In a world increasingly driven by digital technology, the very word ‘digital’ has begun to lose its meaning as a descriptor. It seems like everything is digital. We bank online, shop online, store and share photos online, get our news online, and so much more.
This digital reality is so much a part of our existence now that we speak in terms of ‘digital natives’ and ‘digital immigrants.’ Of course, digital project management is a thing. But what is it, exactly?
According to the Project Management Institute, project management “is the application of knowledge, skills, tools, and techniques to project activities to meet the project requirements.”
In one sense, you could just add “in digital spaces” to the end of that definition and call it digital project management. That’s not wrong, but it’s not especially helpful either. Technically, using spreadsheets for projects and word processors and email to manage a project would meet that definition, but, intuitively, we know digital technology has so much more to offer us as project managers.
A better definition of digital project management would be “the use of digital tools to leverage knowledge, skills, and techniques to accomplish project activities in digital workspaces and achieve project goals.”
The definition above doesn’t speak to the nature of the products that the digitally managed project is meant to produce. You can use digital tools to execute a marketing campaign or to organize the construction of a new library. In some senses, whether the product is physical or digital doesn’t matter.
However, the production of digital products is a relatively new activity in the world of business and project management, and that’s what we want to take a look at today. Our examples will focus on projects that are digital in every sense, but please feel free to apply these lessons to your work in the physical world as well.
In a conversation about digital products, you may immediately think of things like security systems, data management and analysis, and large-scale information technology endeavors. Those belong in a sub-category of digital project management, IT project management.
TechTarget defines IT project management as “the process of planning, organizing and delineating responsibility for the completion of an organizations’ specific information technology (IT) goals.”
Digital project management tools can absolutely be used for IT project management, but they’re also valuable for less technical pursuits like content creation, product launches, and more.
While some additional skills are necessary for digital project management as compared to standard project management, it’s not as different or complex as you might imagine. If you’re a good manager who’s computer literate, you can become a good digital project manager.
Digital project management doesn’t have to be intimidating. The level of technical skill required for your project depends on the kind of product you’re producing; for content marketing, you need few, for a visual campaign a few more related to photo and video editing, and for app development considerably more.
Your project management platform shouldn’t require learning a slew of technical skills. There are a variety of digital project management tools that require differing levels of user technical ability. Make sure to choose one that fits the knowledge level of you and your team.
As with any area of life and work, communication is key. There are several advantages to digital communication: it’s fast and affordable, you don’t have to be in the same place (or even the same time zone) to have a discussion, and it’s easy to retrieve a copy of correspondence for future reference.
On the other hand, digital communication comes with some disadvantages, which can turn into risks for digital project management. Whether it’s an email, a text message, or an old-fashioned letter, written communication lacks the ability to convey the tone of voice and all the nuances that eye contact and body language provide.
To mitigate the risks of miscommunication, the digital project manager must hone her communication skills. This includes obvious things like writing clearly and being thorough when giving instructions. She must also develop a rapport with team members, learn to “read between the lines” to detect when something is amiss, and set clear expectations for how employees are to communicate with one another and with clients.
One of the most important tasks of the project manager is assessing the health of the project at any given point. The digital project manager should collect data based on carefully-determined key performance indicators (KPIs) and analyze that data to measure the progress of the project. She must also look beyond the numbers to consider causes and effects and to anticipate possible challenges and solutions.
Critical thinking skills are essential to interpret and integrate information from team members, stakeholders, and experts that can contribute to the success of your project.
There are a number of project management methodologies that can be applied effectively to digital project management. It’s up to you to determine which methodology or combination of methodologies fits the needs of your project and team. Here are a few of the most popular:
With the right set of skills, project management tools, and methodologies, all your projects are set up for success right from the beginning. Kissflow Projects lets you manage all your projects in a unified platform. You can break down individual projects into tasks and assign team members different roles and responsibilities. It’s free up to 30 users. Take it for a spin today.