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Top 10 skills you need to be a (super) Digital Project Manager

Ashley Johnson   —   14 August 2014   —   Code & Drupal

Silicone Valley Kanban board

What is Digital Project Management?

Dark art, witchcraft, science? I would like to say it’s a culmination of all those things (well, maybe a little less of the witchcraft).

Project Management is a broad field. Everyone has their own style and areas of specialism, which is why it can be difficult to define the role. Fortunately, we’ve been interviewing for an apprentice project manager so we’ve been thinking about this a lot!

Want to know what makes the ideal digital project manager?

Well you're in luck, we’ve pulled together a Top 10 list of the essential skills and qualities for this very versatile role:

1. HTML/CSS: HTML and CSS are the skin and bones of the web. If you’ve done anything online, then you are already dealing with HTML. Being able to edit or write HTML is a great skill for helping designers or developers in a sticky situation. If you’ve got the know how you can jump in and help out on simple tasks like formatting content for a site, adding text, images and embedding the latest cute kitten video which can make a world of difference to developers., and are all great sites for starting on your hypertext markup language journey.

2. FTP: File transfer protocol is a common way to connect to servers and file systems locally and on the web. We all understand how the wonders of Dropbox work, but having a working knowledge of FTP (File Transfer Protocol) will set you apart from the crowd. If you want to get stuck in there are free FTP programs like FileZilla or Cyberduck (I use the latter).

3. Analytics & Reporting: Here at Access we make very good use of Google Analytics and what it can deliver in terms of site information and data for a client site. It’s all very well and good being able to collect this information but as a project manager you need to understand how to interpret it.  Google offers a free online course on how to use their entire platform here.

4. Information Architecture: Project managers aren’t expected to be usability experts or spend their days wireframing user experiences, but understanding how to audit and classify information is going to be a greatly appreciated skill. Being able to logically categorise and structure information is a must since your team expects to spend their time designing and developing, not managing information.

How you doing so far?

If you tick these boxes, then give us a call! We're currently recruiting for a new member of the Digital Project Management team

5. Knowledge of Content Management Systems: WordPress, Expression Engine and Drupal are three of the most popular content management systems amongst agencies and developers. Through my role here at Access I’ve touched on all three (I have a firm favourite). Understanding the theory behind content management systems is important; some content is editable and some is hard coded into templates. Being able to create, edit and publish content via a CMS is a great skill to have. By being able to input images, copy and other pieces of important content into a system, you’re saving a developer many tedious hours.

6. Social Media: Understanding the various platforms for publishing and managing social media is an invaluable skill to have. Everyone is trying to build a social presence — be it a Facebook page or a Twitter profile. Project managers need to know their favourites from their likes, content and character limitations and what is possible for the various platforms.

7. SEO: Search engine rankings still dominate the digital landscape so being able to increase a site’s ranking in search is a great skill to have. SEO is all about creating, curating and connecting great content in a way that helps increase the relevance in search engines. Understanding how coding, content and page linking work together to help drive higher placement in the search engines will benefit any project you manage.

8. Photo Editing Skills: If you’re not quite a dab hand at Photoshop there are plenty of online, easy-to-use editors for cropping, resizing and tweaking colours and images. Having the skills to make image tweaks, resize images and save for web will pay dividends when the art department are full to brim (you also get some extra brownie points from the development team).

9. An Eye for Detail: you may have just cracked a sly smile but attention to detail really pays off. I’ve seen sites launched that contain trivial spelling mistakes, broken code and even dead links but having an acute eye for the detail means these are spotted early on and amended meaning not only a happy team but a happy client.

10. Being Positively Positive: I’m by no stretch of the imagination a motivational speaker but a positive outlook plays a massive role in being a great project manager. As a PM, you are the glue that holds the project and the team together. When something goes right, it’s always someone else that gets the credit and, of course, when something goes wrong, it is always your fault. The thing to remember is to always have a smile on your face :)

Why I love what I do...

You can tell by the list above the versatility is essential – and that’s what makes it so challenging and satisfying.

Personally, I love being a Digital Project Manager because it’s not all just GANTT charts, timing plans and scrutinising budgets. It requires a diverse range of skills from digital strategy to web production management, and account management to quality control.

You get to strut your stuff in world of project management (knowing your SCRUM from your Waterfall) but also get to bring other knowledge and experience to the table. Everything from changing DNS records for a domain, uploading images via FTP, understanding what responsive elements work best in bootstrap through to how a CMS system can add real value.

It’s the perfect role for someone who gets bored doing just one thing and loves bringing different skills and people together to solve problems!

Follow me on Twitter: @johnnnnson or add me on LinkedIn.

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