Last week I went to DPM:UK

A brief account of a snowy trip to Manchester for the digital project managers conference.

I’m not going to lie, it is a hell of a lot colder, not to mention snowier in Manchester, which is where a colleague and I attended the DPM:UK conference last Thursday. I didn’t think we were going to make it out of Manchester for the snow if I’m honest, but here I am back in warm, sunny Bath writing my review.

So what did I like the most? I enjoyed it all immensely, but I have touched below on the three subjects that I can fit into one blog post!

Sam Barnes took the first slot with a session titled, ‘People are weird, I’m weird’. One of things I love the most about managing people, is the range of personalities I get to work with.

I came from an arts background into project management and you’d think that would mean I am used to extroverts, but that’s not so. You forget about tech teams, set painters, musicians and directors these people are often as introverted as your average geek (theres a whole other blog post around that). I’d consider myself to an be an ambivert (a word I learnt there) which is a (healthy) mixture of both.

Sam (who considers himself to be an introvert) lent a sympathetic ear to working with people who are different to yourself and offered advice around how to manage these ‘weird’ people. He concreted the fact that if you want to be a manager of people, you have to have some interest in people psychology. If you don’t, you might want to reconsider your career.

I love the range of personalities I work with and I actually enjoy the challenges around how to keep everyone happy, ensuring you are working with your team in the best way, to ensure they are happy within their role. In conclusion I think what Sam was trying to tell us was that everyone is unique and so as a manager it’s your job to treat each personality uniquely.

Next up was Stephen Thomas’ session titled ‘Did we really say we’d do that’.  I looked around the room whilst he was making one of his points to see everyone frantically scribbling notes. That particular point was his magical ‘price per point’ quoting system. In short, it’s a completely transparent way of quoting and in it’s most simple form goes a bit like this;

  • No project is fixed price

  • You only fix the price for the initial planning stage

  • Create a points system e.g. £800, 1 point

  • Create a backlog of tickets and quote based on the points system

  • Create first sprint

  • After the first sprint go through backlog, arrange next sprint and and re-estimate

  • Repeat

This was a revelation for me. When I looked around the room, I half expected everyone to be nodding in a ‘yeah i’ve been doing that for years’ kind of way, but to my joy they weren’t, they were taking notes as frantically as I was.

I will be conducting more research around this, but it seems like a way to be transparent with clients, enable them to work closely with you and launching the relationship into the realms of collaboration, which is the PM’s buzz word of the moment.

Stephen is also hosting an event ‘The Big Do’ in Oxford this May.

Lastly Meri Williams’ talk titled ‘Stealing PM lessons from Artificial Intelligence’ threw a whole new type of discussion into the mix.

Meri is a remarkable woman and calls herself a ‘geek manager’. She is the author of a book I read during my first few years of being a PM and one to which I still refer now. However, more remarkably as she told us yesterday, at the age of 16 she helped build and launch a satellite into space!

Merri talked about the comparisons between how we teach and use AI and how we can bring some of those lessons to our teams as PM’s.

You can see some of the slides from Meri’s talk on her blog.

To end, the food was great, the company was exquisite and I loved how the end of the day was picked up with Nancy Lyons’ and Meghan Walker’s comic and energetic delivery of the final talk and promotion of their book.

I’ve also created a reading list of the books mentioned by the speakers yesterday;

Talent is Overrated by Geoff Colvin

Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell

First, Break All The Rules by Marcus Buckingham

Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us by Daniel H. Pink

Embracing Chaos: An Interactive Project Management Survival Guide by Nancy Lyons and Meghan Wilker

As PM and an organiser of DPM:Bristol meet- ups, I have a lot of food for thought. So thank you DPM:UK, i’ll be back next year for sure. I will leave you with a quote from Nancy lyons;

‘’Good project management is like air... you only notice it when it's not there.’’


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