DPM:UK Conference 2016, Manchester

Last week, the Ridgeway Project Management team attended the DPM:UK conference in Manchester – our second outing to the leading UK conference for people managing digital projects. Like last year, we’ve shared our thoughts and useful links here.

Manchester Digital also took a range of great photos of the event, which you can find on their Flickr page.

You can do well or do good

There are two types of Project Managers: 

•    The first do well. They do this by looking after themselves and their careers. 
•    The second do good, approaching their role with a strong sense of integrity and empathy. 

Those doing good can be seen: 
1.    Helping struggling colleagues 
2.    Not glory hunting 
3.    Learning from others (including junior team members)
4.    Being humble and admitting flaws
5.    Picking their battles carefully

This was the message from Sam Barnes. There was also a nice mention of The Big Do (which we were lucky enough to attend in Oxford) – focusing on the value of empathy maps

Practical prioritisation under pressure

Katie Buffalo reminded us that Project Managers need to know what comes next. That’s easier said than done. To help, the majority of Katie’s talk focussed on the Eisenhower Urgent/Important Matrix.

Another nice snippet of advice was when making mistakes, other people are relieved that the mistake is not theirs. Take advantage of this by being honest and open. Then move on.

Technical debt

Technical debt is a metaphor that refers to the additional costs in making short-sighted decisions around functionality. In a conference which focuses a lot on personal skills, it’s great to hear some practical ones too. 

Matt Thornhill shared some important lessons in recording technical debt and making practical suggestions on when to take on technical debt. You can find the slides here.

Managing the organisers

What’s the difference between programme and project management? Not much according to Ian May. The skill sets are very similar:

•    Good communication
•    Making hard decisions and giving projects/tasks to the right people
•    Weekly project health checks

“Managing project managers is as fun as managing projects” – certainly the right audience for that comment! 

Transform from Project Manager to Project Leader

Susanne Madsen was up next with a challenge. Stop being a Project Manager, be a Project Leader. What’s the difference?

•    Project Managers are task-orientated people (push-approach) with cognitive intelligence.

•    Project Leaders are people-orientated people (pull-approach) with emotional intelligence.

She explained that Project Managers are often stuck in reactive task management and not in the strategy and people management. They need to get involved in the project vision and co-own it with the project sponsor.

Susanne also suggested watching a talk by Dan Pink and made it very clear that the status quo is not an option. Continuous improvement on your projects is a must.

Methodology madness

There are lots of different project methodologies to manage your project. Which one is best? Often teams only use existing processes, instead of looking at the project size, duration, and who the client is.

Suze Haworth listed out the benefits of the two most popular; waterfall and agile. While she suggested that eventually agile is the stronger setup, Suze suggested that taking the best of both models in a hybrid approach can work as an interim solution. This can be done by:

•    Getting the client involved in the process more
•    Greater collaboration between team by getting delivery people involved in the specification 
•    Detail planning in the sprint itself
•    Design at the last responsible moment

Army of awesome

The closing keynote talk was from Brett Harned, whose talk struck a chord with many in the room. 

His challenge is to create a set of standards specifically for Digital Project Managers. He started this process by suggesting 5 themes for a DPM:

•    Chaos junkies – thriving on problems we know we can solve, breaking processes to make better ones, not following templates because we make better ones, we manage with our minds (not with tools). 

•    Multilingual communicators – multi-skilled (marketing, IT, finance, legal, design, UX, content strategy, code, and more), we speak with; expertise, empathy, and consistency, we create routines, we listen.

•    Loveable hardasses – building trust, honestly, reliability, communication, admitting fault, we are active members of our team.

•    Consummate learners and teachers – learning on the job and from others, we teach so we can build trust, gain practicability, test new ideas, common understanding.

•    Pathfinders – budget and timeline is not as important as strategic path and success, we achieve success with practical applications deliverables, process, tools and expertise.

The conference closed with Brett challenging others to add their own suggestions.

From all the Project Managers at Ridgeway, thanks for a great event. We’ll hopefully see you in 2017.

Want to know more?

DPM:UK conference website

The official website for the conference where you can find all the information on what it was about and how to join in.

DPM:UK 2015 Roundup

Catch up on the notes from the conference in 2015 to see what else you have missed.