If there is anything a digital project manager can tell you about the role, it’s that each project brings a new challenge. This fact alone makes the job equally exciting and frustrating. Not knowing what could pop up from one minute to the next, and knowing that not all client projects will run the same exact way can be stressful, because there is a level of problem solving that’s always needed. But that’s the way the client service industry works, and good project managers have to think on their feet and always be aware of what’s happening (or not happening). That’s what’s exciting about it: every day brings something new, whether it be a new development, process, or even a challenge.

This level of “fire fighting” isn’t easy, and it requires a certain capability and confidence level to do well. And it isn’t as easy to “get” as creating a plan or reporting on a budget. Wouldn't it be easier if there were some general guidance for PMs on how to handle those challenges? Good news: there is! The Digital PM Workshop on Wednesday, October 18 in Las Vegas, following the Digital PM Summit 2017, will explore the unexpected challenges that projects bring, and aims to help DPMs better solve them.

DPM Challenges

Over the past few years, I’ve hosted several workshops that address project management process and practice. Often, as an icebreaker, I’d ask attendees to list the biggest challenges they face. Here’s a short list of challenges people always bring up:

  • inconsistent or bad documentation

  • unclear scope

  • managing a team with no authority

  • confused or uneducated clients

  • team communications

If you’re a DPM reading this list, you can probably relate. If you’re a business owner, you probably know that these issues can exist. No matter what, when you’re up against these issues, you face them and fix them to the best of your ability. But wouldn’t it be nice to have some standards for how to handle this stuff, and have some real confidence that others are doing the same thing? By digging into these challenges and actively discussing them, we can form better practices.

Moving Toward DPM Standards

Last year, I presented Army of Awesome at the Digital PM Summit as well as a few other events. The presentation included a series of principles that serve as guidelines for how any digital project manager should operate. These were not reliant on tool, templates, or even processes; they pushed beyond that, as they were presented as ways of thinking or being.

This year, I’ll be pushing those ideas further in a workshop that will embrace those standards, but will provide digital PMs with skills and practices to address issues that are challenging (but also common). This workshop will focus on helping DPMs to address difficult project situations that cannot be solved with a tool or a template. Those will include:

  • identifying and addressing issues with project documentation

  • addressing project change and impacts

  • understanding what makes a good estimate and how to communicate it

  • overcoming communication challenges with teams and clients

  • handling tricky project situations with confidence

Think of this workshop as a place for any project leader to talk about issues that come up from time to time which leave a DPM or a team confused as to what to do about it. We’ll dig in deep to understand challenges, discuss possible approaches, and land on responses or actions that make everyone—a team and clients included—comfortable with the solution as well as the path forward.

If you’re interested in attending on October 18 in Las Vegas, register now. A limited number of seats remain.

The Agenda

1:00-1:30pm: Intro and Ice Breaker

1:30-2:30pm: How to find and handle red flags in project docs
Contracts or project briefs are necessary to understand what your team will do on a project, but they can often be confusing and leave room for questions—or worse—issues. So, let’s work through ways to ensure your documentation is airtight, or at least make sure you’re looking for the right things.

Attendees will review a sample contract and call out what could serve as questions, issues, or risks. When finished, attendees will discuss in groups and then with the larger group. After that, Brett will present best practices on catching and addressing those red flags.

2:30-4:00pm: Ch-ch-changes!
No matter where you work, you know projects change. And it’s your job to stay on top of that change, whether it requires a deadline change or a budget increase. But sometimes it’s difficult to know whether or not you should issue a change request. Possible scenarios might be: additional design feedback, a change in goals or site functionality, changing stakeholders, and more.

In this exercise, project changes (or roadblocks) will be presented, and teams will discuss the merits of a change request—and they’ll estimate them. The larger group will discuss the change, related estimates, and talk about the best way to address them. Upon completion, Brett will present best practices on catching changes in advance of them becoming issues, and addressing them.

4:00-5:00pm: Facing project challenges
Part of the job as a DPM is facing—and fixing—project challenges. Whether you’re wrangling team members, adjusting process, dealing with fussy stakeholders, or trying to find the right tool to help you, getting a new perspective on how to handle tricky issues can be beneficial. Brett will present situations, moderate discussion, and present his ideas on how to best address them.

5:00-6:00pm: Wrap up and Q&A
Let’s take time to reflect on what was discussed, and make a plan for how you’ll approach a new change in your day to day. And then, take some time to discuss topics that were not presented in the workshop. Brett will hang out to answer questions through the end of the workshop and into a post-workshop happy hour just for attendees.

I hope you’ll join us on October 18 in Las Vegas. Register now!