Agile Project Management has been a popular topic, particularly for Digital Agencies. Is it the right choice your agency?
What’s the difference between Waterfall and Agile Project Management?
The Waterfall method, regarded as traditional, is simple. Teams work in phases and one step flows into the next. The boundaries of scope, budget and schedule are well defined and Change Orders must be signed when crossed. The deliverable (such as a commercial spot) is at the end of the project.
Agile methodology is iterative, with cyclical steps (such as work, review, test, repeat). Deliverables are released incrementally and are subject to client input. Because it allows adaptability and assumes changing circumstances, constant communication is necessary.
Why change to Agile?
In the past, client expectations were clearly defined. Since digital was added to the mix, agencies have been required to be more responsive to fluid and changing needs of the client. The relationship between the agency and the client is increasingly more collaborative. This shift calls for flexibility that Agile provides.
How to Implement Agile
Instead of switching your entire agency to Agile, start with a group that can try it out. Ideally, they should be a mix of people who fully support the idea of changing to Agile and some who don’t. The latter will be the ones who will point out weaknesses (i.e. what needs to be reviewed and improved) – which fits right into the Agile methodology!
What tools should you use? Many agencies have success with Kanban Boards because they provide a visual of the workflow. Every team member can see where they fit into the process. Boards are broken down into Sprints, focused bursts of time aimed at accomplishing an objective. The time of a Sprint is not the same as the length of a project. Sprints can last from 1 to 12 weeks. If you’re not sure how long your Sprints should be, start with two weeks and adjust from there.
Managing Scope in an Agile World
In Waterfall, scope is a constant. Defining project scope will help guard against scope creep. Agile purists say that with agile project management, scope can change at any point. Where to draw the line? The answer lies in the Backlog of your Kanban Board. By placing all tasks and assignments in the Backlog at the start of the project, you’ve defined the work needed to complete it. When all Assignments have moved through the Board and into the Completed column, the project is complete.
Have the Best of Both Worlds
Will Agile solve every project management problem? Of course not. For agencies, it doesn’t have to be one or the other. A hybrid approach may be the answer. Combine the structure of waterfall with the flexibility of agile. You don’t have to adhere to the 12 Principles behind the Agile Manifesto. Do what works for your agency workflow.
To employ a hybrid method, divide a project into phases. For example, you can use the Waterfall method for the project initiation and planning phases. In the development and production phases, where deliverables are released incrementally, Agile may be a better fit.
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