All Posts in conferences

May 24, 2017 - No Comments!

High Five: Digital PM Summit

PMs are always on the lookout for milestones, and we have a big one coming up at the Bureau of Digital. This October, the Digital PM Summit turns five this October 15-17 in Las Vegas, Nevada, and we are ready to celebrate everything the Digital PM Summit is about: our growing community.

Back in 2012, when planning the first Digital PM Summit, we didn’t know who our attendees would be, and where (or if) they’d travel for this new conference. But that event sold out in 30 days and 150 eager DPMs showed up and made it happen in so many ways: listening, sharing, and supporting the growth of a new community. Five years on, we expect about 300 people to join us in Las Vegas for two days of interactive and educational sessions.

Attendees from across the globe—England, Ireland, Sweden, Australia, Russia, Croatia, Canada, and many others including most of the USA—travel to take part in the Digital PM Summit.

A mix of in-house and digital agency-based DPMs, who come from a wide range of backgrounds and have different titles and roles, all find that they share a lot in common, but most importantly: they want to talk about the issues that affect them and their teams, and find better ways to work. They share challenges, objectives, and tools, but don’t always align on the “best” way to approach them—and that’s okay. The Summit is an opportunity to embrace that collective knowledge to find the answers attendees need, and to test or adapt them to their needs.

Every year attendees “find their people” at the Digital PM Summit and leave inspired to go back to work to try new things. And they come back because the event is a place to meet like-minded folks, extend their professional networks, and enhance their careers. Just by attending, they’re building community—and raising the profile for DPM internationally. How does that happen? Well, we’ve had a good number of attendees leave the event and go on to start local meet ups across the globe. We’ve even seen a few conferences pop up in the UK and Sweden. There is no doubt that this community is strong and growing—and we couldn’t be prouder than to be a part of it.

Topics, Talks, Discussions

The Digital PM Summit isn’t just an annual community gathering—it’s a professional event that provides continuing education to a community with sparse resources to draw from. Every year we bring together a mix of the industry’s leaders in digital to present and discuss topics that are seminal to being a great DPM at any career level. We believe that the interactions you have in a conversation or breakout with a peer are just as valuable (if not more valuable) than the things you can learn from a presentation. So the focus will always be on interactivity and opportunities to share and learn.

Over the past five years, programming has focused on both technical and soft skills with a nod to the fact that DPM is not easy, or consistent from place to place. It’s not all about project plans, burn down charts, resourcing, and all the other stiff, traditional PM topics. It’s about being immersed in digital, and understanding how DPMs can impact (or be impacted by) related topics like design, content, research, and technology among many others. It’s also about being a solid manager—being the person who is trusted, level-headed, and excited about taking on that role.

What the community needs more than anything is guidance to break the norms and be strong, informed leaders. That's why we encourage our speakers and moderators to present and discuss topics that will make for a well-rounded conference experience, but also to be thought-provoking and inspire new ways of thinking and doing.

What to Expect at #dpm2017

You guessed it: discussion and presentation on topics that are equal parts inspiring and practical. This year’s event will offer even more time for small group interaction as well. Here’s a breakdown on our session types:

  • Keynotes and Presentations: These traditional presentations are highly informative in nature, offering specific tactics and takeaways. We’re thrilled to welcome Sam Barnes back to the Digital PM Summit to present “It’s All About the Little Things,” and are sure Sharon Steed’s closing keynote, “Herding Cats: Positive and Effective Communication Within Chaos” will inspire.
  • Interactive Breakouts: These are 90 minute workshop-like sessions where presenters will share ideas, but also workshop ideas and exercises with attendees. Again, there is a goal for all speakers to provide practical takeaways, but also to give attendees the time to work together and discuss ideas. These sessions are limited to 50 people each. There will be several breakouts to choose from, including Peta Kennett-Wilson’s “Money, money, money” that will get you comfortable talking about well, um, money, and Dave Prior’s “Hacking Agile,” which will help you make a modified version of Agile work in your workplace.
  • Regional Breakouts: These moderated sessions will provide you an opportunity to meet and get to know people in your region. You’ll be surprised when you meet people from your city you’ve never met before. We’ll have moderators in the room to guide conversations, and then we’ll leave it up to you to keep it going when we give you the opportunity to have lunch together.
  • Lightning Talks: As mentioned, the Digital PM Summit is all about community, and because we want the community presenting, we give folks who are newer to speaking a chance to present on our main stage. This year we’ll do three lightning talks in a row. Each will last for 10 minutes, so you’ll get a quick dose of new ideas in this session. Look forward to Abby Fretz’s take on decision making in projects with “The Bee In All of Us: Learning Efficient, Democratic Decision Making From Social Insect Groups” and Greg Ryder’s productivity tips with “Do it Now: 2-Minute Rule Principle”.
  • Social Events: It doesn’t end in the conference room. We provide sponsored gatherings to continue the conversation—and they are always fun. Food, drink, music, and great conversation. Who knows what to expect in Vegas!

There’s a whole lot of variety in format, topics, and presentation style jam-packed in two full days. Plus, if you’d like to stay an extra day and participate in a workshop that touches on a variety of relevant DPM topics, that’s an option too!

See you in Vegas!

What haven’t we covered here? We’re excited about the people, the topics, and the format for our upcoming Summit, and we hope you are too. Feel free to reach out and ask us any questions you might have. Or, grab your ticket now and join us October 15-17 for the fifth annual Digital PM Summit (and some birthday cake).

This article was originally posted on the Bureau of Digital Blog on 5/23/17.

March 4, 2017 - No Comments!

Introducing Ground Control Conference: April 21, 2017 – London

I'm absolutely thrilled to announce that I've been working with the fine team at White October Events to produce a brand new conference for people who lead digital projects. Ground Control Conference will take place on April 21, 2017 in my favorite city in the world, London. And, we'll host a set of pre-conference workshops (mine included) on April 20.

The back story

I'm American, so you might be wondering how I got involved in this event. Well, my friends Holly Davis and Stephen Thomas worked at the agency White October, whose sister company is White October Events. In 2015 I presented a workshop at The Big DO in Oxford and got to meet some of the White October Events team. Over the course of a year or so, we had some conversations about how an event in London would be great for the DPM community. We even thought about maybe partnering and bringing the Digital PM Summit to the UK. Though, that never panned out.

After a lot of deliberation, White October Events decided to proceed and add a new conference for DPMs to their roster. They asked me to partner with them to help create this brand new event. I was thrilled by the opportunity (still am)!

I really like their approach to creating and programming events. Essentially, WOE partner with industry leaders like Meri Williams to create new events that are dedicated to a specific audience. This appeals to me, because it brings both a seasoned, professional event organizer and industry professional to the table to name the event, define its strategy, create the program, and select the speakers. I think that makes for a well-run and crafted event schedule and experience! It certainly has made for a special experience for me thus far, and we have not even hosted the event yet.

The name

Anyone who works in marketing knows that naming a thing like a product or an event can be difficult. We brainstormed many ideas and tried to come up with a name that was fine and implied project management, rather than beating you over the head with the name of the audience. After all, project management skills apply to people in many different roles, and we'll always include talks on a variety of management-related topics.

Coincidentally, I worked with a team to name another event a few years back. In that exercise, I came up with a bunch of names that I loved, but really just didn't fit within the larger brand. One of the names that I've always wanted to use for something DPM-related was Ground Control. It may make you think of aviation, space travel, or even David Bowie. But it also might invoke the idea that there is someone "on the ground" communicating with people in the air, coordinating movement, activity, and landings. Sound a bit like DPM to me.

Clearly I like the name. What do you think?

The programming

I've had the opportunity to meet with Ruth Yarnit of WOE in person a couple of times to discuss the event. A highlight of my last trip to London was meeting Ruth at the Tate Modern to discuss our event schedule. After we established the types of sessions we wanted to include, Ruth, Jo Lankester, and I worked together to release a call for papers and recruited what we think will be the best suited speakers for our very first event together. And, I have to say: selecting those speakers was difficult! We had a number of qualified submissions. But the process WOE apply is methodical, considered, and very fair. I really enjoyed it and feel great about the final speaker roster and corresponding topics.

The return on using such a great process of selection is a conference schedule that is equal parts informative, interactive, serious, and fun, and of course filled with brilliant speakers. We've got an amazing lineup of speakers, which includes friends I've known for years, and speakers I'm really eager to meet. It's going to be a great day.

Join me?

If you'd have told me ten years ago that part of my future career would be as a community organizer, or even organizing and curating conferences, I would have laughed. Sure, I have always enjoyed the conference setting, but I'm a DPM. That said, I like meeting new people and learning about better or different ways of working. I've always believed that conferences are valuable events for those who are both new to the industry or veterans. After all, there is always something new to learn, people to meet (or catch up with), and exchanges that inspire your work. Even as a person who attends a lot of conferences, I feel as though I have the opportunity to learn something new each time I attend, whether that be through listening to a talk or speaking with a colleague. That allows me to be a stronger consultant and help teams and companies identify and resolve challenges.

Needless to say, I am truly looking forward to Ground Control! And I have to admit: I'm a lucky guy. I get to speak and learn about and the work that I truly love doing, and I get to organize events that bring like-minded people together. And, in doing so, I strengthen my own expertise and broaden my contacts. You can do the exact same thing next month! I hope you'll join me in London April 20-21, and say hello.

Thank you to my new friends at White October Events for involving me in this event. You've made my year.

February 1, 2016 - 3 comments

Principles for Digital Project Management

“How did I get here?”

It’s a question many project managers ask themselves. Most of us fell into this. One job led to another, then maybe we realized that we were good at organizing rather than designing or coding. The term the industry uses is “accidental project manager,” but that sounds a tad too aimless to me. You see, we may have fallen into this, but it sure as hell was no accident. We’re here because we’re needed.

Personally, I never planned to be here. But I’m sure happy I made it. At different points in my life, I thought I was going to be a doctor. Or maybe an editor. Because those are related in some way, right? Wrong. I had no real direction until I got into digital. But that’s okay! A lot of digital project managers end up in the field because they had to gain some real experience in a professional setting to realize the fact that they were meant to be project managers.

So we’re here. But where are we going?

We’ve established the fact that our teams need us. We stress over the details, large and small. We make connections, facilitate discussions, and always hope for the best. Some of us are good, some are bad. It’s the same with any profession. But for some reason, our colleagues get stuck on the bad ones and drag us good DPMs down. We’ve got to change that—and we will. In fact, we’re chipping away at making a name for this role. We’ve even started to talk about it. In fact, we’re five years into this whole “DPM community” thing. What do we have to show for it? Well, let me tell you:

  • A growing community of like-minded people who are eager to talk about the things that matter to them (just search #dpm #dpm2015 #dpmuk #pmot and other Twitter hashtags to find a couple of the conversations.
  • A growing network of blogs written by the brightest people in the field. Check out the musings of Carson Pierce, Natalie Semczuk, Holly Davis, and more.
  • Dozens of meet ups. They’re popping up in cities everywhere! DC, Phoenix, Manchester, Stockholm, Philadelphia, Minneapolis…the list goes on and on. If there isn’t one in your city, make it happen.
  • Conferences: The Digital PM Summit started it all and inspired other events like DPM:UK, and a couple of others you might see pop up this year. That’s an exciting hint, huh?
  • Support from others within our industry. Before, we were invited to their design and UX events. Now they’re invited to ours.

That’s a pretty great start, but it’s not enough. If we want to be better—do better—we have to make some changes. And it’s not just about connecting with one another and talking about what we do. It’s about filling a gap.

What’s missing?

Well, folks, we’re missing  one critical thing. A thread to tie us together and make us stronger professionally: Standards. You see, we’re all operating on different planes as digital project managers. We’re approaching the job with differences in experience, practice, and attitude. This is to be expected in some ways, but if we want to strengthen the perceptions of the role and genuinely solidify this community, we have to show a unified front of what it means to be a digital PM.

I’m not suggesting that we all operate using a set of the same templates. In fact, that would be horrible. I’m suggesting that we all operate under the same principles. Think of it as a manifesto for how we, as DPMs, present ourselves to the world.

Army of Awesome Slide

Check out the slides from my presentation. These include the first five principles.

I unveiled the first five of those principles at my DPM:UK keynote on January 28. These principles are short statements that describe who we are as DPMs. Within each principle are some core working functions. For example, we are consummate learners and teachers. Every day in our jobs, we are almost forced to keep up with new technologies, processes, and practices. We learn as much about those things so that we can support our teams and projects to create amazing products. At the same time, we take every opportunity to teach our clients and colleagues about what we’ve learned. This isn’t something I’m making up—this is what we do. I expanded more in the presentation, of course, but that should illustrate the idea for you. And just in case you don't want to check out the slides, here are the first five:

  1. We are Chaos Junkies
  2. We are Multilingual Communicators
  3. We are Loveable Hardasses
  4. We are Consummate Learners & Teachers
  5. We are Pathfinders

Check out the slides to see some supporting content. And, soon, I'll link to the video of the talk, because the fine folks at Manchester Digital recorded all of the sessions.


Be Heard.

2016-01-28 17.26.56At the end of the session, I asked the audience to share what they thought would be good additions to the principles.  The response was great and varied. I saw everything from "We Are Always On" to "We Are the Glue" and many others. This input is very valuable to me. See, I don’t think this is just up to me. I can’t (and shouldn’t) dictate a bunch of principles and expect you to adopt them. So let’s do this together.  If you want to impact this change for our community, for our work, take part.

All you have to do is fill in the blank:

WE ARE _________.

Tweet your answer with the hashtag #weareDPM and share it with the community. From there, I’ll build these principles and share them with the community. This could come in the form of a document, book chapter, blog post, etc. Whatever it is, it’s going to be awesome—because of you.


The first version of this article was posted to Every Day DPM on January 28, 2016 (the day I gave the talk).