Digital project management is a key factor in success of digital projects from sign-off to go-live and beyond. However, because digital projects can range from a small website to large complex technical builds, the digital project manager (DPM) needs the abilities of a chameleon to adapt to very diverse circumstances - discussions with the developers’ team on how to fix server issues are alternated by financial reporting at the client’s office. So what exactly is the digital project manager responsible for? And why is it such an unneglectable member of the team? Isn’t it just some overhead?
We’ll look at the key roles the DPM crosses to ensure the smooth running of the projects under his/her belt.
The DPM is often at the front lines of client contact, interfacing with professionals at the highest organizational levels, and establishing the link between all the stakeholders involved in a project. This means keeping communication flowing not only with the client, but also with outside contractors and the internal project team to ensure everyone is aligned with the overall objectives and the project meets the defined goals on time and within budget. Social skills come in handy not only to be able to liaise with such a multi-profile audience, but also to know how to deliver bad news or to manage conflicts within the teams.
The DPM will need to create plans, track schedules and budgets, assemble the project team and manage their daily work. Sometimes projects may be scheduled tightened to lower the budget, or developers may compromise on quality to reach the deadline on time. The role of the digital project manager is to plan the adequate resources for the project’s scope and goals, manage time realistically and ensure intermediate testing after each development stage. Usually, project management tools such as JIRA or collaboration platforms such as Office 365 help keep clear track on budget, time and scope as well as involving the client and giving them an enhanced status overview at any time.
At predefined moments in the project process, the DPM will handover reports to the client and have contact moments so that the overall track on the activities is shared and eventual adjustments can be made. Without a proper process planning following the project lifecycle, the project risks to take longer than expected.
A developers’ team that operates without a project manager is a team without any lead. Several risks are associated to this situation. The team isn't briefed on daily basis, objectives and goals are only vaguely kept in mind, time perspectives aren't managed, project priorities are handled as secondary, developers retreat to their own island without any team cooperation, and so on. The whole project team can include web developers, functional analysts, testers, UX strategists, among other profiles, and they all need to be up-to-date on project scope, deadlines, as well as their specific responsibilities.
Often clients will know what they want, but not necessarily have the perfectly detailed briefing. Through a partnership approach, the DPM guides the client through the process of defining business and technical requirements for the project, and gathering a clear view on the of the client’s vision for the solution to achieve the desired impact. This can require plenty of strategic thinking, technology expertise and an analytic mind to look into the challenges and constraints.
What is often underestimated is the preventive role the DPM can play. It is only by identifying and defining potential risks at the beginning of the project that the project manager can prevent the risks or react quickly and effectively if predicted risks really occur. A risk matrix in which risks are categorized based on probability and impact is an effective methodology often used, and helps allocate appropriate responses per risk. By evaluating these risks on a regular basis, most risks can be avoided.
The DPM needs to be a quality specialist: although developers test over and over again, they own the client's vision on the deliverables. Challenging intermediate results and demoing them to the client are part of an incremental approach which will enable them to stay closely involved even during development phases. This means that to give a sustaining support to each project, the DPM needs not only general project management know-how but also domain-specific skills, such as web architecture, user experience, responsive design, content management, SEO and web analytics, just to name a few.
Project management matters! At Acolad (and likely in similar organizations), the Digital Project Manager is a pivotal member of the team to guarantee the success of our clients’ business transformation initiatives. They get to own every part of the project and control objectives, resources, planning, risks, quality, deliverables, budget and time.