Why I didn’t take any notes during Paul Boags Digital Adaptation and other adventures from @DPMUK14

My Digital PM Conference adventure started at 4:47am (the latest I decided I could set my alarm as I needed at least the minimum 3 minute snooze). Skip forward 3 hours and I’m walking into The Comedy Store, handed the schedule with my name on and a goody bag.

The first thing I notice is my lanyard smells like spices, then “Ooo free tea”.

Be a Better PM
– You are not superman and know when to be a jerk.
– Brett Harned

I have to say, Brett did a brilliant job of kicking off the day. When he first said he was going to list off 25 ways to be a better PM, I was wondering how he was going to keep us all engaged and not turn into my dad reading me every single line of an instruction manual…

… I wrote 10  pages of notes.




Granted, my notebook is pretty small BUT STILL! Every word that came out of his mouth was worthy of being turned into my terrible handwriting. Not only was it all extremely insightful, it was interesting and the advice he gave along with each of his points was priceless and applicable to managers in any discipline.

The advice:IMG_20140130_171417

  1. Ask questions
  2. Learn from your mistakes
  3. Be patient
  4. Set expectations
  5. Be a cheerleader
  6. Know your craft
  7. Don’t ignore difficult conversations
  8. Own your calendar
  9. Own your process
  10. Share (almost) everything
  11. Bring snacks
  12. Vent to the right people
  13. Have fun
  14. Practice Saying “No”
  15. Proofread everything
  16. Be concise
  17. Take good notes
  18. Facilitate useful feedback
  19. Conduct status meetings
  20. Follow up
  21. Understand what it takes
  22. Be a Jerk (when you need to be)
  23. Keep calm
  24. Stay Informed
  25. Be proud of your role



Vice Versa Client Management – I thought I was going to be the best client in the universe.
– Sam Barnes

I loved this talk.

“The Mega Beasts”

Sam hit the nail on the head when he gave this name to those supremely annoying clients we all know and hate. Then he brought out the last feeling on earth I thought I could feel towards these monsters.


What he was saying made so much sense, that I couldn’t help but start to see less of a monster and more of a misunderstood human.

The advice:

To help get Sam’s point across I have made the following replacements:IMG_20140130_171225

The Client with The Hulk

Stupid and Annoying with Big and Green

  1. Being The Hulk is really hard
  2. The Hulk doesn’t always get designated time for the project
  3. Why not offer The Hulk some support?
  4. Mix up the proposal to make it stand out to The Hulk – put the price at the front and then show The Hulk why you are worth it!
  5. Give The Hulk realistic timelines
  6. Get involved with the pre-sale to The Hulk
  7. Audio record meetings with The Hulk
  8. Educate The Hulk
  9. Explain PM and agencies in detail to The Hulk
  10. Be transparent about the process and lifecycle
  11. Manage The Hulk like you manage your team, but never at the expense of your team
  12. Explain to your team why The Hulk is Big and Green
  13. Make The Hulk look good
  14. Be honest with The Hulk
  15. Give The Hulk weekly reports
  16. Do the right thing; it will all work out in the end.
  17. Resist the urge to retaliate The Hulk <- Smart people do not punch The Hulk
  18. Remain professional
  19. Get The Hulks feedback



Change your business, Change the world – I do love cows.
– Rob Borley

Rob offered a look into an extremely innovative and modern business culture by telling us about the way his company runs its projects and its staff. Seeing how Agile can be taken to the extreme and have measurable benefits for a digital company.

The one thing I took away from the talk was that they are based on a working farm with cows! How brilliant is that?!

Jokes. That wasn’t the only thing I came out thinking about. I also was interested in the idea of the Hulk client being the project manager, or “Project Owner” as they referred to them. Although a big risk, it obviously works for them and being able to be that transparent about all the bumps and brick walls that are inevitable for every project, is something I would definitely like to see in action.






Digital in the Business Driving Seat – Kaleidoscopes are pretty.
– Mark Coster

Agile is something that is very new to me, and not something I have seen in practice. So for that reason this talk was a little wasted on me. It was great to hear about the way his company runs and the high profile projects they had been working on though!

“Agile is a broad landscape of methodologies, principles, practices and tools. Kaleidoscope – mirrors and patterns explores this rich tapestry – the themes of how practices are used, the broad differences and variation and how teams go through adoption and evolution. The common strand is what practices you chose, how you adapt yourself, your team and organisation to this disruptive change, but crucially how you adapt the practices over time as the team and organisation evolves.”

Despite of my ignorance, I did take something extremely useful from his talk. A quote that I think summed up his point, and the reason we were all sitting there perfectly.

“It is not necessary to change. Survival is not mandatory” – W. Edwards Deming



Avoiding Project Fatigue – Also, avoid marathons.
– Suze Haworth

The way Suze presented this to us was just genius. Using the similarities between the stages you hit during a marathon and the stages you hit during a lengthy project really helped with getting her points across.

Stage 1: The start -> This is exciting. The projects potential is all there in front of you.

Stage 2: A few miles in -> You can do this. Ideas come together and things start to fall into place.

Stage 3: The wall -> I want to walk. Why did I even start?

Easy to relate to isn’t it?

The advice:

  1. Knowledge
    1. Keep yourself, your team and your clients informed
  2. Communication
    1. Continue the communication, even during the slow parts
  3. Smaller Goals
    1. Breakdown the work into smaller, manageable goals
  4. Show Stuff
    1. Show work in progress to clients and your team
  5. Reward
    1. Celebrate launches and milestones
    2. Execute internal and external PR with shoutouts.
  6. Motivation
    1. Work out what motivates your team.
    2. Set personal goals for each project. What do you want to get from this?
  7. Take a break
    1. Give your team a break to do something different
    2. Brings in a fresh perspective
  8. Don’t forget yourself



Taming the UX Unicorn – Designing for interaction is important
– Ian Fenn

“Sometimes we need to tell a client their baby is ugly”



Digital Adaption – Time to untie your hands
– Paul Boag

This is all I wrote down during Pauls talk:


I know what you’re thinking

  1. “Wow your handwriting is terrible for a girl!”
    1. Yes, but in my defence this was in my 8th hour of writing and it was starting to hurt.
    2. “I thought you said you didn’t take ANY notes”
      1. They do not deserve the title of notes! End of discussion.


The advice reason I took no notes:

I was far too engaged! I just wanted to watch, listen and absorb what he had to say.

It was clever, funny and had so many of those moments that just made me want to shout “Amen!” – but obviously I refrained, I didn’t want to be that weirdo.

I completely recommend you spend the little time it takes (39 minutes and 32 seconds of pure worthiness) watching his presentation on Digital Adaptation and hearing the advice for yourself.


If you have managed to read all 1,409 words and reached this point, I hope you have enjoyed the adventure as much as I did. DPM:UK was a great event, congratulations to everyone involved!

Project Manager @iwebtweets. Web developer with a love for design who mostly tweets about Magento, WordPress, eCommerce, Adwords & Food. Can be a little random.