When we first started discussing the ways our agency could benefit from Agile, we had no idea how many valuable lessons would come out of this experience. At best, we hoped it would help us work more efficiently to deliver value to our clients. However, we never imagined it would give us a competitive edge, improve our communications, increase our quality of work and empower the team to take ownership of individual projects. We uncover new achievements with Agile every day, but that’s not to say we did not experience challenges along the way.
A majority of the challenges we faced came within the first few weeks of undergoing our transformation. We didn’t know exactly what to expect, but the key for us was learning how to embrace the challenge rather than rebel against it, and find solutions as a team. Some of the bigger challenges we experienced include:
- Adapting an agile process that fit our business model. As a non-IT team, we offer a completely different set of services than software development teams and we work within different cycle times. We needed to figure out how to take the concept of agile and structure our program to support the services and processes we currently use.
- Initial resistance to change. This is common when teams start using agile, and our team was no exception. Due to a lack of understanding the mindset, concern about the time investment and uncertainty about how this IT concept could benefit our agency, we had to work hard to ensure a smooth transformation that was comfortable for the whole team.
- Creating a cadence of continuous improvement. One of the most important aspects of agile is making sure the team frequently reflects on ways to improve. This is done through daily standup meetings, weekly retrospectives and ad hoc conversations about projects. Committing to these meetings has proven to be difficult when employees work remotely, clients request meetings during our retrospective time, or holidays and vacation time knock us out of our usual rhythm.
Although we encountered issues, we have overcome them through hard work, dedication and a commitment to continue implementing agile. Our successes have far outweighed the challenges and proven the value of being an agile marketing agency. Below are a few of the many successes we’ve had through our agile transformation:
- A total shift in mindset to accept agile. Our team has fully embraced agile and enjoys the many benefits it has for us and our clients. We look for opportunities for additional training and certification to continue educating ourselves about optimizing agile for the agency. Baby Boomers to Millennials can all get on board with agile.
- Increased transparency, collaboration and communication within the team. Before implementing agile, the team had frequent communication, but it was not always valuable. Project deadlines weren’t always clear, priorities were sometimes skewed and work was unevenly distributed amongst team members. Our Kanban board enables us to visualize all on-going and future projects and empowers the team to pull work into their schedule. Every project elicits a conversation about expectations, deadlines and who has the bandwidth to work on it.
- Tracking our metrics. Our agile coach created a spreadsheet that gets updated on a daily basis with metrics about every project in our workflow. This allows us to confidently tell clients how long certain projects will take or recognize particularly busy weeks and discuss what happened during that time.
- Reflect as a team and adjust behaviors. Having an objective coach work with the team was an amazing experience. It pushed us to self-evaluate, reflect and have those “hard conversations” on how we can always be working to improve. These conversations have manifested beyond self-awareness and into actual work products that have made the agency stronger.
While the process wasn’t always easy, the journey has been completely worth it. From better communication and team building skills to increasing our clients’ satisfaction through early and continuous value delivered, becoming an agile agency has taught us so much over the past 90 days. Our next and final blog will dive deeper into specific benefits that a non-IT organization can experience for the team, individuals and clients.