Productivity Hour

Sharing the stories behind how different businesses are blueprinting efficiencies in the workplace.

Interview with Liz McNeil, Senior Project Manager at Starbucks


Tell us about your extensive project management background, and your current role at Starbucks.
I have about 8 years of project and program management experience primarily in the digital marketing industry. I started my new role at Starbucks 4 months ago as a Senior PM on the Concepts team. Concepts sits within Store Development and is a diverse team of designers and architects who develop future-forward solutions for Starbucks.

Since starting I've been trying to implement new processes, templates and technologies to put some rigor into a team that has very little.

Has your approach to project management changed over time, as well as your use of technology to manage your work?
Oh yes. There are standards and methodologies a PM can follow, but all organizations and teams are different. I try to tailor my approach depending on the situation and the tools available to me.

What’s your experience introducing different tools and techniques to manage projects on time? How do those tools and techniques carry over into your current role?
For new tools I find that providing lots of training and hand holding to achieve adoption is really key. I've worked at a number of organizations and have introduced new tools or techniques in almost every position.

You’ve managed projects both in an agency setting and also in an in-house setting. Does your workflow or project management approach differ, depending on setting?
Attention to detail and excellent communication are so key in an agency because a misstep could mean lost work and or revenue. And there are contracts and agreements put in place in an agency that require that the client and the agency stay on time and on budget. Sometimes I miss that in-house! So, I often try to apply the rigor of an agency to in-house teams but with more of a focus on individuals and supporting them to do their best work.

What software tools do you currently use to collaborate, manage work, and track time? Do you have any favorites?
Oh goodness. The hardship I've found so far is there are too many things. Teams throughout the company are all over the place. I am trying to use enterprise-supported solutions primarily in the Office 365 suite. Mostly because they are free. I am moving the team to MSFT Teams for collaboration, Smartsheet to develop project plans, Clockify for time sheets. My team puts files in EIGHT different places. EIGHT!

My favorite would be something that doesn't require me to do so much research and setup on my own that does everything I need. But finding the right suite of technologies always proves difficult.

What should people be thinking about if they are looking to bring in any new productivity tools or processes?
Find your champions and get buy in. I've gone down long roads evaluating options without bringing all my stakeholders along closely enough, which led to having to abandon what I thought was best. And continue to evaluate the success of your new tools and processes after implementation.

What is the overall business impact when the right tools are implemented? What ROI have you seen from having the right tools and resources in place?
More refined final products, faster lead times, and less frustration. Especially with creative teams, it can be difficult to measure success, so establishing baselines and using tools that can provide analytics can be key.

What is your physical work environment like? How does that impact your productivity?
Currently it is a centrally located team who all sit in the same general area with only a couple members in other locations. Having a remote team introduces a whole new set of potential problems, so the right processes/technologies are paramount.