Let’s face it—there is no one-size-fits-all label when it comes to defining the golden ticket of project management philosophies for every digital agency on the planet.

Every agency is comprised of different people who often come from very, very different backgrounds. What works for the boutique digital agency tucked away in Portland might not necessarily align with what it takes to keep projects on track for that colossal agency with 250 staff members in Shanghai.

Though it’s not always easy to define what’s right for every agency where project management is concerned—it is, however, easier to define what is not (for the most part).

Go Web Team, Go!

A prominent mistake various digital agencies often make is having production team members responsible for performing common managerial tasks rather than remaining focused on what they do best—producing solid designs and crafting wicked code. It takes an immense amount of concentration to delve deep, locate and solve a complex code issue or finely-craft a responsive homepage design with subtle parallax effects. Nothing destroys dedication, interrupts creative process and puts out passion for web designers and developers more than having to deal with web-project issues outside of their functioning roles.

Before you miss a deadline, keep these ideas in mind:

  1. One of the primary goals of a web project manager is to ensure the production team never gets sidetracked or bogged down with irrelevant tasks that reduce the quality of work produced for clients.
  2. Something as simple as stopping to answer the phone or responding to an unrelated email can seriously disrupt development and design teams when they’re in the zone. In some cases, this wears down the effectiveness of the team, momentum slows and eventually, deadlines are missed.
  3. Before projects get to this point, think about the issue at hand and whether or not it’s truly something you cannot handle on your own—even if it takes a little extra effort. In the end, your team will appreciate you for respecting their time, deliverables will stay on track and clients will remain happy.

If you have a sophisticated project management portal such as Basecamp,
stay on top of client communications for the design team by tracking deliverables
and active discussion threads

Multi-Lingual Project Management

Another commonly forgotten project management must-have is having the ability to communicate to everyone involved on a web project both professionally and effectively. Yes, project managers should know how to speak with designers and developers knowledgeably and on their skill level, but they should also be able to speak along similar lines with prospective clients in addition to existing clients. Communication with each party will differ and you’ll often have to adapt the language, tone and subject matter accordingly.

Realistically, each staff member has their own way of communicating with the rest of the agency and project managers should adapt their communication philosophy accordingly:

  1. When relaying issues to web developers it helps to stick to the facts and remain relatively straightforward.
  2. The same goes for designers—their time is also precious so make sure to relay matters of utmost importance using correct terminology during appropriate times.
  3. Project managers should shift direction and be prepared to focus solely on the project or potential project at hand. Clients want to know how specific project tasks and elements align and ultimately affect their overall business goals and return on investment. It’s best to leave the convoluted JavaScript lingo at the door and keep the conversation on topic according to the client’s needs and interests.

Getting Your Hands Digitally Dirty

Another important quality that various project managers tend to lack is hands-on experience dealing with design and development. It may have not been your major or you might not particularly love it, but knowing a little more than the average person when it comes to these areas can go a long way. As a web project manager your duty is to be the ultimate multi-tasking organizer and time tracker for a multitude of projects.

Which means...

  1. Any opportunity to minimize production delay is a golden opportunity for the team, client and even yourself. You’d be surprised how having some basic Photoshop know-how can easily cut down on minor tasks that may bog down designers like creating webpage screenshots or optimizing images for the web.
  2. Knowing a little bit about what goes on behind the scenes helps, too. If you’re trying to relay a specific CSS issue that may be affecting an element of a client’s homepage, don’t just tell the designer there’s a problem with so-and-so’s website. Instead, narrow the problem down for them as much as you can beforehand.
  3. Project managers who have dev experience can use relevant web developer tools to inspect elements of code and isolate the issue within the code. Being able to pinpoint exactly what effect a certain command is creating that’s upsetting the overall page helps save time and effort.

For example, in Google Chrome, one can right click a certain portion of a site and navigate to "inspect element" to bring up its code. From here, you can view all of the styling attached to that particular element and manipulate it for testing. If you’re able to determine which style is disrupting that exact portion of the site before handing the issue off to the designer—you can save the project and your design team valuable time.

Though project management philosophies will differ agency to agency, it helps to at least have an idea of what actions may not equate to a productive use of time when it comes to keeping web projects on time, task and budget.

Ashley Durham Ashley Durham

Project Manager at Station Four