Time for some new guests! For a change, neither Anders or Stellan joined for this episode. Instead, I spoke to Elin Salekärr and Charlotte Björsjö, both project managers at Zooma, about what they do and how they do it.
A lot of the time, the success of a project doesn't depend on the complexity of the task or the competence of the team - often, it's about how the work itself is managed and how each team member can be helped to perform as well as they can. Charlotte and Elin are both highly experienced project managers, so it was great to have a discussion with them about why projects fail and succeed, what their project management approaches are, and what tools they use to make the process easier.
I hope you enjoy this episode because we're going to start bringing on more guests in future episodes, so stay tuned!
Alexander Evjenth: [00:00:00] So, welcome to The Onlinification Pod.
Charlotte Björsjö: [00:00:03] Thank you!
Elin Salekärr: [00:00:04] Thank you!
AE: [00:00:05] Today we have two new guests, it's Charlotte and it's Elin. How are you Elin?
ES: [00:00:10] I'm great, thanks. How are you, Alex?
AE: [00:00:12] I'm good. I'm good. And Charlotte?
CB: [00:00:16] Well, I would say it's good. It's Friday and the sun is shining. And I'm in my first pod.
AE: [00:00:22] First pod ever?
CB: [00:00:24] First pod ever.
AE: [00:00:25] But you listen to podcasts or do you only listen to books?
CB: [00:00:33] Both, depending on the mood. But yeah, I listen to pods but not these intellectual pods I would say, it's more, you know, the fun pods so to say. Oh Alexander, this is a fun pod, but I meant more the not that in-depth knowledge things, you know,
AE: [00:00:54] You need to relax your brain sometimes, it's constantly firing. And Elin, do you listen to - is this your first podcast?
ES: [00:01:06] Yeah, same here actually. Yeah, it's my first recording. But yeah I do listen to podcasts from time to time. It's a bit like up and down. Sometimes it's a lot and sometimes it's nothing, but yeah, I do.
AE: [00:01:20] I thought we could start with introducing you, and let's go with your Charlotte, who are you and what do you do at Zooma?
CB: [00:01:29] As you said, my name is Charlotte and I'm almost 40 years old now and been working for Zooma I think for like seven years and all the time I've been working as a project manager, so trying to make sure that people are doing what they are supposed to do on a certain deadline.
AE: [00:01:51] And you Elin?
ES: [00:01:54] Yep, I'm Elin, I've been with Zooma since 2011, except for three years when I was abroad and then I came back. So, but I just as Charlotte I've been a project manager this whole time, starting actually more focusing on CGI projects and videos at first, and then once I returned to Zooma from China I was more like into content and content projects, basically the whole full span, all of those projects that we do.
AE: [00:02:28] So what did you do in between there, in China?
ES: [00:02:30] I was an expat. My husband was working abroad. So, but I was actually working on a local contract in Shanghai for a few years.
AE: [00:02:39] Well, you both have a vast experience in product management, and that's what this episode is going to be about. And let's start with you, Charlotte. For all the years you've been working as a project manager, what would you say distinguishes those projects that succeed versus those who fail?
CB: [00:03:03] What an easy question to answer. I would say that the main thing to focus on, to have success in a project is that you have the engagement from Zooma's side, but also from the customer side, because it is a successful project is really when the two parts come together and make a great collaboration and when each part takes the full responsibility for the task that they are being assigned, I would say.
AE: [00:03:40] And how do you get that engagement?
CB: [00:03:45] Good question, I, I really don't know. I guess that the first thing is that it's super clear what needs to be done and why, and not only for the Zooma team but also for the customer that they really understand what needs to be done and why it needs to be done and why it needs to be done in a certain order. Well, I think that if you like your job you are engaged to, you know, you want to do a good job and you want to deliver. So, but it really takes, it takes time to do a project so you cannot do it with the left hand. You need to focus and make sure that the team on our side and on the customer side really have a full setup.
AE: [00:04:29] And Elin what would you say are the main challenges for general projects?
ES: [00:04:36] Well, and that's probably keeping it all together, like having everyone involved all the time and making sure that everyone, like, understands where you're at and why you're doing things, that you actually have frequent follow-ups and make sure that you have everyone on board the whole time. And I think especially for longer projects, I mean, they tend to take some time. It's easy to think that, yes, we've been through this, everyone knows this, and then a couple of weeks or months passes by, and then I mean, we all forget things. So it's easy to forget that you need to go back and repeat and continue. So I think that's one of the main challenges running projects. I would say that goes for both ends, like on the external side and also internally of course.
AE: [00:05:26] Do you agree there, Charlotte, or do you have anything to add?
CB: [00:05:32] No, I agree with Elin.
ES: [00:05:34] I think also you could talk about like if the purpose or the goals are unclear. That's also a challenge because I feel like that will backfire the whole way through the project. So that's also like having a structure very clearly defined in the beginning of the project and actually make sure that you have that foundation in place before you continue. That's very important, I would say.
AE: [00:05:59] And Charlotte, could you walk us through general projects that you commonly work with at Zooma, could be a launching a .com, like just briefly, what are the steps?
CB: [00:06:16] Normally at Zooma we work with some kind of digital project, it can be everything from creating a new .com, it can also be just creating articles or making them convert and so on. So it's all around the digital parts. And I would say from start to end - describe what needs to be done, and as Elin said, you need to be aligned on what that is and then create a plan for it when certain things need to be done and by who. And I would say that the success normally is when you really have this tight meetup in the team, but also together with the customer saying, let's meet every week, we might not have anything to talk about because we haven't done that much, but at least, you know, have a call to see where you are and answer questions and so on and make sure to keep that line. So have something to plan in, it can be an Excel, it can be something. And then review internally, review with the customer and then launch whatever we are supposed to launch. And then celebrate.
ES: [00:07:38] Don't forget to celebrate. That's important.
AE: [00:07:42] I know that you both are very good at celebrating. I also know that you are both very good at, or interested in project management tools you mentioned just now Charlotte, Excel. But are there any other project management tools you have evaluated recently in past years? Elin, do you have any recommendations on what project management tools to look for?
ES: [00:08:11] Yeah, maybe Charlotte and I should say together at once. One, two, three...
CB: [00:08:17] Trello!
ES: [00:08:21] Trello is a good tool, I've been using a lot, I know Charlotte has too. It's a good one. It's intuitive and easy to grasp for basically everyone, I would say. So of course Trello comes along a lot then I think using SharePoint for like easy access and collaborating in real time, that's also a good way to run projects. And also, talking about the easy access for information and such. It's a good combination at least, so I would probably nail it down to those two.
AE: [00:08:56] So what are the key benefits of Trello, Charlotte?
CB: [00:09:00] You often ask me if I get commission from Trello because I talk so much about it. I would say that the main or the good thing with Trello is that it's so easy to use for everyone. You don't need to be you know, if you check these big project management tools, you need to have like one week of crash course to understand what to do. That's not the case with Trello, you can just log in and more or less understand what to do. And so it makes it easy for everyone to collaborate in. And I would also recommend Google Drive to share documents if I know if the customer cannot use SharePoint or for several reasons, I think Google Drive is also something very easy to use. But yeah, I love Trello. I've been working with Trello for, I don't know, ten years maybe. So what would you say, Alexander, because you've also be working in Trello?
AE: [00:09:59] Yeah, and I use it when, like, planning content to write, and so on, and I think it's very intuitive when you have, like, the content process, it's often like you have some kind of backlog and then you need to get accepted to start. And I drag the card to accept to start. And then you have the draft column and review column and feedback column. And, actually you Charlotte, you taught me a very good thing. And that is that it's, you can only have one contact, or one card owner. And before I, I was taught that by you, I didn't like that much. But now as soon as I'm done, I sign it to someone else, and it's so much clearer.
CB: [00:11:00] So I was right, right?
AE: [00:11:01] Yeah, yeah, yeah, definitely!
ES: [00:11:04] Now you have it on tape Charlotte!
AE: [00:11:08] Do you have any other tips apart from only having one card owner?
CB: [00:11:15] Well, I would say a good thing is, the good thing with Trello is actually what you describe. You can have different columns, but that's also the dynamic with it, that you can create those columns depending on the project. So if you have these content things, you have one certain way to handle it. And the easy thing to set up is really 'task', 'in progress', 'done'. That's it. And other good things is to keep it updated, to make sure that everything is in the correct status, but also using the checklists and have all the things that need to be done and also set the due date on a card. So, you know when to be done with a certain task. Do you have anything else that I missed, like best practice Trello work?
ES: [00:12:09] Oh, I actually think you've covered it all being Miss Trello, as you are.
CB: [00:12:13] The Trello ambassador?
ES: [00:12:16] Yeah, exactly. But yeah, I think it's good to like, once you dive into it, it's good to use the functionality such as, like filtering on yourself and maybe using the labels, you can also use, like labeling the cards for maybe different sections or segments or how you, how you choose to categorise them. But still you can use labels for filtering as well. So there are a lot of options to make it more efficient.
CB: [00:12:42] And one other thing I would like to add to that is really make sure that you have everything in Trello, or in the other tools that you have decided to choose, because the worst thing that can happen is that you have some of the dialogue and the description of the task in the email, and then you have some in Trello, and then you might have some in a document. So try to keep the main things in one place. It can be an email, but it can also be in Trello. But decide together with your team where to answer and how to answer and where to store stuff.
AE: [00:13:22] Do you mutually agree on a structure when you start a project with the customer on a Trello board?
CB: [00:13:28] If I answer that question, I would say that I say to the team members that this is how we should do it. And if you have a better idea, please let me know because then I can adjust. This is how I recommend us to work. And yeah, so that's how I steer it, so to say.
ES: [00:13:50] I mean, that goes for the full project management part, I would say. I mean in the beginning of a project you like present the suggested way of working and then of course everyone needs to speak up if they think otherwise, of course. But still just like nail down the structure before you proceed. So and that goes for Trello and everything else.
AE: [00:14:12] Well, good. So so we started with defining that it's very important to have engagement from all team members as well as some of the clients and so on. And then we touched down on the planning stuff and planning to Trello. It's quite funny, every episode I've had with Anders and Stellan, they always come back to Amazon, and maybe Trello is your Amazon that you will always come back to.
AE: [00:14:51] So do you have any other tips or thoughts about what you want to talk about regarding product management?
ES: [00:15:00] I just have one which is knowledge in general and knowledge is power, so to say, I mean, make sure to educate everyone both on your end and on the client's end. And so, like, if there are I mean, for instance, in HubSpot case, there are a lot of certifications that you can take and actually introduce those and make sure that people try to at least have a look at them, because the more you educate them, the better the process. And for everything, basically, that's one tip.
CB: [00:15:32] It's a very good tip, actually, because to add to the question in the beginning, the success of a project or whatever, how we defined it, I really agree with you, if everyone speaks the same language on what we are working around, like with inbound or with content or HubSpot or whatever. Really make sure that you are on this more or less the same level, then it's easier to understand why we're doing what we are doing.
ES: [00:16:09] Exactly. So you can have a clear goal. Everyone understands why, why you're doing things and what you're aiming for, what they are, why, of course, everything like that. And then also, I would say it's good to aim for those easy short term wins, the easy wins first. So you can sort of have like this boost and then you have, of course, the long term goals as well. But that could also be good to prioritise a little bit where you can gain those easy wins as well.
AE: [00:16:38] And you define easy wins in the beginning of the project?
ES: [00:16:44] I set them in the structure and the planning phase.
AE: [00:16:46] OK.
ES: [00:16:47] So Alexander, did you learn something new?
AE: [00:16:50] Yeah, well, I knew that you both were a fan of Trello before, so that wasn't new.
CB: [00:16:58] He didn't learn anything Elin!
AE: [00:17:03] I work with you both in various projects and so on, and I can just assure that you do what you preach. I know that you, for example, have a very good overview of the project. And as far as a team member of the project, that can ensure that you're the one that has control over the full package. And that's very, I think, if I'm if I'm going to talk about it from a team member perspective, that's how I feel reliable that I'm doing the right stuff and so on, that you have this steering lighting, that you are doing the right things and that you have like the overall perspective. And keep in mind that the goal that was set in the beginning, it's often easy I think if it's large projects that you kind of forget those what you are actually trying to achieve with the project and so on. And you get so detailed and narrow, but then you two are very good at reminding that.