“Did we mention about the Slack channel?”

A review of Deliver Conference 2017

(Image courtesy of Deliver Conference)

2017 marks the fourth year that a conference focused on delivery of digital projects has been held in January in the UK. Previously known as DPM:UK, this year’s Deliver Conference saw a change of name and branding, but a successful continuation of a tried and tested formula.

As last year, the event was held over two days in Manchester, with a series of workshops on the first day and a conference with a variety of speakers (but a single track) on day two.

I’ve attended the conference for each of the last three years, both as a speaker and an attendee, but this was my first time as a business owner, attending self-funded. Therefore I was interested to see how the event has evolved and matured. And, equally importantly, whether it represents value-for-money for those who have attended in previous years?

In actual fact, I think this year’s event shows just how much there is still to talk about in our field and how much the debate continues to evolve — and that’s where being a member of the DPM UK Slack channel comes into it’s own. Most significantly for me it showed how much the community around Digital Project Management has grown and how it continues to support and welcome new members.

Some conferences have the luxury of multiple tracks where the attendees choose their focus. The venue for Deliver Conference is the Comedy Store on Deansgate, which has a single large auditorium with a bar / break-out space. Therefore the organisers are slightly more limited but I don’t think the event suffers from having a single focus where all attendees experience the same material.

The stage is set for some DPM action (Image courtesy of Deliver Conference)

This year’s speakers included some well-known names from the field of DPM (Brett Harned, Sam Barnes and Suze Haworth) as well as speakers making their conference debut. There was also a good mix of longer (45 minute) presentations, lightning talks (circa 15 minutes) and a post-lunch Q&A session. The hosts Matt Thornhill and Shahina Patel did an excellent job of welcoming us and setting the scene.

For me the highlights were: Liz Calder’s talk on Project Saboteurs and how to handle them, Mark Channon on developing The Telegraph apps and the lightning talks by Rebecca Troth and Saniha Ozem.

I found Liz Calder’s topic an excellent choice as I think it’s something that a lot of us can relate to, whether as the PM or part of the project team. I particularly liked the way she weaved in stories of real life situations of projects, where misaligned needs and expectations had resulted in challenges, with practical suggestions of how best to overcome these obstacles. Sometimes it appears that recognising there’s a saboteur in or near the project is the first challenge, closely followed by the short or long-term actions required to resolve the underlying issues. And I was glad that she highlighted that in most cases people don’t set out to deliberately derail a project, it tends to be more as a result of fear or misunderstanding — either way the results can be difficult and an intellectual challenge to manage.

Liz explains how to spot a saboteur in your project or organisation

Mark Channon’s energy and storytelling ability really stood out for me. He explained how the team at The Telegraph employ UCD techniques to develop apps that are focused on business outcomes using agile methods. The relationship with their app development partner is key and the product team at the paper use a variety of methods to research and test as the products are designed and built. With the app developed quickly and ‘in the wild’ they have a perfect platform to build on and scale for the future.

Perhaps the biggest surprise for me this year were the lightning talks. Having delivered one last year I know just how hard it is to weave a story into a presentation of around 15 minutes. This year’s speakers were consistently excellent and all talked around topics that I don’t think have been covered in detail before.

Rebecca Troth has only been project managing for just over a year and her talk focused on the challenge of conquering imposter syndrome. Her slides were also excellent and included some really clever animation to illustrate the journey of a PM being rather like a 1990’s platform game.

Rebecca Troth (Image courtesy of Deliver Conference)

Saniha Ozem came all the way from Switzerland to relate her experiences of managing projects in an agency environment as a non-techy. She had great stage presence and a wicked sense of humor. But behind the laughs was a serious message — it’s hard for a female PM who’s starting out to get to grips with the jargon and the personalities you often find in a digital environment. There was a degree of stereotyping going on but I’m sure all the audience could relate to the situations Saniha described.

The Q&A panel usually turns up some interesting nuggets and this year was no exception. It was great to see Holly Davis on stage making her conference debut.

Q&A panel featuring (L to R): Brett Harned, Cheryl Edwards, Liz Caldwell, Holly Davis and Sam Barnes

Some of the talks were a little bit procedural in nature for my liking and I think could have done with being a little bit more interactive for the audience. It was also a bit of a shame that Carson Pierce’s talk was last on the running order as it was interesting stuff, but I got the feeling that some of the attendees brain’s were ‘a bit full’ at that point.

Overall I would say that again the event exceeded my expectations. I was glad that they’d managed to attract new speakers and fresh topics. In terms of value for money I think the conference represents excellent value, especially as early bird tickets were sub-£100.

Over the course of the 3 days I was in Manchester there were multiple mentions of carrying on the conversation on the DPM UK Slack channel. So if you’re interested in finding out more I’d definitely recommend it. It even has a hand-picked selection of Canadians and Americans on board!

To request access you need to email or Tweet one of the admins who include:

@shhh_hina / Shahina Patel

@ProjectDavis / Holly Davis