Sunday, 2 June 2019

Good Help Is Hard To Find - Tips When Hiring Digital Producers

This is the seventh in a series of articles which will summarise my last half decade of hiring/outsourcing/offshoring experience as Head of Technology at the Cogworks.

Firstly, I will only be using the term Digital Producer, rather than Project Manger.

Read more about Digital Producers vs Project Managers.


The best Digital Producer I ever worked with was a great facilitator. They didn't manage people. They managed obstacles. They lined-up work and unblocked our path.

Hiring a Producer with the right background and attitude can be great for your work and company culture. If you work in software development you can almost always benefit from Agile methodologies, and that's what this article will feature.

On a related note, in Scrum there are no Project Managers, only Scrum masters and Product owners. This article will dabble with a few Scrum terms, however it is aimed at companies who are not yet very Agile, and are still hiring "Project Managers".  Learn more at


Having a good collaborative attitude is probably the most important attribute to any Digital Producer. 

Developers can self-organise, and don't need an overlord *ehem* "Project Manager" to question what they are doing. They just need someone who can line up features so the developers can swarm on them. They need a person who can manage obstacles, not people. 

Here are a few useful questions I wish every company would ask during the interview process:

1. On a scale of 1-10, how much do you trust the developers in your current company.
If the answer is anything less than an 8, then you should raise an eyebrow. They are essentially saying that they don't really trust the people they work with, and might be micro-managers.

2. When a developer told you that something was taking longer than expected, what was your response?
The answer you're looking for is something similar to: "I asked them is there was anything I could do to help us deliver?", then "Let's talk about the things we can deliver, and then go talk to the Product Owner / stakeholder to discuss re-prioritising the backlog and next steps".

3. Can you tell me about your daily stand-ups?
The answer you are looking for is: I try to facilitate the team talking to each other to solve blockages. I don't understand everything they're saying, but after 10-15mins if they have determined a plan of action for the day then I've done my job.

Agile / Scrum / Kanban

If your organisation is producing software then Agile experience should be very important for you. MVP, iterative releasable sprints, get feedback, adapt. 

If you have Producers who are not at least scum certified, then definitely make this your first priority. 
The certifications have a pass mark of 85%, so if the person has a certification from there, it is an indication that they have actually learned something about scrum and agile. The courses really challenge your views on how a project should operate. Someone who is Scrum certified is much more likely to be a facilitator. 

Kanban is all about smooth flow, throughput, visual cues, measurement, and swarming. If person has this experience (ideally a certification), then it is more likely that they know how to facilitate smooth running of a team. Kanban doesn't care about assigning tasks to people, but rather encourages a pull based workflow where anyone can do the work. Kanban coupled with Scrum is a sweet spot which will see benefits of both.


An experienced Producer should be able to tell you about the pros and cons of the tools they have used in regard to:
  • Feature mapping
  • Task tracking
  • Burn-down & burn-up charts
You should be able to ask them about Stories on Board, Feature Map, Jira, Kanbanize, Leankit, Trello, spreadsheets. They should have an opinion. 

If they are struggling to articulate their options then you should support them in their learning. Give them the task to review other platforms and present their views to other Producers. 

Prince 2 & Waterfall Experience

I'm not a Prince 2 expert, but I'll do my best...

This type of certification has specific uses. For example, fields where safety and regulation matters such as construction, medical, legal all lend themselves to heavy documentation / regulation / check & balances. The functional requirements and initial documentation are heavily front-loaded.

It is useful to understand different methodologies, however if you are working in digital agencies, software, or an organisation which is wanting to "be more agile", then this qualification / experience is not a priority on your search. People with this experience will likely be more inclined to be a "classic" PM who "controls" the workflow, rather than facilitates it. It might be hard to shake that habit. That said, if the person is smart and has a good attitude then get them Scrum certified ASAP and see how they adapt to your environment.

On side note, you can definitely run a Scrum/Scrum-ban workflow inside a waterfall project. Just keep in mind that if you already have Scrum running relatively well, then a person with only Prince 2 experience might appear as being a micro-manager.

Final Thoughts

Attitude is super important. It can make or break your culture. Put heavy emphasis on finding out if the person you hire can jump in and facilitate your team, not "run" it.

Having Agile experience (ideally scrum and kanban certifications) can give you some confidence that the person will be more likely to be collaborative, and facilitate smooth workflow.

Check out my Scrum certification reviews below:

Posts In This Series

  1. Interview Tips for Technical Leaders
  2. Tips To Ensure Quality Delivery When Outsourcing
  3. Tips When Taking On An Intern
  4. Tips When Hiring Senior Developers
  5. Tips When Hiring Junior Developers
  6. Tips When Offshoring Development Teams
  7. Tips When Hiring Digital Producers
  8. Tips When Hiring Remote People
  9. Tips To Improve Developer Retention (coming soon)
  10. Tips When Hiring Lead Developers (coming soon)

No comments:

Post a Comment