On Wednesday, I attended DPM:UK, a conference for those involved in managing digital projects. This was the first event of its kind and I had been looking forward to it for over two months and I am happy to report that my expectations were exceeded massively. I think one of the initial surprises for me was the size of the Digital Project Management community in attendance – with numbers reaching almost 300.
As a Project Manager, you will rarely find me not glancing at my emails or making (another) list, but the amazing speakers kept me so engaged that I only responded to 1 or 2 emails throughout the day.
Up first was Brett Harned, whose talk entitled ‘Be a Better Project Manager’ was my primary reason for attending DPM:UK. Brett humorously powered through his 25 top tips to being a better PM, and although I was in agreement with them all, here are a few that stood out for me:
Ask Questions – Brett stressed the importance of asking tactical, relevant questions to your team, stakeholders and client, from conception right through to the end as it ensures the PM remains knowledgeable throughout the project.
Learn from Mistakes – This was a massively important tip, and without doing it, I don’t think you can improve. Brett advised that meetings to determine what went well and what didn’t go so well should be conducted at the end of a project in order to learn from mistakes.
Know Your Craft– Brett covered how in order to be a better PM it is pivotal to know your craft. He detailed the various parts that make up a Project Manager’s craft, including studying your project methodology, learning company procedures, using the right tools and honing your people skills.
Next up was Sam Barnes delivering a talk labelled ‘Vice/Versa Client Management’, in which he conveyed alongside some hilariously accurate animations, what it’s like to actually be a client working with an agency. This talk was a real eye-opener for me as I know in the past I’ve certainly found it difficult to understand why a project isn’t at the centre of a client’s world, as it is mine. Sam detailed many contributing factors clients often have to deal with when working alongside an agency,such as not having dedicated time to work on a digital project outside of their normal job role. After hearing Sam’s fresh perspective, I know I will definitely be more mindful of what clients actually have to do in addition to my project going forward.
After a quick coffee break Rob Borley, founder of Dutrix, presented his talk called ‘Change Your Business, Change the World’. Rob described how projects are ran at Dutrix and how they use an Agile methodology to bring out the best in their people. Although Dutrix is not a digital agency, there was still a lot to be taken away from Rob’s talk. Most importantly for me was Rob’s explanation of how the role of the PM needs to shift from management of teams to co-ordination and leading teams, ensuring that they remain motivated enough to not require management.
Scheduled next was, arguably, the most important part of the day…lunch, which consisted of serving the 3 most delicious P’s….Potatoes, Pizzas and Pies!
Some brilliant questions were put forward to the panel in the Q&A session including ‘Can PM skills be learnt?’ (SPOILER ALERT – the verdict from the panel was…yes! However, some soft skills are important as a grounding such as, being well organised and having the ability to communicate effectively).
My favourite talk of the event was by Suze Haworth who delivered the first lightning talk called ‘Avoiding Project Fatigue’. Suze opened powerfully by likening the stages in a big project to those of a marathon, with some massively useful tips on how to avoid project fatigue, especially in large projects. Suze stressed the importance of maintaining momentum on a project from beginning to end.
When things are seemingly falling apart; your client is unavailable to answer your questions and a third party delay occurs on the same day as your main developer breaks both of his wrists – I know now only too well how difficult it can be to gather the momentum to continue on in an environment that can’t be motivated by free pizza (believe me, such environment does exist). But as the project manager, I know it is my job to lift the team back up and Suze’s talk gave me some great tips on how to keep things moving for my team, the client and myself!
Reaching a point in the day were a room full of restless PMs would be expected, Paul Boag took to the stage with a fantastically uplifting talk entitled ‘Digital Adaption – Time to untie your hands’. This talk was centered around instigating change within your organisation with the recurring theme that “Leaders are not picked, they stand up”. I’m sure all who were in attendance will agree with me that Paul’s talk was a superb ending to a superb day.
Aside from the wonderful speakers, the day wouldn’t have been what it was without the admirable organisational skills of Manchester Digital and also The Manchester Comedy Store for brilliantly hosting the event. There were a number of big sponsors who all contributed in making the event possible, however I must give a particular shout to Orchard recruitment whose mobile phone charging locker stations were an actual god send!
I left the conference already looking forward to attending next year and feeling motivated and eager to get back to the Cube3 offices to share what I had learned with the rest of the team.