Ben is a project manager with experience in developing digital services and products for worldwide clients. He’s learned some very important lessons and shares some of his key insights with you in this special episode, where we dive deep into the project manager role and the project management world.
A key insight into project management for digital products
A common mistake Ben has witnessed in the digital service world is the focus on technology as the solution to all problems. Teams get excited about the new service or product they are developing and end up investing in technology rather than understanding the customers and the problem to be solved.
Ben recommends we study the concept of the Design Sprint, a methodology developed at Google that helps teams focus on the customers and problems to solve.
If you are interested in this aspect of developing services, also check out our SPECIAL EPISODES with Jeff Patton and Jeff Gothelf, where we explore even further the customer focus that Product Owners must have (and Scrum Masters can help with)
The key changes for project managers jumping into Agile projects
Many Scrum Masters (and often also Product Owners) have a project management background. They switch from a project management role to Scrum Master or Product Owner but face challenges in adopting the new mindset. Ben shares with us lessons learned about this transition, where project managers struggle with adopting the Agile mindset and also shares with us some of his approaches to help that transition.
In this context, we talk about roles and responsibilities and share a tool you can use to help clarify those: Delegation Poker by Management 3.0.
Is Scrum all you need?
Often, project managers that start working in a Scrum environment face problems that come from the fact that Scrum is not a project management framework, it is a product development framework. And the differences can be critical for the success of a project. Ben has worked with project managers and clients that require support in adapting Scrum to cover also the project management aspects such as Project kickoff or inception, product discovery (e.g. Design Sprint), and others.
In the end, Scrum is a framework that helps us deliver a product, but as Scrum Masters (and project managers), we must also be aware of other aspects of product development. Ben has written a long article detailing 9 different project management methods and comparing that to Agile, Lean and Scrum. Check it out to know more.
For the standard description of what project management includes, check out the PMBOK by PMI, which is considered the standards book in project management.
The most common questions Project Managers ask from Ben
Ben has developed his own curriculum to help project managers in digital environments and made it available for all in his Digital Project Manager course, so we discuss also the most common questions that project managers ask Ben.
He starts by discussing estimates, a topic that has also been a focus on the Scrum Master Toolbox Podcast, and how, often project managers inherit a budget, a timeline and a “half-baked” statement of work. How can they succeed with that? I’ve written about that specific problem in the NoEstimates book, and Ben shares his experience on how project managers can survive that situation and successfully deliver a project.
In another special episode, we also discussed how to tackle the budgeting problem, when we discussed Lean-Agile Procurement, and for those interested in how to negotiate budgets in digital product development you can also check Jacopo Romei’s Extreme Contracts book.
About Ben Aston
Ben has over 15 years of experience in both strategic thinking and tactical implementation from a career at some of the top digital agencies including FCV, Dare, Wunderman, DLKW Lowe and DDB. He’s worked across several industries including transit, utilities, consumer electronics, eCommerce, automotive, financial services, public sector, and retail brands.
Ben’s a Certified Scrum Master, PRINCE2 Practitioner and founder of the digital project management blog, The Digital Project Manager.