What to do about the shortage of Digital Project Managers


I’m desperate for a strong digital project manager.

I’ve heard this too many times recently.

Why is it so hard to find good PM’s with digital experience?

Web, social, email, mobile, online media – these digital channels have been around since day dot so why is it that businesses seem to struggle to find people to manage projects in the digital space?

If these digital platforms have been around for forever, this means projects in this space have been managed for forever. 

So why is it then that finding good digital project managers is still so hard.

I think it is down to this:

The role of a Digital Project Manager is still fairly new

In the advertising space you are used to Client Service people and Traffic Managers. When digital got recognised as a channel to be taken seriously Client Service were suddenly lumped with a bigger project work load to manage. Managing digital projects is completely different to managing traditional projects. So, then, to help Client Service out, advertising agencies decided they needed Digital Project Managers to handle the internal digital work as a support to the Client Service people. The Digital Project Manager was not to be client facing. But this too proved tricky because now the Client Service person becomes the middleman between the Digital Project Manager, the Traffic Manager, the actual production team of developers and designers and finally the client. So now giving the client feedback was also tricky and felt scripted because there was no real understanding of the actual behind the scenes work or understanding of the technical jargon being thrown about. Digital Project Managers struggled too with no direct access to the project team, it all had to be channeled through a Traffic Manager. This dynamic created unhealthy and unnecessary internal friction and also created longer workflow cycles in delivering work back to clients.


Fast forward to 2022 and companies wanting to embrace business agility, cross-functional teams, and people and process improvements, agencies are now open to experimenting with teams/pods. Suddenly they are questioning if the Client Service person shouldn’t be skilled to manage digital work as most of the clients require it and also how the role of traffic needs a refresh. This means a re-look at the role of a Digital Project Manager all together. 

Making a living as a Digital Project Manager in today’s technology age is no easy feat. You really need to be the James Bond as opposed to Austin Powers with your “we got this” approach. The role of a Digital Project Manager is no longer just about creating and maintaining a project plan. Digital Project Managers today need to display a mix of unbelievable personas in the way they perform their job. They should be naturally curious and interested in what’s going on in the digital space.

So how can we fix this?

How can we ensure there are more and more great digital project managers out there?

Make sure your current digital project managers feel supported.

If you’re fortunate to have some good ones, you need them, so cherish them. Ask them if they feel supported in performing their job and what they need from the business that could help them perform better at their job.

Get clear on the Digital Project Manager role for your business and what you expect from them.

Get specific. Look at the kind of digital projects required by your clients. Consider your client’s needs. Consider how you want the Digital Project manager to behave with all project parties. What are you expecting them to produce, what are you expecting them to know, what is really going to set them up for success? Don’t look at the role in isolation but how it works cross-functionally.

Empower & upskill.

Once you are clearer on the soft and hard skills needed to perform the role think about whether you couldn’t find this person internally in the business who would rise to the challenge. Then think about how to guide/mentor/train them. If you have made a decision to employ, consider a training program as part of their onboarding to really help them on their way. Something practical, hands on, action-oriented and supportive.

I’m passionate about empowering digital project managers by customizing programs and training to meeting teams where they are, not a one size fits all. My masterclasses and programs are unique in that they are personally facilitated & offer ongoing support options to digital project managers giving them every opportunity to succeed with ongoing practical tips, suggestions, techniques, and guidance. Think of me as your partner in helping you grow your team of Digital Project Managers to perform at their best!