DPM:UK Conference 2015, Manchester

The Ridgeway team are attending DPM:UK Conference in Manchester on 29th January 2015 - a day of great industry speakers covering techniques for managing digital projects, people, relationships and budgets. 

We'll be (sporadically!) updating this article throughout the day (wifi allowing) with insights, links and comments. You can also follow us on Twitter for updates during the day, too.

First up Sam Barnes talking about 'People Are Weird...' - managing different personalities within project teams. Sam talked about balance within the team, no douchebags (or other less polite words). Great quote - "Testing is a task, quality is an attitude" Rob Smith, Blueleaf.

Team bonding - examples of more productive / less cliched techniques e.g. the Kevin Bacon game, creating a Team Charter and measuring performance by Team Radar. Managing 'Chaos Monkeys' within the team. 

Sam cited Susan Cain's Quiet book - 'The power of introverts in a world that can't stop talking.' Sam's slides are available here

Next up Rhodri Coleman, Head of PM at Foolproof on 'what makes a good project manager?' Rhodri compares his own cage fighting (MMA) experience with project management(!).

Rhodri discussed experience design (focused on human outcomes), the importance of trust and integrity between the project team (client and agency, collaborating), and the need to maintain balance in that collaboration. Facilitating collaboration - Foolproof's seating plan is by project (as it is here at Ridgeway), and they use 'war rooms' (ugh!) and whiteboards (ditto) to foster collaborative thinking.

Summary of what makes a good PM:
  • Be collaborative
  • Choose the right approach
  • Be flexible and embrace change
  • Duty of care to the team
  • Enjoy it

After a break for much needed coffee, we have a set of four lightning talks.

First up, Suze Haworth from Tribal - Pitfalls of PM. Suze discussed managing pitfalls of clientstechnology (not relying on tools, and consider a contingency response plan), the project manager (delegation, minimising SPFs) and the team (no SPFs - again). Any presentation that includes advice from John McClane gets our vote!

Next on the stage is Stephen Thomas from White October (Oxford agencies unite!) with 'Did we really say we would do that?'.

Stephen talked about:
  • Fixed price project 'hell' - can kill creativity, quality, collaboration, and cause stress.
  • Similarly, a T&M approach means risk is all on the client, and efficiency is not incentivised. Results in wooly priorities, and can kill the relationship and creativity too.

Stephen suggests a 'price per point approach' as an alternative, and talked about contracts being part of the toolkit. 

The third lightning talk speaker is Peta Kennett-Wilson - 'Inheriting a problem project' [No such thing, surely?!]. "Plans are worthless, planning is everything" (Eisenhower, 1957). Bring in the right people, empower the team, and look at route causes too. Turning a problem project into a troublesome middle child project!

  • Assess the project and identify blockers
  • Be smart about escalation - create a single escalation point
  • Keep decision making team lean
  • Prioritise tough conversations 
  • Implement your plan, and iteratea as needed

Final lightning talk from Rachael Ball, 'How to manage projects remotely'. Rachael talked around the idea that working remotely is as much an advantage as a negative in that "offices have become interruption factories". 

Following a much needed lunch break, a Q&A session was held with some great war stories and wide ranging discussions from Sam Barnes, Meghan Wilker, Suze Haworth, and Helen Holmes.

The penultimate presentation of the day came from Meri Williams, Stealing PM lessons from Artificial Intelligence (AI). Meri cited several great looking books in her presentation, including Talent is Overrated by Geoff Colvin, Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell and Drive by Daniel H. Pink.

Meghan Wilker and Nancy Lyons had the task to pack some Minnesota punch into the final presentation of the day - Embracing Chaos: An Interactive project management survival guide.

Meghan and Nancy talked about the convergence of software, internet, marketing, and advertising in the DPM role – the varied aspects which make it such a challenging role. The ‘need’ for labels for project management process/methodology - no one cares! Project management is fundamentally a leadership role. "Project Management is like air quality - if you can see it, it's probably killing you."

Required characteristics for a DPM: 
  • Emotional intelligence – vital to be able to empathise and motivate the team
  • Strategic thinking – must love all things online (outside of work too) and understand how to build a basic website yourself
  • Guidance - give meaning to tasks, communicate effectively, stay cool under pressure (cry in another room!)
  • Motivation - social engagement, leadership, likeability
  • Bravery - taking risks, building consensus, making mistakes

In short, “Samwise Gamgee is the best PM ever - can't carry the ring for Frodo, but makes sure he's fed."

Nancy and Meghan’s book Interactive Project Management - pixels, people and process is currently out of stock on Amazon, but I’m sure will be back soon. If it's even half as funny and interesting as their presentation, it's well worth buying!

Great day of interesting presentations and a well-organised conference from DPM:UK, so thanks to them and all the sponsors. The slidedecks from the event are being added to the DPM:UK site. And if you can't wait 'til next year, there's always The Big DO in Oxford (May 2015).