What tools do digital project managers use?
October 27, 2016 8:42 AM   Subscribe

For any digital PMs can you describe the tools you use and skills?

I have duel experience as a copywriter and in my last job, a digital producer. In short it was like a project manager BUT it was informal. I didn't use Gantt charts, didn't use terms like critical path, etc. What I did was get creative, account and our external vendors together, get an idea of what the build/page is going to be like (ie creative brief, tech specs, usability). Then I would work with the vendor on a timeline and budget if it was outside of our retainer. Then I would manage the project as a liason between the vendor and the client. I would chip in to build where I could with a CMS. For a redesign, I was the producer liason between our company and the vendor as well as content manager.

I loved it. When I look at digital PM jobs, it seems that it is pretty much in line with what I did BUT it appears they want the formality of the job---gantt charts, budget estimates, etc. While benefiicial, I really don't want to get a PMP and the one intervew I went to at a digital agency asked what software I used. We sort of started in Microsoft Project but that whole idea went out the window at my former company. The agency said "Microsoft Project? Woah that's a bit intesne and laborous." So it seemed that perhaps that MP was too much for the average digital PM to use. When it came to the test, it was similar to a PM construction job. And this is where I bombed. Looking back I can see they were asking for when to use a change order, what are the dependencies, risks, etc. But again we never used these in a formal manner. All builds were expected within a 3 day turn around, redesigns for an entire website from start to finish, they thought 3 months was the norm.

So I want to get into a job like I had, except not a shitstorm of a company. Loved what I did. I know I can do a PM job but I'm having a hard time getting my foot in the door and I dont' want to just read up and throw terms around. I want to be able to do the basics.

What tools do you use. What processes. How can I get in the door and succeed when I had informal experience?
posted by stormpooper to Work & Money (11 answers total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
ScrumMaster Certification may be of use to you.
posted by Leon at 8:45 AM on October 27, 2016 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: I also was the lead in RFPs, vendor selection (creative and technical), statement of work, etc.
posted by stormpooper at 8:46 AM on October 27, 2016

I'm not a PMP or a Project Manager but interact with a lot of PMs on projects. There is a lot of Excel and MS Projects. There of course lots of other products:
with a lot on that list being things that are perhaps defunct or very much in an industrial vertical.

The one thing I've noticed from afar is how feature rich some of these tools are i.e. lots of them scale up to running what I call "Run the 'Build the Space Shuttle' type projects". The key things I see from the most successful PMs is their ability to narrow their focus on the aspects of the tool that make sense for their project. Perhaps it is only tracking dependencies. Perhaps it is tracking scheduling and resource allocation. Perhaps it is doing status tracking. Use the least amount of the tool as possible so that you can focus on the real work of the PM i.e. don't be a slave to the tool, use the tool to help you do the current job at hand.
posted by mmascolino at 8:54 AM on October 27, 2016 [1 favorite]

I echo the recommendation to get scrum master certification.

I've been in product development for 30+ years and have managed a number of hardware and software projects. When managing a software project, the rigor and formality of MS Project is overkill in my opinion. There are dependencies but far fewer than in hardware development (or construction for that matter). Agile methods are "the thing" in software these days and scrum is the most common implementation of Agile.
posted by elmay at 9:28 AM on October 27, 2016 [2 favorites]

Over the years in my career, I have taken various project management training seminars (starting before PMP and PMBOK) and have used various tools from Powerpoint to Oracle Project Management. I have been on a couple of projects where the only way to get the client to get anything done was to use a detailed and exhaustive Project Plan in MS Project.

I think the tools you use are less important than a deep understanding of the underlying approaches. I used to be an Oracle consultant and the two best-managed projects I worked on used the Oracle Unified Method (OUM)in one incarnation or another. The project leadership selected the parts of the method that they needed and focused more on fulfilling the intent rather than the form of the deliverables.

I found learning OUM gave me a much better understanding of the intersection between project phases and project processes that has helped me in every project since. OUM is applicable to both Agile project management and traditional SDLC management. I have worked on projects that were theoretically "Agile", but were mediocre at best.
posted by Altomentis at 11:30 AM on October 27, 2016 [1 favorite]

Being good at gathering requirements and expressing them well with user stories is valuable and a key part of Agile.
posted by bz at 11:30 AM on October 27, 2016

My PM's use tools like Slack, Asana, Jira. Tools to track status, upload digital assets, house group chat, etc. Here's an overview of some:
posted by at at 2:43 PM on October 27, 2016 [2 favorites]

I make extremely heavy use of the low-tech Microsoft suite of Excel, Visio, and Access. MS Project is usually overkill, particularly for extremely dynamic projects. Team and documentation tools like Asana, Trello, One Note, Evernote, and Kanban Flow are helpful, too.

Excel is especially useful because you can bundle project and inventory tracking and budget forecasting/actuals in the same workbook and pivot tables/charts and Microsoft's vast array of financial and mathematical formulae are available to help you do quick analyses and illustrations. Visio is useful for it's charts and for communicating/debugging workflows. Both Excel and Visio also support timelines and Gantt charts, so it's easy to export scheduling data out of Excel and into Visio to create timelines for communications purposes. Access is where I archive datasets and inventories for retrospective analysis and results preservation.
posted by skye.dancer at 3:28 PM on October 27, 2016

Excel, some kind of scrum board (e.g, Jira), some kind of wiki (e.g., Jira), some kind of incident/request tracking system (can be Excel or Jira), Google docs, Google sheets, Google draw or Visio, post-it notes, whiteboard.
posted by matildaben at 6:20 PM on October 27, 2016

I struggled making a Gantt chart in Excel when I realized a big project needed one and no one else involved had the knowledge or wherewithal to create one. Then a coworker in a different department pointed me to teamgantt.com and it's been incredibly useful.
posted by sleeping bear at 10:15 AM on October 28, 2016

Google docs, sheets, and slides and Trello.

Docs for requirements / specs / writing = thinking
Sheets for all kinds of stuff: crunch numbers / track and reporting key metrics / etc.
Slides for communicating status / information
Trello for scrum / kanban stuff.

But.............don't use tools to use tools and create an illusion of control. Only use them if they help you be more effective. Sometimes you just need walk around and make things happen.
posted by jasondigitized at 12:30 PM on October 28, 2016

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