What’s a digital producer?

It’s like a project manager, but it’s like a lot of other things too.

Emily Theis
Sep 14, 2016 · 6 min read

Project Manager

Predominantly, a producer assumes the core responsibilities of a traditional project manager: scheduling, defaulting as point-person for communication, and recording action items from meetings and calls. These tasks are pretty easy to understand and crucial to our projects, but when they are the only thing on a producer’s to-do list, that work can expand to fill way too much time. We don’t want to be task rabbits or agency stenographers, frantically keeping record of every tiny thing for no particular reason.

Chief Worrier

Upstatement can function without producers — the company has been around 8 years with minimal formal project management. But when a project doesn’t have a producer, it leaves a lot of worry for the team to deal with. Team members aren’t quite sure what problems they’re supposed to be fretting over — Did someone respond to that client question? Are we on budget? Am I spending too much time working on this feature? Is anyone planning for the launch? This kind of ambiguous worry keeps the team from remaining focused and thriving.

Honesty Cop

In our daily project stand-ups, we follow the traditional three-question Agile structure: What did you do yesterday, what will you do today, and do you have any blockers? By default, the last answer is almost always a cheerful “no blockers,” but Honesty Cops have to read between the lines to identify the things that are keeping the team from moving forward at full velocity. We also pull out bullshit detectors with clients, ignoring the marketing buzzwords and ambiguous promises to get to the core of a project’s mission — and what’s stopping us from accomplishing it.

Balancer

All projects are held in the tension of forces that tug against each other — money and time, client and team, quality and efficiency. Effective Balancers don’t let any force go too long without attention. Not much time passes in a project before we have to make a careful decision that has the potential to make someone unhappy.

Amateur Therapist

Like any company, Upstatement is only as good its people. We have very good people — and very good clients! But project stress gets to everyone, life happens outside the office, and lately we’ve been passing around a serious Upstatement kennel cough. As Amateur Therapists, we try to stay mindful of the ever-important human aspect of making creative work. Are people stressed? Is the client feeling unsatisfied? We make jokes, ask questions and employ emojis to try to sand down the rough parts of a project.

Baller

Producers play zone defense. If any problem comes into our area of the court, we deal with it — which is why a creative or technical background is more important to for an Upstatement producer than traditional PM training. For me, that’s meant spinning up presentations, offering design feedback, using my eagle-eye newspaper copy editing skills, updating JSON files, and hopping into sites to try to recreate bugs in an effort to keep the momentum going on projects.

But wait, there’s more!

…We just don’t know what it is yet. A big part of this job is defining what it is, and that means some ambiguity in the day-to-day. We do a lot of checking in — are producers being helpful? Are teams equipping producers? How can we all do better?
We think constantly asking those questions is what will make the digital producer (or PM, Chief Worrier, Baller, etc.) an awesome and successful position at Upstatement.

Currents

Writings collected from around the Upstatement office. Upstatement is a free-thinking, fun-loving creative studio that imagines & builds exceptional digital experiences. www.upstatement.com

Emily Theis

Written by

Head of Producers at Upstatement. Designer, musician, and seamstress. Hoosier turned Bostonian. Devoted dog mom. http://emilythe.is

Currents

Currents

Writings collected from around the Upstatement office. Upstatement is a free-thinking, fun-loving creative studio that imagines & builds exceptional digital experiences. www.upstatement.com