There’s a difference between a digital project and a traditional one.
These kinds of projects are by no means easier than traditional projects - in fact, the constant moving parts and fluidity of them can actually make them much harder to plan and manage.
This is why traditional project management tactics aren’t always effective.
The difference between digital project management and traditional project management
There are plenty of similarities between digital and traditional projects - both require teams to work together and both need assets delivered on time, within scope, and on budget.
Management for both involves leading meetings, organising resources, creating collateral, and general monitoring of individual tasks. Very straightforward stuff.
The difference is that digital project management predominantly takes place online. It involves combining multiple technologies and requires in-depth knowledge of the online world.
Things change so rapidly in the digital sphere, that digital project management is often an art of balancing project needs with emerging trends.
The phases of a digital project
We’ll dig into this more later on, but to give you an overview of what a digital project involves, we’ve broken it down into four key stages:
Initiation - this involves getting a project off the ground and onboarding clients in the right way to ensure the project is a success
Planning - this involves mapping out timelines, scope, and dishing out tasks to relevant professionals
Execution - this is the part where the key assets are created
Wrap Up - this involves handing over deliverables and debriefing with all parties involved
In many ways, this is no different to a traditional project management overview. But when you throw tools and technologies into the mix and add in the backwards and forwards of edits and reviews, it becomes a little more complex.
Digital project management is so important, though.
Research shows that brands that invest in proven project management practices waste 28x less money than those that don’t.
Project management methodologies
There are three main project management methodologies:
Waterfall: a traditional form of project management that involves breaking a project down into sequential phases, where each phase only begins once the previous phase is complete
Agile: breaks projects up into several stages and advocates for constant collaboration and continuous iteration at every stage
Lean: stemming from the 1950s, this form of project management maximises value and minimises waste
More progressive management methodologies include scrum, kanban, and even scrumban (a mixture of the two).
Managing each phase of a digital project
A successful digital project comes down to the management of it.
With so many moving parts, it’s easy to lose track of what’s been done and who’s doing what. It can be overwhelming thinking about a digital project as a whole, which is why it makes sense to break it down into easy-to-digest stages.
Stage 0: Initiation
Initiation begins before a digital project properly kicks off. It involves preparing documents and gathering resources that are needed to complete the project to a satisfactory level.
This stage can also involve discovery calls, hiring contractors, and onboarding new clients.
Documentation and preparing resources
The preparation stages of a digital project are sometimes just as important as the execution stages. After all, things can go downhill fast if the contract you put together misses out a major element or if you don’t give the client all the information they need to ensure the project goes ahead smoothly.
When thinking about documentation and preparing necessary resources before a project begins, consider things like:
A robust contract
Creating new digital folders and files
Creating a new project in your project management tool
A client proposal that outlines what needs to be done and an overview of when it will be done
Successful onboarding is the key to a smooth digital project.
This is the part where you provide your clients with all the information they’ll need for the duration of the project, including the tools you’ll use, how your company works, who their main point of contact will be, and key methods of communication.
You might also need to onboard new contractors who need to be familiar with the tools you use and the processes you work with.
Assembling a team
The final part of the initiation phase is assembling a project dream team. This involves making sure you have the right talent and skills working on a project and letting each chosen team member know what’s expected of them.
Stage 1: Planning
Once the onboarding is done and all documents have been sent and signed, you can then move onto the next phase of digital project management: planning.
This is where you work out all the kinks and plan ahead to make sure all the assets will be created on time and in the right way.
Create a list of tasks
There are a lot of tasks that make up a project, and you can quickly get in over your head if you don’t have a strong grasp of what they are or, more importantly, what order they need to be done in.
Begin by writing a list of tasks - both big and small - that will come together to create the whole project. Make sure you include things like reviews and client calls as, even though there’s no tangible output from these, they make up an important part of the process.
Set a budget
While budget will inevitably come up in the initiation stage, it’s only when you start to map out the tasks involved that you can get specific with it. Setting a budget not only includes the cost of creating assets, it also involves budgeting for materials, contractors, and any extras that may crop up.
Make a project schedule
This is where the planning stage comes together.
Take your list of tasks and prioritise them based on what needs to be done first in order for other tasks to happen. There is usually an organic flow to the way projects unfold, but it often helps to segment the project into stages and then create task building blocks for each of those stages.
Now you’ve got a list of tasks and a timeline for them, you can assign each element to the right team member. Make sure the team is notified about who’s working on what and are given achievable deadlines to complete their tasks in.
Stage 2: Execution
The execution phase of project management is the most full-on. This is when things start moving forward and the project begins to materialise.
It’s crucial that you keep a close eye on what tasks are being done and what stage team members are at with the project. This is where it helps to have a robust task management tool that provides an overview of the project as well as estimated time frames for asset delivery.
Particularly on longer projects, it’s important that you check in regularly and check off tasks that have already happened. This will make sure you keep moving forward smoothly
Often, there will be a number of different stakeholders that you need to collaborate with in a digital project. This might be contractors, team members, clients, or other parties, and it’s important that collaboration is well-managed for the project to run seamlessly.
This involves choosing the right platforms to collaborate on, providing an easy way for collaborators to communicate, and hosting regular check ins to suss out the satisfaction levels of each collaborator.
Problems often arise during a digital project.
Maybe it takes longer than usual to find the right contractor, or maybe the first round of edits weren’t as well received as you’d hoped.
This is where time management plays an important role. As well as providing time frames for even the smallest of tasks, it helps to factor in extra time for things that might go wrong.
Regularly reporting on progress and delivered assets ensures all involved parties can see what’s been done and what still needs to be done. It keeps everyone in the loop and helps solidify next steps.
Stage 3: Wrapping up
Hoorah - you’ve almost finished your project! But don’t get lax at this point. In fact, wrapping up and finishing a project is often just as important as the early stages.
Create and hand over deliverables
First things first, you’ll need to hand over or go through the deliverables and assets created during the digital project. Keeping this organised will make this process much easier and avoid any embarrassing mishaps when sharing work with clients or fellow team members.
Review and edit
There’s a high chance stakeholders will want to make a few tweaks to the deliverables. This is when the review and edit process takes over, and should be managed as a separate mini-project to the main, overall one. You can go back through the previous stages for this part of the process too.
Get everyone involved together to go through the project. Encourage contractors, collaborators, and stakeholders to identify what went well and what could be improved next time.
Managing a digital project is a learning process, and the more you dig into the highs and lows, the easier it will become in the future.
Digital project management software and tools
Managing a digital project is made considerably easier when you incorporate useful tools and software. This can help collaboration by giving everyone who needs it access to task lists and deadlines.
According to research by PWC, digital project management software increases performance - in fact, 77% of high performing projects swear by project management software.
Tools you might consider for your digital project management include:
Collaboration tools: make it easy for multiple stakeholders to access and edit assets
Communication tools: encourage communication between team members and provide a place where questions and feedback are welcomed
Timesheet tools: lay out time frames for each task and give an overview of what tasks are currently in process and what still needs to be completed
Checklist tools: digitally check off tasks that are complete and provide team members with access to completed tasks
Asset management tools: create a safe space for assets to be stored and accessed by all team members and stakeholders
Calendar tools: set dates for tasks in a tangible way that everyone can see and access
Advanced digital project management
Mastering digital project management is a process; it doesn’t happen overnight. Instead, it’s a constant task of tweaking, measuring, tracking, and experimenting to see what works and what doesn’t.
Create a streamlined workflow
Once you’ve carried out several digital projects, you’ll have a good idea of what works well and what doesn’t. Edit your workflows after each project to optimise how you track and carry out tasks.
Get input from all team members and make the process collaborative - in fact, you can treat it like a digital project in itself.
Improve project and team productivity
To keep a project moving forward, it’s important that everyone is as productive as possible. This means keeping all collaborators in the loop at all times, providing regular feedback, and giving team members the tools they need to succeed.
Building great relationships through stellar digital project management
Successful digital project management requires everyone involved to take an active role in the process.
When you can expertly plan, execute, and wrap up projects in the desired timeframe and within the set budget, you’ll effortlessly create stellar relationships with clients, stakeholders, contractors, and your fellow team members.