Digital PM Summit Recap: Why Soft Skills Matter for Project Managers

Digital PM Summit Recap: Why Soft Skills Matter for Project Managers

If you’ve followed 9 Clouds content for even a short amount of time, you’ve probably noticed a theme: we’re passionate about professional development.

Earlier this year, my coworker Sarah wrote about the value in attending a professional conference every year. This is something the leadership at 9 Clouds encourages for everyone on our team, and I just returned home from my own annual foray into career training.

Although there was plenty to see and learn at the Digital PM Summit in Memphis, TN, one major theme stood out for me. 

Soft Skills Are Hard

The basic foundations of project management are easy enough to grasp. Make to-do lists. Assign tasks. Ensure project completion. It’s when you get into the nuances of digital project management that the job gets tough.

Interpersonal communication — among clients, coworkers, and third-party vendors — is a constant. The ability to read relationships and behaviors is vital to project management success. Few of us write “sending emails” as a bullet point on our resume, but it’s actually a real skill to write a clear, concise, and effective email. It’s even more valuable to be able to write that email in a tense situation.

The speakers at DPM 2018 showed me how our soft skills as digital project managers are actually the most difficult to develop — and often the most undervalued.

Leadership Matters for Digital Project Managers

Colin Ellis, our opening-day keynote speaker at the conference, noted that “the best projects are a result of the person that leads it and the environment they create.”

Regardless of the number of people directly reporting to a project manager, their leadership style will determine the success or failure of a project. This is why emotional intelligence, the ultimate soft skill, matters so much to project management.

At 9 Clouds, we value emotional intelligence greatly. We’ve researched our personality styles through DiSC training (which somehow devolved into Harry Potter, because #nerds), and we’ve explored our emotional boundaries together through Brené Brown’s vulnerability research. We found how our personalities work together, where the challenges lie, and how we can use our strengths in communication with each other and our clients.

“Self-aware individuals are the building blocks of great teams.”

Self-awareness isn’t a “hard” skill, like Basecamp or Facebook ads, but I’d argue it’s more important for a digital project manager.

Put Your Campaigns in the Right Hands

The IDC Group forecasts that digital spend will be $2.1 trillion by 2021. No matter what portion of your marketing budget is digital, you should make sure you have people with both soft and hard skills in control of your campaigns.

If your current agency isn’t checking both boxes, reach out to 9 Clouds. We’re focused on development for the best interest of both our team and our clients.