DPM Podcast

How To Build Your PM Toolkit (with Sally Woolston from Nzime)

By 02/03/2020July 29th, 2020 No Comments
 

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Ben Aston:

How’s your process? Is it working efficiently? And does it work well with your project management tools? Well, if you’re not really sure what’s going on with your PM tool kit, keep listening because on today’s podcast we’re going to discuss how we can develop more efficient process, how we can choose the right tools for our projects, and roll them out across our organizations.

Thanks for tuning in. I’m Ben Aston, founder of the Digital Project Manager. Welcome to the DPM Podcast. We are on a mission to help project managers succeed, to help people who manage projects deliver better. We’re here to help you take your project game to the next level. Check out thedigitalprojectmanager.com to learn about the training and resources we offer through membership. This podcast is brought to you by Clarizen, the leader in enterprise project and portfolio management software. Visit clarizen.com to learn more.

So today I’m joined by Sally Woolston and Sally is the digital project manager at Nzime. Have I pronounced that right?

Sally Woolston:

No.

Ben Aston:

Oh no.

Sally Woolston:

It’s all right. Everybody does that.

Ben Aston:

How do you pronounce it?

Sally Woolston:

It’s Enzyme.

Ben Aston:

Enzyme. Well, that makes more sense. That’s the problem with a tricky name, isn’t it?

Sally Woolston:

Our director is creative, so he can’t spell things correctly. It’s just Enzyme.

Ben Aston:

I like it. Enzyme makes sense. I read it as Enzeem. But anyway, Sally is Enzyme and they’re an agency focused on behavioral insights and she’s managed all kinds of projects. From Fintech, eComm, recruitment, and retail as well. So hello, Sally.

Sally Woolston:

Hello, Ben.

Ben Aston:

And sorry you had to correct me on your Enzyme Enzeem.

Sally Woolston:

It’s all right. It’s all right. How are you?

Ben Aston:

Yeah, very good. Thank you. So obviously you’ve walked… You’ve worked… Well, you might’ve walked as well, but you’ve worked in lots of different things and in your LinkedIn profile, while I was talking to you, it mentioned you have this biz dev and sales background. So tell me how you got into project management.

Sally Woolston:

I think similar to a lot of digital project managers, I fell into it almost accidentally. So I was working as a business development manager for an insurance company within a group, a firm, if you’d like, of a couple of different insurance companies. And it was the property market. And as a business development manager for this company, I was dealing with the internal development team quite regularly and it just got to me that there was a lack of… There was no process. There was no structure. It was just a bit of a first come first serve who can get the devs around the kettle to get that project in first. So it was from being almost a client of the internal team that I said, “Look, guys, we really need to put some structure to this.” And my manager at the time said, “Okay. You’re the project manager now.” And I was like, “Okay.” So I had to do a little bit of learning on the job, but that’s how I fell into it.

Ben Aston:

Nice. And was that promotion at the time or was that a punishment?

Sally Woolston:

A little bit of both. It was difficult for sure. It was very complex and it was something that I had no idea… I didn’t know anything about software development, about a creative process. We did scrum at the time and we did it quite well retrospectively. Now I know that. But I had no idea, which is actually thedigitalprojectmanager.com and Slack channel was a really useful tool for me to just learn things as I was going because it’s a good community and people just share their insight and that was really useful for me.

Ben Aston:

Awesome. Well, that’s what we like to hear. That’s why it’s there. So knowing what you know now, what would you tell your younger self on that day where you were assigned that punishment or promotion to project manager? What’s your biggest thing that you’ve… Or the biggest mistake that you made right at the beginning where you’re like, “Ah, if I could do that again, I would’ve done that really differently.”

Sally Woolston:

There’s not one big mistake that comes to mind-

Ben Aston:

Just a series.

Sally Woolston:

Lots of little ones. No, I think to have an attitude that you can always learn from everyone around you and I think that just paying a lot of attention to what’s happened before you. Particularly if you’re taking over a project, what’s happened before you and why has it failed and what do you need to do differently? It’s especially paying more attention to the people and the situation and letting that direct you as opposed to going in. And I think I may be thought that I knew a little bit too much early on.

Ben Aston:

Yeah. Yeah. That’s interesting. Stakeholder engagement is so important. I think when we’re at the beginning of our careers, maybe we are focused on the project itself and delivering stuff rather than maybe so much the stakeholders involved in the project, the team, and value and how we’re generating value. We can sometimes get caught up so much in, “I’ve just got to get this thing out the door.” But we have to remember that human people element too and the value that we’re generating at the end of it.

Sally Woolston:

That’s it. And dealing with different characters as well and different personalities that don’t think in the same way that you think and that don’t have the same requirements that you do. So yeah, as you say, as a PM, if you’re just focusing on budget and deadline and getting things out, then you can miss such an important part of the process, which is, “Are my stakeholders or my clients… Are they benefiting from this process or is it just you’re just ticking boxes and completing things as you go?” So yes, stakeholder management is still a very complex part of my role, which I’m still refining.

Ben Aston:

Yeah. So I mean, can you tell us what projects you’re working on now specifically?

Sally Woolston:

Yeah. So we are, as you mentioned, we’re an agency, so we’ve got clients through different industries. But our bread and butter is really strategy and insight. And they usually transpose into either eCommerce, website builds, or campaigns, be that ECRM or social strategy, things like that. So bit of a mixture.

Ben Aston:

Nice. And so tell us about a typical strategy project then for you. So are you working with small online retailers or bigger brands? Can you talk us through that strategy process? Because we’re going to dive into the process in a minute when we talk about tools, but can you help us understand the context of these strategies, UX design, dev projects in that eComm space?

Sally Woolston:

Yeah. A lot of our clients are… It’s not something that we’ve strategically focused on, but we have ended up with quite a few clients. And I think that’s just because we’ve got quite good at understanding this industry. But they’re within the trade. So builders, merchants, and a lot of [inaudible 00:07:16] is an international brand that we work quite a lot within a few of the… So it’s not necessarily sexy brands, it’s not nights, what you’d think of as cool. But there’s such a huge market for trade. And I think what we’ve managed to do, particularly with the strategy side of things, is going to a business, talk to them about what their actual offering is, and help them understand their business a little bit better and then translate that into a digital ecosystem.

So is that a new website? Or are you communicating effectively on socials? Or are you where you need to be? So the strategy side of things tends to be a lot of communication. So we’ll do workshops and we’ll do meetings. So it falls a little bit outside of the processes as far as the tools go. Because that’s almost the procurement of the project. And then once a strategy has been identified and we’ve got a project as an outcome, then we’ll get into the UX and the design and then hopefully development and delivery.

Ben Aston:

Cool. I want to still dig deeper into this strategy deliverables though. Because I think it’s something that you’ll often hear people talk about. And if you don’t actually work in agencies that are doing this strategic engagement at the beginning of a project, you talked about a workshop and developing a strategy and a digital ecosystem. But in terms of the deliverables, are you creating… Are you doing journey mapping? Are you doing a service blueprint? A Lean Model Canvas? What are the outputs… Or how do you develop that ecosystem?

Sally Woolston:

It will depend on obviously what the clients, what they’re dealing with, what issues they’ve got. So often it will be that they’re not effectively communicating their services or their products. And from that, we’ll… Maybe it’s the senior leadership team or the board within a company who have a disconnect from the people on the ground. And usually, that miscommunication means that the digital strategy is maybe not quite right. So you’ve got the decision-makers basically not having the right insight and the right feedback from the people on the ground. And what our workshops do is they connect too. So we get the people, hopefully usually marketing managers or brand managers or people dealing with the website or the socials, help them understand the audience, help them understand the consumer and their behaviors online a little bit better.

And then the output for the project, it can vary so drastically. So something we’re doing more recently is identifying… It might just be, “Okay, so you’re on social media, but you may be on the wrong platforms and your content might not be quite right because you’re talking about the wrong things.” Or, “You’re not speaking to your audience in a way which they understand.” So it’s almost a business consultancy or a marketing consultancy workshop that we do and that then transposes hopefully into some work for us.

Ben Aston:

Nice. So in this role where you’re the project manager and you talked about in your article that you wrote some of the challenges of different process inefficiencies and things, but are there any other challenges that you find yourself particularly dealing with this year or at the moment? What are you trying to get better at?

Sally Woolston:

I think a big one for me and a focus for me this year is communication. Effectively communicating. Because this is not just for your clients or for your stakeholders, this is for your internal team as well. Because often as the project manager, you’re at least the one person who touches all the different departments within an agency. So you have to be able to understand different character types, how they like to be communicated to when to step back. And that all ties into, I’m trying to boost productivity, so helping getting my studio guys in flow a little bit more frequently and less interruptions. But yeah, communication is my main focus for this year and just better understanding different characters.

Ben Aston:

And are you using any tools to help you do that? Or other than this big picture goal of, “Let’s get better at comms,” how are you… Or what does that journey look like?

Sally Woolston:

I’m reading quite a lot about it. Well, reading and YouTube about productivity and about understanding different people. There are some channels I like. Better Ideas or Matt D’Avella has some good stuff on productivity. But now I’m reading mostly trying to get better.

Ben Aston:

Have you read any good books recently?

Sally Woolston:

I’m in the middle of one, which is called, Was it Meaningful… How to Have Meaningful Conversations. I don’t remember the author, but that’s quite interesting. It’s about how some people can just go and have a really big discussion or they understand when they need to have a big discussion and other people get super frightened by the idea of confrontation and that can shy away. And then what manifests as a result of not having a conversation. So in this book, there are some big examples like, “I want to divorce you but I can’t talk about it.” But translating the ideas into more day-to-day things that you can just… When you’re talking to your colleagues, for example, or when you’re talking to your clients, how to approach a conversation.

Ben Aston:

Yeah. No, that sounds interesting. Cool. So I’m wondering if with the new decade that we are now in, have you found anything recently that has made your life awesome? I mean, you’ve just talked about some books that you’re reading. You’ve got some goals for the year ahead. But is there anything else that you’ve discovered that you think everybody else should know about that is making your life awesome?

Sally Woolston:

Well, we’re only 22 days in.

Ben Aston:

Come on! Nearly a whole month!

Sally Woolston:

Not one thing I suppose. I think-

Ben Aston:

It doesn’t just have to be a thing.

Sally Woolston:

No, I am trying to make a bit of an effort on reading a little bit more and not just consuming rubbish information like Netflix all the time. So yeah, just-

Ben Aston:

That’s some good information there.

Sally Woolston:

There is. Yeah. Well, I’ll reserve my comments for Netflix stuff [crosstalk 00:14:08]

Ben Aston:

Good stuff. Well, let’s get back to your post on this topic of picking project management tools for your agency. And if you haven’t read the post yet that we’re going to talk about, check it out on thedigitalprojectmanager.com. They’re both just actually called Agency Growth Secrets. But in it, Sally is talking about how setting up your team with the right tools can be a great catalyst for your agency’s growth. And why is that? Well, it’s because when you have your teams buy-in with the process and the workflows and the tooling to work with that, the team’s going to be a lot more engaged and can work a lot more efficiently. So I want to drop into this discussion by talking about the process. When you go about picking new tools, how you engage the team, collect the requirements, create a shortlist, decide what to trial, and make a decision.

Because I think this is a challenge that many people will have. They know things aren’t quite working right with their agency. It seems maybe the process isn’t well-defined, the tools aren’t really working. And then often people will have a suite of tools, some one-trick ponies that are great for a specific task. But the choice is, do you have this herd of one-trick ponies that work well together and integrate with each other with APIs and stuff? Or do you have one tool to rule them all and try to work through one tool?

So this is a challenge that I know many people face. So I wanted to talk to Sally about this part of her post, which is really about choosing a tool, how you go through that process, and how you then roll out the tool to your team. So I know in your post, Sally, you were talking about you’ve been running the agency for a while and you identified that you had some of these less-than-ideal habits. I wonder if you can talk to me a bit about what those habits were and how you identified that there were some things that were less than ideal because I think inertia and the status quo can sometimes blind us to that.

Sally Woolston:

For me, it was really obvious, the things that weren’t working. You mentioned that it’s common that there’ll be a suite of tools within an agency. And for us, that looks… I think there were five or six different ones. We had Asana, we had Harvest, we had some other scheduling thing and we had an invoicing and there were spreadsheets everywhere. And so what we were doing is between the client service department and the studio, we were duplicating so much work. So we’d get an email may be from a client or maybe that client was using Asana, who knows. There’s no protocol. And then we would send that over to the studio to get a quote. And then that would end up going back in the studio as a task named similarly to the actual work brief. And then clients were feeding back somewhere else. It was obvious that it wasn’t working, that there was just an awful amount of effort.

But I suppose if it’s not that obvious, then one thing that I do regularly, at least every quarter with the studios, I’ll just send a Google questionnaire. And that’s a nice way for me to get the concise information that I’m looking for. So that might be, “Do you always have the brief that you need? Do you always have enough time? Can you access your schedule quite easily?” So I can send out a little questionnaire to my studio, get their feedback, and nine times out of ten things that within either the client services or my department that we think are going well, it’s a different story for the studio. So if it’s not so obvious, but you’ve just got a bit of an inkling that something could be easier, just ask. Just ask people. Ask your clients. Say, “Is actually easy for you to report a book to us?” Or, “Do you have easy access to the status of that once it comes out?” Or just like I say, communication.

Ben Aston:

Yeah. And I think so often I think what can happen is, and I’d be curious if this is the case for you guys at Enzyme, the process and the workflows that work when an agency is 5 to 10 people are not the same that work when an agency is 30 people. And sometimes the process and the operations don’t keep up with the growth of the agency. And that’s when things can begin to fall apart. And you hit these points in the agency growth. Maybe the next one’s at 50 people, the next ones at 100 people, where the process has to change and the workflows have to be adapted because you’ve got more people involved. Is that true of you guys?

Sally Woolston:

Sure. Well, we’re not that big. We are a team of 10. But I think inevitably, yeah, you do need to… There are moments when you need to scale your processes, but in order to scale them, they need to be set in the first place. So if you’re just of working on a bit of an ad hoc basis… And even if you’re a team of two, your processes can’t be the same if you’re a team of 10. Because you might not have the same departments, you might not have the same roles. So I would say start by having a set process and a set almost house rules of how things work within your agency, about having an identity of how you work, makes it easier to scale when you do. But I think wherever point you get to that you do need to think about changing things, and I would… The approach we take is, “It’s always changing,” because we’re constantly taking a checkup on, “Is this still efficient?” Or, “Is this not actually working out?” So yeah, we’re always changing. But I think if you have processes already set in place that you can scale and if you’ve already identified what the problem is before you need to scale, then I think that that becomes more of an easy task.

Ben Aston:

Great. And so one of the things that you talked about was having a questionnaire, talking with the team and with the client about, “Hey, Oh geez, do you think we’re working efficiently?” And one of the things you mentioned was, “Hey, we’re duplicating work, updating multiple platforms. We’ve got it in [inaudible 00:00:20:14]. We’ve got it in Asana. It’s the same job, it’s the same information, and we’re just copying and pasting between different things and sheets as well.” Was there anything else where you found these major inefficiencies in the process or in the tooling?

Sally Woolston:

I think within the process certainly, our collaboration internally has improved an awful lot. So that just daily standup. “Does everyone have access to the same boards and the same documentation? Are you just getting together regularly and FaceTime? Even things like the actual setup of the studio, does it allow people to just turn around and have a conversation?” I mean I absolutely love Slack, but sometimes you do just need to have a face to face and it’s…

Ben Aston:

Yeah. Yeah. And in your posts, you talked as well about so other triggers may be to look for if you’re thinking, “Hey, I’m not sure if our process is working very well. Or our tooling.” One of the things… You talked about inconsistent communication with clients, lack of process in the team, inaccurate reporting. Time-wasting, a daunting onboarding process because you’ve got so many different tools to try and explain to people. So let’s talk through this process that you went through for finding a new tool and looking at your process and working out how you match a tool to your process. Now obviously some tools dictate a particular process and that can be good because they’re tried and tested processes and sometimes you can adapt the process to a certain extent. But often with these big tools, what they’ll do is if it includes invoicing and billing and estimating and the entire project workflow, it’ll force you to work through a particular way. And I think that’s why many people end up taking a suite of one-trick ponies because then you can adapt the process as you need to.

But let’s talk through this process. And at a high level, this is what I’m guessing that you did. And you can tell me whether or not I’m right. And then we’re going to dig into each one of these. And you mentioned this in your post, but first of all talking to the team, engaging the team, and defining the process with them, collecting the requirements for the tool, creating a shortlist of tools, deciding what to trial, making a decision on a tool, testing that tool than in a live beater environment, and then rolling it out across all your projects. Did it look anything like that?

Sally Woolston:

Yeah, basically. But I was fortunate that my management team just said, “This is the number one priority task and you just do it until you get it right.” So I had the luxury of time, which I think is where a lot of… Especially if you’re in an agency and it’s fast-paced and you’ve got multiple clients and you’ve got deadlines and everything’s going off, you probably don’t have time to be like, “What’s the actual information? What should I ask the studio? How can I make the working environment a little bit more efficient so that it ultimately benefits everyone?” So I had the luxury of time, which made this entire process doable. But yeah, it looked pretty much something like that. So-

Ben Aston:

So when you say the luxury of time, how much time did it take from deciding, “Hey, something needs to change,” to now everybody being on board with the new process and the new tool?

Sally Woolston:

Yeah. I mean it took… The first draft, because we obviously ended up on a monday.com and I did manage to get pretty much all of the tools, rehouse them in that one. So it took about… From really starting to seriously consider the project to rolling out in a beater environment was about four and a half, maybe five months. So that’s an awful amount… An investment of time that if you’re… And like I say, if I’m doing that pretty much as my number one priority, it could easily take so much longer than that to the point where you’re just like, “Forget it. I’ll just continue using all of these different tools. Because it’s not great, but it’s working.” So I was fortunate that I did have the green light to just really focus.

Ben Aston:

Yeah. And so I think one takeaway for people who are thinking about changing the tools, be aware that it will take a lot of time. And you’re saying, “Hey, I had the luxury of time,” but I think that’s a realistic timeline for most people unless their agency is super small. Anytime you’re implementing a new tool, this process, from engaging the team to rolling it out completely, can take at least four months. It could take a year depending on how long your projects are because you’re not really wanting to switch projects to the new system and process while they’re already underway. So that’s something to think about. So let’s talk about engaging the team and mapping out your process. So you talked about in your post how maybe different teams are doing things in different ways or on different projects. Your process wasn’t fully aligned. How did you actually get some agreement on, “Hey, this is how we’re going to work and this is how projects happen?”

Sally Woolston:

Well, I didn’t just tell people what to do, but I do just say, “Look, I really believe this is the best way for us all to move forward.” I started by, as I said, the different departments of the studio, the clients, the client services, the finance team. “What does everyone need to do in their day-to-day? And is it even possible to collate all of those or is it not?” So once we had the key list of what everybody needs to do, I suppose from there it was just about looking at… You pretty much hit the nail on the head where you said that a lot of these tools will force your processes around the tools. So if it does quote and invoicing and project management reporting and absolutely everything, you’re probably going to have to work in the way that it wants you to.

So I started by, once I had a bit of an idea of what everyone’s doing and what they want out of the tool, “What are the common points that we can take out of that and adapt to different project types?” So all that really is is we need to be able to collaborate quite easily between teams and with our clients, needs to be user-friendly because it’s client-facing. We need to be able to quickly and in a more detailed view take a look at the status of a project from actually where it’s at from a progress point of view and also from a budgeting point of view. And that was pretty much it. There needed to be some scheduling, but the main… I suppose this is common…

It’s known now that you get 80% of your value from 20% of your features. And so I just adapted that and I thought, “If that’s all we really… Really make it much more simple than we think it is, I don’t need to know if, for example, if I’m looking at scheduling. I might not need to know, even though I can on Monday, how many hours on which exact day with which exact person. All I really needed to do was know that this is going to happen in this time.” So I suppose simplifying the requirements made it a lot easier.

Ben Aston:

Yeah. And so did you map those out in a document or a spreadsheet or was this in a collaborative whiteboarding session with different people? How did that actually work in practice?

Sally Woolston:

Yeah. Well, it was an iterative approach. So I’d go away and take on board some of the comments and the feedback and then present it back to a couple of the team members and then they’d feedback and I’d go back and work on it again. And by this point I was running free trials of about, I don’t know, four or five different software. So I was basically… I’d set up all of these free trials and I’d put a load of dummy data in and then I’d made it a few different profiles and I was literally… This is what I mean, it’s time-consuming. And I was literally commenting, feeding back, can I give access, can I see that? So it was a lot of trial and error.

And then once I had a few of those different boards set up and I was most confident with Monday, then I ran with that to present to the team and get their feedback and then maybe make some tweaks and then go back. So I made sure that I was throughout the entire process of trying to design these processes that I was always considering the users. So that’s where it’s quite similar to how hopefully you’d map out, I don’t know, a website build or something. You’re going to constantly check back in with your stakeholders to make sure that you’re going in the right direction.

Ben Aston:

So you obviously in terms of defining the process and the requirements around that process, you were focused more on the requirements themselves rather than, “Hey, this is how our project gets from new business through to invoicing.” Because I know that you were talking about you had this homegrown invoicing tool or job creation thing. So how did that fit into it? Did you map out your process first and then decide on a single way that you are going to work across all projects? And that’s how you got the requirements? Or did you just say, “Hey, let’s just focus on the requirements, which are the core activities that are consistent throughout all projects?”

Sally Woolston:

Well, yeah. More so we had obviously the requirements that we needed and I think what helped me land on Monday was that you can create the different boards and you can create them to do what you need them to do. So it was, once I’d started to understand how Monday works, I was thinking, “Okay, can I create a board that replicates a schedule? Yes.” And then it’s like, “Can I create a board that replicates the invoicing? Yes. Can I create a board that replicates the project management for the client? Yes.” And then once I understood that I could tie it all together, it was like the requirements came first and then the process and it was a happy coincidence if you know what I mean. So I was looking for tools.

I would’ve been happy… It would’ve been nice to have everything housed on the same program, but if that wasn’t going to work then I wasn’t precious about it. So I was just about, “What’s maybe the best for the individual requirements? What does best?” And then if there were to have been separate programs for our needs, then I would have looked at how can I connect them all and maybe the process would have been different. But I suppose we were quite lucky in that everything that we really needed, we could create on Monday because of its flexibility.

Ben Aston:

Yeah. And I think what you’re describing here I think is really interesting in that I think at the beginning of this I said, “Hey, this is the process. Engage the team to find the process, collect requirements, create a shortlist, decide what to try and make a decision, roll it out.” But actually part of defining the process is, what you’re talking about here is, well, at the same time as you’re doing that, look at the tools and what they can do and think about how you might be able to work with them and do those two in tandem. This doesn’t necessarily have to be a purely linear process. So one thing I want to ask though is, you obviously made a shortlist of tools. You talked about doing different trials with different tools, sticking demo data and trying different things out. How did you get to that point where you’re like, “Okay well these are the four or five or ten, however many it was, that I’m going to trial and start testing out?”

Sally Woolston:

I actually got there through the Slack channel, with the DPM Slack channel. I think I mentioned that. Because there’s a whole channel obviously dedicated to tools. And so I thought, “Yeah, I can go on all of their websites and read about their features and what they’re saying about their product. Obviously they’re going to say it’s great for project management, but what was the actual experience like from within an agency, within a setup? And the business model which is similar to ours?” So Monday was popping up a lot on the Slack channel, as was Wrike and Trello. But I just thought Trello was… I do like it, but it’s just a little bit too… There’s not enough to it. And I know that there’s a lot of APIs and things that you can build into it. But I didn’t want to get messy with it. Because I think as soon as you start doing that you start looking at the, “What can all of the tools do and then how can I use the tools?” And I was trying to reverse that.

Ben Aston:

Cool. And so yeah, just to say if people are looking for shortlists of tools, head to thedigitalprojectmanager.com/tools where you’ll see a list of tools for all kinds of different use cases. So that’s a great place to start. And then here as Sally is talking about as well, join us on Slack and ask people what they’re using as you’re making that decision. So you trialed out Monday. You thought, “Okay, this is working.” How did you then test that in your real-world environment before you rolled it out across all your projects?

Sally Woolston:

Well, that was again, quite a lot of effort. We ended up rolling it out to our clients I think from memory, it was about a month after we trialed it internally. So for I think at least a month we were internally copying, pasting everything over to Monday and then having the studio manage everything through Monday. And then client services for us we were doing everything twice.

But I think we had to do that because if it didn’t work out and we’d just gotten our clients excited and changed everything for them and then a week later turned around and said, “Oh, actually that’s not working.” That was a big concern. We wanted to make sure that as soon as we went out with it, we were happy, we were confident on how we could educate our clients on how to use it and that it would address issues that they had raised. So maybe it’s again, just not the same protocol for different clients. Some of them weren’t finding it all that easy to track the progress of certain tasks or, “Where do they report things to? Who do they talk to? Is it an email? How do they check all of their billings and things like that?” So to actually roll it out was about… We took about a month and we took our time with it.

Ben Aston:

Right. And so in that process, part of the process was you chose the tool, you did the demo data, you then tried to sell it internally. You obviously got buy-in there. And then you’re doing the same thing with your clients. You’re saying, “Hey guys, we’re going to work in a new way. This is going to be more efficient.” And you get their buy-in. What are some tips for getting buy-in and how much did you have to adapt your process as part of that engaging with the stakeholders, getting their feedback, adapting it slightly?

Sally Woolston:

Massively, really. I think we’re fortunate to have relationships with our clients that we can just have a really candid conversation about, “Look, we were doing this within our business. It’s not quite working for us. And I’m assuming that it’s been a bit of a pain point for you.” And it’s just like, “Yeah, actually that’s not been great.” So having that open communication means that you can just get straight to the point. But I think it usually comes down to communication.

Ben Aston:

Yeah. So did you find that once you introduced the tool that certain clients are like, “I want it this way!” And someone else said, “But I want it that way!” How did you manage that? Or even stakeholders or your team saying, “I don’t like it.” How do you deal with that?

Sally Woolston:

Well, with clients they only really see their project board. So again, with Monday you can, if it’s about changing terminology of status or adding a few extra columns, you can just do that and it doesn’t affect anything internally too massively. So the client then feels like they’ve got a bit more control and it might bring massive value to them if they could just add an extra column or tweak something on their board. So that was one benefit of Monday. But internally, my colleagues, they’re fairly easy going. They definitely let me know if something’s not quite right or if it’s not efficient or if it’s just a bit of a pain and they’ll let me know. But there’s not been anything major that’s come up that’s not had a workable solution. And that, again, I think I just have to put down to just how dynamic Monday is.

Ben Aston:

Yeah. Well obviously Sally, you’re a big fan of monday.com and in the post itself actually Sally does a whole walkthrough of how they’re using monday.com to manage the agency, their clients, their resourcing, and tracking everything in there. So if you’re interested in taking a peek at how the process can look in an agency using monday.com… Who actually happens to be one of our partners as well. So it’s always fun to talk about them. Then check it out on thedigitalprojectmanager.com. But I think, Sally, I just want to close by asking you, you’ve obviously gone through this process. It took a really long time. For someone who’s about to do this, they’re like, “Okay. I need to look at my process. I need to look at my tools. I need to decide and really work out how we can make this work better.” What are some of your big takeaways? Or if you were going to do it again, that you’d do differently?

Sally Woolston:

I think before you start, you need to know what the problem is that you’re trying to solve and then that’s going to make your task a lot easier. If you quite literally aren’t me, you’re like, “Actually it would be easier for me to identify what is working because it was just so much going on.” Then I’d just go back to the different people that are involved in the processes. And you might end up changing your processes, which has nothing to do with your tools. So it might be a case of you need more regular meetings. You need to get together before, during, after projects, which I’m assuming is quite surprising that some people don’t just check how things are going or how they’ve been. To identify your main problem and then check in with everyone who’s using the processes and just get their feedback and see if they’ve got the same pain points that you do. And if they do, then I suppose that’s going to give you a good place to start. And if not, well then maybe you don’t have a problem.

Ben Aston:

Yeah. And I think you’re so right. And I think this is just a really valuable insight. If you’re thinking about changing your tools, don’t do it in isolation from thinking about your process. And getting the process sorted and getting alignment on how a project gets from new business through to invoicing, the steps along the way, the touchpoints internally with the team and with your client, I think is really valuable to align on that and get clarity on what people really need before just diving into a tool because it looks cool, which can be the temptation as project managers are like, “Hey, this is shiny and new. Let’s do this.”

Sally Woolston:

And I was so reluctant because Monday, they go so hard with their PPC.

Ben Aston:

[crosstalk 00:39:53].

Sally Woolston:

Yeah. And it was annoying. It was like, “Fine. I’ll check out your product.” And then when I liked it, I was like, “Damn!” But, yeah, I do like it. But yeah, I’m glad you were partnered. There’s no affiliation or anything like that my end.

Ben Aston:

Yeah. Yeah. Cool. Well Sally, thank you so much for joining us today. This has been really interesting.

Sally Woolston:

Cool. Thank you very much for having me.

Ben Aston:

And if you want to learn more and get ahead in your work, come and join us with DPM membership. Head to thedigitalprojectmanager.com/membership so you can get access to our Slack team templates, workshops, offers, our eBooks, and more. And I’d love to know what you think about monday.com, what you think about implementing new processes and tools. Comment on the posts. Tell us what works, what doesn’t. Tell us your hacks, tips, and tricks for onboarding new tools and selecting them too. I’d love to hear your fail stories and win. And if you like what you heard today, please subscribe and stay in touch on thedigitalprojectmanager.com. But until next time, thanks for listening.

 

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Ben Aston

Ben Aston

I’m Ben Aston, a digital project manager and founder of thedigitalprojectmanager.com. I've been in the industry for more than 15 years working in the UK at London’s top digital agencies including Dare, Wunderman, Lowe and DDB. I’ve delivered everything from film to CMS', games to advertising 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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