Brett Harned – Be a Better PM

My notes from Brett’s talk at DPM:UK 2014.

There are no recognised standards in digital PM, success is relative to your clients, team, and projects.

PMs aren’t process monkeys or robots, we’re people too! We can always be better. I have 25 tips to help you:

  1. Ask questions. important for PMs to sit in on research. Faciliate information, don’t be a gatekeeper.
  2. Learn from your mistakes. Have post-mortem meetings. Highlight things that affect process, how we work with clients. No finger pointing. Quick session with team (15m). Longer session follow up – look for action items. This is really helpful on responsive sites, we’re still refining this. We’re using HTML prototypes.
  3. Be patient.
  4. Setting expectations.
    • Understand your scope. Often our clients never see the scope document, signed off by legal teams. We have a meeting to go through scope with client line-by-line. We also do it with the team.
    • Lock down your timeline. Come up with general approach with team, create detailed timeline, then review with team. Go through with client. Explain risks with client if milestones missed.
    • Establish roles. Use a RACI matrix – defines who’s responsible for what.
  5. Be a cheerleader.
  6. Know your craft.
    • Study your methodology. Agile doesn’t really apply to our company. We have an “adaptive” methodology, we adapt based on our clients. Have a toolkit of deliverables we use on projects.
    • Learn company procedures. Takes 6-9 months to onboard a new PM. Good for a PM to observe, when we hire they observe with experienced person.
    • Practise using the right tools. We use Basecamp very heavily. ResourceGuru, OmniPlan for project plans, Slack for internal chat, Harvest for time tracking, Sifter for bug tracking. Used a ton of tools for bug tracking, none work perfectly. Use one that works for you. We’re very strict about time tracking, have internal categories for meetings, outings, etc. Everyone has to log time by 9am Monday for the previous week. Practise using the tools you have.
    • Hone your people skills.
  7. Don’t ignore difficult conversations. Take the time to prepare for them. Assess risk.
  8. Own your calendar. Block out times for yourself to work in calendar. Don’t attend a meeting unless there’s an agenda.
  9. Own your process.
  10. Share everything. If there’s a hallway conversation/on IM loop everyone in via Basecamp.
    – Share (almost) everything.
  11. Bring snacks.
  12. Vent (to the right people). Someone at work not on project team, not someone at home!
  13. Have fun. Be goofy, lighten the mood in the office.
  14. Practise saying “No”.
  15. Proofread everything.
  16. Be concise.
  17. Take good notes. Not many resources to help with this, there’s a class on One person should be dedicated to taking good notes in a meeting.
  18. Facilitate useful feedback. Guide clients on feedback. We make sure all feedback is written + in one single voice. Should be concise.
  19. Conduct status. Internal – Team status meeting: every morning whole company meets. One person from each team reports back. One moderator, they report back on any company updates. Regular Client status calls.
    • What was done last week
    • What will be done this week
    • Action items
    • Update on timeline and budget
    • Risks & Issues. We operate on hours budget, be transparent with client.
  20. Follow-up. Don’t be scared to be that annoying person.
  21. Understand what it takes. Understand mindset of team. Create Work Breakdown Structure. Break a task down to its component parts, estimate it, review estimate with team who are delivering work.
  22. Be a jerk (when you have to). It’s important to be nice, but it’s important to know when to be a hard ass.
  23. Keep calm.
  24. Stay informed. Keep up to date with new processes and workflows.
    • All the links –
    • Use Twitter. More Twitter conversations in UK than US.
  25. Be proud of your role.