A day in the life of a Digital Project Manager
I had a New Year’s resolution to write a new blog post every week for 2017. I started off well with four in January, but in February…nothing..
I started writing a post on Managing Remote Teams (In progress) but I never got to finish it due to what possibly was the most challenging month I’ve ever had as a Project Manager.
In this post I’m going to describe a typical busy day as the PM of the Qualifications Website – So you can get an insight into what a Digital Project Manager does and hopefully see what got in the way of my writing!
Your day will start with a Daily Standup. These meetings are invaluable for an Agile team. Usually lasting 15 mins, everyone in the team shares an update on what they did yesterday, what they will do today and if there are any blockers.
At most Technology companies in the world, you’ll need to present and get approval for an upcoming deployment at some sort of Change Management or Change Advisory Board. These usually take place in the morning and require filling in a Change Request beforehand.
Whilst this can seem laborious, this process is in place to ensure the safety of the application, minimise disruptions to users, safeguard reputation of the company and make sure you have all the support you need.
- Description of change
- Time, Duration, Resources
- Business/Technical Impact
- Implementation & Test Plans
At Pearson, the EMEA CAB takes place daily at 11 AM. You are required to present your Change Request at least 24 hours before the deployment (Unless it’s an Emergency Change Request).
Juggle Multiple Projects
Most Project Managers often have the pleasure of managing more than 1 project or at least, more than one work stream within a project at any given time. You’ll be spending some time during the day progressing these projects and work streams. This will be through meetings, emails, presentations, documents etc…
It’s essential that you learn to prioritise your time and work on the most important tasks to avoid falling behind or missing key deadlines. If you haven’t already, use a tool like Trello or Evernote to help you manage your work and keep on top of things. (Read about productivity apps)
Some of my projects:
- Ongoing Support and Development of both platforms
- Incident Management (Should they occur)
- Global Platform Migration
- Major Solr Upgrade
- Summer Exam Series Preparation
There is a difference between doing well and doing too much. Ask for help.
This is what caught me out in February. I had too much going on at the same time and I was falling behind, working long hours trying to keep up. Speak up. There is a difference between doing well and doing too much. Don’t burn yourself out. Ask for help.
Following on from the previous point, you’ll undoubtedly be in the midst of a Sprint for one of your projects. Your role here is to remove any blockers for the team, keep an eye on the burndown chart, and generally push along the stories you’ve committed to.
Although my sprints tend to largely be full of back/front-end development, your Sprint could include:
At the end of each Sprint, your aim is to deliver the most valuable items and a potentially shippable product.
Remember, at the end of each Sprint, your aim is to deliver the most valuable items and a potentially shippable product.
As part of the Sprint, it’s not just the development team who will be working. As I mentioned earlier, you’ll be predominantly removing blockers for the team. This could include:
- Aligning external resource i.e. If the development team requires Application Engineers to install packages on servers in order for the functionality being developed to work.
- Clarifying questions on stories
- Resolving disputes
- Providing the required tools
- Other Ceremonies (Sprint Planning, Sprint Reviews, Retrospectives)
You’ll also be spending time working with the Product Owner and Stakeholders, preparing for upcoming sprints. This will include:
- Requirements Gathering
- Backlog Grooming
- Managing pre-requisite work i.e. Obtaining assets like wireframes or content.
Meetings and Emails and often seen as the bane of productivity. However, both are an essential part of working life and they can be a lot more bearable if managed accordingly.
Now I’m not referring to Scrum Ceremonies here, I’m talking about meetings with other stakeholders. I couldn’t possibly second-guess every type of meeting a Digital Project Manager will have but in my experience:
- Discussions about the Product with Internal Users i.e Content Teams
- Questions from teams who have a dependency on you or your product
- Monthly KPI Meetings
- Monthly meetings with Programme Managers or Directors
- Discussions with External Suppliers and Contractors
Meetings will also be a result of managing multiple projects and are often needed to make progress long before any development takes place.
My recommendation is to keep them short, with a clear agenda and coordinated in a professional but friendly manner.
As I speak, I have the Finance department chasing me. To avoid a similar fate, ensure you set some time each week to go through some admin tasks that are a by-product of your job:
- Invoices, Purchase Orders, Work Orders
- Updating Jira (Backlog, Sprint Board etc…)
- Writing Release Notes
- Preparing Presentations or Reports
- Writing Emails
These aren’t always mentioned in the Job Description but trust me, you’ll need to do them!
Once your team has completed development and you’ve got approval for your release, you’ll need to manage the deployment itself. Now, this won’t be every day; but when a deployment takes place, it’s usually the last thing I’m involved with on any given day.
Note: If it’s a small enough change, you might not need to be around at the time of deployment, but it’s still your responsibility to make sure it all goes smoothly.
- Informing Stakeholders of progress.
- Ensuring resources are all talking to each other.
- Managing the resources who will be involved i.e. Developers, Application Engineers, QA.
- Ensuring everything is going to plan or taking the appropriate actions if anything goes wrong.
- General validation of the product and new functionality
- Working with QA on regression testing
As much as we all like to take our work seriously, the reality is that it’s just work. Having written all the above, you need to make sure you have time for things that will keep you going (and keep you sane):
- Lunch. Don’t skip meals or rely on coffee to get you through the day. You’re literally depriving yourself of energy.
- Interact with colleagues. Speak to people out of meetings, share a joke or two, go outside for some fresh air. It’s essential that you build relationships and have some fun at work.
- Stretch your legs. Please don’t sit for hours on end at your desk. You’re causing so much damage to yourself. Try to go for a walk on the hour, every hour.
- Switch off. Some of us take our work home, work during our commute or work over the weekends. Whilst the effort is admirable, you need to take a break from work and relax. Switch that laptop off!
You’ll notice that a Digital Project Manager does a lot of things! It’s a highly varied role, encompassing many things. Your job will include duties resembling a Project Manager, Scrum Master, Product Manager, Designer, Developer and an Admin Assistant.
Keep the communication flowing, keep things simple and be proactive.
It’s undoubtedly a challenging role but it’s also a very rewarding one! So keep the communication flowing, keep things simple and be proactive.
P.S This is the first of many posts I’ll be releasing in March to compensate for February!