Monday, February 27, 2012

GUEST POST - You Lost Me at Google+

Julie Geller – RDM Partner, Social Media Strategist
Julie has spent twelve years in the digital marketing space. Her background has allowed her to develop strong skills in strategic planning, preparing and implementing social media governance models, building and sustaining community, reporting and stakeholder management. A skilled social media strategist, Julie has experience providing direction for mid to large-scale online marketing programs. She has worked on social media initiatives for multiple business verticals, including broadcast, retail, IT, natural health, financial, education, automotive and not-for-profit.

Okay, so you wake up in the morning and log on to your RSS reader. You promote some content on your social properties and feel pretty good about yourself.

Then, you check your Klout score. You’ve dropped one point. One point?! The mental breakdown begins.

Am I a loser? What are my friends’ scores? Did I update Facebook enough yesterday? How’s my pinboard looking? Did I tweet, or just retweet? Do I have a POV? What social networks am I missing?

At this point, you’ve lost your grip on the fun and engagement of social media and descended into social’s daily drudgery — staying ahead of the competition. There’s never enough time to keep up. It’s all just so friggin’ overwhelming.

Panic only breeds panic. So take a deep breath, have a coffee, think and contribute. The answers are surprisingly simple.

Make friends with your RSS reader. Sounds like old news? It’s not. Continually edit and add to the sources you follow to keep things fresh. Ask your friends and family to share their favourite sources. Look for automated “if you like this, you’ll love that” recos and get them working for you.

Remember frequency. Make a point of sharing your commentary at least three to five stories each day. This will help you get into a daily groove, and it will build a following of people who will count on seeing your content.

Develop a point of view (POV). Don’t make the mistake of only retweeting. Let go of your fear of judgment and assert a POV. Ask yourself: Why do I want to share this content? What’s one valuable point I can focus on from this article? Is there a larger issue that I can use to drive broader engagement? Should I target a segment of my followers? What do I think of the author’s POV? If you’re still not inspired, seize the opportunity to respectfully counter with a witty short statement.

Participate only in the social networks you find valuable. The competition breathing down your neck isn’t worried about “belonging.” Make a resolution to stop being part of the 99%. Yes, you want to be responsive to what people are saying, but forget the quantity and focus on quality.

Crazy simple, right? In no time, you’ll gain followers, increase your influence and restore your mental health.

Monday, January 30, 2012

GUEST POST - The Kanban Board: Success Through Sticky Notes

 The following guest post was written by Elli Pope (left), QA Specialist and Technical Producer with Springbox.  Elli has a degree in Computer Science from the University of Texas at Austin and has Scrum Master and PMP certifications. To learn more about Springbox, an Austin-headquartered interactive agency, visit

Massive project, many obstacles

When we first kicked off a massive, technical project for a client, I’ll admit, I was nervous. With a fast and fixed deadline, lots of moving parts, in-depth collaboration with many external vendors, and lots of unknowns, this was a project that seemed doomed from the start. So in order to help keep track of the dizzying amount of work ahead of us, we created a Kanban board.

Visualizing the big picture

The Kanban board is a tool to help visualize the work for any project. It provides a level of transparency that allows anyone, even someone unfamiliar with the project, to understand the status of a project at a single glance.

It starts with story cards. A story card (a sticky note on the board) is essentially a description of a task that needs to be completed. Each developer picks a card from the “Open Work” bucket, writes their initials on it, and moves it to “In-progress” column. When the task is complete, they move the sticky to the “Ready for QA” bucket, grab a new task, and repeat the process. QA then tests each task in the “Ready for QA” bucket, and either moves the card to “Complete” if there are no issues, or sends it back to “In-progress” if bugs are found.

Our approach

When we first started the project, we were waiting on quite a bit of work from external vendors, and there simply wasn’t time to wait for this work to be delivered if we wanted to meet our deadline. By placing tasks that were waiting on vendors into the “Blocked” category, we were able to reduce confusion over what work was available and clearly see how much work was “on hold.” As more vendor work was delivered, those blocked tasks were moved to the “Open Work” bucket, and team members could start working on those tasks without needing to wait for status updates.

Each morning, the team gathered around the Kanban board for a 15 minute, stand-up meeting that involved each team member answering three key questions about their progress:
  1. What did you work on yesterday?
  2. What are you working on today?
  3. What is blocking your progress?

As team members answered these questions, they moved the stickies from column to column, giving an up-to-date picture of the overall status of the project.

One of the major benefits of this system was that it helped visualize bottlenecks – are a majority of tasks blocked? Is QA overwhelmed with work? Does the amount of open work look achievable with the time remaining? Any outsider could view the board and instantly understand the status and health of the project without having to interrupt a single team member.


In the end, the board was an overwhelming success. The team all agreed that the board made collaboration easier by clearly identifying which tasks were available to work on, who was working on each task, and how much of the project remained. It helped us hit our deadline in spite of the setbacks and challenges we dealt with along the way. The Kanban board is one tool that we will certainly try to use again in Springbox projects moving forward.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

How To Hire A Great Digital Project Manager

Staffing a digital project management position with the right individual is a key factor in the success of any interactive project. Project management has become the most pivotal role on an interactive team.  It's also a very challenging and rewarding career choice, and as the profession receives more and more attention, individuals from many areas are making the migration into project management. If you are working to fill a position at your agency, or even for a single project, there are some important skills and attributes you need to look for in the ideal candidate. Here are two I'd rank highly on the list.

People skills: This is probably the single most important quality a digital project manager must have.  The PM will be working very closely with clients, vendors, project resources, and management on a daily basis.  They need to be able to motivate, inspire, and guide in a way that gets the best out of everyone.  If the individual in unable to earn the respect and trust of the all these team members, the project will suffer, and the entire experience will be one that's painful and difficult.

Master of process: The digital landscape has become incredibly complex, with new technologies, services, trends and tactics emerging daily.  A project manager must understand the basic process of digital development inside and out in order to adapt to these changes, while still delivering a quality product.  Mastering how a website is developed, as well as the skill-set and contribution of each resource, is an absolute must.  This knowledge allows a project manager to mitigate risks and problem solve if things go off-track.  Knowing how to achieve the same end result by altering process slightly is what saves many, many digital projects from disaster, but this kind of strategic thinking cannot happen if the project lead isn't intimate with the basic process.   

Every project manager needs a chance to prove themselves on the job.  Given the potential corporate process, client, team and project backgrounds they'll have to ramp up on, it will take time to get into the groove and really make a difference.  The skills described above, however, will be evident immediately.  Pay close attention, because a digital project manager will not succeed if either is lacking.