Coffee and Breakfast



Opening Remarks

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Bureau of Digital Staff


Hold Fast: Managing Design Teams When Projects Go Sideways

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Often times the projects we work on hit rough spots, snags, and even end up in crisis mode. Challenges can come in the form of clients who are tough to deal with, organizational politics, or strife within our own teams. As managers (or leads) of design and product teams we are often looked to for clarity, support and resolution when things go sideways.

How do we work through these scenarios as leaders, while managing the expectations of our teams and business partners and keeping things moving forward despite the various challenges that we face? 

In this talk you will learn tips and techniques for managing through the ups and downs of the design process, including:

Managing stakeholders

  • Managing expectations of stakeholders, customers, support/sales/account teams, and even designers.
  • The value of building team consensus before things go into fire drill mode.

Managing your team

  • The design manager’s role/deliverable in today’s design process (shipping is just the beginning).
  • Managing vs. leading and the implications on teams and the challenges we face.

Managing the process

  • Finding the sweet spot between sticking to process and remaining flexible.
  • The balance between execution and maintaining principles.
  • Foresight and avoiding blind spots.
  • Learning what went sideways and how to address it for next time.


How to Eat an Elephant
(Or Tackle Most Any Big, Huge, Enormous Project)

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At some point in our careers, we have all attempted to tackle projects that were actual elephants - monstrous skyscraper-like projects that simply swallowed us in the size of its scope. We get lost, overwhelmed, frustrated and impatient. Frankly, we want to bury our head in the sand and hope the project disappears. We bite off more than we can chew and we get choked up.  To sum it all up: We fail. We don't finish. The project flops. Everybody is disappointed. 

Sound familiar?

It doesn't have to. Whether you're taking on a project solo, or working with a team, you're likely coming to grips with the eating of an elephant. There a steps you can take to find success. It starts with chilling out. In this session, attendees will learn how to take a deep breath and use the right techniques to take on that elephant, one bite at a time.


DPM Regional Breakouts


Part of the excitement of attending the Digital PM Summit is meeting new people, whether they're from another country, or right in your own back yard. Because we are truly focused on building the global DPM community, we've devoted a session that will give our attendees the opportunity to attend a breakout with DPMs from your own region. These sessions will be flexible in nature, but will be guided conversations about digital project management, and will provide a platform to discuss or organize local events of your own.

We'll organize our breakout rooms by region/time zone:

Eastern: Encino Room
Moderated by Brett Harned and Abby Fretz

Central and Mountain: Carranza Room
Moderated by Christine Holcombe, Natalie Semczuk, and Josh Zapin

Pacific and International: Olivares Room
Moderated by Rachel Gertz and Evy Törnkvist



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Lightning Talk: What I Wish I'd Known When I Started: Secrets to Project, Leadership, and Career Success

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 Our Lightning Talks are 10-minute, focused presentations that cut to the chase in a hurry.

From the start of his career - as an intern in a traditional advertising agency, to his role as VP Client Services - Ben looks back across 10 years as a digital project manager and shares a few things he wishes he'd been told when he started.

Discover the naivety, blunders, and mistakes that led to painful lessons you can avoid. Get a head-start and learn a few of Ben’s secrets to project, leadership, and career success.


During this time slot, choose between a Main Stage Breakout Presentation, a Breakout Presentation, a Breakout Workshop, or a Camp Session.

Key Moves for Better Scoping and Estimation

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One of the most difficult challenges that agencies face today is that of scoping and estimating new projects effectively and accurately. The most prevalent practices are borrowed from software development – or unrelated industries like construction – and are poorly suited for today’s rapidly-moving and multi-workstream digital shops.  Studies have indicated that agency-wide margin losses from poor scoping and estimating often range from 20-45% of sales.  This challenge has numerous origins, and only by understanding them can practices improve.


  • Mistaken and underspecified assumptions
  • Quality of project briefings
  • Incorrect financial and accounting assumptions
  • Ineffectiveness of traditional business analysis and project management techniques
  • Challenges in communication and specification, and
  • Estimation bias across roles, skill levels, types of work, and team/contracting structures.


Creating Sustainable Website Processes

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It’s launch day! You and your team have worked hard to achieve this day—the moment when you release your client’s website into the wild, ready to go off and live on its own. But wait! Is the client’s team equipped to handle the growing needs of their new website? Who will be making needed updates? Are others involved in content maintenance decisions? And will your client be able to deal with the design and development needs of the site as the site’s purpose grows?

In this workshop, we will: 

  • talk about what features make a website sustainable for a client and how to engineer our processes to promote sustainability.
  • work collaboratively to understand how we might use new techniques to help our team adapt to content management-forward thinking and work through a real case study using these new processes.
  • look at how we can help our project teams identify content manager needs; how we can use discovery time to realize commonly missed, intensive requirements; and how to reverse engineer a project process to include ongoing maintenance on the client side.


The Zen PM: Practicing Mindfulness in Digital Chaos


  Our Workshops are interactive by nature. Get ready to roll up your sleeves and work with your peers.

As DPMs we often focus on the process of managing our projects. But, the most critical piece of our role is effectively leading our teams and navigating the many challenges that can arise on a project. This breakout session will be a discussion of best approaches to keeping our teams motivated, selfless, encouraged, and simply...happy.

Also, as DPMs how do we keep ourselves present in this type of calming space when things happen unexpectedly? Emily Scala, Director of Project Management at Think Brownstone, and Cynthia Schmitt, Engagement Director at EY-Intuitive have utilized eastern philosophy techniques in managing their project teams, and will moderate this session.


Camp Session: Process

OLivares breakout room

Moderated by Brett Harned

Agile, Waterfall, Agifial, Oh My! There are so many ways of working, and as the DPM, you're at the helm of the proect, ensuring the process works. Join this session, moderated by Brett Harned, to talk about what processes work for you, what has failed, and any questions you might have about how other teams are managing their own digital project processes. 

* Camp sessions are moderated discussions about focused topics. Sessions are limited to 30 people, as we have a microphone for each participant. These sessions mimic Digital PM Camp, which are made up of a series of moderated discussions and social events. If you're interested in these events, this Digital PM Summit session is a great primer. And the bonus is that we've recruited a few of our conference speakers to moderate these sessions.



During this time slot, choose between a Main Stage Breakout Presentation, a Breakout Presentations, a Breakout Workshop, or Breakout Clinic.

Your Brain Hates Project Management

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You’re a really good PM, we all know that. You even use an established process and have some fancy software tools to help. So why do projects never seem to go quite as expected? We can blame the nature of digital work or the usual scapegoat - clients - but it’s actually all in our heads. Literally. Our brains are simply not naturally wired for project management. Examples abound:

  • Why are we bad at estimating? Blame the planning fallacy and optimism bias.
  • Why does work not stay on schedule? A combination of Parkinson’s law and student syndrome.
  • Why do we not foresee risks? It’s the illusion of control, compounded by confirmation bias.

This session will answer all these questions and others by drawing on the fields of organizational psychology and behavioral economics and applying it to project management. We’ll look at some real life examples, do a few experiments of our own, and learn how to counter the misguided tendencies of our brains.


  • the major cognitive biases and other forms of irrational behavior that impact project management
  • how to recognize where our default thinking fails us and how to counter it with specific workaround strategies
  • how to live a slightly less frustrating life


Practical Magic: Finding, Evaluating, and Integrating the Right Tools for the Way You Work

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Jira and Trello, Agile and Kanban, checklists, Gantt charts, and burndowns… Pomodoro and Inbox Zero, Slack and Basecamp, Moleskine notebooks and Pilot V-system pens… these are just some of the software, hardware, methodologies, and concepts that can make up a digital PM’s toolkit. A well-chosen and managed toolkit can have a transformative effect on your work (and your life), while a jumble of mismatched, unloved, un-managed set of tools can add stress, irritation, and unnecessary complexity.

How do you know what tools are right for you? How do you get the most out of them? How do you ensure your tools serve you, and not the other way around?


  • Consider their own unique skills, interests, and talents to define their own Project Management Personality
  • Analyze DPM tools to find the perfect toolkit to complement that personality
  • Learn how to identify - and control - new tool mania by selecting, implementing, and evaluating tools in a logical, controlled way

Thoughts from the Shed: Benefits and Challenges of Managing A Remote Team Remotely


  Our Workshops   are interactive by nature. Get ready to roll up your sleeves and work with your peers.

Empowering your team to meet their goals is hard enough, now try to do it from a shed. When Four Kitchens went remote, Suzy moved her project management practice from a traditional office to a shed in her yard. In this session, you'll learn what she needed to change, what she didn’t, and how it made her stronger as a PM.

We will be discussing what elements of being a project manager translate well to a fully remote environment and some that don’t. How do you translate your success with a co-located team to success with a remote team? What do you need to adjust in order to remain an effective manager for your team and your stakeholders?

Shifting to a distributed model can raise new challenges and new opportunities. We will be discussing the right working environment for you personally with tips to avoid loneliness and resist distractions. We will be discussing engagement with your team and stakeholders through video conferencing, email, and chat. Finally, the psychology of human interactions and how to not lose that aspect of engagement through digital interactions.


  • Tips for engaging with your team remotely
  • Challenges and improvements that come with working remotely
  • Tools and how best to use them
  • Psychology of human interactions and how to engage when you are disconnected

Camp Session: Managing Feedback


Moderated by Aaron Irizarry

If you're working with clients or internal stakeholders, you've got to make time in your plan to open your team's work up to feedback. It's a sometimes scary, but inevitable fact. Feedback can throw your project off schedule, de-motivate your team, and cause a ton of other issues. So, how are you managing? Join this session, moderated by Aaron Irizarry, and discuss your process around gathering feedback, share war stories, and gain some new tactics from your DPM peers.

* Camp sessions are moderated discussions about focused topics. Sessions are limited to 30 people, as we have a microphone for each participant. These sessions mimic Digital PM Camp, which are made up of a series of moderated discussions and social events. If you're interested in these events, this Digital PM Summit session is a great primer. And the bonus is that we've recruited a few of our conference speakers to moderate these sessions.


Becoming Possible: Why Super Human Conquers “Superhuman” 


We can exist in a vacuum as professionals. As “superhuman” as we’d like to think we are in our craft or business, there’s a smorgasbord of real-life, super human, chaotic elements that are eating away at our well-being and peace of mind on a daily basis. Ignoring these elements is dangerous play. Without a solid personal process in place to face these elements, we become more kamikaze, emotional creatures than efficient leaders, managers and professionals. 

This talk is about hard truths. This talk is about rebounding and landing well. This talk is about breaking day-to-day chaos down to a human level, and embracing a few tools that we can take into the battle of life in order to maintain our composure and ambition. 


Summit Wrap-Up

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