Digital Project Manager And PM Book “Project management for Humans” Author Brett Harned Interview


Brett Harned is one of the top names in project management who has been working in the field for past 15 years managing all types of projects ranging from building flash banners to creating IOS applications, he has proved himself at every phase of project management. He has worked with corporate names such as YNPN, Navy Federal Credit Union, Simple, and an array of digital agencies. Brett earned his name as the leader in the digital project management through writing on the subject and organizing a community of digital PMs. From writing a book “Project Management for Humans” to serving big professional clients such as Monotype, MTV, and Zappos, he has achieved a list of milestones. Brett has built the global digital PM community and also founded Digital PM Summit which is a great source of communication and knowledge of likewise minds and professionals. As a consultant, it is his passion to create processes and communication which not only work for the project but for the people involved in it as well.

TaskQue: You have been in the field of digital project management for the last 15 years, what do you find most interesting about being a digital project manager and consultant?

Brett Harned: My career is rooted in digital, and I’ve seen so much change over the years in terms of the way we deliver digital projects. Being in this industry, I feel like I have an insider’s view on how new trends are created and adopted. That’s really exciting to me because it means that something new could happen at any time, and it could completely transform the way we work. It also means that I have to be open to change, curious about technology, and helpful when it comes to recommending solutions. It’s a lot to keep up with, but it keeps my job interesting.

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TaskQue: Prior to starting your own project consultancy firm, you worked as a vice president of project management at Happy Cog, how did you find your experience there leading a team of project managers?

Brett Harned: I had the honor of hiring and leading a team of very talented digital project managers in my previous role. I was fortunate to find a great group of people to work with, and they absolutely contributed to the way we formed the project management practice at Happy Cog. The role was my gratifying because I was able to use my talents in managing and mentoring a team, and also working with clients to help define project goals and carry out strategic plans.

TaskQue: What significant differences and benefits you noticed of starting your own consulting firm and in working for someone?

Brett Harned: Life as an independent consultant is far different than full-time employment. Aside from the fact that I am now running my own business and responsible for my own paycheck, my role is quite different. As a consultant, I help organizations to understand the challenges they face with digital project management, and guide them to better practices. I’m managing fewer projects these days, but I do take a project on every once in awhile. The most similar thing that I am doing as a consultant is coaching project managers. I’ve always loved teaching and mentoring, so this is a part of my job that I really enjoy.

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TaskQue: As you started blogging about project management, what significant voids you found between the field and project managers?

Brett Harned: I started blogging about project management because I realized that no one in the industry–particularly those working for digital agencies–was talking about project management. Over the years I had attended several conferences and followed several industry publications and blogs, and rarely was there content about leading projects. Communities for UX, design, and development were very strong, but I never felt like I had a place to go to share and learn. Of course, there were more traditional blogs, publications, and organizations to follow, and I did, but it never felt industry-specific for me. So, I decided to write and found others who were interested in digital PM as well. Several years later, I think it’s very safe to say that the void no longer exists. There is now a wide community of digital PMs writing and speaking about their work.

TaskQue: You have positioned yourself as one of the leaders in digital project management space through writing and community organization, what resources do you find to be most useful for the one in the field of project management looking for enhancing their knowledge?

Brett Harned: I learned pretty much everything I know about PM on the job and through a few trainings. Project management was not a career path that I had identified for myself while in college, but at the same time, it wasn’t even an option. But things are different today: colleges are teaching digital PM. It’s so exciting to meet students who are studying digital PM in universities and colleges globally. I’m looking forward to seeing these people join the workforce and improve upon what we’ve built around digital project management.

As a professional, I think continuous learning should be a part of everyone’s career. I’m lucky enough to be able to be a part of conferences like the Digital PM Summit, Deliver Conf, and Ground Control. Not only am I lucky in that I get to organize and speak, but I get to attend and learn from the other speakers. I keep up with what’s happening online via Twitter, and always have a full reading list. It’s also important to me to keep up with my local community, where I can meet up and speak with local DPMs and talk about a variety of topics and practices.

At the same time, I do my best to keep up with what’s happening in the greater tech sphere. I read publications like HBR, Wired, Business Insider, Tech Crunch, Fast Company, A List Apart, and a few more to keep up with how companies are working, what technologies are being developed, and trends in the industry.

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TaskQue: You have written a book “Project Management for Humans” a title which is quite unique in itself, tell us more about what is the core concept behind this title?

Brett Harned: Trust me, I know that there are a lot of project management books on the market. I actually know a number of authors and have read their books. And they are great! The reason I decided to tackle the subject is because I thought I could add a new perspective to the topic. My book focuses on how we are all project managers. While I’m obviously an advocate of project managers, I’m also an advocate of project management skills. I believe that the skills that PMs dedicate their careers to honing should actually be learned by most professionals. By having a basic understanding of scoping, estimating, process, and communications, we can be better, more productive team members–and project managers.

The only way to draw non-project managers into a book like this is by showing how the practice of project management isn’t rigid, and it’s certainly not just a tool. It’s human-based, and we all can do it. My way of relating PM to readers is through my own personal experiences. At the beginning of each chapter, I dive in with a personal, mostly non-work stories to illustrate how basic project management concepts come up in everyday life. I wrote stories that I think are relatable not only to readers but to the content of each chapter.

I also reached out to a group of friends and colleagues to share their own stories in the book. These are more project-related, focused on issues they’ve faced. I found these stories helpful in that they are relatable and helpful because we’ve all faced issues on projects. And hearing an expert’s approach to solving them can be invaluable.

These stories, combined with instructional content, templates, and resources, make this book a little different from the rest. And I’m excited about that.

TaskQue: You have conducted numerous digital project managers workshops in US and UK, what part of the workshop you found to be most interesting and useful?

Brett Harned: I love presenting workshops because they challenge me to provide a memorable learning experience that is a bit out of the ordinary. I want attendees to have fun and learn at the same time. That said, my workshops are very interactive. I get people in groups, working through exercises together. This gets them discussing their job and experiences, and sharing knowledge with one another. I really like that concept, because as PMs, we can share different challenges and solutions, but relate to them because of the similarity of our work. And while I always do some presenting, I encourage people to be open to new ideas, and the concept of learning from their peers. To me, the group discussions are so valuable because we all have real-life experiences to share and learn from.

TaskQue: What is the reason why you consider building an online project managers community as your most satisfying project?

Brett Harned: I think you are referring to the Digital PM Summit here. Putting on that first event was an amazing learning experience in so many ways, and it was a very large project. I had to design an agenda, find an event space and caterers, recruit qualified speakers, and find an audience. That was a whole lot of work! The first event sold out in just 30 days, which felt great. And five years later, we’re about to host our 5th event and it has doubled in size. Every year, the community grows and I get to meet a new crop of amazing people.

It’s such a satisfying project because of all of those things, but also because the event has become a central meeting point for a whole community of people who care about their work as digital project managers.

TaskQue: Workstation has a great impact in helping someone being more productive and motivated, we would be really glad if you could share an image of your workstation with us.

Workstation of PM Brett Harned

TaskQue: I heard that you also have a passion for exploring things like music and your hometown, what do you like most about it?

Brett Harned: I’m a big music fan, always have been. I’ve been attending concerts since I was a kid, and now I’m a dad who drags his kids to them. Music is just a part of my life: finding, listening, seeing, etc. I listen to music all day while working (unless I’m in meetings, of course!). Without it, it feels like something major is missing.

Exploring is just a part of what I do, and it’s a part of what we do as a family. We love to travel to visit other places and explore–even our hometown. We lived in Philadelphia for about 15 years. My children were born there, and we’d explore parks, museums, tourist sites, restaurants, and other attractions as much as possible. We moved to the suburbs this year, so that has changed how we experience Philadelphia a little. We’re still close to the city, but we have to drive there in order to walk around.

TaskQue: You must have used numerous process automation and team collaboration tools, TaskQue is also created for making team communication and project management easy in a full remote cloud-based environment. We would be really glad if you use it and give your honest opinion about it. (Opt)

Brett Harned: I have not tried it yet, but I’d be happy to give you my opinion after I have.