Thoughts on the Inaugural Digital Project Managers Summit

I had the pleasure of attending the inaugural Digital PM Summit in Philadelphia. Word on the street is that this was the first time digital PMs have ever been gathered together for a conference. The sold-out event was put on by the Bureau of Digital Affairs (a side project of the Gregs from Happy Cog).

Jeffery Zeldman got things kicked off by encouraging us to put things on the web that entertain our audiences. Over the course of the two-day event, we heard plenty of high quality content from a variety of speakers.

Here are a few of my favorite takeaways:

Jared Ponchot, Lullabot

  • We can't solve the clients' problems based on their aesthetic choices/preferences.
  • Ask some form of "What will that get you?" often!

Brett Harned, Happy Cog

  • Do post mortems...always. Learn from mistakes and wins!
  • Get useful feedback. Make sure feedback comes in one voice!!!!
  • Happy Cog gets sign off signatures for deliverables.

Rachel Gertz, Louder Than Ten / nGen Works

  • We teach people how to treat us.
  • Be aware of how busy your team is.
  • nGen Works puts their process online.
  • nGen Works has a clause in their contracts called "Voices from the Shadows". This means that if you weren't in the kickoff and don't have context, you don't have a say in the project. Also known as an outsider can't "swoop and poop" on the project.
  • When you have to have tough conversations with clients, write down what you want to say beforehand.

Sam Barnes, Global Personals ← this dude is funny

  • Show lots of empathy with your clients. Often, your client doesn't have a dedicated person for your project, so it falls on top of their daily responsibilities.
  • After reading a bunch of proposals, they often blur into one.
  • Sam suggests putting the costs first, because clients will flip there first anyway.
  • Put accurate timelines in proposals. Do not send a document after a deal closes that says "realistic schedule."
  • Audio record client meetings so you can provide your full attention at the meeting.
  • Continually explain your process to clients.
  • "The best kind of agency and client relationship is when the client's company forget that you're a third-party supplier."
  • Be honest.
  • Post project, ask clients how they felt about the experience. Listen and adapt.

Carl Smith, nGen Works

  • Be familiar. (use terms the client understands; don't use a language they don't understand)
  • Provide rationale for everything; don't drop things off or simply say "here it is, what do you think?"
  • Silence is the enemy; don't wait for a client to call you.
  • Scope creep isn't all bad, but it can kill the team.
  • nGen Works has the "Pause Clause" in their contract. If a client is 5 days or more late on a deliverable, they have the right to pause your project and restart it whenever they have time.
  • Be firm but fair.

Perhaps the best part was the opportunity to meet some great people: Becky & Samantha from Viget, Garrett from Erksine Design, Devin from Crowd Favorite, Alicja from Focus Lab, Travis from Louder Than Ten, plus many more. It was great meeting you guys and thanks for the thought provoking conversations!

Pro tip: DPM2013 sold-out in one day. Don't procrastinate next time around. It's a must attend event for digital PMs.