DPM: UK 2015 conference


Has it really been a year since the last Digital Project Management UK (DPM:UK) conference? My life (as that of most PMs) revolves around time and for me it seems to be speeding up each year as I grow older and hopefully wiser! This year we made a proper KMP outing of it as Lucy Brearley (Digital Account Exec) and Adam Brock (Head of UX) both accompanied me to that great venue The Comedy Store in Manchester. I’ve always found the irony of a project management conference being held in a comedy venue amusing – we’ve all had those projects where you either choose to laugh or you’d cry, especially as a deadline looms.

We had some fantastic speakers at this year’s event, examining everything from methodologies to artificial intelligence (and everything in between). We heard from CEOs, CTOs, Senior PMs and Team Leaders on what’s happening in digital project management not only in the UK, but the US and Europe. It’s fantastic to find out how your peers across the globe are tackling the same day to day challenges you come up against.

What I learned

There were many nuggets of information exchanged at the event, too many to fit into one blog post. However, there was one overall piece of information that I took away and has found its way into my day dreaming several times since. That is that we are all working in what is, still, a very young industry. If you’re a pilot there are set procedures for doing your job well. If you are a mathematician there is a right and wrong answer, but with digital project management there are many ways to skin that responsive cat. Some may work better than others for a particular project but as PM you’ve got to take into account so many details specific to that project such as team composition, client personality & needs, technology, resourcing etc that often one methodology isn’t going to work on its own. Digital PMs are increasingly needing to cherry pick the best bits from development methodologies such as Agile, Waterfall and V-Model as well as project management methodologies such as Prince2 and splice them together.

“If it works for your project, it’s the right way”
Sam Barnes presentation, DPM:UK

Not only does each project present its own challenges but because we are dealing with digital, the platforms and technologies we are building on and for are moving forward at an ever increasing rate. In the digital industry, almost every system we build and every project we manage utilises new technology, libraries or devices. We are in effect trying to hit a moving target – something PMs in other industries often don’t need to worry about as much.  Because of this break neck pace that we are all running at, the game is to not only keep up to date with the ebs and flows of the industry but try and step ahead whenever you can to build something truly beautiful or functional that stands out from the crowd.

How are we adapting?

The conference showed that we are adapting and evolving well as an industry, using techniques such as remote working to keep on top of different working patterns for remote/international clients. We are making use of tools as soon as they become available like video conferencing, Yammer, WeTransfer and Lync.

“There are no old roads to new directions”
Stephen Thomas presentation, DPM:UK 2015

Because we aren’t restricted by multitudes of red tape like many industries we are thriving and finding our own way through the project lifecycle to deliver on project requirements. Old fashioned project management is becoming less and less relevant when delivering complex interactive projects in short timescales. Because of this we are all learning and adapting together.

What I took away

If I had to pick my top 5 take away themes from the event they would be:

  1. The buzzword is still agile but nobody is utilising pure agile. Cherry picking is still the best approach and most agencies are using a combination of waterfall and agile
  2. Interactive projects require teams to embrace a certain amount of chaos. It’s inevitable that it will occur – it’s how we manage it that counts.
  3. Collaborate with clients as much as we can and make them a part of your project team.
  4. Be open and honest with your clients. Report on time vs estimates so all stakeholders have a transparent understanding of progress, issues and the likelihood of hitting deadlines.
  5. In a transformative industry that is increasingly fast-paced and complex, traditional compliance-based project management may no longer be fit for purpose. We need to continue adapting our approach and skills. A good example is we should not become a slave to our tools, time is better spent with our hands dirty than ticking boxes.

As per the inaugural event last year, DMP:UK 2015 was a great success with some fantastic speakers from across the globe. I personally can’t wait for DPM:UK 2016 to see how far the industry moves on this year and what 2015 brings to us. Whatever it is I’m sure it will be exciting…