On Wednesday, 2nd March we welcomed the Brighton Digital Women community to The Snug at the Three Jolly Butchers. This event was part of Spring Forward Festival’s programme of events.
Spring Forward Festival is a month long celebration of the role of women in digital culture. We are delighted to have been included in the festival, the organisers of which share our aims to increase the representation of women in digital.
Best Practice for Digital Project Management
Our focus for this month’s event was digital project management and we were delighted to invite Amy Slade of Pragmatic to share her insights and lead discussions.
Amy kicked-off by talking us through ways of working to manage a digital project.
Project management is a discipline brimming with methodologies, such as agile, scrum and waterfall. Each methodology has plus points, but can be restrictive if applied by the book to each and every project.
As such, Amy recommended cherry-picking the bits from each methodology that best suit your business or project. This works better than taking a one-size fits all approach.
Drip feed results
To ensure that your project is on the right track and in line with the client’s expectations, Amy suggested drip feeding results. This means releasing something to the client little and often.
Not only is this a way of checking you are on the same page, but it builds rapport and reassures the client that progress is being made.
Create user stories
Amy creates user stories as a useful way to play back the brief to the client, so everyone is clear on exactly what is required.
A user story is a story of what a particular user should be able to do on the website as a result of the project. It describes succinctly what the project is hoping to achieve onsite.
Agree an internal budget
Whilst it is best practice to charge for time rather than deliverables, there are instances where a project will be discounted or time used is not billable.
In these circumstances, Amy recommended that it is best to agree an internal budget to stick to. Having limitations in this way ensures people work more efficiently than they might do without a budget in place.
Choose the right tools
There is an abundance of project management tools out there and it can be easy to get overwhelmed if you don’t keep a handle on who’s using what. Amy recommended to keep tools used to a minimum and to ensure you’re using the same tools across the project team for consistency.
Amy also pointed out that you don’t have to be handcuffed to exactly how a tool is supposed to be used or utilise each and every features if it isn’t useful. Make the tools work for you and your team.
Amy used to use Basecamp and now uses Jira and a combination of Google Docs, Excel, Microsoft Project and—her personal favourite—Wunderlist.
As a project manager, you have a unique position as you are managing the work of the team but often without directly line managing team members. As such, Amy emphasised the importance of being part of the team and getting to know the team well.
Defining responsibility is really important to motivate the team, as people tend to work best when they are accountable for a specific task that they can own and are also clear on other people’s roles.
Give the big picture
Also important for morale, Amy explained, is to give the team the big picture, even if they don’t necessarily need it to complete their specific task. It can be isolating working on one small bit and is much more inspiring to know how this fits into the overall project.
Pass on positive feedback
My personal favourite motivational tip of Amy’s was to “pass the praise and filter the shit”. Such a simple concept, but I know myself that I get super spurred on by hearing positive feedback passed on from the client.
A project manager who emphasises the positive, whilst managing negative comments from the client on a need to know basis can really improve morale.
Deal with clients
Amy’s top tip for dealing with clients was to ensure open and honest communication throughout the project.
One way to facilitate constructive and effective communication Amy recommended was to have set times to talk to the client. This limits the back and forth over email that can eat into project time and ensures that the client knows when they are going to get an update.
Manage your stress
To keep on top of day to day stress, Amy highly recommends an inbox zero approach. This is where you file away emails that need more than a 30 second response to action later, adding this to a to-do list and get your inbox down to zero at the end of each day.
Project management can be very fast-paced and Amy’s top tip when the pressure is on is to try to regain a bit of perspective. She always likes to remind herself that even if things go wrong on a web development project “no one will die”.
Sounds obvious, but actually, how many of us do lose perspective under pressure? Saying such a simple thing to yourself, is a great way to ground yourself (I think I’ll adopt that one).
Next up: how to approach client relationships and negotiation
The focus of our April meetup will be another of Brighton Digital Women’s hot topics for 2016: client relationships. We’re delighted to announce that we’ll be welcoming Nicola Moody and Cath Foster, who are both Account Directors for Fresh Egg, to lead discussions.
Nicky and Cath will be talking around “How to approach client relationships and negotiation” which promises to be a really insightful session.
So, come equipped with questions and challenges around client relationships and negotiations and expect for a lively debate. I, for one, have many questions on the subject, so can’t wait for a full and frank discussion.
The all-important details for your diary: Wednesday 6th April from 6.30pm in The Mesmerist.
We look forward to seeing you in April!