Project Management Startup Could Be a Fit for Google

LiquidPlanner brings a brand of project management software to the fold, leveraging statistical analysis in a SAAS application for workgroups.

With task management on the wish list of customers for Google's Apps portfolio, one startup's technology may be what the search giant needs to fulfill its customers' desires.

LiquidPlanner officials demonstrated at Demo 08 the week of Jan. 28 their brand of project management software, a SAAS (software-as-a-service) application that combines advanced estimation and scheduling with statistical analysis to determine the probability of completing a project by a certain date.

The software uses a probabilistic scheduling engine that helps teams see uncertainty to build more accurate project schedules, Jason Carlson, co-founder and vice president of engineering of LiquidPlanner, told eWEEK during a demo Jan. 30.

This approach breaks from traditional project management applications, such as Microsoft's Project Server or Basecamp, which add up single point estimates to gauge how long tasks and projects might take.

LiquidPlanner has a clean point-and-click interface, where project managers can create a workspace and invite people in two clicks, as one might invite users to Facebook or LinkedIn.

The space keeps a rolling narrative of tasks, comments and other information you'd associate with a project plan, allowing multiple users to collaborate once a manager creates a project workspace. Carlson showed how LiquidPlanner employs a cascading affect to show outcomes and likely finish dates for projects in marketing, sales and other fields.

The collaboration capabilities, which keep users returning to the workspace to input data, also set LiquidPlanner apart from Project Server, while Basecamp just offers a "flat to-do list," Carlson said.

Moreover, LiquidPlanner's creation as a SAAS application breaks down barriers, so that users in on-site, remote and contract-based teams from all over the world can work together to meet their project needs.

LiquidPlanner will be free to users for the public beta period. Following the beta, project managers will be able to set up a workspace for free; LiquidPlanner will then charge companies $24.95 per month for each additional user.

The question is whether LiquidPlanner will be around long enough to rack up a lot of new customers. Before the New Year, a few customers and Gartner analyst Tom Austin told eWEEK Google would likely add some task management and scheduling features in 2008. LiquidPlanner could fit that bill.

The ability to help corporate teams not only manage a laundry list of tasks but offer such an applications as SAAS could make LiquidPlanner an attractive target for Google, which provides its software in the Internet "cloud," as the current lingo for Internet-based computing goes.

But is Microsoft also looking to dust up its project management offerings with a little SAAS? LiquidPlanner CEO Charles Seybold confirmed to eWEEK that officials from Google's and Microsoft's business development teams stopped by for a demonstration of his company's software.