The founder of digital project management conference DPM:UK talks to Digital Innovation ahead of the two-day event’s third edition.
“It was pretty hard finding speakers that first year; I didn’t have a very large network at the time and, being specifically for digital project managers, the event was the first of its kind.”
Matt Thornhill (pictured) is remembering the inaugural DPM:UK conference, which he founded in Manchester back in 2014. With the third edition set for the end of this month, Thornhill – senior project manager at digital agency Code Computerlove – is looking forward to another busy and informative event.
“This year we have a lovely mix of old favourites and new faces from a variety of backgrounds,” he explains. “I don’t set a theme for the conference but a number of our speakers are talking about leadership in one way or another.”
Of the ten people presenting at this year’s event, Thornhill says he’s particularly keen to hear the thoughts of Susanne Madsen, an internationally recognised project leadership consultant. Madsen, author of The Project Management Coaching Workbook and The Power of Project Leadership, will be discussing the differences between management and leadership and how it relates to the role of project manager. “I feel project managers need to move from the task-oriented approach into the leadership space to get the best from their teams,” he says.
Thornhill has clearly put his own leadership skills to good use to make the conference happen, working closely with Manchester Digital to quickly establish DPM:UK on the digital business calendar. Last year saw nearly 300 delegates from across the UK and Europe at Manchester’s Comedy Store, which is once again hosting the event.
“Hopefully this year will see a similar number and mix,” he says. “The conference is a great opportunity for anyone involved in managing digital projects to come together to be inspired by and learn from others in the sector.”
Inspiration and support
Thornhill credits two of this year’s speakers – digital project management consultant Brett Harned and development team manager Sam Barnes – as the original inspiration for the DPM:UK project, as well as being key supporters from day one.
“It was an event run by Sam and Brett in London that prompted me to start the Northern Digital PM meetup in Manchester, so that people involved in managing digital projects and teams in the North had somewhere to share ideas. After the first meetup it was clear there was a real appetite for more; Brett started running the Digital PM Summit in the US and I felt like there was definitely an opportunity for something similar in the UK.”
After Code Computerlove co-founder Tony Foggett put him in touch with Manchester Digital, the idea for a conference soon took shape. “Manchester Digital are amazing,” says Thornhill. “Without them the event would never have launched, they help with so many aspects of the conference.”
As if the challenges of organising the conference weren’t enough, Thornhill is also one of the speakers at this year’s event, which is split between talks on day one and practical workshops on day two.
He’ll be tackling the issue known as ‘technical debt’ – a metaphor for the ‘cost’ of quick but messy code, the ‘debt’ being something that can be paid back later by refactoring the original code into something cleaner. (Alternatively, you can live with the extra work it creates – or ‘interest’.)
“Technical debt is a real challenge that if left unaddressed will cause any project to ultimately fail,” he says. “I want to encourage project managers to empathise with developers and see the impact our decisions can have on the project, and even team moral.”
DPM:UK, Comedy Store, Manchester, 27-28 January 2016. dpmuk.com