What Are Digital Project Managers And Web Project Management?
Over the years, the role of project management has shifted from strict waterfall positions in construction and big business to online web and digital projects. Digital project managers lead the creative and technical development of digital advertising products, such as electronic commerce (eCommerce) and promotional websites, e-mail newsletter marketing, rich media/blog content, banner advertisements (Adroll and remarketing), mobile applications (Apple and Android), and social media applications to name a few. Process and documentation are still key to success (as it was 50 years ago) but it’s more about efficiency and ‘quick’ delivery for today’s digital project manager.
In addition to the delivery of web projects, digital project managers must have a decent knowledge of core concepts such as online marketing, creative design, layout design, coding/development, and business goals planning such as SMART goals. By the very nature of the position, you must wear many hats and be able to take one off to replace it with another even on an hour GoToMeeting conversation. Essentially, digital project managers ensure the integrated elements of digital projects come together on time and meet stakeholder expectations for data integrity and product quality.
Digital project managers are required to be technology savvy and always be learning new web and digital standards (SEO/SEM/PCI) to continue to keep up with the times. Using new technology web project management entails producing deep work plans and coordinating with an internal creative and development team and technical staff to create large implementations ranging from a few thousand dollars up to multi-million dollar projects.
Although the post-secondary education and professional experience required for digital project manager jobs may vary by employer, industry, and technology type, many managers have a bachelor’s degree in advertising, marketing, communications, computer science, or management information systems. Typically web project managers or eCommerce project managers are bred not born and it takes many years of implementations and experience to be efficient in practice. In general, employers looking to fill digital project manager jobs prefer creative and qualified candidates, have excellent communication skills and have marketing or advertising agency experience, and demonstrate the ability to lead concurrent projects of varying size and complexity.
There is no playbook for Digital or Web Project Management, but rather it is the school of hard knocks. You can prepare yourself with blog posts and use cases, but the best way to grow in the industry is to dive deep into the process of “doing”.
What Personality Best Fits The Project Manager Title?
Project managers seem to be in a lot of different industries. For example, construction, business, technology, education, and more all use the position of Project Manager to steer the ship, promote efficiency, and view the project as a whole to communicate a realistic view to their teams of where work needs to be prioritized. But what happens if you are trying to get into the profession? A question you might be asking yourself is “What does it take to be a Project Manager?” or “What personality traits do I need to be a Project Manager?”, well, there are a lot of different answers to that.
There are an extensive number of models used to depict individual personalities. A standout amongst the most prevalent models is the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. One of its components talks about a range between introversion and extroversion. Projects and project management at its core are about people and teams, so good project leaders tend to be at least somewhat extroverted. Introverted project managers may discover their projects moving out of control because they are inadequately engaged with the people ultimately responsible for the tasks.
A second variable for PMs is the difference between a preference for observable data and a preference for instinctive data. Projects are usually “best” managed using measurable facts that can be verified and tested. The actualities are what you can count on; a fake sense of “achievement” doesn’t help anyone. A third element relates to whether choices within a project are based on coherent objective analysis or feelings and values (emotions). Projects, especially technical projects (like what eCommerce or web projects are), move ahead most easily when decisions are based on predictable, analytical criteria.
The last, and probably the most important personality trait is your ability to focus on operations. The trait describes how individuals manage their projects. On one extreme is the project manager who plans and organizes what must be done in a clear communicable manner, which is what project management is mostly about. On the other extreme is the individual who prefers to be spontaneous and flexible. Now let’s stop here for a second and mention that “agile”, which is a buzzword for most, does not mean flexible or spontaneous but rather “iterative” in progress and tracking. Just wanted to set that out there for some Twitter followers. As a baseline, projects that are a “free spirit” tend to be chaotic nightmares, stress out your team, and may never complete.
Lastly, if you are running a technical project (like eCommerce websites) you need to at minimum can learn the 10,000ft view of coding practices, administrative work, etc. It sounds dumb saying it, and probably a “duh” statement, but you need to have a minimal understanding of the technology you are working on to be successful.
If you match up with the ideals then you are probably suited for a profession in project management.
Top 10 Skills For Web Project Management
If you work in web project management today, you are most likely dealing with digital content. Some project managers come from design or development backgrounds, but more often than not, they have little training in the world of digital. As someone who comes from a design and development background, here are some tips and must-have skills that will make your team love and respect you.
1. Content Management – Let me first start by defining content management as I see it. I consider content management the ability to direct, write, edit, and organize content for stakeholders on the project. These stakeholders could be your internal team, the client (and their team), marketing/press outlets, and much more. With the understanding that time is limited, you must quickly create content for the project. This could be a simple project brief, client brief, or a quick change order. At times we are also pushed to the front-line to provide the end-user with quality content. Lastly, a good project manager should be able to transform the words of a designer or developer (which are usually NOT framed to business or client language) into something compelling and actionable.
2. HTML/CSS – Many times Project managers come from the large business/corporate side of the business. Web project management in my opinion is a complete 180-degree turn from normal (non-technical) projects. The quickest way to understand what developers and designers go through daily is to throw yourself into the mix. Take the time to learn. Yes, learn! If you can learn about HTML, CSS, PHP, JS, and PS your team will love you. It will be apparent very quickly that you took the time to learn about their hardships and understand their daily tasks. More importantly by researching and getting your hands dirty within a project (you can do a quick website on your own) you will be able to “talk the talk” when you have a 1 on 1 with your developer. In short, by learning technical details you will quickly go from a paper pusher to a knowledgeable member of the team.
3. FTP/SSH & Tools – You might be saying “What in the heck is FTP/SSH” and if you are, this is my exact point of why you need to do some research. In short, get to know some of the tools that you will be required to use on the job as a web project manager. FTP & SSH are entryways to a website in which you can manipulate files, upload images, and access code. Take the time to research some of the top tools on the web to get a holistic view of what is out there. For coding try Sublime text, for FTP try Filezilla, for Testing try VMWare, for Mindmapping try Xmind. Get my drift? Google is your friend in finding great tools to make your job easier.
4. Analytics, Reporting, Auditing – One of the major parts of your job will be reviewing information and making actionable plans moving forward. To do this you will need a chest of analytics tools to capture data and allow you to digest them easily. Google Analytics is the holy grail of web analytics, so start there. If you are looking for more advanced tracking feel free to review Moz, CrazyEgg, Clicktale, and Clicky. The skills involve distilling down the important information from these tools. I can guarantee that if/when your clients look at big data or traffic analytics they feel like they are trying to drink water from a firehose so take the time to review the data WITH them and reveal actionable.
5. Client Relations – I am pretty sure that “Hold My Hand” by Hootie and the Blowfish was written for Project Managers and their relationship with their clients. Put yourself in the clients shoes at all times. Do they know what a static block, widget, or footer.php file is? Probably not. So walk them through it so they can learn through. Keep in mind that most clients that you will come into contact with have a laundry list of tasks they must complete internally before they can focus on the eCommerce website or web application. Their main job is not to interact with you, so make each interaction simple and pain-free. Send agendas before meetings, recap actionable after meetings, always set expectations (time/scope/budget), and follow up within 24 hours on current projects/tasks. When you can ask “Can I help you take something off your plate to make your life easier?”. I promise you’ll be their favorite PM soon.
6. Formal Project Management – So let me first preface this and say that typical project management training doesn’t map 1 to 1 with web project management. by the very nature of digital/web PM, it is iterative and fast-changing. You must be able to pivot quickly and move quickly. With that said, you can bring the knowledge of project management methodologies. SCRUM, Agile, and Waterfall are the three more common methodologies within our industry. Your team will depend on you to be the go-to for the process so buy a book or read a white paper on these methods and decide AS A TEAM what method works the best for you.
7. Search Engine Optimization – SEO is a buzzword, I know, but PM’s must know the details surrounding this wave to protect your team, clients, and yourself from bad information. Everyone promises #1 ranking in Google and a strong organic search for a fee. I encourage you to always ask one simple question, “HOW?” How will you do this for me or my client? Any large SEO firm will have documentation, use cases, and roadmaps, while the hacks and untrustworthy services will run and hide. As a PM take some time to review the high-level details of SEO/SEM. Most likely you have someone on your team dedicated to SEO/SEM and you can even learn from them.
8. Marketing & Social Media – Digital marketing and social media is a fundamental part of web and eCommerce websites. Once you build a website, web application, or mobile app you MUST sell it. This isn’t the field of dreams. This isn’t “If you build it, they will come”; you must inform your customer base and potential customers of your new product. Try and focus on your value proposition. Schedule a meeting with your marketing team and client to review what makes you different than every other service or product on the market. As a PM you must have the skills to understand all the media outlets and what offers the most ROI for the investment.
9. Presentation Skills – Having presentation skills is a no-brainer but it has to be mentioned. Being a powerful orator involves many years of getting up in from of people and speaking and I strongly believe that it is something that can be taught to people that struggle in this area. If you struggle with speaking or presenting you must attack that issue head-on. Schedule some internal meetings or trainings, get out in the community to speak, or even talk with strangers more often. Lastly, focus on enhancing your knowledge within the industry of the web, internet, and project management and you will feel confident to speak your mind.
10. Leadership & Culture Building – Skill #10 is leadership and culture building within your organization. Like it or not as a project manager you are a strong figure and leader in your organization and your team will be looking to you for a few details such as decision making, project details, and strategic goals. While many company cultures are moving to a more free-flowing communication stream and a flexible workflow to get things done. PMs need to be the deciding vote at times when your office is split 50/50 on a decision. In this case, listen to both sides, review the details, and make your decision. It is important to provide a clear decision and direction to remove any roadblocks for your team. Lastly, leadership is also about challenging the status quo (by you and your stakeholders). Don’t be afraid to allow people to speak their minds if they think there are better ways to do things. 10 people are ALWAYS smarter than one. Letting people have a say in their day to day work and their future is important to have a strong culture.
Suggested Reading List For Web Project Managers – By PDX Digital PM
If you work in the digital and web space you know that this is no “playbook” that tells us how to do our jobs. Rather, we are writing the playbook as we go along and learn best practices. Through talking with some other professionals in the space they decided to aggregate all the best tools, tips, books, and blogs on the internet to help us learn and grow. Thanks to Adam Edgerton for compiling these!