A couple of weeks ago, I attended the Digital PM Summit in Austin, Texas. I was lucky enough to experience two days filled with engaging talks, informative breakout sessions and a couple of parties, perfect for networking and unwinding after long days of learning. Oh, and I got to experience it all alongside 300+ other DPMs and digital experts.

The conference started off on a high note thanks to Brett Harned’s keynote presentation, “The Project Communications Game”. His talk resonated with me not only as a digital project manager, but as someone with a communications background and a solid understanding of the importance of good, open and honest communication in any professional setting.

Let me walk you through some of my personal highlights of his presentation.

DPM toolbox

DPMs communicate for a living, and we need to use every tool at our disposal to ensure that both our clients and internal teams are not only kept in the loop, but consulted throughout the entire project. Brett touched on the many tools we have to help us achieve this: project plans, schedules, wireframes, meetings, status calls, software, etc. These are all essential for a digital project to succeed.

Communicate with everyone, early on

The goal is to have clear communication with all team members and set client expectations from the very first interaction. Involving all stakeholders from the early stages of a project allows for effective team communication. By doing so, everyone will be clear on what the project's goals are and what role they play in helping the project succeed.

Honesty is the best policy

If a client approaches you with a question that’s beyond your realm of expertise (e.g. too technical), be honest about needing to go back to your team. This can be conveyed well to a client if you are honest and confident about it. Remember, you don’t need to have all the answers at that very moment, you’re there to facilitate communication.

Develop your interpersonal skills

By using good communication tactics, it’s much easier to create partnerships and easy working situations. Taking the time to have non-work related conversations is key in fostering good relationships and establishing trust with clients and internal teams. Once that trust is built, it’s much easier to be honest with your stakeholders when a project gets off track and have those difficult conversations when something goes wrong. Keeping the lines of communication open can also help you flag potential risks and issues.
The obvious and overarching theme of the entire conference was: the key to a successful digital project is good and transparent communication. Hearing it repeatedly from keynote speakers like, Brett Harned, Mike Monteiro, Nancy Lyons, Matt Griffin, etc., reinforced those communications principles for me and helped me realize how relevant my background in communications is in my role as a DPM. To all my DPM friends who weren’t as fortunate as me to have attended the summit, let me leave you with this takeaway: there will always be communication issues, but you can get past them. It’s never too late to communicate and take back control of a project.