Digital Project Management, a High-wire Act


Have you ever been to the Cirque du Soleil, where circus performers do all sorts of eye-popping, death-defying stunts at once?

That’s kind of what it’s like for digital project managers (DPM). The amount of multitasking and the variety of skills they need to pull off their high-wire act would leave most of us mere mortals lying broken and sobbing.

The WebEnertia project managers Chris Myers, Lynn May, Kaitlyn Bounds and Kate Horner often juggle multiple complex projects at any one time while keeping on top of the ever-evolving trends, platforms, and technologies.

Niche Job in a New Industry

Digital project management is a niche job in a young and expanding world of digital agencies. Indeed, no one grows up dreaming of becoming a project manager, let alone a digital project manager. Rather, as they move through their careers, they gradually discover — and work to develop — the range of talents that led them here.

Our DPMs have been designers, office admins, digital producers, and even in the news and public communications roles before landing on their career path at WebE.

What they all have in common is the ability to pay strict attention to detail amid ever-changing priorities. Being cool under pressure is essential, as are fantastic oral and written communication. And a sense of humor is a big help.

“To organize the chaos of multiple projects in your head, you have to be motivated to make sure the client is satisfied, and the team is moving forward,” Kate says. “You have to come off clear, concise and caring.”

Role: Manage Expectations

A central part of a DPM’s role is to manage the expectations of the client and the team and make sure they’re getting what they need when they need it. That requires a firm grasp of what the client wants, what’s possible within the agency, and the ability to navigate time, budgets and resources tactfully.

Managing those expectations starts early in the process — before a single pixel is placed on a screen.

“Some clients want us to get large and complex websites with CMS systems running thousands of pages done in two months, and we may push back,” says Juliann Klein, director of client services, who supervises, trains and mentors the DPMs. “It’s not that we can’t put up that site in two months. It’s that the processes we have in place are what allows our projects to be successful —  our strategy work, our discovery work, all require the proper time.”

At WebEnertia, our DPMs make sure each project moves forward on a tightly managed deadline and meets high expectations as they keep our teams of programmers and designers engaged.

There’s a relentless pace, but also a deep satisfaction when a project launches.

“It’s just a huge creative process,” says Lynn, “and it’s amazing to watch a project go from nothing, and then build, build, build and come to life. The creativity and hard work by all team members are just incredible. I’m in awe at all times.”

The Tools of Our Trade

It would be impossible to keep everything running smoothly without some software tools to keep clients and staff apprised of what needs to be done, when and by whom, as well as the overall status of all projects.

Here are some of the tools the WebEnertia DPMs use on a day-to-day basis:

  • Basecamp 2 – Client collaboration and project to-dos.
  • Slack – Internal communication and collaboration.
  • Smartsheet – Project calendars and timelines.
  • 10,000ft – Resource allocation and time tracking.
  • Zendesk & Lighthouse – Helpdesk and issue tracking.

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