Memphis, Tennessee is the home of BBQ, blues, and the king of rock ‘n roll himself, Elvis Presley. But that’s not all… for a week in early September, more than 300 digital project managers from all over the world made their way to Memphis to attend the Bureau of Digital’s 6th Annual Digital PM Summit where we learned, shared, networked, and—let’s be honest—vented with our fellow DPMs.
The DPM Summit brings together DPMs from both the agency and corporate sides for three days of intensive workshops, keynotes, and breakout sessions that ultimately help guide us through fostering positive cultures within our organizations and introduce us to a network of other DPMs across the globe who become invaluable resources.
The entire event was chock-full of valuable information, and you can check out the Bureau’s full recap here, but I’ll share my four key takeaways that I was eager to bring back and share with my team.
A well-run discovery process is mission-critical
Discovery is always the first step to any project Up&Up takes on, so I knew that Rob Harr’s (@robertharr, VP at Sparkbox) half-day workshop on running discovery projects was a must. This workshop was filled with so many excellent takeaways that I was Slacking nuggets of information back to my team in Greenville during breaks.
Rob described that the biggest risk on software/website projects is building the wrong thing—and this is SO TRUE. How often do we find ourselves mid-way through a project wishing we had known the information we had then at the beginning of the project? The truth is that the needs of the project will definitely change over time, especially when you work on projects with a 9-12 month timeline—but that’s okay. The key is in the transparency we have with our clients in saying, “we’ll know more about your project tomorrow that we do today,” and allowing some breathing room in the scope.
Our discovery sessions with clients should establish trust at the start of our working relationship and be a joint effort to discover what exactly the project should accomplish. Up&Up values this critical time with our clients and their stakeholders.
Transformation starts with you. Yes, you!
Colin D. Ellis (@colindellis, https://www.colindellis.com/) was easily one of the best keynote speakers I’ve ever seen. His energy and enthusiasm was a great kickoff to the Summit. Colin reminded all of the DPMs in the room that we’re the first generation of PMs that are managing FOUR different generations in the workforce; therefore a high level of emotional intelligence, what Colin dubs “EQ,” is key. He said that “self-aware individuals are the building blocks of great teams,” and that “the best projects are a result of the person that leads it and the environment they create.” This isn’t a new concept to Up&Up, as we practice Conscious Leadership which is rooted in the idea that we are all meant to excel and flourish as individuals. But hearing how this idea can apply specifically to project managers was really eye-opening.
Adopting Agile principles
Suze Haworth (@suzehaworth, https://suzannahaworth.com/) led an engaging session on Adopting Agile Principles. While our agency doesn’t specifically abide by any single project management methodology, the majority of our projects run closer to Waterfall than anything and that’s a direct result of how our clients tend to operate. However, there are some key principles of Agile that we both currently utilize and could potentially integrate into our day-to-day process that could have major impacts, such as visualizing the process (thank you, Trello), purposeful prototyping, and both internal and external team collaboration.
The value of retrospectives is insurmountable
Just think about it… you’ve been working on a project that was initially supposed to launch in 7 months, but after a few timeline extensions and hiccups along the way, it’s turned into a 10-month project. It’s finally complete and you’re really proud of the work you and the team put in, but you’re ready to move on to the next one. But, this is where we have to pause and reflect on what went really well, what went really wrong, and what was just really weird during the project process.
This is the only way we can learn and enhance our processes for future projects. Thanks to Patrice Embry (@patrice108, http://www.patrice-embry.com/) for reminding us of the importance of this final project phase.
The single, most powerful moment of the Summit, however, is when Rachel Gertz (@TheStrayMuse, Co-Founder at Louder Than Ten) got all 300 of us to stand up and join together, pinky in pinky, to swear that we will not give up on making the small nudges needed to impact change in our organizations and that we’ll always support our people. What a powerful moment.
I’ll be forever grateful that Up&Up invested in my professional development and sent me to the Digital PM Summit. I can’t wait to go back!
Are you a digital leader in your company? If so, check out the Bureau of Digital’s full event calendar for a variety of camps and summits happening across the country targeted toward various positions within agencies. You won’t be disappointed!