There are many contributing factors that will determine how successful your digital project is with you at the helm as project manager. However, after spending the last 7 years dedicating my career so far to managing digital projects, I have learnt what I believe to be the top 10 things you need to consider when embarking on a digital project, to give it the best chance of success. I would like to tell you what my top tips are as a project manager in the digital sector.
1. Understand the scope
As project manager it is ultimately my job to fully understand what our team need to deliver for our clients. This comes down to knowing the client’s objectives, creating a functional specification and developing a robust project plan to achieve the best outcomes. Not only, do I feel it necessary to understand the project I also know how important it is to get under the hood of our client’s business, what do they do? And how do they do it? All with the aim of helping them to improve processes or increase engagement with the implementation of a digital product.
2. Manage your team
Any project manager is only ever as good as the team they have behind them. I am very fortunate to have a highly skilled and engaged team working alongside me to help deliver the best digital solutions we can. At every point, from the quoting, to the planning and to the creation of deliverables be sure to involve the whole team, come to decisions together looking at the project from everyone’s perspective. It is vital that everyone is bought in and dedicated to ultimately achieving the client objectives. As project manager, you can’t carry out the work, but you can be the first line of support for the rest of the team.
Create, share, discuss and agree a project plan. With any digital project I feel it really important that your project plan includes key milestones for both your internal delivery team as well as your client. That way everyone knows exactly what their contribution is to bring the project to completion. Before beginning the project get everyone to sign off on the project plan and have a communication plan in place should any changes need to be made, ensuring it is as easy as possible for everyone involved. We all know how busy the day-to-day functioning of a business can be, so sometimes, things don’t go to plan – it is important to also be flexible, both with your team and your client. Make sure they know they can approach you should they need to make a change to the original project plan and reassure them you can put measures in place to reach the end goal.
4. Manage your inbox
As a project manager your email inbox will be your one biggest distraction from actually ‘managing’ your projects. I was very lucky that during my first year working in a digital agency I met a very successful man who taught me a trick to managing my emails… The trick is to create a folder structure in your email account… It’s simple, but I have found it massively effective. Create a folder structure, one that suits you, I like to name each folder relevant to the client, when you have dealt with the email, file it away. Therefore, at any one time you only ever have emails in your inbox that you still need to deal with. It also saves you a lot of time if you’re ever looking for that one bit of detail you need that a client has emailed to you, simple, it will be in the relevant folder, instead of you spending time trawling through the thousands of emails that will be in your inbox. Honestly, it seems like such a small thing, but it will revolutionise how you use your work email.
I truly believe that communication is the key to success for project managers when it comes to any project in any sector. As project manager it is up to you to take control of the lines of communication, make sure all stakeholders are aware of communication points, whether they are weekly/bi-weekly/monthly and how this communication will be handled. Share the communication plan with all stakeholders and ensure they stick to it. Otherwise, feedback will get lost, the client and your team will become frustrated, but ultimately the project outcomes will suffer. No matter what – communicate and make sure everyone knows what is expected of them.
6. Track time
Digital projects will vary in size, however most of the projects we are involved in run between 3-24 months, with maintenance, additions and enhancements thereafter. Everything we do is surrounded with a budget and timescale which is why tracking time is invaluable to us. All of our projects are broken down into granular level, this could be taken as far as 100’s of small tasks with a time assigned, outlining how long we believe it will take to complete. All of our team members record their time on a start/stop timer basis, so we know exactly how long is spent completing tasks, in real-time. This will give you maximum visibility over the budget and timeline for each project, all by running a simple report in your time tracking software.
7. Ask for help
Never think twice about asking for help, whether that be in terms of the project or you personally as a project manager. Project managers sometimes feel like they should have all the answers, but we are still human and sometimes we don’t have all the answers. In my experience, the best projects I have been involved in are the ones that have been completed in collaboration, that could be just down to us working really closely with your client or third parties that can enhance the project outcomes. To note, there is value in every failure so always make sure you look for that and keep it with you throughout your career. Some of my biggest failures have been when I’ve learnt the most.
Always hit your deadlines, more so early on in the client relationship. At the core of any good relationship is trust and as a project manager we ask both our clients and delivery teams to trust that we can deliver what we say we will. It is up to us to make sure the client gives the delivery team everything they need to carry out the work and that the delivery team has everything they need to complete the work to the highest standard. However, sometimes things happen, and a deadline isn’t met, it happens no matter how much we try to mitigate against it. My advice would be to communicate this to all involved as early on as you can. That way we can help minimise the impact to the client’s business and the workflow of your internal team.
9. Help your client/stakeholders
It is highly likely that your stakeholders aren’t going to know what is expected from them by you as a project manager or your internal delivery team. Hold their hand during the whole process and make sure they know exactly what you need from them to make their project a success. In the middle of looking after your many clients you can sometimes lose sight of the internal team because they are simply sitting in the same room as you. Remember they are key stakeholders in every project you embark on, which is likely to be different every time, so make sure they know what you and the client expects of them at every stage. It’s all about achieving the same set of objectives.
10. Enjoy & Take pride
Enjoy the process, even in the tough times always remember – that’s when you’ll learn the most. Nothing ever runs smoothly all the time, and everything works out in the end. With a good team who are cohesive and together you will be surprised what you can tackle as one unit. The big bonus for me as a project manager in the digital sector is being able to go into so many different kinds of business in a vast array of sectors to work alongside them as their digital partner, being the technical resource they call on for all for their digital needs.
To conclude, project managers are the glue that holds everything together. You bring your clients ideas and translate them to your team in a way in which they can become reality, a functioning solution that will become embedded into their business or organisation. Celebrate your achievements and learn from your mistakes. To find out more about some of the projects I have managed, see here: https://scaffold.digital/work/