Project management is all about understanding, planning and overcoming challenges. More often than not, this is easier said than done. Each client brings a different arson of needs and wants to the table; expecting you and your peers to defluff their ideas and turn them into endearing and effective solutions.
As a digital project manager (DPM), it’s important to keep evolving your understandings and to continue learning best practices and tips and tricks from other DPMs in industry. Conferences are the bread and butter of project management, so when the 2017 DeliverConf rolled around it was imperative that Fast Web Media’s project managers attended, to learn and grow existing expert knowledge.
Below, in no particular order, I’ve listed my personal top 5 takeaways from the conference that I will be applying to my future work ethic:
The first workshop of the day named “not everything is a nail: choosing the right tool for the job” was brought to us by Shahina Patel, who went through the best ways to select which tools to use to improve the management of projects.
However! After much deliberation, some groups came to the conclusion that what they really needed was to reassess their teams’ roles and responsibilities in order to take full advantage of everyone’s capabilities, rather than daydreaming about software that will answer all of your heart’s desires.
It was great to see how other team structures influence their workflow and that sometimes you might just be hitting the wrong nail.
The afternoon brought an insight into Valtech’s working method named “Agile Inception Techniques”, which expands the discovery process of a project because… “who really starts coding on day 1?” These techniques enable all project stakeholders to kick off knowing which goals to work towards and with set expectations.
Amongst these techniques, we can find “Product Box”, “Vision”, “Assumption Mapping” and “Sliders”.
This imaginary box, for example a box of cereal, will force you to think about all the main and secondary features of your product, setting clear goals for deliverables. As a team you should think about each of these items individually and build up your product as you go along:
The Vision uses the information from the ‘Product Box’ to create the product’s vision statement, eventually becoming the project’s mission. This exercise, apart from bringing together the loose pieces of information from the previous exercise, also helps identify the differentiators between your product and others alike.
The team works to consider user needs, business goals and general hunches to essentially make assumptions about anything related to the project.
This can be user needs, development tasks, product owner’s reactions or responsibilities, amongst many others.
Each assumption is written on post-its and placed on the chart below:
The team then places the ‘post-its’ where they believe they should be located on the chart. This can involve some debate or brainstorming but it will ultimately determine what the team can start building NOW, or what needs validating before commencing.
If any validation is needed, the appropriate team member would then have to decide which steps to take to resolve the issue at hand.
Like any other slider bar in the world, the aim of these sliders is to prioritise the various elements of the project, including the dreaded budget. This visual expression of priorities helps the client understand that some requests affect budget and exposes where the client’s concerns lie.
For example, if the client gives high priority to Quality, Social Media Integration and Responsiveness but has a tight deadline, the budget will have to be raised. See mock up below:
The workshop comprised of working in teams and digging into our creative ability to problem solve, all whilst using markers, stickers, post-its and glitter to turn our ideas into visual wonderlands. Kevin Murray’s slides can be found on SlideShare.
“The Perfect Kick Off” by Lawrence Kitson was definitely a key moment of day 2. The talk was a case study demonstrating the value of a well executed discovery session. The project featured in this case study brought together some of Kevin’s strategies from the day before and showed how the kick-off is one of, if not the most, important milestones of any project.
Starting points: ensuring we kick off our projects in a way that appropriately acknowledges the mission at hand and the team assembled to complete the mission.
Step 1: Get to know each other
Step 2: Understand the business’ background and context
Step 3: Align the team’s understanding of the business
Step 4: Understand everyone’s role and responsibilities within the project
Step 5: Define project and team principles
Step 6: What do we know about the users?
Step 7: Create a Value Board with ‘Pains’, ‘Gains’ and ‘Needs’
Step 8: Assumption mapping
Step 9: Vision statement
When practically all the speakers express this opinion one way or another, you know you should be listening. Especially when the speakers on stage vary from experienced Project Managers or business owners to I-only-just-started-my-new-job PMs.
Two things to remember:
Don’t be a know-it-all
Don’t try to do it all yourself
Trust users to define your needs, trust developers to deliver and believe in the power of getting things done.
The last talk of the day gave us two excellent pieces of advice:
As a great believer in the power of food myself, I couldn’t agree more with Carson Pierce. Eat, Pray… Work?
When you’ve got loads to do and are clearly procrastinating: break your work down and tackle the worst first. Also, cheat whenever you can. Even TED has a full playlist of talks to help the procrastinators out there; obviously called “talks for procrastinators”.
If you would like to get involved with the DPM community you can message Shahina or any of the other organisers, which you can find on the conference’s website www.deliverconf.co.uk.
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