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DPM Podcast: How To Get The Best From Your Development Team (with Kelly Suter)

By 18/10/2017 No Comments

Audio Transcription

Ben Aston:

Thanks for tuning in. I’m Ben Aston and this is the Digital Project Manager Podcast. So today, I’m joined by Kelly Suter. In fact, Kelly, I don’t even know if that’s how I pronounce your surname. Is it Kelly Suter?

Kelly Suter:

It is. You’ve got it.

Ben Aston:

Excellent. We’re on top of it today. So, Kelly, thanks for joining the show.

Kelly Suter:

Hi, it’s great to join.

Ben Aston:

Cool. So today, we’re gonna be talking about an article that Kelly wrote and we’re calling it the Digital Project Manager Developer Dance. This is all about how we can get the best out of our development teams.

But first thing, Kelly, tell us a bit about yourself. I wanna ask you, when I first looked you up and it said you worked for an agency called Irish Titan, I was convinced. I was like, oh that’s interesting. It’s an Irish agency and they’re calling themselves Irish Titan because they’re proud of being Irish ’cause that’s what Irish people do.

But where is Irish Titan and why are they called Irish Titan?

Kelly Suter:

It’s a question we get all the time. So we are an agency based in Minneapolis, Minnesota United States and the reason we’re called Irish Titan, actually, is for no other really good reason than my boss, the CEO and founder of Irish Titan, Darin Lynch, he is very Irish and he’s very proud to be Irish.

Really, he was playing basketball one day and he was trying to think of a name of his agency and he was feeling, you know, like a titan that day and he was like, we’re gonna be Irish Titan. And that really is the gist of story and he was pretty jazzed about it. Our logo’s a Titan helmet and the rest is history. So we’re the titans at Irish Titan in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Ben Aston:

Nice.

Kelly Suter:

So we all claim to be at least a little Irish, but … I myself am over half, but no matter what, I guess.

Ben Aston:

As is everyone in the world, it seems. Especially on Saint Patrick’s Day. All the Irish come out of the woodwork.

Kelly Suter:

Exactly.

Ben Aston:

That’s cool. And tell me what you do at Irish Titan, then.

Kelly Suter:

Mm-hmm (affirmative). So at Irish Titan I’m the Director of Project Management here. I oversee the project management team. So, we are a team of seven and growing, of course, with the rest of the company. And so, yes. I started here in 2013 as really the first digital Project Manager here at Irish Titan. And while I don’t have my hands directly on any projects, I’m always behind the curtain and watching everything, so … In a non-creepy way.

Ben Aston:

You’re in charge really?

Kelly Suter:

Yes, yes.

Ben Aston:

Cool. And what kind of projects does Irish Titan do, then?

Kelly Suter:

Yes. So we build websites and we build eCommerce and brochure custom websites. So, typically, we steer away from templates. And so we have a focus on eCommerce and we’re partners with Magento and we work, you know, Shopify.

But we’re a platform agnostic, really. So we don’t want to fit any of our clients into a box. We like to understand first what their business requirements are and then find the best platform for their business solution. Our motto is business first, online second. So we’re first understanding the business and then using that collaboration with the client to then apply it to a digital solution online. So, yeah, focus on eCommerce and brochure … It’s a brochure-ware custom website.

Ben Aston:

Cool. But what is your favorite? You must have a favorite. Be honest.

Kelly Suter:

Of a platform, you’re asking?

Ben Aston:

Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Kelly Suter:

I would have to say that Drupal is my very favorite. I think it shouldn’t be … You know, brochure-ware websites are typically less complicated than eCommerce, but in my mind, I really get kicks out of a CMS and admin that is intuitive and that helps the admin users and our clients, really, able to manage their website.

I think that Drupal being open source, it allows a lot of flexibility. And for our clients to be able to learn how to go into their admin and work in the CMS and be able to manage their business as closely as they’re able to so that we can really focus on the cool customizations and so that we’re not going in and changing text and updating their copy and their content of the website. They have the power to do that so that we can really focus on the cool stuff.

So that’s why Drupal is my very favorite is because I think it is the most intuitive from an admin standpoint.  Granted it’s not eCommerce, and it’s not all the, … inventory and whatnot. So, Magento is just kick butt. But, yeah. Yeah, I really love Drupal.

Ben Aston:

And you prefer Drupal from a … so from a client editing perspective. You prefer Drupal over WordPress?

Kelly Suter:

I do!

Ben Aston:

Really? Really?

Kelly Suter:

I do. And you know, maybe my bias comes from our developer. So we have all in-house developers. We don’t contract out. And so they’re all in here, they’re all under the same roof, and I think that we are really spoiled at Irish Titan with how our developers create that CMS admin experience.

Because I have seen some Drupal admin and I have seen, of course, WordPress admin and what have you. And it’s a little bit, you know, it can be clunky, depending on how that developer really builds the experience for the client. And I think Drupal allows you to not only customize the user experience for the client’s customers or users, but it also allows the developer to customize the client admin experience.

And we have some really awesome … sounds really, I guess, nerdy, but really awesome Drupal admin CMS interfaces that makes it easy for the client to manage their stuff, like I said, so that we can focus on the really cool customizations.

Ben Aston:

Yeah.

Kelly Suter:

Yeah.

Ben Aston:

Well, I’d love to see some of that someday. Are you mainly building out in Drupal Eight, or are you still on Seven?

Kelly Suter:

Yes, we are building out in Drupal Eight. We just had our eCommerce forum last week, actually, and we built that website eComm forum dot com or something like that. I should really know. But we already had the event. It was last week and we built that in Drupal Eight. We’re building our next Irish Titan website in Drupal Eight and then we have a couple clients actually right now that are about to jump into construction in Drupal Eight. So, while plenty

So, while plenty are in Seven and it’s a fine running machine and all good to go for even a couple more years, we are working in Drupal Eight as well.

Ben Aston:

Yeah. Drupal Eight, I’ve been working on a project in Drupal Eight for the past few months and there’s so much that’s great about it and there is also so much that’s a pain in the ass about it because there’re things that just work in Drupal Seven, and that just haven’t been finished yet in Drupal Eight.

Kelly Suter:

Totally.

Ben Aston:

And it’s like, really guys? This is not finished.

Kelly Suter:

Right.

Ben Aston:

The date picker does not work. Like, guys, finish this off before saying it’s done.

Kelly Suter:

Oh, gosh. Yeah, I mean, with any platform really major update. Right? I mean, you go from one to another and sometimes it’s like you’re in a whole, you are in a different world. Like, man … you know, and then it happens again for the next update and you’re already used to the new one and what have you, so … Always changing, always evolving.

Ben Aston:

Always changing. And so you said Magento’s your favorite eComm platform?

Kelly Suter:

Magento is. We’re platinum partners with Magento. Well, I don’t wanna say necessarily preferred, it’s definitely the most used. So a majority of our eCommerce clients are on Magento One and Two. So I think we have a couple of clients that have launched on Magento Two now and all of the Magento websites we currently have in construction are all Magento Two. So, that is a majority of our eCommerce clients.

And then we have some … we’re working on Shopify bills. So those are the two main ones that we focus on, but Magento is a vast majority of our clients, by all means, because it is really, what doesn’t work on Shopify might be for Magento in that it’s more robust. There’s more complicated customizations that’s needed whether it’s multi-store front solution or, you know, you have all sorts of different permissions and caveats and what have you. So we’re making… complicated is where we look to Magento.

Ben Aston:

Yeah. Yeah, I find it really interesting ’cause Shopify does offer so much out the box. And then after you start paying on a monthly basis for all those customizations, which can start adding up, but the price difference, like that it costs to develop a Shopify site versus a Magento site are massive. Like Shopify, your initialization costs are pretty small. Whereas for Magento, there’s a big bill to pay.

Kelly Suter:

Right, right. And even often times you run into certain functionalities where you’re working on a Magento , oh, and I know this thing on Shopify that does that, but … You know, and Magento, by all means with Magento Two as well, you’re like, on Magento One this worked, but now Magento Two, I mean, it’s kind of like the wild west when it comes to some extensions because they haven’t yet, or they’re working on extensions or integrations that are working well with Magento Two but maybe we’re working on One, or exist over here on Shopify.

But, like I said, it’s always changing, it’s always evolving and it’s always comparing one to the other when it’s, okay so do we go with these extensions that you’re paying for either monthly or one-off payments, or are we looking for a custom solution over here on a different platform. It’s always comparing and contrasting, which makes the PM position really, really fun, all of those instances of comparing and contrasting, which makes PM position really, really fun,  in all of those instances, like comparing scope and budget.

Ben Aston:

Yeah. And also, I guess, the client’s appetite for ongoing subscriptions to services or extensions, and yeah … Interesting. So are you working, are there any projects that you’re working on now, or that your team’s working on now that are particularly exciting that you can share?

Kelly Suter:

You know, we have a really robust website build right now for a company that is a retailer for guns. And so, for an eCommerce experience. So with that comes a hundred and one rules and regulations and permissions and customizations and it’s a lot of moving parts. And you have your customer portal, the admin portal, the regular user interface, the storefront. So without getting into too much detail, you can only imagine all the rules that need to be written within the code and within the admin.

So that’s really exciting with the Magent … it’s actually, sorry,  so it’s a layer of code that we’re gonna work with, Magento Two, that’s gonna make it this beast of a machine that’s gonna be well oiled, lot of moving parts, which of course always speaks to lots and lots of requirements up front to make sure that it’s all buttoned up so everyone knows what to expect when going into construction and development and then going into QA.

So that’s a really exciting one that, inevitably, lot of parts, lot of team players, lot of third parties with integrations that all have to work together and, yeah. That’s the biggest, probably, exciting one that we have, really, on the horizon.

Ben Aston:

Interesting. In Canada, I don’t know, you’ve probably looked at it as a competitor, in your competitor audit, but there’s a shop called Cabella’s and I couldn’t believe that you could actually buy a gun online and it be delivered to my apartment.

Kelly Suter:

Yep.

Ben Aston:

And I was like, oh my gosh, this is North America. So, for the record, I do have my gun license so it’s all kosher.

Kelly Suter:

All legit.

Ben Aston:

But, yeah, obviously the verification where you enter in your license ID and then it verifies you, and then like, yeah, the next day, gun comes in the post. That’s crazy.

Kelly Suter:

Totally, yeah. And talk about terms and conditions, like, oh that’s gonna throw in huge requirements in and of itself. And usually that’s just the basic page with some default terms and conditions slapped on it. But no, no. Not this one.

Ben Aston:

That sounds like a fun one. In your bio, we know a little bit about your story, but how did you get into digital project management?

Kelly Suter:

Yeah, yeah. So, having had the background of the family business in graphic design and advertising, that was just sort of always something that I grew up with that was, I suppose that was sort of something in my blood. And I actually ended up going down the route of publicity and public relations for a while. And that had me traveling last minute and this and that 24/7 on call, which actually never changed. And I thought it might but it didn’t, but it’s okay ’cause it’s always exciting and fun.

But I actually had a friend who I’ve known forever and she is a Magento developer and she was a Magento developer here at Irish Titan about four years ago. And she had mentioned that there was no formal project management department.

Now mind you, there’s only 12 people at the company at this time, so it’s kind of one of those tunes where everyone at the company is wearing multiple hats. And it works that way where you’re like, yeah, we don’t have a PM department but it works right now because the sales is kind of doing AM and PM and then you have the people who are wire framing and doing site mapping also doing PM and everyone’s kind of …

But at the rate that we are growing, it became evident that there needed to be a PM position, or that that process of project management needed to be fully focused on by one person. Because it just ended up being this extra thing that people happened to get around to if they could. Which that just can’t really happen that way when you’re growing.

So my friend introduced me to Darin Lynch the Owner and CEO here and I talked to some of the other Titan employees that were kind of doing that job. And really, I read the book “Interactive Project Management” which I can let you know which one exactly I read, but I read that book and I talked to, you know, my parents having had their business in the agency world, having talked to Darin, and I decided I was ready to step up to the plate, get back into the agency biz and really take the reigns on trying to really fine tune what this project management looked like at Irish Titan.

So that’s how it all began in March of 2013, I think. Yeah. And, yeah, the rest is history, with a whole lot of learning, a lot of scraped knees, growing pains. A lot of looking back, saying, what happened. Looking at where we are currently and then how we can keep moving ahead. The digital PM community is awesome and have been invaluable for how I’ve grown. So that’s what it looked like for the start of my career here.

Ben Aston:

Cool. And I’m interested in your parents’ business. Is that still a thing?

Kelly Suter:

It’s not.

Ben Aston:

It is still a thing?

Kelly Suter:

It’s not, actually. Yeah, no. So my dad ended up retiring. He used sold the business and it’s under a different name and my mom is actually, now she works in financial in a different industry completely and now my dad makes guitars and it’s pretty kick butt. But yeah, it was a graphic design agency, the Suter Graphics and Design, and they did graphic design for advertising, print, yeah.

So it was here in Minneapolis and with my dad being the president and my mom being the vice president, really my mom was doing all things CFO, and then my dad doing all the things that a CEO might do for a company of about 10 people. And so, when you think of graphic design, this is before … I mean, they had Macs but it was the Macs that are, you know, with the little rainbow apple in the middle of the plastic under the screen. And it was all type setting print. So you had the light tables and … It was awesome to grow up in.

So I saw clients come in, you know, it was kind of like i literally grew up inside of a studio. And instead of doing dishes for my getting money for an allowance, I would help my mom organize invoices. And so I think I really, I got the flavor of that agency lifestyle all throughout growing up and I could never kick it.

Ben Aston:

That is a fun story. I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone who’s grown up in an agency like that. I think that was fascinating.  So you’re now the kind of director of project management at Irish Titan. And you’ve seen that agency grown from small to getting bigger. What’s the kind of tool kit that you’re working with to manage your team, your projects, what’re the tools that you’re using?

Kelly Suter:

Yes. Oh, my gosh. Wow, how we would love to have one tool that rules them all. Right? But here I go. I’m glad my grocery list is… So we use the Atlassian Suite and we use Jira… but we use Jira, and right now we’re currently going from the kind of classic Jira to Jira Cloud. We’re trialing Jira Cloud right now knowing very well we’re going with it for sure, got a green light. But we wanna make sure that we find all of the potential gaps or differences so that when we make the transition, we know exactly how it’s gonna translate to the best of our abilities so that suddenly we’re not creating projects and saying, wait, we used to be able to do this, now or this.

But so far, it’s been awesome and it looks great and we’re really excited. So …  Jira is what we use for task management for all the projects management services for those mini statements you know, retainers, what have you. And then we currently use Team Gantt for resourcing so that we use the company overview of Team Gantt on a weekly basis to look at for the following week, and the following week to see what workload looks like by the hour, by the day for each of our resources.

With what Jira Cloud … And Jira is able to handle this too, but I think Jira Cloud is much more user-friendly to be able to take care of what otherwise Team Gantt has been doing for us so that we aren’t doing all that kind of redundant manual input of data. But we do use Team Gantt right now. And actually, Team Gantt has great exports for client timelines and all of that, so that’s worked really well for us.

And then we use DoneDone for an issue tracker during QA, because with how we currently use Jira, we don’t open that up to client access. So, we use DoneDone for client access during quality assurance to have them sign in and have a really simple, intuitive and efficient tracker for tasks. And actually, with how Jira Cloud is looking to be and some of the features and how they’re incorporated, we are going to have that actually take care of DoneDone too. So … We love you, DoneDone and Team Gantt, but we are going to have Jira Cloud take care of both of those.

But that’s currently what we’re using. Those three are the main ones when it comes to documentation and all that, we’re using the Google Suite. We use Google sheets, stocks, drive, all that. It’s great. And so we’re using that for documentation, exporting, sign-off, all of that.

So that’s really the … of our tools. We use Slack for communication. That’s been awesome. We used to use Skype back in 2013 and then I went to a PM conference and came back with this kind of new-ish Slack, even though I know it’s older than 2013, 14. But that was really, I think, when it was starting to pick up popularity, at least from what I could tell and it’s been awesome and our team loves giffies, so that’s great. But yeah. That’s really the main tool set that we’re using for managing resource in Titan. We use Tic as well, I should say. We use Tic Bot for tracking time to projects. Pretty straight forward but Jira Cloud will also be taking care of that as well, so thank you, Atlassian.

Ben Aston:

Yeah. I think it takes a certain team to be on board with using Jira for everything. So, yeah. Good luck with that.

Ben Aston:

Go on, are there any tools that … You’ve been talking about Jira Cloud, but are there any other tools that you’ve found recently that you’re like, oh my goodness, this is awesome, everyone should know about this? What’s changed your life right now?

Kelly Suter:

You know, I think that Team Gantt has been … that’s our most recent tool that we’ve added. And it wasn’t like it was … I mean, I don’t want to discredit it. It wasn’t like it was mind-blowing, but it was sort of like, why haven’t we used this before. We used Smart Sheet before Team Gantt, but Team Gantt, I think, created a different way as to how we were looking at resourcing through that company overview. I mean, it’s such a simple one snapshot of everybody’s hours per day, per week per resource in this big kind of ugly grid just because there’s red dots popping up where you have more than six hours on the resource, whatever. Because that’s how we run, right?

But, other than that, I think that that kind of opened up our outlook of how we were resourcing, how we were thinking about workloads. And then also, it was kind of like Team Gantt’s purpose seems to be for timelines and exporting and giving that to clients, but really we’re using it more for looking at that overview of all of the hours per resource. So I think that that one feature of it has opened up our eyes for how we want to reference it and I think we’re figuring out a way in Jira Cloud to make that work. But I think Jira, it goes without saying, is a beast. I feel like you feel like you are acclimated with how it works and then suddenly someone’s like, oh you’ve been doing that? You can do it in this way. And you’re like, of course, because Jira has a million and one things. It just takes a while to really know the ins and outs. So I would say Jira’s really the heavy hitter there. It’s just I can’t even pretend to say I know how it all works. I don’t think I ever will. But …

Ben Aston:

I don’t know anyone that does. It’s like when you’re in Jira and you’re like you see someone doing something, you’re like, what? That’s what that button does? I never click on that. And it’s like, ooh, yeah. Well I guess that kind of makes sense. But it’s incredibly powerful. But also, I find, the UI incredibly confusing.

Kelly Suter:

Oh, yeah.

Ben Aston:

And it’s like, I never … Why is that there? That’s such a key piece of functionality and you’ve hidden it behind that dot.

Kelly Suter:

Oh, absolutely. My most… is just going through the reports being like, oh, this could translate so much better if it was more intuitive as to access this or read these or without the filters. Oh, my gosh, you can set those filters to show you anything and show you any sort of data that relates to task progress and status and what have you. And you practically kind of have to be able to write code in order to set some of those filters and it’s like, oh man, this could be easier from a user’s standpoint. But …

Ben Aston:

Cool. So let’s talk about the article you’ve written and if you haven’t checked it out yet, especially if you manage developers, this is a great read. It’s Four Questions You Should Never Ask a Developer and What to Ask Instead. And Kelly tackles this challenge that we face when working with our dev teams. We’ve been talking about working with dev today and there’s this basic challenge that we as the PMs like to think we’re in charge, but often the dev teams think they are too.

So Kelly tackles that delicate dance when we talk with developers, we engage with them in such a way that we can deliver the best results for you and your project without everyone getting frustrated. And what Kelly’s suggesting instead is like, being more solutions-focused. And she talks about how to do that in the article. So, yeah. If you find yourself asking your devs things like or saying things like, hey, this should only take about five minutes, or did you see that email I sent, or could you work on these six projects today, read the article and check out what you should be saying instead.

But, Kelly, in your article you talk about, in the kind of wrap-up, you encourage us to do different things in terms of how we’re engaging with our developers and you talk about, really, the importance of accountability and trust and efficiency and encouraging our development team in that, which sounds like a really good idea. But how do you actually do that? How do you make the developers, encourage them to be more efficient and how do you kind of help them be more accountable?

Kelly Suter:

Awesome question. Because it sounds like the perfect world. It sounds like an ideal state. And I have yet to meet any PM or any resource at any agency that’s like, yeah, we are in the perfect world and it is like kumbaya, harmony, all year round. No.

But I think that these are all elements to keep in mind that go ignored because it’s just kind of like people sometimes accept that there’s just this wrest, or that there’s this tension between project managers and developers, oftentimes because there’s time crunches, there’s scope, budget, all those things. And I think that people have started to accept that that tension is just there and really it’s something that we can work on.

And how we can work on that is by communicating. And this isn’t talking about feelings, this is opening up both avenues of communication where it doesn’t have to be the PMs are dictating and talking at and directing. While they should be orchestrating a project, they could also be opening up those avenues of communication to be flowing the other way so that they can empower their development resources or whatever resource we’re talking about here, but for the sake of relevancy the development resources, to empower them to give feedback on what might be working more efficiently or how to work more efficiently, how we can approach something differently, perhaps …

You know what I mean? I think that that communication, it seems so, like, duh. But it oftentimes ignored ’cause we just are so antsy to put something in front of the client, we are antsy because we are making assumptions. Because this is how we’ve always done it, so why would we do it any differently now? And when there’s pressure, I think people do tend to lean on that blame game. And that doesn’t leave any room for productive communication.

So I think that how you encourage that is in the weekly project scrum, you’re asking, truly, what are your blockers. And the blocker doesn’t just have to be, oh we need this extension to be approved by the client and that payment to happen. It might be, the client is bombarding my inbox and I am not able to focus from my inbox into code. Or it may be, my blocker is that I’m waiting on this other developer or maybe creative resource to give me what I need. And actually, there’s a lot of back and forth with that that need to be happening, can we figure out a better way of checks and balances to make this more efficient.

Like, those blockers are not necessarily always related to the task you see in Jira. It might be something with team communication and how that flow is looking. So I think that stopping, pausing and communicating is how you encourage things like the PM educating themselves on the context of a project, or figuring out that there is a rift between a developer and another resource that otherwise would go unnoticed because Jira is not running that rift in a task, or a task thread, if that makes sense.

So, opening up the communication.

Ben Aston:

Yeah. No, I think that’s so true and I think, especially when the pressure’s on, as PMs we can sometimes kind of default to, I don’t wanna chat about this, but you just need to do this task. Like, we’ve got a deadline coming up, I don’t wanna discuss this with you, I just need you to get this done.

And I think as soon as we get into that kind of position of like, the debate is over, just get on with the task, and we lose sight of that communication and we lose the dialog of, like, a developer saying, hey, I think there might be a better way that we can do this. Or, if we go down this route it’s gonna cause some problems down the road.

Just allowing that kid of open dialog throughout the project, and having the humility as well to say, hey, do you still think that this is the right way to go. Like, does this still make sense? Having the humility to ask those questions, even if you think, or even if you know that in changing the plan it’s gonna potentially impact stuff, well, it will impact stuff, but just having the awareness that, actually, let’s leverage people’s knowledge and make use of all the things they know and get the insight on that, I think is really helpful.

Kelly Suter:

Absolutely. And I think that there’s this stigma of, oh, they’re a project manager. They just want this to get done. They’re just a pencil pusher and they’re just pushing papers and all this stuff.

We wanna, at our agency specifically and when a PM comes in, I don’t want that stigma to be a thing. As soon as I start to feel that kind of communication or that kind of opinion, I want to shut it down by opening it up, opening up the communication. And I think that there’s a line between when a PM is working with a developer, there’s a healthy pushback that can always happen. Like, well, listen, the last time that an estimate was made and we didn’t come in on it, I just wanna make sure did you consider everything you need to consider, should we have another set of eyes look at this, you know, the healthy pushback.

Which isn’t lacking trust, because sometimes that developer may have come in with a foggy mind that day and it’s like, oh you know what, I didn’t even think of that, that’s a really good point. Other times it might be like, yeah, trust me.

And the developer can do that to the PM too. As like, hey, do we realize that there’s 10 stake holders here and they’re all trying to give feedback in this one tool, and they’re all giving feedback a day apart so we’re kind of doing revisions and then going back and doing more. And a PM might say, I didn’t even realize, I didn’t realize because you are on that email chain, you are seeing all those revisions, I wasn’t included, whatever.

So it can go both ways and that creates trust. Sometimes it can create a bit more work, a bit more tacking, a bit more back and forth, challenging each other. But accepting that it’s because we all have single mind. And I think that that establishes trust.

It’s not just always coming in on time, on budget, everything’s perfect, client happy. Sometimes it’s pushing each other that creates that trust ’cause we know we’re gonna hold each other accountable.

Ben Aston:

Yeah. I think that’s really helpful. And I think, just to close up, in the end of your article you talk about our purpose being, as PMs, to facilitate collaboration. And so, being very practical, what do you see as the most important ways of doing that, of facilitating collaboration? What does that look like to you?

Kelly Suter:

I think that looking at the beginning of when I was here at Irish Titan, our process, we had developers stepping in as soon as requirements were buttoned up and determined and designs were approved. And then we would hand them off to developer and say, oh hey, by the way, this is who this client is, you’re gonna build the website now, don’t worry, everything’s approved, good to go, now go do your code thing. And it was like, okay. And that’s how it works sometimes.

Not anymore, here. So we have the devs involved at the kickoff. We have client facing. We work in what’s called the diamond model here. So, without having a white board to write in front of you, if you’ll imagine a bow tie model, where in the middle of the bow tie you have the PM and the point person on the client side filtering all the information from who’s behind them, the edge of the bow tie. On each side they have the team are back there and all the information is filtering through that PM.

So you have risk of information dropping, communications being misinterpreted, what have you. And so we invert that bow tie model into a diamond model so that everybody who’s at the table is who needs to be at the table for those requirements or that engagement, that project, whatever it is.

So how to get a developer to collaborate, it’s both on an internal front and a client front. So we have them at the table at kickoff so that as soon as the client might say, yada, yada, yada, x, y, z, integration, the PM isn’t just noting that, and then the creative is like, that doesn’t affect my design, I don’t care about that.

But then the devs can say, um, excuse me, integration, what does this mean, let’s dissect this a bit. And so from the beginning, they’re there to collaborate. And then we can have internal checks and balances. Even if it’s designs before they go up to the client, have a sit-down with the team, have the dev included for that internal design review so we’re not just saying, oh, this looks great, this rocks, this is so much cleaner.

But we’re also saying, you know, and the dev is like, okay, what does that do, where is that pulling from. They’re bringing that other layer of knowledge to the table that otherwise, I think, can go forgotten and that, in turn, full circle, it can break the trust.

When the developers are like, don’t treat us just as resources who are outputting code. We also want to have a say in the construction of this project. Which is how it should be.

So empower them to collaborate with the whole team through the whole process.

Ben Aston:

Yeah, I think that’s brilliant. Good stuff. And one of my favorite things you said, yada, yada, yada, x, y, z. But that was a great summary of a conversation. So Kelly, thanks so much, though, for joining us. It’s been great having you with us.

And if you’d like to contribute to the conversation, comment on the post and head over to the community section of thedigitalprojectmanager.com to join our Slack team and where you’ll also find all kinds of interesting conversations going on about this and lots of other stuff.

But until next time, thanks 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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