Project Management

2020's Digital Project Management Summit

It’s no surprise that 2020 has changed how we go about our day to day lives. As so many people have gone to work from home, the idea of even attending a professional conference has felt impossible.

However, when I had the opportunity to attend the Digital Project Management Summit, I was both intrigued and excited by the opportunity! How is this not going to feel like I’m taking an online class? What will an online conference be like without the buzz and energy you get from attending in person?

Not only did this digital conference defy all of my concerns about feeling like an online class, but it also ran on time, had the ability to pivot quickly when technology didn’t work, and was thoughtfully organized. Of course this conference was led by project managers, so they were able to smoothly navigate through the logistics of running a conference with multiple speakers over Zoom, while also conducting Q&A sessions and facilitating a social so people across the country could still connect.

There were a wide variety of speakers, from very technical, process driven presentations, to grander presentations that covered common themes among all PMs. Here are my two highlights from the conference:

Strategic Decision Making in Stressful Situations | Yoon Chung Yoon Chung, Head of PMO, Experiences at AirBNB, kicked off the conference with his engaging presentation about how project managers are particularly suited to handle intense situations. He shared his own experiences as well as providing thoughtful frameworks to approach these situations:

  • Identify. You need to be able to identify all the different aspects that may be causing a stressful situation. Knowing these factors will help you create a plan to work through them.
  • Create. Once you’ve identified the stressors, the best possible thing you can do is to create a system of care for yourself. Make sure to get enough sleep, enough nourishment, and ensure that you’re taking care of your emotional needs.
  • Act/React. With setting up the above, it will allow you to properly react to difficult projects without your physical or mental health suffering.

How Your Biases Impact Project Scoping | Jacob Bodnar Jacob Bodnar, VP of Operations and Maestro, led my personal favorite seminar. It was all about how our personal biases can affect how we scope projects, which can often lead to inaccurate scoping. It was interactive (even digitally!), engaging, and practical. Though everything he presented seems like total common sense, it's these exact biases that can’t help but sneak their way in!

  • At the end of the day, humans are bad estimators because of our cognitive biases. We are exposed to so much information on a daily basis that our brain has developed mental shortcuts.
  • The main biases that affect us when we go into scoping a project are:
  • The Planning Fallacy: Predictions that display an optimistic bias and underestimate the time needed. This can be addressed by breaking down known tasks into smaller, more manageable parts and by removing subjective language.
  • The Anchoring Bias: When an individual bases their decisions on an initial piece of information (i.e. timeline or budget). They will then use that as a reference point, leading to inaccurate estimates. To combat this, aim to avoid telling estimators too exact information or ask that estimators provide rationale.
  • Availability Heuristic: People are more likely to base estimates off of the most recent project or event, which we give more weight to. It is better to have historical data available so one needn’t rely on their memory.
  • Having awareness of these biases, as well as reminding others of them, can help teams avoid inaccurate estimations and provide a scope that is rational and objective.

A huge thank you to the Bureau of Digital for encouraging professional development in a very uncertain time and for organizing an innovative and educational conference!

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