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Sound Bytes from Drupalcon Portland

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First off, yes, I realize it's "sound bite", but given the context, "byte" sounds more applicable.

The Toads have been at Drupalcon Portland this week in force! With a sponsor booth to manage and two different parties to organize, we've been busy, but I've managed to squeeze a few sessions in as well. Here are some top quotes and takeaways along the way:

"Responsive design won't fix your content problem."

Karen McGrane's Wednesday keynote touched on the future of content, looking even beyond mobile to focus on content as "chunks" of information to be presented in any number of ways. Responsive can be a great way to handle content output, but it's not a part of content strategy.

"Fixed bid gives the client the ability to stop worrying about their project. We want the client to stay worried."

Shannon Vettes did a great job moderating a day full of project management-related BOFs. One focused on the pains of working with clients on fixed bids and how they're not necessarily a healthy relationship or good for either client or agency. The above quote gets at the heart of the issue; to have a successful project, a client MUST be engaged with the agency to guide the project and reiterate their needs and priorities. There's no way to arrive in good shape at the finish line without full client engagement. In fact, in my experience, one of the most common causes of project failure is a disengaged client. When you work on fixed bid, sometimes the client falls into the trap of "I've signed the proposal for X amount, and now I can breathe easy." That mentality is dead wrong. The work has just gotten started.

"Make the right calls in high-stress situations on the fly without enough information. Change the rules of the game if you’re losing."

Oh, that's me! I gave a day stage talk on how agencies can find great PM candidates. It ties very closely to my 5-parter blog post about what makes a successful digital PM. The above quote is from the strategy slide, which summarizes what separates a good project manager from a great one. A great one can change the rules of the game to keep both the client and agency happy while managing to get the job done.

"Don't be afraid to put up a SOLD OUT sign when booked up."

Seth Brown talked about mistakes agencies make that are easy to succumb to. One of them is being unwilling to say "no" to work. Salespeople have a hard time not selling in some cases, but balancing the resources of the organization to make sure employees are happy and projects are on track is incredibly important. There are plenty of ways to continue to sell when the company is busy. Up rates. Sell months out in advance. Find the people who really want to work with your company, not just the project with rushed timelines. Granted, that's easier said than done.

"The 'grapevine' in a co-located team is in response to failures in communication."

Karen Stevenson gave a talk on remote teams and how to effectively organize them, with examples from what Lullabot does. Not surprisingly, with a remote team, communication (almost to the point of over-communication) is key. It's interesting that while communication can be a weakness in a remote team if not embraced by everyone, the grapevine that exists in most traditional offices actually illustrates how the same communication disconnect happens in every organization. There's no ability to have a grapevine with a fully remote team, which forces clear, up-front communication between the entire team.

"Content strategists ruined content management for devs by forcing us to think about outcomes."

Deane Barker provided a fairly blunt but relevant talk on why devs are focusing wrong in efforts to improve content management systems. He argued that the CMS market, for all practical purposes, is mature. When thinking about the customers using a CMS (marketers, generally), the CMS choice is becoming less important and the CXM (Customer experience management) tools are coming to the forefront. Rather than thinking about the CMS and then deciding what to integrate with the CMS, marketers are looking at the video players, CRM systems, marketing automation tools, A/B testing tools, Analytics platforms, etc. and then looking at what CMS options support those platforms. While Drupal does a good job at most integrations, there are closed-source CMS solutions that are working to build that all in out of the box.

Date posted: May 23, 2013

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