DPM Podcast

DPM Podcast: Case Study: Managing a 2-Week Project (With Jenna Trunzo)

By 28/05/2019 No Comments

This podcast is part of an article published on The Digital Project Manager.
You can read the article here.

This podcast is brought to you by Clarizen, the leader in enterprise projects and project management software.

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Ben Aston:

Welcome to the DPM podcast where we go beyond theory to give expert PM advice for leading better digital projects. Thanks for tuning in. I’m Ben Aston, founder of The Digital Project Manager. Now in the digital wild west that we call home it’s not totally surprising when we get landed with a project with a tiny budget, some pretty unclear scope and a tight timeline, but what do you do if that tiny timeline is just two weeks? In today’s podcast, we’re going to talk through how you can effectively plan and execute a project when, to be honest, there’s not enough time to do it properly. Keep listening if you want to find out what you can cut and what kind of corner cutting will sink your project.

Ben Aston:

Today I’m joined by Jenna Trunzo. Jenna is a Certified ScrumMaster, also a Certified Product Owner, and she’s a project manager at Globant, at least I think that’s how you say it. They’re a company in Raleigh, North Carolina. We’re going to talk a bit about her journey to becoming a project manager, which she describes as a happy accident. We’ll find out what that accident was. Now she uses her skills to drive teams forwards in this agency that talk a lot about Agile. I want to talk about that as well, but hello Jenna. Nice to have you on the show today.

Jenna Trunzo:

Hey Ben, thanks so much for having me, and good job, you did pronounce it correctly. It is Globant.

Ben Aston:

Globant. Do you know what is Globant? Is that just a name that is just kind of like global or what Global?

Jenna Trunzo:

I’d like to make up a fancy story that would make it sound interesting, but I honestly don’t know.

Ben Aston:

I used to work for an agency called FCV and people always wanted to know what did FCV stand for.

Jenna Trunzo:

Right.

Ben Aston:

The reality was it doesn’t stand for anything. It used to stand for something called False Creek Ventures, but that doesn’t sound like … A, that doesn’t sound good, and B, that doesn’t really sound like an agency.

Jenna Trunzo:

Right, so you just made up stories?

Ben Aston:

FCV it was. Yeah. Well, sadly when you say FCV over the phone, it sounds like all kinds of things including STD.

Jenna Trunzo:

Right, which isn’t nice … .

Ben Aston:

Yeah, so you need to be careful.

Jenna Trunzo:

Sure.

Ben Aston:

Anyway, enough about names. Tell us a bit about what you do at Globant then.

Jenna Trunzo:

Sure. I’m a project manager here at Globant. We do everything from like data migration to artificial intelligence. It’s all project based and it just really depends. I’ve done everything from very small projects to the project I’m on currently, which is quite large. There’s quite a variance here. We have about 8,000 people total in the company. I’m located here in Raleigh. We have about 150 at this office.

Ben Aston:

Cool. I mean tell us first a bit about your story. I mean you describe it as a happy accident. What was the accident, because you were a graphic designer turned marketing manager, then project manager? What was the happy accident that happened? Tell us that.

Jenna Trunzo:

Right. Yes. I’m sure there are people out there in the creative fields early on and when I was doing that, a lot of work was getting outsourced and there wasn’t a lot of job availability. I’m originally from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and that’s where I was in that field of work. There just really wasn’t a lot. When I moved to North Carolina, I took a job as a marketing manager for a real estate team and I spent the better part of 10 years doing that. I really enjoyed it, but essentially what I was doing was, in fact, project management, we just didn’t call it that.

Ben Aston:

Right.

Jenna Trunzo:

I had known some people that worked at this company and I had told them I was sort of unhappy where I was at at that point. They were like, “You really should check this company out. We’re hiring project managers right now. It sounds a lot like what you’re doing.” I said, “Oh, I don’t have any experience in the tech world. I don’t know. I don’t know.” I kind of put it off for a little while and finally they got the better of me and I went ahead and applied. It’s kind of been one of the best decisions I made, so it was a happy accident.

Ben Aston:

Awesome. I mean you’ve talked about you were effectively doing project management before, but when you went to Globant, what did you kind of discover that in a big agency, what were the kind of big things that you had to transition to or adapt in terms of the way you operated?

Jenna Trunzo:

Well, sure. On the very basic level, I was working from home. I was working remotely prior. At this job I’m coming into an office, which has also been great, but there was a lot of different process to sort of adapt to and a lot of different work with the type of clients I was working with, from the type of demands that I was trying to meet and that sort of thing. There was definitely a transition going from something like real estate into technology. There’s a lot of, believe it or not, there’s some similarities there, but there’s also, a lot of new terminology at the very basic level, a lot of new process, a lot of new ways of working a project that differ that was quite a bit of a transition, but a really good one.

Ben Aston:

Yeah. I know the Globant … I checked out the website and they talk a lot about Agile pods. Lots of people are talking about Agile and trying to implement it in different ways. Pods are one of those ways that seem to work. Talk us through how the pods … What kind of pod are you in and how does that work? How do you manage your pod?

Jenna Trunzo:

Sure. On a very high level, Globant operates under several different types of pods. For example, there might be a build pod or strategy pod. I think there’s five total. For the sake of this discussion though, I am in a hybrid pod. Essentially that is finding talent in each role suitable to the project you’re working on, and developing a pod from there. It’s essentially sort of a project team, but the difference being is that we are continuously assessing our own goals and accountability. From that we create our own methods and metrics for achieving that. As the pod matures, the idea is the strongest members that have sort of upheld these assessments would develop offshoot pods for the next project. They lead the next pod.

Ben Aston:

Okay. How many people in the pod total then?

Jenna Trunzo:

That can range. That can be anywhere from 3 to 20. On the one that I’m on right now, it’s eight.

Ben Aston:

Oh, okay. How is that pod resourced then? A project comes in and it’s assigned to a pod that then has to work out when it delivers the project or how does that work?

Jenna Trunzo:

Well, the project is determining when and what we’re delivering. The pod is sort of created for that project, unless this particular pod is working so effectively that then they move from one project directly to another project or client. That’s not always the way it happens, but in an ideal world it would. You would stay within your pod until it matures and splits off, but the idea there being you would transition from project to project.

Ben Aston:

Okay. The pods are constantly evolving.

Jenna Trunzo:

They are.

Ben Aston:

Yeah. Cool. I mean you talked about you are in a hybrid pod. Now typically within Agile or particularly Scrum, the project manager isn’t a role.

Jenna Trunzo:

Right.

Ben Aston:

Tell us what your role is within that pod or what functions do you do?

Jenna Trunzo:

Well, I mean there is a lot of the traditional project management. I mean I think Agile is used loosely sometimes, right?

Ben Aston:

Yeah.

Jenna Trunzo:

I am doing a lot of the traditional work from budget to scope to deliverables and that sort of thing, but in relation to the pods, it’s more about the health of the team and the project, being responsible for maintaining that pod, their assessments, their maturity and that sort of attribute.

Ben Aston:

Yeah, tell us about assessments and maturity. There are tests people do, is that how it works?

Jenna Trunzo:

Not necessarily tests. It’s more of a collaborative sort of thing where you would get together and sort of discuss, “Have we met these goals we set for ourselves at the beginning of this pod?” When we develop the constitution as a group, as a team, every, I don’t know what it is, three to six months or so, we’re assessing to see, “Are we upholding this? Are we doing it the right way? Do we need to adjust anything,” and so forth. I will disclaimer in saying that this is a relatively new concept to us because Globant is a … We were acquired by Globant not all that long ago so we are transitioning into their way of working.

Ben Aston:

Well, exciting times ahead then.

Jenna Trunzo:

Yes.

Ben Aston:

I always ask people what, if any, tools they use, because I think project managers are always interested in finding out what new and cool tools people are using. What’s in your PM toolkit that you are a big fan of?

Jenna Trunzo:

Right. Right. Advil, definitely Advil. I’m just kidding. I’m very fortunate. I work in a very highly collaborative environment. Actually my coworkers are my greatest tool. We are constantly bouncing situations and project work off of each other for second opinions. “Did this work with your project? Did that work with yours,” et cetera, but strictly on a tool level, pretty traditional. We use Jira a lot. We use Confluence. Google Drive is our main sort of hub here, and then any sort of offshoot things that the designers send over or need us to kind of work with or what have you, but those three are really our main go to.

Ben Aston:

Yeah, the classics.

Jenna Trunzo:

Yes, the classics.

Ben Aston:

Cool. Well let’s talk about your posts. For those of you that haven’t read the post yet, as I mentioned at the beginning, it was a two week project that Jenna got landed with. Tell us first how this project got landed on you in the first place, because for most people, like if they were told, “Hey, you need to deliver this project and you have to deliver it in two weeks,” it would be enough to give people a mild heart attack. How did this project land on you and rather than deflect it, you took it on?

Jenna Trunzo:

Right.

Ben Aston:

Was that a choice that you had or was that just, “Hey, Jenna, this is yours, get it done?”

Jenna Trunzo:

Well, so a little bit of both. I mean I had availability so that was great. One of my projects had recently wrapped up, so I was available. At the same time, I do work at a company where they are pretty respectful of if this is something you really just don’t want to work on, they will go ahead and move it to somebody else, but at the same time I really like projects that involve a little bit of creativity and a little bit of challenge. I didn’t mind doing it. I figured, you know what, in two weeks it can’t go too, too poorly, right?

Ben Aston:

What could possibly go wrong?

Jenna Trunzo:

What could possibly go wrong in two weeks? Yeah.

Ben Aston:

Why was the timeline two weeks, because I mean in the post you talk about the fact that there was some testing that was scheduled? I mean, but it seems like … Was that an arbitrary date really, or was it really important that it was only two weeks?

Jenna Trunzo:

It was really important that it was only two weeks. The company had lined up a user testing assuming that they were going to be able to get done what they needed to get done for that time. They were committed and locked into that user testing, the parameters of which I don’t know, but they were unable to do what they needed to do. They needed us to come in and make these clickable prototypes in two weeks that guaranteed that they were ready for the user testing that they had lined up.

Ben Aston:

Cool. In terms of the project, you had two weeks and you were creating a functional prototype for some user testing. They couldn’t move. Can you tell us a bit more about the thing that you were prototyping, because yeah, to be able to build a functional prototype that’s really truly functional and that you can get some good insights from user testing, it has to be pretty fully fleshed out, so what was it that you were building?

Jenna Trunzo:

Yes. Sure. The company was looking at how their appliance user interface was coming across. What they needed was for us to take their current interface on their appliance, a specific appliance, and prototype that out so that it was essentially mimicking how you would interact as a consumer with that appliance. Then each prototype was significant to an entire user flow. Essentially, whatever button they were clicking would then sequentially lead them down a path. We had to make sure that these prototypes did, in fact, lead them down that path.

Ben Aston:

Okay. When you’re talking about an appliance, you’re not talking about software, you’re talking about like an oven or something?

Jenna Trunzo:

Correct. Yes, like a convection oven.

Ben Aston:

Okay. Wonderful, okay. You were doing … You were creating … What did your actual prototypes … What were they? Were they just pictures of an oven’s like display?

Jenna Trunzo:

Sort of. It was all of the buttons available and then the displays that would show as you interacted with those buttons. Let’s say I wanted to automate based on a certain type of food. I’m just throwing things out there. For example, you would hit button X and the display would do A, B, C, D and E, but if you hit button Y, what would the display do then and how does that meet the consumer’s needs?

Ben Aston:

Right. Yeah. Wow, oven UX.

Jenna Trunzo:

Yes.

Ben Aston:

The final kind of prototype, was it wire frames that were like clickable or what was the final output by the end of the two weeks?

Jenna Trunzo:

Right. They were clickable wire frames essentially with a little bit more design specifications per the client’s ask. They had a little bit more of the exact fonts and spacing and sort of the design parameters that the actual appliance was going to use, but yes, essentially clickable wire frames.

Ben Aston:

Was that in Envision or …, or what was that in?

Jenna Trunzo:

I believe that they did that in Envision.

Ben Aston:

Okay. In two weeks you went from having … It wasn’t entirely from scratch because the oven’s interface was kind of already there, right?

Jenna Trunzo:

Right, right, right.

Ben Aston:

You were just working out, in two weeks, different flows so that you could test out whether or not when people use this oven, it made sense to them?

Jenna Trunzo:

Right. Yes. One of the challenges we had was that the client’s design team had given us the wrong design specifications to start with. That becomes a challenge when you only have two weeks to actually produce this and you’re producing the wrong thing per their ask, right? That was a bit of a blocker, to say the least.

Ben Aston:

At what point did you realize that they were the wrong ones?

Jenna Trunzo:

Well, one of the things I talk about in my article is making sure that you, in a project this short, that your two main points are having daily stand ups and demos. That’s exactly what we did, because we wanted to find out sooner rather than later if something wasn’t quite right. That’s exactly what happened in the situation. It was daily check-ins with this client, daily updates on progress. Most of them were were demos or visual check-ins. It was very apparent very early on that they had given us the wrong information. We were able, thankfully, to kind of correct that as soon as possible, but we wouldn’t have been able to if we weren’t having like such constant contact.

Ben Aston:

Yeah. The timeline and the budget you describe as being all fixed, but I’m curious what flex you had on the scope, because clearly like the user testing was going to happen, there were some flows they wanted you to kind of flesh out, but what flex was there on how many screens and flows you were going to develop?

Jenna Trunzo:

Well, not much actually, because we were asked to do, I believe it was six, six flows and six full prototypes. The problem there is that if we didn’t produce all of them, the testing was impacted because one was significant to the next. If we didn’t produce all of them, if the scope changed at all, you were changing the entire experience for the user.

Ben Aston:

Yeah. Okay, so fixed scope, fixed timeline.

Jenna Trunzo:

Yeah,….

Ben Aston:

How did you plan that out then, because before … Obviously after day one, I’m guessing, you realized the design was wrong, but you’ve got 6 flows to do in 10 days. How did you plan that out?

Jenna Trunzo:

Well, I mean, to the extent that you can plan anything like that, I guess. It was really a lot of upfront collaboration with the full team. This is one of those situations where you really have to test yourself as a project manager to sort of adapt and break that traditional mold because we do tend to box ourselves into a certain process that we’re comfortable with as a project manager. This blows that all out of the water. You need to find ways to become efficient out of necessity, and it becomes a really good learning experience. The basic plan just came about with looking at what the client’s assets were, what we needed at the end, and kind of looking at the calendar and saying, “All right, on average we know we can do about one flow per two days.” If you average it out, it kind of worked knowing that some were a little shorter, some were a little longer.

Ben Aston:

Right.

Jenna Trunzo:

It was basically like, “You have to do this.” There wasn’t a lot of variation.

Ben Aston:

Okay. You effectively … I mean you had 10 days, but that would have taken 12 days, but the way that you approached it was to time box the development of the flow, because I think that can be one of the challenges, right? When you’ve got a tight timeline, people can, after the first one they want to finesse it and make it right and then your timeline is being eroded. You planned for two days-ish per flow.

Jenna Trunzo:

Right.

Ben Aston:

Did you kind of bake into that knowing that it would take them longer at the beginning and then they would speed up as they go through?

Jenna Trunzo:

Yeah, I mean we knew that once they had some of the fundamentals ironed out that the remaining we’re going to go a little faster. We knew that once we had established a good demo, the first really good demo with a client, we knew where their feedback was going to be so we could adjust accordingly. We also kind of knew the pace that our developers worked and were willing to work and the hours we have allotted. It was a risk for sure, but I mean that’s the nature of something so short like that.

Ben Aston:

Okay. They weren’t just doing the wires, they were also developing something?

Jenna Trunzo:

Well they were making it completely … The developers were making it completely clickable, but it wasn’t really … I mean there wasn’t a full build.

Ben Aston:

Yeah. Cool. You talked about after day one, I’m guessing, you realized that you got the wrong specs. That put you back a day, or at least cut into that kind of plan. How did you adapt your plan after that kind of hiccup?

Jenna Trunzo:

Sure. We had a little bit of budget flexibility for our margin. We were able to bring in an extra developer just for a day or two to kind of lend a hand where needed. That worked out perfectly. We didn’t impact our own cost very much and we were able to produce it still within that timeline.

Ben Aston:

That’s cool. I mean, would you say the plan worked?

Jenna Trunzo:

Yeah.

Ben Aston:

Was that enough of a plan?

Jenna Trunzo:

I think it was enough of a plan to the extent that there wasn’t a lot of wiggle room, right? It got done and it got done correctly and we had a really healthy relationship with the client at the end of it. I think the plan worked. Looking back on it, I think I would have tried to get a better understanding from our tech lead of which flows were going to require a little bit more time so that maybe I could help them adjust which ones they were working on on what days, but he was sort of in charge of our developers and he had a really good feel for the velocity that they worked in and that sort of thing. I trusted in him a lot. That’s part of it is trusting your team.

Ben Aston:

Yeah. What aspects of the plan didn’t work? Where did things, or if they did, did the plan unravel at all where you kind of like planned out these two days? Where did things become unstuck along the way?

Jenna Trunzo:

I mean I’ve got to say I’m really pleased with the number of things that could have gone wrong but didn’t. I mean I’m pretty pleased with how it turned out. I definitely think though that I would have held the client a little bit more accountable at the beginning, making sure that we had exactly what we needed before we started working, because it did seem like we did, but I really think that if I could do it again I’d have them double, triple check, make sure these are exactly what we’re getting into. That definitely could have taken a day off the project.

Ben Aston:

Yeah. I mean, what are your kind of learnings from this in terms of approaching a project like this next time? Would you plan it differently next time or what would you do differently?

Jenna Trunzo:

I think we made a lot of really good moves but there are definite disadvantages and definite things that you have to sacrifice along the way. I’m trying to think back and see if there’s anything I really, really would have-

Ben Aston:

Yeah, were there any corners that you tried cutting that you then had to go back and do anyway, because I think that can be often one of the things that in a kind of tight timeline situation you’re like, “Okay, well we don’t have time for a proper brief,” and so you just try getting the team down and talking with them.

Jenna Trunzo:

Right.

Ben Aston:

Then you’re like the team comes back two hours later and they’re like, “Can you write down a brief please?”

Jenna Trunzo:

Right.

Ben Aston:

There are things where we like, “Okay, well we’re not going to do daily Scrums because we haven’t got time for it,” and then you realize you are having daily Scrums anyway. I’m curious as to if there are any corners that you tried cutting that you had to actually go and do anyway?

Jenna Trunzo:

I mean we didn’t have like a formal kickoff, so to speak. There wasn’t like a sit down sort of discussion of role clarity. I’m not so sure we absolutely needed that, but I think that if we had more of a structure for how the team was working as opposed to like a free for all of who can get done what the fastest, I think that would have definitely been helpful.

Ben Aston:

Right.

Jenna Trunzo:

Not necessarily a kickoff, but more of a role clarity session, if you will, just something very basic. I think that was something that we cut that we could have used.

Ben Aston:

Yeah. Yeah, because I think when you’re working on these really tight timeline projects, you know that every minute counts.

Jenna Trunzo:

Right.

Ben Aston:

I think particularly when it’s on that first morning where you’re like, “Okay, we’ve got two weeks to do this. We just need to get going.” I think the tricky thing is getting the team enough clarity so that they know where they need to get to and they kind of agree the steps along the way, but without kind of going into the nth degree of detail around that. That balance of, do the team … Are they really, really clear on what needs to be done and why and what’s going to make this successful? Getting that really clear.

Jenna Trunzo:

And who.

Ben Aston:

Yeah, and who.

Jenna Trunzo:

Yeah, exactly.

Ben Aston:

That can make a massive difference in their effectiveness throughout the rest of the time, but it can often be one of the things where we’re like, “Hey, we think … Oh, because we understand it then the team surely understand it because it’s not that complicated often.”

Jenna Trunzo:

Exactly. That’s definitely also one of the things that you have to be careful with the client because they’re not all necessarily versed in the same things that we are versed in. They might think that they understand completely what we’re going to be doing and then when we give it to them they’re like, “Wait a minute, I don’t understand this at all.” Again, that cutting of corners, I think maybe we could have taken even an hour to sort of really define things a little bit better.

Ben Aston:

Yeah. Cool. Well Jenna, thanks so much for joining us. It’s been great having you with us.

Jenna Trunzo:

Thank you so much. I really appreciate talking to you.

Ben Aston:

I wonder what you think. Have you ever run a project with a crazy timeline? How did it go? Tell us what you think, how you managed it, the corners you cut and the corners that you tried cutting and it didn’t quite work. Then go to TheDigitalProjectManager.com and join our Slack team. You’ll find all kinds of interesting conversations going on there about all things digital project management. If you like what you heard today, please subscribe and take a couple of minutes just to leave an honest review. We read all of them and it really helps us tailor the show and make it better. It’s really greatly appreciated, but until next time, thanks for listening.

Ben Aston

Ben Aston

I’m Ben Aston, a digital project manager. I've been in the industry for more than 10 years working in the UK at London’s top digital agencies including Dare, Wunderman, Lowe and DDB. I’ve delivered everything from video virals to CMS’, flash games to banner ads and eCRM to eCommerce sites. I’ve been fortunate enough to work across a wide range of great clients; automotive brands including Land Rover, Volkswagen and Honda; Utility brands including BT, British Gas and Exxon, FMCG brands such as Unilever, and consumer electronics brands including Sony.

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