newest data available. Well, enough stalling, let’s go over the top 3 ones and show you how they manage to improve our project managers’ task efficiency and how they’re able to advance their planning abilities as well.

Budget Tracker

We use this dashboard to observe budget allocation, or more precisely, how much time developers have spent on a specific project and how much time they have left according to the original estimate. This last part is very important because sometimes unexpected issues pop up, and time extensions become warranted, which ultimately add to the project costs. We also use this dashboard to view how specific tasks within the EPIC are progressing and whether everything is proceeding as planned.

pm dashboard - original vs remaining

The Original vs Remaining graph shows how projects are doing and how much budget is still available for them. Hovering over any of the bars in the graph shows detailed information about the current state of the project.

The EPIC task breakdown can highlight the areas in the project that have taken more time than anticipated; thus, the discussions can be narrowed down to save time.

Capacity Review

As we mentioned earlier, we use the agile development methodology, and this dashboard helps us see every employee’s capacity for this and any future sprint. It consists of a table visualization that we use to locate any bottlenecks or periods that lack properly distributed tasks, thus allowing PMs to communicate any reprioritizations or task shifts before actual problems occur.

Even though this isn’t one of the most colorful and super interactive dashboards in the app, it’s still one of utmost importance. It allows our project managers to distribute tasks and prepare high-level timelines by looking at the big picture and not micromanaging every sprint. After all, delivering timely and functional updates is what makes this agile approach shine in the eyes of clients and developers alike.

Analyzing Project Estimates

Now that we’ve covered some of the efficiency-related dashboards let’s go through a growth-related one. Why is it growth-related? Well, because through it our project managers are able to learn from past experiences and push for better project estimates in the future. That’s right! In this dashboard, we observe all our past jobs and note down any areas where we overestimate or underestimate a project.

When we find a project we wish to investigate further, we can dive into it to see every part broken down into details. Do we have a developer who often overestimates their tasks, or maybe some specific part of the project keeps getting underestimated? That’s generally what the PMs are trying to find out with the help of this dashboard.

Let’s show you what we mean with a hypothetical example. Let’s say we have a developer that constantly spends more time on user acceptance testing (UAT) and a QA who often overestimates the task. In that case, our project manager can talk to the QA and double-check with him whether his tests are, for the most part, smooth. If yes, in the future, the allocated time for QA could be brought down in favor of increasing the UAT time.

Automations and Improvements

Within this application, there are already some automations set in place to keep our project managers up-to-date on everything that’s happening. For example, there are email notifications that get sent whenever a project uses 85% of the set budget. Additionally, with the help of Qlik NPrinting, we’ve set up daily reports that get sent to everyone’s email, which helps everyone keep their tasks and time within check – this automation helps reduce the number of reminders or check-ups the PMs need to do.

Furthermore, we’re working on adding machine learning to the last dashboard so that it can inform the PMs, based on the data at hand, what the risk of going over or under a provided estimate is. After all, providing a spot-on budget estimate for a project results in greater transparency for our clients, which is always great. There are a lot of other automations and improvements we’re considering, so if you want to know more about that, you can contact us.

Conclusion

So, as you can see, Qlik can be quite helpful for project managers in more ways than one, but the best part is that this application isn’t limited to just them. You may have noticed by now that I kept saying “us” and “we” constantly throughout the article. That’s because all B EYE employees have access to those dashboards. So, if a team leader wants to check and see how their team is doing – they can do that quickly and easily. If a developer wants to see how their projects are doing – they can do that quick and easy.

Even though all of this can be checked within JIRA as well, it would take more time overall – time that could be better spent elsewhere. So, if you’ve got an issue tracking system, and chances are you do, we strongly advise you to take advantage of the myriad opportunities the data analytics platforms, like Qlik, provide. After all, these improvements can help you and your team regardless if you’re working in the medical, financial, or tech industry. Take the step today, so you can enjoy improved data-based insights and boost your workflows to be more efficient and reliable.

Authors:

Boyan Iliev
Stiliyan Neychev
Stiliyan Neychev

If you found this topic interesting and wish to find out more, get in touch with us.