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Key Takeaways from the Digital PM Summit

I’ve never met a person in digital marketing who knows everything there is to know, and those who claim to are good liars. It’s impossible to know everything in this industry. Digital marketing is a constantly evolving field. The essential tools of last year may not be relevant this year. That new acronym you heard in a meeting last month? Probably forgotten this month. This is a fast-paced industry to work in. It’s essential to make sure we stop, take stock of what we are doing, and learn from others.

Last week, I got to do just that. I attended the Digital PM Summit by Bureau of Digital in Orlando, Florida. As someone who hasn’t been in a university lecture hall for over six years, the thought of concentrating for a full day of presentations was daunting. However, the summit had the perfect mix of presentations, interactive sessions, breakouts and lightning talks. All of these sessions provided me with valuable insights.

My biggest takeaways from the summit were:

People, not process: Teamwork, DoneDone, Forecast, Harvest — the list of tools we use at Wallop is endless. There is no denying these digital tools help us work efficiently, but can a tool transport you to a tropical paradise through its design? Can it make you connect to a place through the use of an emotive narrative? Or can these tools persuade you to book a stay due to the perfect placement of a call-to-action button? It is our talented designers, developers, project managers, copywriters, and digital strategists that do the real magic through our websites and marketing campaigns. The message was clear from all of the speakers at the summit: put the people first as they are the magic ingredient.

In Brett Harned’s workshop, he discussed the importance of understanding the people in your agency, identifying their different personality types, and ensuring we communicate according to those personality types. Agencies are full of different personalities (as is every workplace). Ensure you take the time to get to know the people you work with; this was a big takeaway for me. Learn who they are beyond their role or title. The better you understand your people, the better you can work together.

Review processes (just not ALL the time): Of course, there is still a place to refine the process. What kind of project manager would I be if I didn’t love good ol’ process? But we don’t need to amend processes every day of the week. Brett recommends using the Value Stream Mapping method to review internal procedures. This looks at who is involved in the process, what the steps are, and identifying where the value lies. Then, you review the process by deciding the following: Is every step needed? Is every person involved necessary? From there, you can start to form new efficiencies. It’s recommended that you do a process review once a quarter, and then to allow time to get accurate results from the changes. Let the process come to life! Don’t try to change it before it has a chance to make an impact.

Fail to prepare, prepare to fail: As a project manager, you often feel like a fortune teller; so much of your role is focused on looking to the future to make predictions. Rob Harr’s workshop began with a quote that perfectly demonstrates the importance of forecasting in an agency – “you won’t be in control of your business until you can predict it”. Agency teams depend on incoming client work to fill up their days. From a business standpoint, forecasting is essential to ensure we can identify periods that may not be busy. When these quiet periods are identified in advance, the agency is equipped to proactively fill that time with smaller projects or internal work that is regularly put aside.

Your personality is your USP: I am a firm believer that personality is far more important than process, platforms, or methodology. The Bringing Personality to Project Management presentation by Jenna Trunzo stood out to me as she spoke about the importance of personality in project management.

True relationships are built with clients when:

  • You understand them: who are they in their work and home life?
  • You listen to them: understand their needs and goals.
  • You empathize with them: understand their stresses and concerns.
  • You communicate with them: some days a phone call and a quick chat make an impact.

I understand the importance of investing time in connecting and getting to know clients as people. Some of the best client relationships I have were from early in my career when I didn’t know waterfall from agile.

Strangers can make great connections: I have never been to a conference of this size. The biggest thing that stood out for me (aside from Mickey Mouse appearing on stage) was how much you can learn from strangers and form connections over shared experiences. The people at the summit were from a variety of roles, from different industries, from different academic backgrounds, and from different countries. Yet, we all bonded by our shared experiences and struggles. Everyone was open to help each other and share advice. I now have a network of project managers I know I can reach out to and get valuable advice from.

There is always something new to learn regardless of the field you work in. A day or two out of the office at an event like the Summit is the perfect way to reset your thinking. I am coming back to the office with a fresh perspective and a list of things I am excited to roll out.