A digital project manager is a new breed of manager that works specifically on tech-focused assignments. Whether it’s building a website, setting up a winning social media strategy, or launching an ecommerce business, these digital whizzes are the puppet masters behind it all.
However, as a relatively recent phenomenon, it’s still a little confusing to understand exactly who these people are and what makes them good at their job. To clarify that question, we’ve made a list of the 10 most important characteristics for a digital project manager. So if you’re interested in a promotion or a career switch, read on!
To kick this list off, we’re starting with perhaps the most important digital project management characteristic of all — people management. Starting from the hiring stage, you’ll want to pull together a team that vibes together. That means the cultural fit is almost as important as the technical skills.
In the day-to-day running of your operation, the way you handle relationships and conflict can either make or break your project. Your personality can be a great unifier, so critically analyze your own performance on that front.
To get the best out of your team, you need to invest in them. Take time to get to know each person’s strengths and weaknesses, and set achievable targets to keep them motivated. Even in the tough times, you need to regularly check in on people to keep them running at full speed. In-person meetings (or video calls for remote project managers) throughout every project are an essential part of your people management strategy.
The tech world changes at a blistering pace, and if you’re not moving forward, you’re falling behind. To be a competitive digital project manager, you need to know the who’s who and what’s what of your specialism, which is almost a full-time job in itself.
Take website building, for example. There are rapid advances in every category, with AI breaking new barriers, SEO best practices in constant flux, and voice-activated apps taking off. All of these technologies are opportunities to get one step ahead of your competitors, and to fully understand their potential, you need to do the hard work.
Devour information in any way you can: read websites, attend conferences, and ask questions. A great method we love is to find industry podcasts and listen to them when you’re cooking, on your way to work, or out exercising. You can even play them at double speed to really increase your productivity.
Of course, you can’t expect to know every detail about every topic, so encourage everyone to do the same in their specialties and reap the rewards as a team.
Anybody from the digital world will expect to work in an agile way. Unlike traditional, rigid waterfall approaches, agile methodologies like scrum allow you to be flexible, changing your focus where necessary and running iterations until you get it right.
As you plan your project, split it down into two-week sprints that you can attack over ten days before reflecting on your progress. Great for keeping a close eye on your team’s progress, you can also use them to demonstrate your progress to clients.
Managers who can use agile methodology to their advantage will stay focused by always having their overarching goals listed on a Kanban board. They’ll also enjoy a motivated team who can see their individual progress and how it all relates to the project as a whole.
A common pitfall for inexperienced digital project managers is the temptation to take a “my way or the highway approach”. The lack of experience and confidence means these individuals have their plates full with the basics of running a project, making them inflexible, afraid of listening to new ideas.
Therefore, one of the best characteristics of a digital project manager is to take input from everybody involved: clients, mid-management, and technical workers. They say two brains are better than one, and by getting a diversity of opinions, you can take advantage of innovative ideas from the hive mind.
Of course, you don’t have to implement every suggestion. In fact, most of them will be duly noted and quickly forgotten about. But when executed in a respectful way, everybody involved will feel listened to and valued, which is great for motivation.
As is always the case with extremes, you need to strike the balance. It is great to canvass for opinions, but spending too much time on it is detrimental to the progress of a project.
Another problem of first-time digital project managers is not knowing when to call in for backup. It’s easy to lose perspective when you’re stressed, and the entire world is chasing you up for tasks. But when you take a deep breath and look at the bigger picture, it’s often easy to find a simple solution.
We’re talking about outsourcing, delegating, and automation. Three concepts that, when used correctly, make digital project management much easier.
Outsourcing is your go-to option when you don’t have the skills or the time to do a series of tasks in-house. Let’s say you’re creating a video game, and you need to test it. Sure, you could get your team to give it a whirl, but if there is a specialist organization that can cover all your bases, no questions asked, it’s probably best to leave it to them.
Delegating is a great way of reducing your workload while giving certain team members a motivational boost. With a clearer schedule and a clearer headspace, a manager can think more strategically instead of putting out fires.
Automation is like a free personal assistant. You can link your workflows with dependencies and assign each task automatically, and notify all the relevant people of every update.
Visualize your projects in a form of Gantt chart, Kanban board, calendar or scrum, and track progress in real time.
Using tools you aren’t familiar with is a dangerous game, so to save on time and costly mistakes, get fully acquainted with the tools you’re using. This applies to your team too. A good digital project manager will run training sessions on all software and processes to ensure a smooth-running project.
Use a range of tools, but don’t fall into the trap of overcomplicating things. For example, you can create neat workflow templates rather than building new ones from scratch every time you start a project. This will not only save you time, but being used to the processes, your team can get to work straight away.
Whether you realize it or not, people who are deep in the digital sphere speak a different language to the civilians on the outside. A mix of jargon, acronyms, and name drops can be incredibly confusing to people without a digital background, and if your clients are contracting your services, it’s likely they fall into this category.
A good digital project manager should be able to translate technical concepts and specific details into regular language to keep clients on side. This is all part of offering a greater customer experience, which can give you the edge over more rigid competitors.
Use preliminary meetings to gauge your clients’ level of expertise at the outset, and set up post-project forms to get feedback on your approach. If you’ve ever been on the client side in the past, draw on that experience to customize your strategy going forward. Just like any other skill, it will take practice. But with the right attitude, you can be a master communicator.
You may live by the mantra that the customer is always right, but if your team is overworked and under-motivated, you’re going to run into problems. Among the most valued characteristics of a digital project manager is people management, and this means clients and your team.
Take preventative action by setting realistic expectations from the outset. That means not overpromising on what you can deliver for your clients, and being honest about the level of commitment you need from your workforce.
Both of these elements are two-way streets. When dealing with clients, digital project management involves identifying and exploring the primary goals as well as secondary “nice-to-haves”. Turning to your team, create an environment where even the most junior profiles feel comfortable to raise concerns with their workflow.
Ignoring either of these essential tasks will do you no favors in the long run, so take your head out of the sand and start listening to your stakeholders.
Newsflash: If you’re in digital project management, you’re going to have to know your way around a virtual office. Not only does it show you know your stuff, but you open your team’s talent pool to a global level by hiring for remote jobs.
A remote project manager needs to be even more organized than their in-office counterparts. Without visual and verbal reminders coming from your colleagues, you’ll have to populate your calendar with a bunch of reminders to stay on track.
You’ll also need to find ways of bringing your team together. Without daily face-to-face interactions, you can look for other ways to create key bonds that will eliminate siloing. A social channel on your instant messenger can be ideal to put a smile on the faces of your team, and make it easier to call in a favor during your project.
In this age of data, you can’t stick to tradition and ignore the fantastic analytics tools that are out there. Data and analytics are the not-so-secret weapon to improving performance and understanding your team’s strengths and weaknesses.
One of the most basic ways to use analytics is time tracking software. Especially useful for remote project managers, they allow you to compare time allotted with the time taken for each task. Most of your projects will have similar tasks in them, so you can gradually learn how long each should take, improving your planning.
But a good grasp of analytics works into your favor on the client side too. Stakeholders love seeing cold, hard facts to back up your progress reports, so make them look pretty and add them to your presentations. These analytics tools are more likely to measure the performance of your output product, for example, web traffic or sales, and Google Analytics is the first port of call. If you can integrate it with your other business tools, so much the better!
But without solid experience, you’ll find yourself thrown in at the deep end.
The best way to start is by getting to grips with an all-in-one business platform like Bitrix24. You get a full arsenal of project management, communication, and agile tools to run your ship efficiently and effectively. Far more than a training ground, Bitrix24 is the engine behind digital projects all over the world.
So if you’re in the market for a platform that does it all, sign up for Bitrix24 today.
Digital project managers are responsible for:
A digital project manager needs excellent knowledge of the tech industry alongside the following skills:
Examples of digital projects include:
You can become a digital project manager by getting certified as a project manager or scrum master, but there is no replacement for building tangible experience in web or software development.