Planisware Review

Scales capably, flexibly for even complex, long-term, R&D programs. Software as a Service (SaaS) option reduces time to deployment and simplifies maintainability..

What is our primary use case?

Resource forecasting and demand planning. One can do both short-term and long-term planning. Generic resources and named resources can be structured according to corporate need. 

Using an integrated Organizational Breakdown Structure (OBS; sometimes called Responsibility) distinct from the Resource Breakdown Structure gives substantial reporting flexibility out of the box. (Of course, each company has to populate those structures with internal data.)

A distinct advantage of Planisware is that any given customer installation can respond to local priorities, such as scheduling or time reporting, then phase in other priorities in your application roadmap over time.

Version 6.3 significantly improves data exchange and integration with Office 365 and Google Suite applications.

How has it helped my organization?

Planisware provides consistent, verifiable source of truth for project progress and costs. Its deployment helps avoid disputes over whose spreadsheet (or slide) contains superior data.

What is most valuable?

The load array, in concert with native and composite cost curves, provides thoughtful, adaptable consolidation and drill-down for time-phased data such as capacity (resource availability) and demand (planned or archived hours on tasks). Load array, a feature that has been available since the 1990s, enables very flexible time slicing that surpasess reporting capability via Excel.

Planisware Explorer (PEX) offers enhanced capabilities for reporting. Developer license is available for extra cost. PEX requires extra training for operational proficiency, typically from multiple fee-based Planisware couses. After PEX reports are defined and validated for a given customer configuration, relatively few developer licenses are needed. PEX is now more stable in V6 than the initial release in the middle of P5.

Administration module in V6 opens a large variety of object types for Table styles that a super-user can create easily. Export to Excel then makes it convenient to extract data into worksheets, complete with headers. In earlier versions, the Pro developer made these tables visible. Not having the header connected with the data cut and paste (in Pro developer) is quite bothersome.

Planisware 6 is now capable of supporting Android tablets. This allows convenient access while on the road to Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) on projects along with data editing.

Version 6 also has fairly extensive documents management to centralize communications among project users and stakeholders. Because the documents are included in each Planisware environment/configuration, messaging and documents associated with projects are easier to access that being spread through normal corporate email. Planisware stores project related documents and messages in a single database. Snapshots (backups) at a given point in time are easy to make and restore to alternate environments, even on an automated nightly basis.

Program and project roadmaps integrate well with PowerPoint. Slide elements are editable and dynamically linked (if so specified) to detail projects. Capability to drill down into project specifics is built-in to Planisware V6.

What needs improvement?

Historically, some releases--even with extensive delays from initial announcement--had minor, yet troubling glitches. Planisware now has sufficient critical mass to retain additional qualified personnel for improved regression testing. Version 6.3 benefits customers from Planisware's intensified commitment to robust quality assurance.

Planisware downplays customer use of Pro Web (L2) by emphasizing that substantial configuration capability is available in Intranet Server (L1). With SaaS service agreements, access to L2 for production environments is essentially forbidden for customers in order to maximize contracted uptime. On the positive side, L1 capability is  becoming more extensive in V6.3, reduceing user need for L2 access.

 SaaS provisions that Planisware provides in relation to security are superior to what smaller organizations can afford. Planisware SaaS no longer relies upon third-party providers. Faster data response time is a user benefit.

Availability of Planisware software as a service (SaaS) contributes to operational stability; your team still needs to keep the configuration responsive to evolving business needs. Each customer has responsibility for continuing to grow "know why" as well as "know how."

In my experience and discussions with fellow Planisware customers for almost two decades, commitment to achieving and sustaining deep product proficiency is a key best practice. At cost Planisware certification courses can provide training for a corporate customer's advanced users (those responsible for maintaining L1-level changes).

Here is a longterm issue to weigh: When only Planisware's staff makes operational and development changes to your production environment, technical capabilities on the customer side may not mature, resulting in over-dependence on the vendor. If your company is prepared to pay a premium for ongoing consulting on your organization-specific configuration from Planisware, that may be workable for your specific circumstance. That cost is above and beyond the SaaS maintenance.

Planisware decision makers have not placed priority on product changes or evolution requests that are not customer facing. For example, in Pro Web, control-A highlights visible lines for copying, but in my experience, only 300 or so lines actually copy in one operation. This fragmentation is supposedly ample for developers.Waiting for Planisware resolution--copying like the Pro tool in prior versions--may take many years, if ever.

L2 features have grown during V6 releases, yet some longstanding legacy (L1) features, such as update and deletion macros, are not available apart from Web Pro. Future Planisware releases may "restore" macro functionality.

V6 can be addressed via mobile devices; having large monitor(s) provides better data visibility. 

For how long have I used the solution?

More than five years (including prior versions)

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

Stability, particularly with Linux hosting of Intranet Server, is consistently good. Most cases of stability problems traced back to incorrect data, such as schedule dates that are impossible in the real world. Identifying and fixing bad data resolved stability issues about 80% of the time. In one or two cases since 2002, a Planisware update (patch), in one incident received within twenty-four hours after reporting, remedied incorrect data handling.

What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

Planisware scales effortlessly when hosted on a decent Linux Server with ample RAM and sufficient CPUs. Performance, in my experience, has been markedly superior when using dedicated physical servers rather than resorting to virtual servers.

In a SaaS environment, what Planiware determines is adequate performance by sevice level agreement may not align with your company's users over time. Planisware can upgrade servers your organization uses after appropriate negotiation. 

How are customer service and technical support?

Customer Service:

Very good overall. Planisware tries to be customer-centric. Their approach has been primarily reactive to customer questions and concerns, not proactive and comprehensively enabling. Customers typically receive better answers and solutions when they are politely aggressive with Planisware.

Technical Support:

Between good to excellent, depending upon the proficiency of the individual Planisware consultant who responds. In my experience, some answers via SupportUS have been incorrect. The majority of responses are helpful and valid.

If you previously used a different solution, which one did you use and why did you switch?

My first experience in 1998 was spearheading selection and adoption of a commercial, off-the-shelf project management package to replace a "home-grown" project management program that was not Y2K compliant. Flexibility and configurability of Planisware were compelling business advantages compared to the competition.

What's my experience with pricing, setup cost, and licensing?

It is customary to have at least three distinct Planisware environments per customer: develop; test; production. I recommend planning for a playground environment (similar to develop) to allow pretesting of new releases without disturbing the integrity of the current develop environment). Having a distinct train environment allows new users to gain operational proficiency without compromising production. One operational question that repeatedly occurs is, "what has changed overnight?" An automated nightly backup environment can be of great help in answering these questions quickly. If your organization uses a monthly or quarterly point of reference for project data, one or more environments for keeping this copy accessible  records can help greatly.

What other advice do I have?

Establish a priority of gaining technical proficiency with Planisware's tools so that your company is not entirely dependent upon billable consulting time for ongoing operational improvements.

I recommend nightly proactive analysis of Planisware Intranet Server log files to pinpoint issues before they become troublesome to the user community. Typical problem resolution investigation tends to fixate reactively on user-reported glitches and may miss emerging trends. Proactive global analysis of log files can reveal quantitative correlation over time of application stability and health.

Disclosure: I am a real user, and this review is based on my own experience and opinions.
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