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Every digital agency that I have encountered seems to claim that they are agile in some way.
What does it mean to be an agile agency? It is no longer a common term for agency agile.
Agency agile – Who knows what it is?
It can refer to the original intent of an adaptable, flexible approach that values outcomes over all else. On the other end, it can refer to a chaotic workplace that has no processes. It’s easier to say you are ‘agile’ than to expose the reality that we’make it up as we go.
This is not meant to be a criticism. Digital is still a young industry. We are still trying to figure out how to manage and deliver the best work.
Scrum for Digital Agencies: The Challenge
When trying to find an agile process, many digital agencies I know use Scrum. This seems like a natural choice. When you start looking into agile methodologies, Scrum will be mentioned everywhere. (The term Scrum is often – but incorrectly! – used interchangeably to refer to agile. They’re not. Agile is so much better than Scrum.
Scrum is a popular tool. Many terms and buzzwords are used to describe Scrum. It can be seen as a way to get ahead. This recipe will transform your chaos into a utopia. Its roots lie in software product design. Scrum is great for teams that have a clear focus on delivering a specific product.
Scrum can become difficult to manage when there are external dependencies. Working in a digital agency means that almost every aspect of your work is dependent on your clients. This can lead to significant waste. Complex political negotiations are common among project managers to ensure that their projects are included in each sprint planning session. I’ve witnessed sprint planning meetings at agencies take up to a full day and involve the entire team. Sprints can last up to three weeks, so this is 6-10% of your team’s potential. It’s a waste of time!
These sprint plans often unravel after a few days. Clients may change their mind or delay in providing the required information. Unexpected events can occur, such as new business opportunities and technical issues with a live software system. All of these events result in frequent renegotiations, which wastes more time and resources.
An Important Lesson To Learn
There are many agile practices and methods. This realization dawned on me in 2010, after I struggled to get the expected benefits of Scrum. I did further research. This led me to Kanban, and lean thinking. Some of their methods seemed to be better than the one we were using.
I began to experiment. I started to experiment. I started with a small, predictable task and then moved on to larger and more complex projects. This made it easier for clients to accept and review work, which made projects easier to manage.
I started challenging our processes and how we managed our work. We stopped using sprint planning sessions and started using daily stand-ups to reorganize our work. We quickly abandoned the idea of sprints and switched to a Kanban-based flow approach. The team made further improvements by offering suggestions and then trying them out.