Sound "Bytes" from the 2014 Digital PM Summit

With the dust settled following the 2014 Digital PM Summit in Austin, it's time to take a moment to refelct on another year of great keynote sessions, enjoyable conversations with like-minded PMs, well-attended afterparties, and a fun host city. The event grew in size and improved on the 2013 event in many ways. Big thanks to Brett Harned and the team at the Bureau of Digital Affairs for their hard work to make this event a reality.

Top Moments

Some of my favorite memories this year include...

1) Arriving in Austin a day early to spend some quality time with some of Metal Toad's PM team

metal toad PM team

2) The opportunity to join this year's speakers for a great dinner at Malverde and conversation following in the hotel lobby

dpm 2014 speakers

3) Brett Harned kicking off the keynotes for 2014

4) Taking in Mike Montiero's entertaining presentation on the always important client perspective

5) And of course, the opportunity to present my own session on organizational growth from a PM perspective! (Thanks @handsomemade for the photo)

Sound Bytes

In keeping with tradition, I want to share some of my favorite quotes and takeaways from the 2014 Summit!

"The most value you [as a PM] bring to any project is not a tool, it's your brain."

Nancy Lyons was missing her presentation partner in crime Meghan Wilker this year, but still gave a great presentation comparing digital project management to lessons learned from Little House on the Prairie. The part of the presentation that struck home with me the most was where she pointed out that as the closing keynote, she had nothing new to cover. There were lots of important but repeated lessons throughout the summit, and she emphasized that hearing things you already know and reinforcing knowledge is vital. Too many of know how to be great project managers, but don't necessarily employ all of the tools in our toolbelt effectively. PMs must take a thoughtful approach to their projects!

"Wear fewer hats with more style"

In my presentation on growth, one of the sections covers how to cope as a change-averse, risk-contemplating project manager. PMs are often generalists, and as an organization grows, the need to specialize and take knowledge deeper into less areas of the business increases. And that's okay!

“Your budget is one of your most important project constraints. Don’t make it a secret, make it a data point.”

Mike Montiero's presentation was chock full of amazing sound bytes and a great overall narrative. This quote rings true for me; clients fear revealing their budget for fear that the quote from the client will simply be their full budget. But if a client finds a trustworty partner, the discussion should be much more about a) what can be completed given their full budget b) whether it's wise to spend the entire budget and if the ROI exists for their plans, and c) what the total cost of ownership of their digital project for it's anticipated lifetime will be.

"The soft stuff is the hard stuff."

Michael Wilkinson presented a talk on facilitation that emphasized the importance of soft skills in a world of spreadsheets, tools, and processes. My favorite point from the talk was the concept of not translating what's spoken when writing on a whiteboard while facilitating a brainstorm session ("Write what is said, not what you heard") to make all feel included.

"Your job as a PM is to be a cheerleader and a bulldozer."

Meri Williams gave a great talk on applying learnings from artificial intelligence to project management. It was fascinating to hear that AI suffers from overplanning problems when charged with trying to determine the optimal solution to a problem. It's not just us humans! The above quote falls clearly in line with my view that everything a digital project manager does should fall within one of two categories: 1) Support your team and facilitate better communication, and 2) constantly identify and mitigate project risks.

"I keep my PMP so I can talk with authority when I say you shouldn't do Waterfall"

Meri Williams kept the hits going with a great line relating to the debate over certification for digital project managers. It seems the consensus is that the PMP is often overkill when is comes to most digital work, and while it can be a valueable addition for those who are looking to expand their PM toolbelt, too many PMPs try to pull out their eightteen different hammers for a digital project when a project calls for a screwdriver and a level.

"I was judging what normal was using ME as the benchmark for normal"

Sam Barnes gave an entertaining talk titled "People are Weird, I'm Weird" which focused on taking an empathic approach to project management and thinking of individuals as human beings rather than resources. He had great points on being transparent with candidates to hire well, how to deal with "chaos monkeys", and he spent a good deal of time focusing on introverts and extroverts. I was excited to learn the term "ambivert" as the middle-ground with characteristics of both introversion and extroversion. I now know how to properly label myself on that spectrum!

Until Next Year

I'm already psyched for the 2015 event, and enjoy continuing to look for ways to get more deeply involved in the digital PM community. Starting PDX Digital PM has been very fruitful here in Portland, and I'm excited to continue to build bonds and further connect with the national group of digital PMs who are doing great work to further awareness and insight into the world of digital project management.

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