DPM Podcast

DPM Podcast: Making Process Change Work (With Alexa Huston)

By 23/10/2017 July 25th, 2018 One Comment

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 Alexa Huston. Alexa, thanks so much for coming on the show today.

Alexa Huston:

Thanks for having me.

Ben Aston:

And today we are talking about making process changes and how we can make process improvements and make it all a bit more straight forward. But first, Alexa, let’s find a little bit about you. Now, from your bio, I can read. So I never knew you were working at an agency called Crema? Is that how you pronounce it?

Alexa Huston:

It’s pronounced Crema, it comes from the golden layer that rises to the top of an espresso shot, so if you’re familiar with coffee or being a barista in the past, that might sound familiar. But a lot of people say Crema. It’s actually Crema and that’s fine either way.

Ben Aston:

Well thank you for putting me right. And what I was actually quite interested … When I was reading your bio, it seems like when you’re not in the office, you’re getting stronger, you’re in the kitchen cooking up something delicious or going off on travels. We were just actually talking about some of your travels earlier but this getting stronger thing, how’s that working out for you?

Alexa Huston:

It is a work in progress, but yeah. I joined an amazing gym at the end of last year and its fun. I’m doing things I never thought I’d be doing like Olympic lifting, and MetCon training, and things like that. So it’s just been a part of my life the last year a little bit more than in the past. It’s been really fun.

Ben Aston:

It sounds very serious. Are you entering some competitions?

Alexa Huston:

I don’t think I will ever do that.

Ben Aston:

Or fighting people?

Alexa Huston:

No. No, merely to get stronger and be healthy and something I do with my boyfriend just to yeah, just make myself a little bit better every day.

Ben Aston:

Nice. Cool. So, tell me a bit about you. How is it that you ended up becoming a digital project manager? I had a sneak creep on your LinkedIn and I saw that your career, I’m going to say it was part of your career, but it started as a writing and time management tutor, which sounds like the perfect training for a project manager.

Alexa Huston:

Yeah, one could make the argument … That actually was an accident as well. I had a great university that I went to with a learning center and I had a work study program in that learning center and they asked me to be a tutor in time management and writing, so I did that throughout college. Through some twists and turns after graduation, I was actually a traditional project manager at an advertisement agency and really learned the 101 of PMing from a traditional marketing background.
So, I was there for a couple years before I took a little sabbatical to travel and live in Hawaii for a month and when I announced me leaving, I had an old colleague reach out and say, “Hey, what’s your plan when you get back?” And I said, “I don’t quite have one but do you have something in mind?” And he is our business development strategist at Crema and said, “We’re looking for another project manager to come on board, we build web apps and mobile apps.” And I thought to myself, “How different could that be?” Turns out it’s really different. I’ve learned that, but yeah, I just kind of fell into it by accident. But it’s been a great two years learning the ropes of a DPM life.

Ben Aston:

Cool, so before you … Because I have a similar story in that yeah, I started off in traditional ad agencies and then made the switch to digital. But yeah, how was that switch for you in terms of … Were you a kind of techy person before or how did that work out for you?

Alexa Huston:

That is a good question. I wasn’t necessarily. I had touched a couple digital projects in the ad agency but looking back, it barely was that. You know, it was helping to manage some content creation on a website and so I thought I had some familiarity with it. I’ve always grown up with technology but I wouldn’t consider myself a technologist. So all that is to say, there was quite a bit of a steep learning curve when I came onboard and took on my first project almost immediately where we were rebuilding a FinTech product and there is a whole host of things that I hadn’t even considered. And that, thankfully I had a great team to help lead me through that but truly, I mean I came in pretty green. Not from a project management standpoint but more from a DPM standpoint and there’s a lot to learn there, as I’m sure we all know.

Ben Aston:

Yeah indeed, so yeah, tell me a bit about Crema then, so do you search web and mobile apps primarily?

Alexa Huston:

That’s right, yeah. We primarily specialize in JavaScript-based web and mobile development, we’re a big React shop, React Native. But we also do quite a bit of business strategy, prototyping, user testing, and validation of ideas, primarily serving two different personas. So one persona could be this fondant entrepreneur who’s been through the ropes a few times and has some money to experiment with his new idea, so we’ll bring them in and help to validate and test that product, which we hopefully would then build after validation. That’s really fun.

Ben Aston:

Yeah.

Alexa Huston:

We also work with more established corporations who might have an innovation team or a product manager who’s been tasked to innovate. And so they’ll come to us and say, “Hey, you know, I’ve got this budget and I need to make some stuff better. Here’s what I’m thinking. Can we design this out, can we test it?” Other times it’s, “We need to rebuild this now,” and we say, “That sounds great, but let’s dive in, get under the hood a little bit and understand the best way to do that.”

Ben Aston:

Cool. Sounds fun. So are you doing things like design sprints, like with these kind of entrepreneurs who’ve got a load of cash and want to test an idea? What’s your process for validating?

Alexa Huston:

Yeah, we do design sprints. We take a lot of learnings from the Google design sprint process, but we’ve kind of customized those to fit our needs. So a lot of times we’ll suggest a four- to six-week engagement where we’ll meet with a client and do a day and a half, two day kickoff session to run through a lean model canvas, story-finding exercises, and various other tactics to help unpack that idea and make sure that one, there’s a problem that people want to be solved, and two, that this is the right solution to solve that.
And we might not know everything after those two days of course, but oftentimes a lot is uncovered and we’ll say, “All right, well, based on what we know, let’s experiment with these different scenarios,” and our designers and strategists will get to work kind of creating pretty high-fidelity wire frames. In fact, we don’t even really use that term, we just jump straight into design. There’s a lot of great tools out there that help our designers just get started, and we’re lucky to have an amazing staff.
So they’ll get to work creating some views, some interactive prototypes, if you will, to get out and test. And sometimes we’re testing with random people we find on Craigslist, or recruited by the client, or more internal stakeholders on various client teams that we know we need their input. So it is sort of a sprinting schedule where we design for five days and then we’ll test for two, and then iterate test, iterate test, and kind of finalize the approach. And ideally if especially we’re planning to go into development after that time, we’ll have our developers in on that process to help be consulting along the way and making some informed decisions so by the end of it, we have a good idea, or a better idea at least, of what it’s going to take to build.

Ben Aston:

Cool. It sounds fun. I’ve done a few of the Google design sprints, so I think one other thing that sounds interesting about your process over the process, like the Google process is that typically in the Google design sprint, the client has to be fully engaged for a full week, and they’re there onsite full time, they’re kind of concepting with you and developing the initial prototypes. And the problem with that is that most clients can’t afford to have their most important people out of the office, like onsite doing a sprint for a week. It’s just, it’s not viable.

Alexa Huston:

Right.

Ben Aston:

And so what we found is that clients were interested in doing a design sprint, but then it took like three months, four months to schedule, and then it’s like, “This isn’t really working.” So it sounds like having that reduced, just the unpacking phase and then going straight into design concepting and just taking it, rather than keeping them engaged right the way through the first sprint, just getting them involved in the beginning bit sounds-

Alexa Huston:

Yeah, and that’s so true, I mean, we know people are busy, and they’re also paying a lot of money to test this idea. And so we find that reducing down the involvement to one to two days, and then let us get running, but we also bring our clients in to our product management system. So while they might not be physically in the room, we’re updating them almost asynchronously constantly by use of Asana or ZenHub or other tools that we use in-house, so they still are very much involved in the process, just not physically committing their bodies in a room for one week. It’d be amazing if we could do that, it’s just not realistic.

Ben Aston:

Yeah, and it is amazing when the clients do do it. One of our clients, we did a design sprint and the great thing was, because we did have the clients engaged throughout the whole week, we came up with a … Well, we worked together on a concept that was so out-there that it was actually for a … yeah, it’s, I can talk about it. It was for BCLC, which is BC’s Lottery Corporation, and they wanted a more fun way to help people pick their lottery numbers, because some people, they think about playing the lottery and then they get to the kiosk and are like, “Oh, I don’t know what numbers to pick.”
So we wanted a way to enable it to be more fun to pick your numbers, and so the concept that we came up with was a puppy picker. So you chose your numbers based on pictures of dogs, and each dog had a different number, you didn’t know what number it was, but you just pick the dogs you liked, and that chose numbers for you. Which is the most crazy, stupid really, idea, but somehow because the client was engaged throughout the entire process, what you would have thought would be like, a client would never go for that, the client went for, and now it’s live. You can use this puppy picker to choose your lottery numbers.

Alexa Huston:

That is amazing.

Ben Aston:

It’s crazy, right, when you actually get the clients involved, amazing things can happen, and some things that we’d often maybe just discount actually get carried through, which is pretty cool.

Alexa Huston:

Yeah, that sounds amazing.

Ben Aston:

Cool. So are you working on any interesting projects at the moment that you can talk about?

Alexa Huston:

Oh, gosh. I’m working on so many projects right now. Without going into specifics, I can at least touch on the different industries, because they range from network security to online chat to thermatology to on-demand job hunting, and I think that’s it, among a whole host of internal things. So my-

Ben Aston:

What’s on-demand job hunting?

Alexa Huston:

So this particular product helps to, and maybe on-demand wasn’t the right word choice there, but this product helps high schoolers get connected to employers that are able to hire said age group. A lot of times there’s this felt need I’ve learned a lot about where high schoolers will be driving around their typical work flow to find a job during the summer, or when they’re available it’s like drive around to companies they want to work for and grab an application, and it’s not until after they submit their application where they find out whether they’re able to work for that company or not, based on age rules. So this app helps to vet, as a two-sided marketplace, those employers, so that you’re only matched with jobs that you qualify for based on your age.

Ben Aston:

So what kind of jobs … I’m pretty ignorant here obviously. So what kind of jobs can’t you get, like working in a bar or something like that?

Alexa Huston:

Sure, I mean, that’s one. But even like some restaurants, you have to be 16 or older. But some employers also hire kids who are 14 and 15, and so it helps to match them based on industries that they’re interested in, and some other variables that help them to be matched on those criteria and not run into the age issue along the way. Because that can be a little disheartening.

Ben Aston:

Yeah. Cool. Sounds fun. So let’s talk about the article you wrote, and if you haven’t checked it out yet, check it out. It’s all about, as I said, managing process change, and how to make process improvement easier. So if you’re thinking, “Hold on, my process isn’t working,” or even if you’re thinking, “Let’s try doing Scrum in our agency,” then check out this article first. It’s well worth reading.
But first, just for the uninitiated, let’s talk about process for just a minute. I think process is one of those things that you always find project managers talking about, and actually making process change is something again that project managers love to talk about. So when we’re talking about process, we’re talking about the way that we do things, it’s the status quo on the way things go. It’s how we know whether or not people are following the rules, it’s how we know whether or not things are happening properly or not. And so the reason why project managers are talking about this all the time is, we’re trying to establish the best way of doing things. We’re trying to make it the most efficient, we’re trying to streamline it, and so that’s why project managers are always talking about this. We’re trying to make the way that we do things better.
So process improvement should be happening all the time. We should be trying to change the way that we do things and improve them and make it better, but the way that we do that, I think, is really important, and that’s what Alexa has written an article about. So there’s a few things that you talk about, Alexa, you talk about being empathetic, about being strategic, realistic, dedicated, and patient. But let’s kind of put it into the context of the story that you tell in the article, which is changing, or trying to shift your agency to Scrum.

Alexa Huston:

Right.

Ben Aston:

I’d love to know how it came about that you thought this was a good idea, and how that worked out. Tell me about that.

Alexa Huston:

Sure, yeah. We are a pretty small agency. There’s less than 25 of us, and I think an important thing to note here is that we really value constant improvement. So that’s a shared value among the company to experiment with things and be better and try to make everyone’s work flow improved. That does complement I think where I come from as a person as well, and it’s nice to know that that’s just a value that our company shares.
And so the idea here is that starting about two years ago, which is when I started, so prior to that coming on, the agency was structured more so as a Waterfall organization in that the clients we were working with and the projects we were having just kind of fell into that framework. And there’s nothing wrong with it, in fact even with these design sprint and prototyping engagements I was talking about earlier, that is pretty Waterfall in nature.
However, when you start to get into development, things are far less predictable, and much more variable, especially the longer the time can be. So we slowly started to shift away from thick scope and Waterfall-based projects into duration and price-based agreements, meaning when we work with a client, ideally they’re just paying for our team for a set amount of time, and that cost is a function of that duration, and within that time, the Agile framework really helps us to react to the needs of the client. And we might know exactly where we want to start, and have a good idea of where the endpoint is, but along the way, Agile methodologies allow us to change what happens.
So to make a long story short, we’ve been doing these duration and price-agreements, we’ve been becoming more Agile in nature, I have a great PM team. There’s only three of us, but we’re all very committed to this arrangement, and about six months ago we said to ourselves, “We should probably become Scrum certified,” just from a professional development standpoint, to get more familiar with more brass tacks in terms of that process. We had been borrowing some of the things that Scrum teaches, but we wanted to just be a little bit more educated in that and ultimately be able to better explain processes to our team, and to have a shared understanding outside of just our PM team but from the organization as a whole.

Ben Aston:

So do you play the role of a Scrum Master, then? Is that the role of the project manager, or do you have one of the devs doing that?

Alexa Huston:

That’s a good question. We play the role of the Scrum Master.

Ben Aston:

Okay. Because I think it’s really interesting, for most agencies Scrum doesn’t work, and it doesn’t work because the engagement model is wrong. Because there’s a fixed scope, and if you’re just … Yeah, and so the engagement model that you’re talking about in terms of, well, you just pay for duration, like, clearly that works. That aligns well with Scrum.

Alexa Huston:

It does, although it can be a hard sell, certainly. Clients don’t really like-

Ben Aston:

Yeah, how does that work?

Alexa Huston:

Clients don’t always love to see a large figure not tied to-

Ben Aston:

With no deliverables.

Alexa Huston:

… with specific deliverables, yeah, no matter how we spin it. That would be hard just putting myself in their shoes to be like, “Yeah, this seems right.” But along the sales process, and as we’re working with them, we try to explain the benefits of that, and pointing to case studies and other examples helps to drive home that point. And of course, there’s also been times where it hasn’t worked for that client, and we’ll make adjustments based on that, but that is the preferred approach. “Let’s just do duration and price, and we’ll be Agile, and of course it’s easier said than done, but let’s hop in.”

Ben Aston:

Yeah. And so how often have you had it that clients have turned around and said, “This isn’t working. I’m not getting … We’re two months in and we haven’t got anything useful yet”?

Alexa Huston:

Sure, yeah, that’s hard. And that’s actually where we wanted to stress the importance of the Scrum process, because it does coach you to, at the end of every sprint, have something shippable.

Ben Aston:

Yeah.

Alexa Huston:

And so that shippable increment can help make the client feel better about progress because we’re marching toward a goal of something that is visible and more or less physical that you can interact with on your device, right? And so that shift to Scrum has helped maybe ease that tension with a client in the past, where previously they might have said, “It’s been two or three weeks, where is anything?” And in Scrum, while it hasn’t been perfect, it does allow us to I think more realistically set sprint goals and say, “By the end of this, we’re going to have X.” And that thing, that X, our client can see and touch and feel good about where we’re at, and provide feedback on.

Ben Aston:

Yeah. Cool, that makes sense. So one of the things that you talk about, which I think is really important, is being empathetic. How did that play out with this example in terms of … you’re changing the way you’re engaging with clients, you’re changing the way that you’re working as a team, so how did you apply that kind of principle of being empathetic with your team as you were trying to roll this out? Because, I mean, you talk about … I mean, people generally don’t like change. Developers always want to do Scrum, but apart from that … How did you, you decided that you wanted to do Scrum, how did you bring people along for the ride with you? Trying to get people’s input but actually you already had a plan. The plan was Scrum.

Alexa Huston:

Right. Yeah, that’s the interesting point, right? It’s like we’re a little mischievous behind the scenes. But in all reality, we wanted to do it, and the team all knew that was happening. It wasn’t like we were mysteriously gone for a two-day period, and when we came back we regrouped and decided to put together, this is just a really tactical thing in nature, but we put together a lunch and learn that kind of reiterated the points of Scrum and how Scrum works, and why Scrum.
The idea was that that would provide more context. A lot of our team had experiences with Scrum in the past, whether in previous jobs or what not, but this was through the lens of Crema, and how we wanted to implement it at our company. And at the end of that lunch and learn, we broke up into three separate groups led by each of us, and we said, “Okay, everyone, what questions do you have? Where might you feel concerned? Where do you feel good about this?”
We took all that feedback and dropped it into a new process for ourselves in Asana that we’re basically just collecting process improvement suggestions from the team, or things that we’ve come up with coming out of this whole shift into Scrum, and we’re going to be scrubbing through that in the next couple of months kind of identifying who’s owning each initiative and how we want to go about improving the process. But the core idea, and to answer your question, was, “Let’s get certified, let’s learn more about it, let’s get it right, and then let’s come back to our team, the people doing this work, and make sure that we’re answering any questions that they have,” and putting ourselves in their shoes to make sure that there isn’t any uneasiness about what is happening. And if there is, working to address that.

Ben Aston:

Yeah. I think that’s pretty key. I think, yeah, getting people to buy, whenever you’re making a process change, getting people to buy into it before, rather than making just a big announcement, “Hey, so next week we’re changing to Scrum. Good luck everyone, and I’m going on vacation.”

Alexa Huston:

Yeah, and that can be jarring, and confusing, and so we wanted to limit that as much as possible. And there were also projects during that time, this was earlier this summer, where we, just based on where we were at in the projects, we didn’t try to infuse any big changes into that. We were like, “Let’s just maintain the status quo on this one, but on this particular project we’ll make sure that things are kind of falling into the new way, so to speak.”
So it wasn’t, and the idea wasn’t to have everything change overnight, it was, “Let’s get certified, let’s make this a progressive change that we’ll make over time when things lined up that way.”

Ben Aston:

Yeah. And I think that’s what, yeah, one of the things that you talk about in your article is being strategic, that there’s a time and a place to change things, and it’s not necessarily just saying, “Hey, tomorrow everything changes, and good luck.” But also I think it’s important having a process for the process change. So there’s a plan not just to switch to Scrum, but there’s a plan around, and a process for, “Okay, how do we assess whether or not a project is suitable for applying a new process to,” for the current projects … Because this is always a challenge when implementing a new process is, “Okay, what do we do with the existing things?”
And then if you just decide, “Oh, well actually, all the existing things can stay as they are and we’ll just apply it to new projects,” what can be challenging is that actually you never get around to applying it to the new projects, because the new project comes in and you’re like, “Oh, let’s just do it the old way. We know how to do it that way.” I think there’s a balance to be struck there for sure.

Alexa Huston:

Yeah, that’s a really good point. And it’s not always easy to tell right away, you have to kind of trust your gut and definitely talk with the team and say, “Does this feel right? Is this the right time? Does this strategy make sense? Is this going to throw you off too much?”
In the article, I mentioned we decided to switch pretty rapidly to ZenHub, which is a project management skin for GitHub, and it’s been awesome because it’s so tied to the code, and everything is, it’s especially a beautiful tool to use, but we kind of shotgunned into that decision a couple of days before we were about to start development on this project that we had been prototyping and testing. We all got into a room and talked about it, and I was like, “Guys, should we do this? I know it’s going to be new and kind of weird, and truthfully I don’t even feel that confident about all the features right now, but I think if we don’t do this now, we’re going to miss the boat for the next 10 weeks.”
And based on that and some other reasons from the developers, we were like, “Well, this might hurt at first, but let’s just jump in.” I let the client know we were going to do that because again, we try to infuse them as much as we can into the project, and he said, “Sounds good, just let me know how I can help.” And we’re still using it to this day, but that was one of those situations where we were like, “Uh, okay, let’s go. Let’s do this, this feels right, and if it doesn’t work, going back to your earlier point, what is our plan?” And we had that laid out, and we were just ready to get started.

Ben Aston:

Yeah, and I think it’s often like a Band-Aid, isn’t it?

Alexa Huston:

It is.

Ben Aston:

You need to rip it off, and it’s sometimes best to do it quickly, but you just need to keep remembering why you’re doing it. Because it will be painful, there will be things that go wrong, but you need to keep on reminding people, “Hey, guys, remember why we were doing this? It’s so that we don’t have to triple enter all the data and all the tasks on our time sheets,” or whatever it might be.

Alexa Huston:

Totally. And on that note, I mean, I was almost more scared than anybody because I was so used to the way we had been running projects in Asana, and Asana’s great, but when you start to use it for development management, it can get pretty tricky. And we have, thanks to my colleague, really hacked a pretty brilliant system into that program, so it worked. But it was causing a lot of duplication of effort from the developers, so the idea to switch to this new tool was based on conversations we had had over the last couple of years on how we can make that process better for everybody.
And so I would argue that it was almost more scary for me as the PM on that project than maybe a developer who was ready to use something that was more tied to their work flow.

Ben Aston:

Yeah. And I think as the PM as well, we’re the ones who invariably have to pick up the pieces if something goes wrong, it’s on our heads. So yeah, it can be a bit scary. But I think another of the points that you make in the article is about being realistic, and just this point in there. At the end of day, project management is about helping people do their best work, not getting in the way.
I think that is so key that it’s … We’re trying to make things better but we shouldn’t have an ego here. This isn’t about, “Hey, I’ve come up with this really cool idea, let’s do it,” and then you are just, you try and hold your ground even if it’s a really bad idea. If it’s not working or it needs changing, I think it’s such sound advice to be like, “Okay, we need to be assessing this, working out whether or not it’s working,” and make improvements to the process rather than just sticking to our guns and thinking, “Hey, it’s my way or the high way.”

Alexa Huston:

Exactly. I mean, that’s what Scrum helps to solidify as well, because even before we were using the Scrum framework we’ve always done retrospectives at the end of every spring, and then at the end of every project. And that is a really good way to get some feedback from a team, because the goal would be to get some actionable items out of that, like, “Yeah, let’s talk about what went well and what didn’t go so hot, but let’s also maybe come up with some solutions to those pain points and experiment with how those go.”
So in that way, the Scrum methodology really roots for that and helps to not only test and iterate the product being developed, but also I would say test and iterate on the process along the way. So those retrospectives are key. And there’s a lot of different ways, I didn’t … this sounds really naïve, but I didn’t know there was a lot of different ways you could approach a retrospective, obviously with different questions, but experimenting with those and trying to get answers from differently-asked questions is a really key piece for us to make sure that we’re still doing well.
So one example just tactically of a retrospective we had recently, one of the team members was like, “ZenHub’s doing great, but I’m not totally sure, it’s hard for me to tell exactly what’s in progress at one time. I know what I’m held accountable for in this sprint, but I feel like it might be helpful to know exactly which ticket I’m working on.” And so we decided to put in not only a backlog, like a sprint backlog column, but also an in-progress column so that there was a clear distinction of like, “Okay, here are all the things we’re working on in this sprint, but here is this specific distinct item that this person is working on.” And so just adding an additional column in ZenHub, as a simple example, was one of the things that has come out of a recent retrospective.

Ben Aston:

Cool. I think it’s great when we’re able to like, listen to our teams, make … And the cost of adding an additional column is nothing, but then when it gets people, enables people to feel heard, and to feel like, “Actually yeah, it matters. I came up with this idea,” and you get-

Alexa Huston:

Yeah, and it’s making us better.

Ben Aston:

Yeah, yeah. Cool. So you’ve talked about ZenHub, which I’ve never actually played with. Is there any other tools that you’ve found recently that’s making your life awesome?

Alexa Huston:

Oh, man. We love tools at Crema. One of our founders just wrote a blog article that, I think we use like 36 different SaaS products and tools to run our business.

Ben Aston:

That sounds expensive.

Alexa Huston:

It can be. I mean, some of it’s G Suite and things like that, but yeah, we definitely love our tools. And we audit those occasionally as well, just to make sure, you know, “Is this really providing value? Is this still meeting our needs? Is there a better option or no option?” But yeah, ZenHub’s great, I’ve mentioned Asana, that’s kind of our bread and butter tool that we’ve been using for a lot of years and total fanboys and fangirls of.
And we still use those for some projects and internal communications, things like that, but we really just try to keep our eye out on what our team finds in the wild. We’re all very, seem to be very inquisitive and curious about different tools and better tools, so I would say ZenHub is the most recent example of that, but we’re always try to keep our eyes peeled for something else that might work. And there’s a lot of free trials, so we usually don’t hesitate to sign up for those and experiment with them along the way.

Ben Aston:

Are you trialing anything at the moment that you’re feeling?

Alexa Huston:

I’m trying to think. Currently I’m not. I’m wondering if my other colleague is, but nothing’s coming to mind at the moment. I’m sure there’s something I’m missing.

Ben Aston:

Apart from Asana and ZenHub, what are the project management tools that you use? Like, how are you monitoring burn on the … I guess if you’re just managing projects on a duration basis, the cost for, the forecasted cost and your actual cost are exactly the same, right? Because it’s-

Alexa Huston:

It should be, yeah. We do use Harvest and Forecast to track those as well. Going back to ZenHub, to sing their praises one more time, they have awesome reporting, so we can see our burndown in every different sprint along the way, which is awesome. But Harvest and Forecast allow us to make sure that we’re tracking on capacity and things of that nature. We’ve been using DropBox paper for note-taking, and that’s been pretty slick, super collaborative, we really like that. Obviously Slack because everyone is, it’s the best chat tool in America, in the world.

Ben Aston:

In America.

Alexa Huston:

Yeah. Here in America, it’s the best. And so yeah, just a variety of things. I love our, we have an employee engagement tool called 15Five. So every Friday I fill out this small short questionnaire that goes straight to my boss just to get feedback on how I’m doing, a little retrospective in nature, but that has sparked a lot of good conversations between me and my boss, and the team in general just of what’s going well, what could be improved, and what we’re looking forward to.

Ben Aston:

Cool. That sounds good. Cool, well thank you, Alexa, so much for joining us. It’s been great having you with us.

Alexa Huston:

Yeah, thank you so much. I really appreciate the time.

Ben Aston:

Cool. And if you’d like to contribute to this conversation, if you have been making some process changes and you’ve got some tips too, or you’ve been trying to switch to Scrum, why not join the conversation in our Slack team? Find it by going to the “Community” section of thedigitalprojectmanager.com, and you can find all kinds of conversations going on there. Or just add some comments at Alexa’s article, and she’ll, I’m sure, respond. 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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