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A Mountain of Challenges: The Next Boulder Digital Project Manager Happy Hour Presentation

On Thursday, February 20, Boulder-based, web-focused Project Managers will get together for another happy hour presentation. This time around we’ll hear Corban Baxter, Creative Technology Director at Made Movement, speak about his experience creating the Copper Mountain Sherpa App in his presentation “A Mountain of Challenges”.

Boulder Project Manager Meetup Wrap-Up: Motivating Team Members

Image credit: Steve Schoeffel

No matter what your role is or what your company does, we’ve all been there: required to do work that is dull, uninspiring, or repetitive. We all get through it, and understand it’s a part of our jobs, but that doesn’t make it any more fun to go through. The difference for Project Managers (PMs) is that it’s part of a PM’s job, life goals, etc., to keep team members motivated, excited, and inspired during those tough stretches. Actually doing this is no easy feat, which is why we chose it as the topic of the month for January’s Boulder Web Project Manager Meetup.

Every month Web PMs around the Boulder and Denver area get together to discuss, question, and learn through focused conversations or presentations from members of the community. January’s topic was Motivating Team Members and conversation focused around what we can do as PMs to motivate our teams: what’s been working, what hasn’t, and what new strategies we should be trying. Below is a summary of the conversation and some lessons learned.

A Different Way to Think About Process

When I interviewed at Viget three years ago, I asked a lot of questions about the company’s project “process.” I had previously worked at a startup whose process was largely “make it up as we go along,” and I had read several books and articles on agile development before the interview. So I assumed the startup was clueless, and that surely Viget had a concrete, repeatable, nameable process.

I can’t remember what they told me in the interview. Probably a variation of what we tell clients: “modified agile”; one- or two-week sprints; daily (or thrice-weekly) standups; pair programming when appropriate. Whatever they said, it kind of made sense.

Once hired, I learned about Viget’s process in more detail. I learned how we use Unfuddle, a project management tool; how we run kickoff and iteration planning meetings; how to follow project management checklists. For two-plus years, it kind of made sense.

And then I realized: it kind of didn’t.

It’s not that Viget doesn’t have process. It’s that my mental model of what process is and what it’s for was misguided. I knew nothing.

So I want to share what I have since learned about process — what it is and what it isn’t; what it can and can’t do.

The Production vs. Media Split in the Digital Age

The answer to the age old question of “How much should we spend on production vs. media on this creative campaign?” is no longer as black and white as it used to be.

Twenty years ago, advertising options were narrow, relegated primarily to TV commercials or print advertising. The standard budget split was 20% on production and 80% on media, with little deviation, given the high cost of traditional advertising media. However, over the past several years there’s been a dramatic shift in media focus from the offline world to the online world as digital channels have evolved. Digital options -- both on desktop and mobile -- are playing a bigger role in campaign planning. This shift has altered the way brand managers think about media vs. production budgets.

Ending Projects on a Productive Note

We're often energized to begin a project on the right foot, and we have many steps in our process to ensure that projects start smoothly. Anything from internal kickoffs to field trips garner team excitement and spark the right mindset to begin a successful project.

But what about the end of the project? Wrapping up a project in a smart way is just as important as kicking it off. There are lessons learned, opportunities for sharing, and plenty to reflect upon. Here are a few things we do at Viget to make sure projects end on a positive, and productive, note:


We’re a pretty self-reflective bunch. We always hold a post-mortem meeting with the full internal project team and senior leadership once the project ends. The goal is to look back at lessons learned during the experience, and identify insights that can be brought into future projects.

Before the retrospective, we send a survey to the team, getting feedback on what worked, what didn't, and why. The PM consolidates the feedback into a master retrospective document, and uses it to prepare an agenda that will guide the discussion at the retrospective meeting. The retrospective document is also accessible to the whole company for future reference, and highlighted in that week's lab report (our version of an internal, weekly company newsletter).

After the retrospective, each individual team member reports back to their lab with any discipline-specific lessons learned. This typically incites more discussion, and ensures that our processes and approaches evolve when they need to, and for the right reasons.