Thursday, January 5, 2012

CA's Clarity Version 13 - A New Standard in PPM Tools!

I finally have gotten what I have wished for!  The power of Clarity with an updated user interface. Many superstitious people think that 13 is an unlucky number.  Version 13 for CA's Clarity has been worth the wait.

I run a technology agnostic company, but I am often asked for my opinion. I have been a longtime supporter of Clarity. However, the interface for the tool has become outdated and was the biggest outstanding issue. While configurations and portlets could overcome some of the issues, there were times where it was just cumbersome. Specifically, it was difficult for the project manager to see dependencies or update the project schedules.  It was also cumbersome to add team members and make assignments. Again, with experience, there were workarounds. However, newer tools like Daptiv and @task were smoking Clarity from a user interface perspective even though they lacked the depth and configurability of Clarity. With V13, it is truly a game changer. I have been able to spend some significant time on the latest version and already have several clients on the new version. The big push for CA was establishing what they called 2.2 clicks to value.  I believe they have achieved that.  Here is my first take at some of the game changers.

In line editing - Clarity has had an edit mode which was innovative when it first came out. Project management is a spreadsheet driven industry so being able to edit like a spreadsheet is a positive thing. The old interface allowed for edit mode, but it was not aesthetically pleasing and often hard to navigate. V13 allows direct in line editing with just a click of the mouse button. It is intuitive and effective. It so reverts back to a display mode when you are done. The part that I wasn't expecting was the visual feedback of the change. Clarity has a unique ability of Being able to complete tentative schedules with an innovative view of what had changed. For example, if a date changed, Clarity would display the new date and the old date with a red strikethrough side by side. They have taken this view and applied it to the in line editing which is a fantastic feature. It also gives a visual to the user that changes have not been saved. I wish more web based apps had this functionality.

Auto Suggest Functionality - For all of the browse fields in Clarity and for those users that have very deep OBS structures, you are going to love this functionality!  If the field is a browse field, you still can click the binoculars and search and add as you are used to.  However, you can also type in the first few letters of the value that you want in the field within the in line editing and the system will offer a filtered view of selections allowing you to select the value you want.  This eliminates many clicks and is the most powerful on resource and OBS fields. This feature is worth its weight in gold.

Better assignment view. The assignment view now combines the standard view with a time-scaled view to not only see the total planned work, but a daily view of how the work is going to be executed. This is like a split window view in Microsoft Project, but more configurable and can be edited in the normal flow of a project update.

Adding team members - One of the biggest issues of pre 13 Clarity was how the team members and assignments worked.  It made sense from a logistical standpoint, but for many project managers, it was a source of frustration.  If you were inside a task and wanted to make an assignment to a person that was not on the team, there were between 20-35 clicks that had to be made.  In an open environment, this is frustrating.  However, there are several environments with very strict regulations and procedures as to who and how people can be added to the team.  To accommodate both environments, CA implemented an "Assignment Pool" field.  On a project by project basis, the setting of Team Only (current functionality) or Resource Pool (new functionality) can be selected.  If it is Resource Pool, then the entire resource pool is available to assign to a task.  This eliminates 20-30 clicks from a test case that happens often.

Dependencies - Managing dependencies in Clarity has often been difficult.  You were unable to see them and editing them again was way too many clicks.  There was an easy way to add dependencies from the Work Breakdown Structure view, but there was no visual feedback that anything happened when you clicked the button and there was no visibility in that view that showed if dependencies existed or not.  Again, this has been addressed.  From the Gantt chart view, you are able to create, edit, and view dependencies right in the Gantt chart.  It also supports drag and drop.  It goes one step further than some other tools as well.  If you hover over the dependency link, the system will show you the actual names of the predecessors and successors.  Very nice addition.

No need to export to MSP - As a power user, I would often tell clients that it was easier for me to create a plan in Microsoft Project, upload it to Clarity, and then manage it in Clarity.  For the hardcore Microsoft Project users, this is still available.  However, for 95% of the users that I have personal experience with, there is no need to export to MSP.  The ease of use of the front end and the in line editing availability in the Gantt chart removes the need to do the export.

All of the power still retained - The main reasons I have always liked Clarity are still there. The configurability and power of the tool remains.  The user interface is what received the overhaul.  It is now completely 64 bit including Java and Tomcat and supports more memory to the Java heap.  All things that will mean a boost of performance for most environments.

Favorites Bar - Another great timesaver is taking a concept that was developed in some of the earlier versions of Clarity and expanding it.  I am not sure of the exact version, but in either 8.1 or 12.0, the user had the ability to set the home page to a different view.  If I am managing a project and I find myself always navigating to a certain page, then I could set that page as my home page so that it was the first page that opened when I logged in.  CA has taken this functionality and expanded it for a full Favorites section.  It works the same way except that I can create several "bookmarks" within the tool to allow me to navigate quickly between common screens.  This is a huge boost for productivity and saves a ton of clicks from the normal navigation of the tool.

One thing still missing - There was one feature that is still desperately needed.  I was hoping it would be in this version and I am told it is in the works.  We are still unable to print a project schedule from Clarity.  For those of you that have attended my seminars you know that I am against printing the project schedule anyway.  It's not like the resources really print it, read and understand it, and can't wait until the next version is released!  However, it is a reality that we still need to print the schedules.  I hope that functionality is around the corner.  In the meantime, there are some nice reports and you can still export the plan to Workbench or Project and use their printing functionalities. 

My Conclusion - V13 is absolutely worth the wait and there are so many upsides to the new release in forms of usability and functionality that my personal recommendation is to upgrade as soon as possible.  There will always be issues and things for software to add, but this is not a wait and see release.  This is an absolute add.  There are so many advantages to this release.  In fact, I don't think I have ever been as excited about a new release of software since Microsoft Project announced change highlighting and multiple undo to MSP in 2007!  Contact your CA representatives or hit the CA support site and download the latest version now.  You will not be disappointed!  If you have been on the fence about choosing a PPM tool, this release of Clarity is a game changer.  Being technology agnostic, I have a Pros vs. Cons list for each tool that we work with. This release of Clarity has removed the current cons that I had on that list.  If you are considering a tool and have received a demo of the older version of Clarity, make sure you see this version before proceeding.  As I just told the existing users, you will not be disappointed!

Until next time!


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