Audio Transcription

Ben Aston:

Hey thanks for tuning in, I’m Ben Aston and this is the digital project manager podcast. Today I’m joined by Brian Kessman and today we are going to be talking about his article he just wrote for us on building and scaling digital project management teams within an agency. But before we get onto talking about your article Bryan, why don’t you just tell us a bit about yourself.

Brian Kessman:

Yeah sure, so first thanks for having me on your podcast and for the invitation to write the blog post, I enjoyed doing that. So for me I am based in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, originally I’m from New York, I grew up in Long Island and lived in Manhattan for a few years but now we’re settled here and today I’m running a consulting firm, Lodestar Digital, and that’s my deal.

Ben Aston:

Cool so tell us a bit about Lodestar, what does Lodestar do?

Brian Kessman:

Sure. So Lodestar is a consulting group. The focus is to help digital and creative agencies build and fix their digital services, so what that means in terms of the work that I do, it might be helping agencies with things like organizational or team structure changes all in the name of delivering better digital work. Creating

Sure. So Lodestar is a consulting group. The focus is to help digital and creative agencies build and fix their digital services, so what that means in terms of the work that I do, it might be helping agencies with things like organizational or team structure changes all in the name of delivering better digital work. Creating maybe new digital disciplines, like digital project management and scaling or streamlining workflow. Maybe sometimes it’s implementing agile practices but more of a modified version for the creative space. So that’s really the categories of services.

Ben Aston:

Cool, and so you’re also now consulting doing this kind of thing, so how did you get into digital project management and helping agencies do this kind of thing, what’s your background for that?

Brian Kessman:

So I first got into project management years ago when I was doing tech consulting and that sort of, after tech consulting I have been in the advertising space already but I took some time off to do tech consulting and that’s where I got introduced to project management. But when I went back into the agency space after that I was able to apply those skills and so for the past, I mean overall the past seventeen or eighteen years I was mostly with agencies of a digital variety or roles with traditional agencies but the roles have been digitally focused.

So that’s really the span of my experience but the last ten years specifically the roles that I’ve been focused on hoping to improve agency process and delivery and website development, app development, things like that, and so I’ve seen a lot of mainly growing pains, the agencies I worked with have always been on the small or mid size range and so as they would grow I would start to see similar patterns that I saw at other agencies and that I had already been able to fix so I decided to go out and help agencies today with those same problems because there’s a lot more digital work that’s happening these days and I think a large amount of agencies are still struggling with that, either on a creative side, to do digital for the first time or at least expand that, or digital agencies that are just growing and need help being better at that.

Ben Aston:

Yeah, so what are the kind things are you talking about you’re helping kind of traditional agencies become digital and scaling. So what are the kind of typical challenges that you encounter with that? What are the … What are the typical problems that people face? ‘Cause I’m sure it will resonate with some of our listeners who are probably experiences similar problems.

Brian Kessman:

Sure, yeah, so for the most part I think the main cause of a lot of challenges within a creative agency is sort of the siloed approach to having your disciplines where you’re still handing off work or tossing it over the wall to the next team or group that needs to work on it, it’s not as bad as it used to be but it still happens, especially in larger traditional agencies. So what I try to do for them is offer the cross-discipline team model where you really have the either these fixed or temporarily assigned cross-functional teams where they are working together, there’s more transparency, better understanding of each persons’ role. A lot of that really increases every bodies digital awareness or skillset.

Just one example is maybe you may have a designer working on a website design but they are not really digitally focused so they are not really taking into consideration a responsive layout or anything like that, so by the time they hand it off to the digital designer to actually do the, or the developer to do the work, you have to do a lot of rework because some of those, some of that thinking wasn’t considered.

Ben Aston:

Yeah that sounds, that sounds very familiar. It’s that classic scenario when someone’s never done a website design before and they just use some kind of crazy layout dimensions or something and you’re like “hold on a second, that’s not how we do websites” it’s those kind of details that sometimes you can forget about.

Brian Kessman:

Or like here’s the billboard design but there has been no thought about the landing page it’s driving through or something like that.

Ben Aston:

Yeah, just turn the billboard into a landing page. Just with a button, right? Cool so, and tell us about like digital project managing, obviously you are consulting with agencies and you’re trying to help them do things better so what are the kind of tools that are in your tool kit, or is there anything that you found recently where you are like, “Uh, this is amazing, everyone should be, everyone should be using this”, what have you discovered recently?

Brian Kessman:

Yeah, so something that I’m hooked on is, it’s fairly new, I think envision recently released something called Designbetter.co I’m not sure you are familiar with it.

Ben Aston:

No I don’t think I’ve seen that.

Brian Kessman:

They are really trying to help people improve their design practices, and not in term of digital design, but design for stopping business problems and they have a lot of great podcasts and blog posts, email courses, all from top design leaders out there and it’s an incredible resource for really understanding how to build great products and teams. The content is really rich so I’m in love with that right now, listening to as much as that as I can and I recommend it for everybody, I think it’s really, it goes across whatever discipline you are in so it’s fantastic. But that’s more for education and you know, growth, so in terms for my tool set though, because my work is consulting and not necessarily doing the digital project management.

Ben Aston:

Yeah.

Brian Kessman:

You know I rely heavily on workshops, interviews, surveys. Things like stakeholder mapping to really outline where relationships might be broken inside an agency. And then there’s the usual process mapping and the skills gap analysis, I use that skills matrix that I posted in the blog post, and things like that.

Ben Aston:

Good stuff. And I bet going back to the tools focus, everyone loves tools. When you’re helping agencies make that transition to be more digitally focused or to begin to work together in teams, are there tools, any tools that you found really help people in that transition and begin to be less siloed and work a bit differently?

Brian Kessman:

Yeah, sure. It’s what you, I guess, it’s more workflow management software. Take your pick, there’s tons out there. It’s whatever the agency happens to be most comfortable with. I mean JIRA is phenomenal for software product development, I know a lot of agencies do use it for creative work. There’s a ton out there, but that’s the main thing, it’s really about creating that transparency for the work and streaming that workflow through collaboration and all that.

Ben Aston:

Good stuff. Well let’s go on and talk about your article, and so we published Brian’s article and it’s a, it’s really about scaling digital project management teams and how to do it properly. So if you haven’t checked it out yet, go ahead and read it, it’s a great resource, whether or not you are a lead position in your digital project management team, ’cause this is a step by step guide really, to building a DPM team and even if you don’t think “okay well that’s not directly applicable to me right now, I’m not actually building a team” I think you’ll actually find this quite useful anyway, some of the things that we’re gonna discuss are totally applicable to you if you think about to, how you run your project, to just kind of applying them on a different scale. So in the article Brian talks about these five Ps of scaling a PM team, so as a sneak preview, the five Ps are purpose, people, partnerships, process and performance.

So purpose is about bringing stakeholders together to agree on why you’re scaling digital project management, people is about getting the right people with the right skills and experience for the right salaries, partnerships is about in-house partnerships and structuring the team so that the project managers need to successful, process, kind of process tools template, you need to be able to be consistent and deliver value and performance is about monitoring and kind of rolling out the improvements over time. So I’ve kind of, that’s a very, very quick summary, but check out the article to read more about that.

But we are just gonna kind of dive into the first of those, purpose, and this is the why digital project management teams exist and I think this is great, so often I think people find themselves being tasked with being the digital project management in the agency. We actually see it in the slack team a lot. We have people joining and they say, “Hey, I’ve just been given the role as digital project management, what am I supposed to do, what am I supposed to do now?” And often it’s a knee joke reaction to something going wrong. People are thinking “hold on these digital projects are not working the same way as the other projects we are running” or “our projects are going over budget all the time, they are always delivered late, so hey we need someone to blame, so hey you, you be the DPM”. So, I’m wondering what kind of variation in what you’ve laid out, so you kind of laid out a kind of a purpose for digital project management and kind of recommended what that might be, but what kind of variation do you see there being in the “why” of digital project management within an agency?

Brian Kessman:

Yeah I think the variation, it’s not really varied purposes, I think it’s how somebody chooses to articulate it, but mainly the, at the core it’s really always the same. I think the variation really is whether somebody has even taken the time to articulate the purpose of that group and that’s, like you said, that’s the challenge of being put into a DPM role and that hasn’t been defined and no one’s sure, you’re not sure what you should be doing and no one’s sure what you’re doing and you can’t get the help and support, you’re not really set up to succeed. And so yeah I don’t think it really varies in terms of what the core of that purpose is providing someone’s taking the time to do that and define that.

Ben Aston:

Yeah and so, one of the things that um, because, myself having set up some digital project management teams, I think there’s this, the challenge is, okay you have been brought in to start a team and you’re trying to scale your team but you got this balance right? Because you have the status quo and where there wasn’t digital project management perhaps, and then you have got this new era in which you’ve got a digital project management team, but normally you are starting off small, so how do you scale that? How do you as a, someone setting up a digital project management team make sure you’re not biting off more than you can chew and then kind of finding yourself totally overwhelmed. What the, how have you kind of helped with that transition process before and kind of working out how much is too much?

Brian Kessman:

Sure, well all the steps, the whole thing is a system that work together and providing you’ve taken that time to really define purpose it’ll easy to take the next step, which is the answer to your question, it’s about specialization, it’s just focus on what is that specific value or the outcomes that you are going to provide in your role, it really needs to focus on one specialization, and if you stick with that you shouldn’t find yourself in a spot where you’ve taken on too much, and so for example producing successful projects by reducing risks and issues through planning is the example purpose that I gave for PMs, and so the outcome that you need to focus on is that successful project and the value is really reducing risks and issues, but the specialty that you need to hone in on and just stay with it is that project planning specialty, and I think if you look at it that way it’ll be clear sort of, there is always going to be gray areas on both sides where you can start to dabble on other things, but you know where your specialty is and you can stay focused.

Ben Aston:

Yeah that’s good stuff. Cool so next you go on to talk about people, and I think it’s so true, you talk about identifying the person who was, you talk about it being critical to have the right person leading the team, so I’m curious as to how you identify leaders. I think some of our listeners thinking “hey I want to be the person who is kind of singled out as being the person to lead the PMO” so what are the skills that they should be developing, how do you develop, how do you identify leaders and what are the skills, or kind of characteristics that you’re looking for in people who might be right for leading a PMO team?

Brian Kessman:

Sure, yeah it’s a balance of hard skills and soft skills. So do you have that, one the experience, or the war wounds to help people actually do the day to day tactical type stuff, but on the other side, and this is really the more important side I think for the leadership role is the soft skills, are you able to inspire and motivate your team because if you’re gonna help them they also need to respect you and you need to be inspiring and to have empathy for what they’re doing on a daily basis and understanding the perspectives that they have in their particular role, so that’s a big part of it, I mean I think, really supporting them it’s almost like that servant-leadership concept, where you’re not really doing, you’re just helping them do and so you just need to move those barriers out of their way so that they can continue to learn and grow and you need to give them the pieces of the puzzle or the support to do that and I think that is a big piece of being a great leader.

Ben Aston:

Yeah I know, I totally agree and I think the, it’s interesting that you, in kind of describing what that role looks like, the leader of the project management team. You talk about 50% or even more of their team being spent mentoring and supporting so for those listeners who are thinking “well hold on, I lead a team but I don’t spend that much time mentoring and supporting”. Tell me what for you that kind of mentoring and supporting looks like, and I know for me when leading a PM team a lot of that mentoring and supporting and doing things like review weekly status reports with the PMs, reviewing their forecasting, reviewing their estimates or scopes of work or their timelines, and kind of going over the nuts and bolts of things, but is there anything in particular around the mentoring side of things that you found to be a helpful thing in helping more junior PMs kind of up their game?

Brian Kessman:

Yeah I think it’s just being there for them to talk and through those conversations if you know what you’re listening for you will be able to hone in on some areas that they maybe challenge with but maybe not realizing that, you know from their perspective. And I think you get that from either, whether it’s weekly or monthly one on ones, just sitting down, maybe going to coffee or having lunch you know once a month with each PM individually. You know the other side of it, it’s certainly all those other things that you mentioned too, part of that is also behavioral, so sitting in on some of their meetings, like kick-offs or onboarding meetings and see how they conduct themselves and how they-

Ben Aston:

Yeah definitely.

Brian Kessman:

So it’s again it’s really observing and then offering a feedback. This you know, this ties into the skills matrix that I have mentioned as well in the post. I think if you have taken that step to outline the skills that an entry level or middle level singular PM should have, you know through your observations you can then start to map out where you feel their skill set and using those real examples from sitting in on those meetings for example, to really show “this is why I have given you that score on the skills matrix but this is where I think you should be by you know in six months from now, so let’s get you there this is what, what we are gonna do” so I think that’s all part of that mentoring idea.

Ben Aston:

Yeah, yeah that’s great. And then one of the things that you mentioned that I’ve kind of curious to ask you about was professional development too. And for a digital project manager what other kind of professional development things that a DPM could be thinking about doing. Like do you think there’s any value in doing your PMP or scrum master or any of the other designations, what have you found to be actually useful, rather than just where I find it’s just a certification where, which is kind of hard to apply to the world of digital PM, what have you found to be really useful?

Brian Kessman:

So there’s two parts to that answer I think there’s one when I was managing projects and there’s what I think in general beyond that, the beyond that applicable to what you are doing on a day to day. So when I was managing projects I did study for the PMP I never actually took the exam but I got to the point where I was about to and I thought “you know what, I think I learned all that I need to and the certification is only really going to be another thing on my resume” and I just didn’t want to go through that at that point. I didn’t feel the need. I did go through certified scrum master and product owner training and I thought that was invaluable. I think everybody should absolutely do that because it just, if you’re not familiar with agile it gives you such another way to look at, such a different way to look at the work that’s being done, and it also is where the industry is heading I think for the majority agencies that, I think they should all be considering that, or a modified version of agile.

So yes I think those things are important but I think also outside of what you’re doing to help you with what you’re doing on a day to day basis is leading other disciplines to some extent, because PMs touch basically every role in the organization and you really need that understanding of the design discipline or the development discipline and so get your hands dirty with some coding, or listen to that envision, the envision podcast I mentioned, those are great for really understands the design discipline and so I think those things, you start to get into those areas that you’re always touching you can collaborate better and support better. So that’s what I’d recommend.

Ben Aston:

And I think that is really solid advice, I think yeah the more as PMs that we can get to grips with what our teams are doing the better that we’ll be able to identify road blocks on the road ahead, so it’s being able to anticipate the things that are about to go wrong before they go wrong. And I think the more knowledge that we’ve got of actually the work that our teams are doing whether or not that’s not that’s Strategy, UX, Design, Dev or QA, it’s having an awareness of what people are doing, and what they should be doing. It enables us to have an insight in to help them solving problems, often it’s just about being able to ask them the right question and just a little bit of knowledge can be a really useful thing.

Brian Kessman:

Yeah sure. You mentioned the strategy side, I think that is extremely important, I think you know, PMs are usually working closely with designers and developers so they may already have a lot of that knowledge or enough, but I think it’s rare to really be rubbing elbows with the strategy team, depending on how you’re structured and I think if you can sharpen your elbows and sort of get in there a little bit, that will help you go a long way too with how you are looking at your projects and managing them and making sure they are staying on the strategy. That’s just another great discipline that I don’t think a lot of PMs have a chance to interact with as often as design and development, hopefully that’s not true, it’s just what I’ve seen for the groups that I’ve seen, but anyway.

Ben Aston:

Yeah it can be siloed. Sometimes within a, often if there’s an account management team or if the strategy is done by the group account director and then the project gets passed on but I think it’s so important that the PM understands that the underlining strategy of what we are trying to achieve so we can deliver success around achieving that strategy. So being strategic is so important to that you can provide opportunities to cut corners, but the right corners but also enhance projects in the right way to make sure that fundamentally it’s delivering results. Which I think is obviously why we do a project in the first place.

So going back you mentioned your kind of skill matrix and I just wanted to touch on that again because I think it’s really useful and a great template but obviously the template that you provided is, you haven’t given all the answers for everybody, just in terms of thinking about, if someone is downloading this template and we’ve got the different roles and the different skill areas, how do you work out or identify, say for example a skill like project planning and then you’re thinking about “okay well across the different levels these are the different kind of skills that someone should be able to demonstrate” but how do you decide that? What goes in what box?

Brian Kessman:

I think it’s specific to, it’s different for every agency based on the complexity of projects and the types of clients that you have, I think, you know part of it is some groups don’t have entry level PMs they only take on seniors, so it really all depends on, I think it’s a team effort too, I don’t think it’s a director or project management saying “this is what I’m going to define, and here you go team” it’s more of “let’s talk about the type of work that we do, what are the problem areas that we have, or the opportunities or what are the gaps that we need to fill and let’s talk about how we feel each role should be able to handle that” and it should certainly be a collaborative exorcize to define those and the more that happens and the more everybody has bought into it and understands that they are not being evaluated in a negative way against it, it’s about growth and goal setting and ultimately just doing a great job and understand what everybody is capable of.

Ben Aston:

Cool, yeah and I think that’s helpful. And just touching on one other part of that in terms of getting the right people, you talk about having the right person leading, hiring the right PMs. How do you hire within a bunch of, I think it’s one of those, one of the things you mentioned is about doing that and it’s this challenge I find with HR will always say there’s, “We don’t have the budget to hire that senior person that you want” but obviously it’s someone leading a PM team, usually you’re gonna want the most senior person you can so how do you, what’s your kind of advice on hiring within a budget?

Brian Kessman:

Yeah I think that’s one, this is why the skill matrix is so important ’cause you have to create that shared understanding for what each type of PM or level of a PM is capable of doing so you can make your case for why you need that senior level PM based upon the project challenges or complexity of projects.

I think if you bring the HR person or even the finance person in on the skill matrix to communicate, “Look here’s what each, each level is capable of”, when it comes time to hire you can reference that matrix and illustrate why you need that senior PM based on that branch of skillsets and essentially you’re stepping on just defining those skills on that matrix is assigning a pay range for each of those levels, and having them all, you’re pre-selling that to them, you’re saying this is what’s happening in the market right now, the competitive rates that we want to offer need to be in this range, and if they have already agreed to that and familiar with how you are evaluating PMs or thinking about the problem then I think your debate or your argument later on will be less of a challenge because they’re already aware of how you’re gonna go about it and they know who you are hiring for and what budget it’s gonna require. With that knowledge they can then plan for that in their budgeting, I would hope anyway.

But yeah so I think that’s part, that tool goes a long way to really get what you need.

Ben Aston:

Yeah that’s really helpful, I think making the case for why you need a senior PM rather than a junior or I often find more often it’s the case where you actually need additional junior supports to help the senior PMs be able to do their stuff better so it’s actually making the case for, “Hey, if I have a junior PM, I actually find the senior PMs to be more strategic and they don’t need to spend the time filling out status reports and updating timelines but a more junior PM can do that and then free up the more senior PM to do more strategic work”. So, the third P was partnerships and this is all about relationships within an agency and you talked about using a RACI matrix for your overall agency process, so do you want to explain for those people who don’t know what a RACI matrix is, do you want to kind of explain that and talk about how detailed you go with your RACI matrix in terms of the overall process, ’cause there’s a … yeah that can get really long and bloated, couldn’t it?

Brian Kessman:

Yeah absolutely, it is a lot of work to create one of these and it takes a lot of collaboration throughout each, over, across all disciplines, so the RACI matrix is, it’s, imagine every step of your process as detailed as you want to go, and I tell you it only goes as detailed as you need to, I wouldn’t over-plan until there’s a need, but essentially let’s just say you are carving out the process phases that you have in your agency and then the major steps or components of that process. And then at each of those steps RACI stands for responsible, accountable, consulted, and informed, and so you’re marking on a grid who is responsible and accountable, consulted and reformed, there can only be one accountable person, so to explain those a little further, the accountable person is the one to make sure that the works getting done in the right way with the right expectations and so that’s the one person who’s really gonna guide how that all gets done.

But the responsible people are the people doing the work, consulted and informed is some more obvious. I mean who are you, just checking in with for information, so for example the designer is responsible for creating something but a decision they want to make could impact scope or timeline then they need to consult the project manager. And I think … Again you don’t really, these things can take a while to build but you just start small and build on it over time as you find that you need additional clarity.

Ben Aston:

Yeah and I think that’s, that’s a really good explanation of delineating between those kind of different, the different roles there. But one of the things that I found is that, especially as your transitioning from a … or helping an agency become more digital, you have a lot of people who want to be informed or want to be consulted at every step of the way, so how do you, what’s your kind of top tip for removing the number of consulted and informed people so that you’re streamlining the project rather than having to show every little thing to every man and his dog throughout the process, because everyone likes to think their opinion matters but the truth is we don’t want everyone’s opinion a lot of the time.

Brian Kessman:

Well I think it’s a great problem to have because it just implies that everybody is passionate about their work, they’re really invested in the project, they want to be involved and that’s fantastic. But I think that you do need to streamline that because you can’t have twenty people in a room for every meeting, so that’s where you know, I’ll go back to one of my earlier answers about the workflow management software, something, a tool like that creates a transparency, creates an opportunity to post a message in response to a decision that’s either in the process of being made or a decision that has been made.

That’s really where you can automate, so two things: you can consult through there, and then you can automate how people are informed by them just getting email updates or things like that. Again a tool like that is just really powerful and can handle a lot of the bloat issues that you mentioned and having to involve everybody physically as opposed to just making sure email updates go out automated.

Ben Aston:

Cool, I think that’s helpful. And let’s go on to the PM favorite P for process and you talk about standardizing process, which I think is really important, especially as agencies becoming more digital but even within a digital agency there’s stacks of different kinds of projects so how, so yeah for example in the morning a PM may be working on a service design project and but in the afternoon they may be working on a website redesign project, so how do you universalize or standardize that to the extent that it’s meaningful across different kind of types of projects but also that it’s tailored enough so that there’s a standard process for different types. How do you, how’d you manage that balance?

Brian Kessman:

Yeah so, partially it’s a strategic decision by the agency whether or not they are going to specialize enough where you can be so focused and have this repeated process across your different project types, so is the agency saying “look we’re gonna focus, we’re gonna have one or maybe just a few specialty verticals and capabilities like an augmented reality agency that may focus on home improvement products or something like that so that they are showing home improvement products and you can use augmented reality to show that in real time” so like that’s their specialty, you know what they do that vertical.

And so if you do that then all your projects, your project types are gonna be limited and then you are able to really standardize the processes for those project types. Even if you don’t do that though as an agency there’s gonna be patterns on your different projects and I think that’s your first step is can you categorize those project types and identify those patterns and at least standardize that stuff and that does always happen. Ideally you are working for an agency that did decide to specialize and you have that luxury that I described but there is always going to be patterns, things that you are gonna repeat from time and time again and you can standardize that and you can work on optimizing and streamline.

Ben Aston:

Yeah and I think that’s really helpful, and I think one of the things that I found helpful is picking the most complex type of project that your agency will do and building that standard process around the most complex thing that you can possible be doing and then after you have different types of projects then it becomes a subset of that kind of overall process standardization rather than being, rather than being something different so … yeah so if you think about if it’s just a UX strategy project but it’s just the beginning part of a much larger say, platform, re-platforming project where it’s kind of the discovery and planning parts that are essentially the same as a strategy UX project.

It’s designing, here designing for the most complex and kind of extracting from that for the smaller types of projects I found to be pretty useful in the past but cuz I think that this standarization is so important in terms of garnering efficiencies within an agency, the worst thing that can happen if you are an agency that’s not a specialist but does lots of different things is when every time that you run into one of these projects that’s slightly different to things that people have done before. People get confused, the projects go way over budget because people are cycling doing tasks that they think will help deliver the project but actually it’s just makeup work.

So I think having this overall, big overall process and being able to extract pieces of that is really important to make sure that you’re not just doing task that aren’t actually gonna improve the end deliverables for the project.

Brian Kessman:

Yeah, I agree.

Ben Aston:

Cool so finally performance, I think, and this is something that I think often we neglect. How often do you think we should look at that, and how do you, you’ve kind of identified some kind of soft goals, but yeah just tell us about performance and how you measure that so that you continually improve.

Brian Kessman:

Yeah sure so, again like, start small, right? And so maybe choose one or two things that you really want to focus on so that … so one of the examples from the list that I gave for possible KPIs, key performance indicators is, what’s your average project turnaround time, or what’s the on time rate, or profitability, things like that. And those are some of the easy things, the hard goals there, and figure out how you are gonna measure that and so, I mean some of it is easy, right? Because you have just the financial outcome of the project but when you get to the soft goals that you mention that’s a little harder. So what you can use are internal and client surveys and I would say run those quarterly, at least internally, you may not want to hit your clients every quarter with a survey like that, but internally I think it’s fair to send out a quarterly survey, “hey how are we doing with improving our process, improving the employee experience” and then from every quarter from those results let’s figure what we are gonna change for the next quarter and continue that needle further towards improvement.

But client surveys are also very powerful, there’s net promoter score that you can send out, would a client recommend you is basically the only question in that survey and then you can provide a field for qualitative feedback where they can explain why they gave you whatever score they gave you. That information is really helpful, you want to make sure that not only are you improving internally for your own agency but are you continuing to increase the value you are giving to your own clients so that they are gonna stick around for a while. So yeah, so I listed a bunch KPIs on there but ultimately when it comes to qualitative stuff you have to rely on the surveys and I think that’s your best tool.

Ben Aston:

And how do you like, I’ve done net promoter score surveys with clients before, and any tips for actually getting people to fill them out? I know they’re really simple, it’s like three questions after, or maybe sometimes just one question like “would you recommend us” but people hate surveys, so how have do you encourage people to do that in a way that’s not going to impact the score.

Brian Kessman:

Yeah that’s a good question. Some of us, the relationship aspect too, so just to clarify I guess, you shouldn’t just rely on the surveys it’s also having those conversations so they see you as a partner, and not just somebody that’s just getting stats for a survey, somebody who is invested in their relationship. So talking to them about it, and if they’re not responding at that point give them a call because you already been maintaining their relationship so giving them a call … but you’re right I mean in general it’s hard to get people to answer those surveys. I mean at a minimum is it a mobile friendly survey I hope? So that’s low-hanging fruit there, yeah I don’t know, that’s a tough one, I think, yeah I think it’s really up to the relationship, hopefully that’s strong enough and you can give them a call I can imagine.

Ben Aston:

Cool. Good stuff well Brian thanks so much for joining it’s been great having you with us and I think the discussion that we’ve had today on building and scaling teams is such an important topic so thanks so much for being part of the discussion today.

Brian Kessman:

Yeah sure, glad to do it, this is fun, thanks Ben.

Ben Aston:

Cool, so if you would like to contribute to the conversation comment on the post and head to the community section of thedigitalprojectmanager.com to join our slack team where you will find all kinds of interesting conversations going on, but until next time thanks so much for listening.

Ben Aston

Ben Aston

I’m Ben Aston, a digital project manager and VP of Client Services at FCV, a full service digital agency in Vancouver, Canada. 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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