Although the Agile process may not seem like a natural fit for agency adoption, once it is implemented, it can have tremendous benefits. Here is a summary of the top five improvements you can expect to see with Agile:
1. Streamlined Processes: In Agile, an upfront full-project requirements period is not necessary, and so the team has the ability to quickly dive into the actual work, which shortens the timeframe of the project.
2. Reduced Change Management: Often, during the course of a project or during its final stage, requirements need to change, or there may be an unanticipated need for it to be reworked. Agile reduces the waste of time and energy spent on the change management procedures needed to address these issues. Instead, the project scope can be flexible to the evolving needs and requirements of the engagement. Additionally, frequent demos are built into the Agile process, showing each component as it is built. This provides clients with an earlier glimpse of their final product and a chance to amend requirements mid-stream as part of the process, versus as an extension implemented at end of the project.3. Increased Rigor and Innovation: Working within the constructs of an Agile process mandates a certain level of rigor around the execution of the work as the team sets group standards and follows a disciplined sprint meeting cadence. Additionally, the use of problem-focused user stories guides the project without the full restrictions of detailed requirements. This allows the team the flexibility to come up with more innovative and better solutions to the actual client problem.
4. Maximized Team Productivity: The work in an Agile sprint is completed in short, time-boxed iterations. Before each iteration, the work is defined so that the team knows the focus and priority for that iteration, allowing the team to execute without other distractions.
5. Enhanced Client Relationships: Agile creates the structure for a truly collaborative process with the client. The focus in Agile is on finding the best solutions to client problems without having to follow undue procedures. This flexibility allows the agency to deliver solutions outside those originally thought needed at the time the contract was drafted. The agency team can then work with the client as a true partner, with a focus on solutions rather than simply executing on the scope defined in the contract.
As you can see, implementing an Agile process will have huge benefits for your agency, but there are some agency-specific challenges that need to be addressed to get Agile running smoothly. Here is an outline of three important challenges and their solutions.
Challenges and Solutions
Challenge #1 - Project Scoping: Agency clients often demand fixed prices and guarantees on receiving certain features by certain deadlines. Additionally, projects are often not scoped by the actual delivery team, which can lead to inaccuracies if it is a scope-based price.
Solution #1: To address this, the sales team needs to bring at least some Agile procedures into their contract creation process. Instead of a scope focus, costs can be capped by using a certain amount of FTEs over an agreed upon time period. And, if there are core features that the client insists on being included, they can be listed with the caveat that priorities will be reassessed iteratively throughout the length of the project. Overall, the sales team should focus on conveying the collaborative spirit of Agile and how it will make the client's job easier by focusing on real solutions versus scope definition.
Challenge #2 - Client Understanding: Clients are often unfamiliar with Agile and the idea of the Agile product owner role which is best implemented as a client role.
Solution #2: The best way to approach this is to have an account manager within the agency take on the product owner role initially, and then slowly transition elements of it to the client contact.
Challenge #3 - Team Structure: Unlike traditional software companies, most agencies don't have consistent project teams comprised of the same group of people working together over long periods of time — which is ideal for an Agile environment. Instead, agency teams often come together for short projects.
Solution #3: An agency can best mitigate this issue by implementing the Agile process with consistency across all engagements so that all team members become familiar with working according to Agile procedures. Then as teams continuously re-form, everyone can approach the process with the same understanding and achieve the best results.
By implementing Agile using these recommended solutions, your agency will see the difference in outcomes and how they lead to increased business success!