Enhance the way you do business in the cloud with Intuit’s Quickbase


My recent experiences with Intuit’s QuickBase product led me to write this article.  I found it to be a great tool for project management – and beyond my needs, several departments adopted it as a means to build custom, cloud-based applications.  Here are a few quotes from my former team.  I’ve also reviewed the application on TrustRadius for any of you that may be looking to purchase.

Quickbase allowed our professional services team to fine tune our delivery processes, reduce delivery time, and ultimately improve our margins.

We felt more connected as a team due to the workflow and notification capabilities.  We felt in-sync!

Quickbase allowed us to quickly adapt and keep pace with our ever-changing business.

I felt more empowered to write my own reports and see data the way I needed to in order to run my business unit.

The flexibility of Quickbase’s platform allows for almost limitless use for the product.  If you are considering a similar tool (i.e. SalesForce), here are a few features that we enjoyed.  Disclaimer: I do not get paid in any way by Intuit.

  1. Get started quickly with best practice templates.  My favorite?  The Project Management template.
    • QuickBase provides numerous out-of-the-box templates.  On many occasions, we thought up a concept and then realized that Intuit already had a template available that solved 75-80% of our needs.  We were then able to quickly customize this template to build our “custom” application.  It was simple to add fields, modify forms, etc.
  2. Easy-to-use reports, charts, and graphs.
    • Not only is it easy to setup reports around your data, it is also easy to view and modify the data directly from your report.  The QuickBase platform allows you to drill into the data from the reporting elements.  You can then use ‘Grid Edit’ mode in many cases to directly edit the data that you’ve drilled into.  This assumes that you have the appropriate access to that data, of course.

  3. Control access easily through customizable roles.
    • Access and security is sometimes an afterthought.  Quickbase allows you to setup custom roles and then secure that data that resides in your application tables down to the data element.  You can choose the basic functions of view, add, modify, delete.  This flexibility allows you to setup complex security in your application to reflect the unique needs of your business community.  You can also nest roles for individuals that may be in more than one.

  4. Easily add custom fields to support your business need.  There are a variety of data types which you can select.
    • Be it a custom application, or the customization of an existing QuickBase template, it is tremendously helpful to be able to add custom fields to your application.  This is done easily by the ‘Add New Fields’ feature.  Intuit has made it really easy by predefining a number of logical data types.  You can even use their scripting language to create a derived or calculated field.  Personally, I’ve found that calculated fields come in extreme handy.  In terms of project management, I’ve used calculated fields to determine the variance between two dates.   This helped me to analyze how long a certain activity was taking to complete across several projects.

  5. Subscriptions and notifications are a powerful way to keep your users engaged and target communication to them at the right time.
    • QuickBase has an excellent built-in feature to handle notifications.  These are helpful when setting up complex workflows.  They are also very nice for prompting users to take action on particular pieces of data when it has changed.  We were able to reduce our delivery timeframes by notifying different functional groups when activities were completed ahead of schedule.  This had a direct impact on our business and helped us to achieve better margins.

Don’t take my word for it.  Quickbase offers a free 30-day trial (no credit card data required).  Sign-up with your email address and let me know what you think!  In the trial, you’ll have the ability to use all of the features above and get a look at the available templates.  If you’re looking to build a pilot ‘business case’ for your boss – this is the spot!

Project Management in Technical Projects: Isn’t this a line item that I can remove?

Project Management

In numerous engagements, and working both in the position of the client and the consultant, I have been continually asked about the value of project management.  I often hear questions like this:

  • My budget has been reduced.  Do we really need project management services on this project?
  • We have an FTE that will be responsible for this project.  Why do I need to hire a vendor project manager also?
  • Project management is expensive.  Is it necessary?
  • I don’t understand project management.  Seems like just another “fee” to me.  Does the project manager just provide status reports?  Surely, we can pull together our own status reports.

Let’s start to address these questions by reviewing a few of the statistics provided by a PMSolutions report titled, “The State of the PMO 2010“.  This study found the following value benchmarks:

PMO Value Benchmarks

Another study was completed in 2007 by PricewaterhouseCoopers, titled, “Insights and Trends: Current Program and Project Management Practices.”  This study found the following:

  • 80 percent of higher performing projects used a certified project manager
  • 50 percent of project failure was traceable to poor (or no) project management (Bad estimates/deadlines, Scope changes, Poor resource planning).
Certification Versus Project Performance

Certification Versus Project Performance

Reasons for Project Failure

Reasons for Project Failure

Outside of these facts, I have personally found project management to be of extreme value on technical projects.  You commonly hear the value proposition explained as:

  • Better expectation-setting through up-front estimating, planning, and project definition.
  • Faster execution through the reuse of common processes and templates.
  • Fewer project problems encountered when utilizing proactive project management processes.
  • Better organizational decision making through more effective project communication.
  • Higher client satisfaction and less rework by building a higher quality product the first time.

For technical projects, project managers become even more valuable.  They generally grow within an organization into a project management role.  This infuses a lot of great technical knowledge into the project and can help tremendously to ensure that the right architecture is being put in place and the minimal rework is being done.  This equates to cost savings and efficiency.

If you are considering the proposition of hiring a vendor project manager, the vendor project manager will not only have this technical knowledge, but they will also be invaluable when securing vendor resources for the project and managing through their own organization.  Many BI organizations are a combination of M&As that have taken place.  You will need help in navigating their corporate structure and avoiding pitfalls in their technology!

I’ll leave you with what I felt was a good representation of the project management process.  My question to the skeptics is:  why wouldn’t you want this structure and value as an integral part of your project?  I would.

Project Management Cycle

Project Management Cycle

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