5 Things Web Project Managers Want More Than Money: Part 2

- March 25, 2010 - by , in Digital Project Management, with 9 comments -

In Five Things Web Project Managers Want More Than Money: Part 1 I introduced the idea that just like web designers and developers, Web Project Managers are insanely passionate about what they do and are not really motivated by money, after all, why else would they subject themselves to such systematic and constant torture and stress…

This article continues the series and talks about more things Web Project Managers want more than money; things that would keep our sensitive egocentric control freak selves happy :-)

A black and white line drawing of Jabba from Star Wars with the tagline If Jabba Aint Happy, Aint nobody Happy

Heed the Web Project Managers motto

4. Reliable support staff

As a Web Project Manager you simply do not have the time to perform every task yourself during the lifecycle of a web project, this is when support staff can seem like a gift from the Gods, but there is a massive difference between support staff and reliable support staff.

This kind of person is actually rare to find, but if you’re lucky enough to find one they can provide you with the vital breathing space you need in order to keep on top of all your web projects.

In short, a reliable web project management support member is one who you can delegate tasks too safe in the knowledge they will be completed, and to a quality level you are happy with – sounds simple, right?

Noooooo, how many times have you had to chase someone on a tasks several times, only to find that when it’s eventually finished it’s of poor quality and you mutter the immortal words under your breath “I should’ve done it my bloody self!”

An image of a lego Star Wars Stormtropper from behind who is knitting with needles and a red ball of wool

“WTF, I asked you to gather content from the client an hour ago!”

Don’t just expect support, provide it too

Of course, finding reliable web project management support is gold dust and most Web Project Managers would take this over any financial bribe, but I believe it is crucial to not only use the support you have, but to also provide reliable support too!

Offering your support to other stressed and overworked Web Project Managers (and any team members for that matter) is vitally important because it:

  1. Encourages others to support you, and each other
  2. Shows humility in that you don’t think you’re ‘above’ web project management support tasks
  3. Keeps you humble by reminding you what it’s like on the other side of things

Just remember one thing… the golden rule of delegating tasks to others, is to always be on hand to support them while they’re completing them. There’s nothing worse than dumping a load of work on someone and not being around to answer questions or provide encouragement.

Always fully appreciate a person that can provide reliable web project management support, they’re often are the unsung heroes of digital agencies!

Special thank you: This is an apt point to thank my bestest pal in the world, Deb, for all the support she gives me on this blog by way of superhuman proof reading skills, thank you!!! :-)

5. Understanding production teams

Effectively managing digital production teams of web designers and web developers is one of the black arts of web project management. If you get a great production team on a web project it will invariably be a resounding success, but if you encounter difficult production teams, then get ready for the pain!

But before I get into the kind of digital production team a Web Project Manager wants more than money, it’s important to understand things from their perspective, and never has it been summarised better than in the quote below… a short must read for any Web Project Manager.

“Developers often treat PM as The Source of All Evil. And to some point they’re right. It’s a project manager who brings more work. It’s a project manager who bugs everyone asking when they’re going to be done.”
Pawel Brodzinski, What Can Project Manager Do For Developers?

Having worked for a few years as a front-end developer, and been ‘affectionately’ referred to as a Code Monkey I can definitely remember and understand what it’s like on the production side of a web agency.

But it’s funny how life has a way of holding a mirror up to your past behaviour as time goes by…

As people who know me will testify to, when I hear digital production teams commenting about how web projects are being run, how standards are the most important thing and that more budget is needed for proper testing, I’ll often have a little ‘old wise man giggle’ to myself and think back to the time I was saying (shouting) exactly the same things to previous bosses when on the digital production team.

But of course, once you cross over to the dark side of web project management everything changes.

Web Project Management, a new reality

When you transfer from the digital production side of things and become a Web Project Manager your whole world is changed forever. Even if at some stage you decide to venture back into production, you will be doing so with new commercial knowledge about the realities of running web projects and in some cases businesses themselves.

Suddenly your priority balance shifts slightly away from code standards and is weighted more towards clients, budgets and schedules. Rather than having one or two things to work on at a time for solid periods, you have a million things to deal with and numerous key decisions to make on a daily, and sometimes even hourly, basis.

As a Web Project Manager you are constantly being pulled in three directions by the client, your boss and your production team, and each of them want different things from you at all times – somehow you have to find a way to keep everyone reasonably happy at all times – this is where a Web Project Manager would sacrifice any pay rise in the world to have an understanding production team ploughing through the work!

This means that when you’re pulling a developer off the work they’re on, breaking their flow, to fix a bug raised by a client, or you ask a designer to stick to a certain level of design so you can hit budget and schedule, the dream is to have production team members who fully appreciate the pressure you’re under and happily oblige.

In most cases Web Project Managers completely understand the production team’s point of view and try to accommodate it where possible. We’ll try and organise their work into solid blocks, create task lists and test their work, but all these things have to be combined with our new pressure filled priorities, and sometimes it’s a bad mix.

An image of several lego Star Wars characters beating up a lone one

The devs didn’t react how the Web PM had hoped to the decision

More than anything, Web Project Managers out there would just like a certain amount of understanding of this fact from production teams. For them to appreciate that as well as having pressures like cash flow, budgets, schedules and clients on their mind, they’re also are the one person who has the complete overview of the web project at all times and are making decisions based on that overview knowledge that’s ultimately best for the business and project.

Sometimes these decisions can appear stupid, rash, akin to demanding low quality work, short sighted or naive, and in some cases they are! But as I’ve learnt over time, if a Web Project Manager seems to be a reasonably intelligent person who understands what the production teams are saying, the decision they make is probably the right one for the web project or agency overall, and if the production team continues to have a job and steady flow of web projects to work on, you can be sure the decisions made weren’t too bad at all.

To all digital production teams out there, I’m pretty confident if you could spend just six months as a Web Project Manager your perspective of things would change too. You would find that when you’re pulled in lots of different directions on lots of different web projects you’re sometimes just too busy to provide the perfect brief, create all tasks as nice lists, insist on world-class quality code every time and have time to create accurate detailed functional specifications that leave not a single detail in the land of un-scoped or ambiguity…

How do I know this? Because I really was once one of you, fighting for all things good and right in the world!!

All we ask is you trust us. Our hearts are in the right place, we want the same things as you, but our priorities are weighted differently to yours. Surely there’s some happy place in the middle we can meet, and over time get to that place together by keeping our business healthy, steadily growing and profitable through a utopian mix of design masterpieces, technical wizardry and commercial realities…

The real Web Project Manager reality

In the last two articles I’ve given just a few of the things Web Project Managers want more than money, but there are many more. However, the painful truth is getting all of these things is extremely unlikely and a little la la land given the real commercial world we live in.

But, by being able to identify what these things are is the first step on the path to improving how you run web projects, how to interact and conduct yourself with your team members and superiors, and if you can improve things even slightly in all those areas, you’ll be well on your way to being a happier Web Project Manager!

But enough from me… as someone managing digital accounts or projects, what things do YOU want more than money in your web project management job?

Related reading:

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- Comments -

  • Ciaran

    Pretty sure buckets of cash would make me forget about all those. ;-)

  • @Ciaran, you have no shame or soul ;-)

  • Nick Burd

    I am relatively new at PM, and find myself getting lost sometimes in the multiple projects. Things are getting better, but this article for sure has given me some things to think about in that matter.

    I think the most important thing above all is to be completely organized. Without organization, regardless of your support staff, you have chaos. :D

    Im finding now more than ever, I have begun thinking of things alot more before acting, and placing things in specific orders to set out a system in which it will help me remember.

    The intervals project management tool is quite possibly the best tool I have come across. Mind you, Basecamp is amazing, but seems to be pricy. :(

    July 2, 2010  | 
  • Absolutely Nick, I’m thinking of writing a post on managing multiple web projects but each time I start to think of some ideas I always end up back at the point that the only real secret is to be almost hyper-organised to the point of being diagnosed with OCD.

    Basecamp is great but in my opinion only for centralised communication, it never helped me too much with keeping a project on budget or schedule so dont feel too bad at not being able to shell out for it!!!

    July 5, 2010  | 
  • Simone

    Hi guys, do you know a good planning sw? Mac or Windows, it doesn’t matter. I need to organize the work of 4 guys and between paper and notes on computers, I’m getting crazy!!!

  • @Simone, what kind of planning do you mean? A project scheduling and resource allocation tool or a bit more than that?

  • Simone

    Yes, exactly! I need to manage a group of guys checking timelines and projects…

  • @Simone, well isnt that just the ultimate question ;) There are so many tools out there that do this job, and also some good combinations of online and offline tools that work well.

    You could look at tools like:

    – Liquid Planner (http://www.liquidplanner.com)
    – Tom’s Planner (http://www.tomsplanner.com)
    – OpenProj (http://openproj.org/openproj)
    – Planner (http://winplanner.sourceforge.net)
    – Merlin (http://www.projectwizards.net/en/merlin) Mac Only

    I mean these are only tools, none will be a silver bullet.

    Personally I find the best approach is to plan the projects in GANTTs and have a paper based scheduling chart on the wall, using post it notes to block off days for projects for team members.

    A more digital, but harder to maintain, version of this, is using MS Project and having a GANTT per project, with a Master project plan that combines all projects, and a Master Resource list that has all your team members.

    Either way it will always be about planning projects, assigning people and then re-assessing the schedule each day based on progress, stalls and other things sideswiping time you had blocked off.

    Does this help Simone? Or are you looking for something more specific?

  • Simone

    Yes, your suggestion are really good… I will try, I need to find a good solution to trace everything but it’s really not easy.

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