As an avid organizer and improver of things – I was smitten with Agile Project Management when I first encountered it.
I know there’s a natural skepticism to using this approach because it’s supposed to be for software, right? Nope, when you look closer, you’ll realize that’s not true anymore.
It’s perfect for many kinds of projects, not just software, and our agency saw some huge benefits once we embraced it.
From improving the visibility of SEO tasks to planning our content creation – Agile made it clear what we needed to focus our attention on.
The key is knowing what parts of it to use. Or click here to see how we use Agile within our agency.
Agile Project Management 101
Waterfall, Scrum, Agile, Lean, Kanban, or Scrumban – you’ve likely come across at least one of these terms. But figuring out which one to adopt can be challenging.
With so many terms used interchangeably, it’s easy to get confused. The waters get even muddier when examples relate primarily to software development or construction-type businesses.
It’s understandable why many businesses slowly back away and stick with what they’ve been doing. Or worse, they try to implement a Scrum framework and fail, then go back to their old methods.
Agile project management is the process of implementing various methods to help you deliver your product or service to the customer. This is accomplished using increments or iterations, working in a shorter life cycle, enhancing collaboration, and adapting quickly to feedback.
The result is delivering continuous value to your customer – not just at the end of the project.
Agile Only Works When You Change Your Mindset
As a first step, it’s essential to embrace your most important tool – an Agile mindset. It’s a way of thinking that allows you to move away from top-down (Waterfall) ways of managing. Instead, you focus on building a team that adapts quickly to change, collaborates to solve problems, and continually finds ways to improve.
Instead of constantly putting out fires, you continuously refine how things get done.
Any business, large or small, that wants to grow, adapt to change, and deliver value to customers, needs a flexible way of thinking. Agile creates this flexibility by building teams that hold these four key values:
With an Agile mindset and the above values, you’re ready to implement an Agile project management approach.
It’s important to remember that Agile is a tool, just like your content management system or project management software.
The more tools you have, the better your chance of achieving your goals. However, if an organization or team is resistant, it’s less likely that an Agile approach will succeed.
Some organizations are more likely to resist adopting Agile methodologies. When you introduce it to your team, you might hear a variety of objections:
It’s essential to go slowly and tailor what you need.
The goal is not to make more money – it’s to deliver value to your customers in a timely manner. Of course, increased productivity and profitability will follow.
To do that, you need to understand and have the right processes in place for you and your team.
Agile Terms to Know
You’re going to come across a lot of terms in Agile. You don’t need to know all of them, but there are a few that you’ll see more often and likely use.
Here’s a brief list of what you’ll come across:
The person on your team responsible for ensuring you deliver maximum value to your customers and align backlog tasks with stakeholder and customer needs.
For us, this is the lead strategist who works with clients to understand their desired outcomes and then translates that into actions our team can take.
Scrum Master / Servant Leader / Facilitator
The person who coaches and guides the team when necessary, performs the Scrum ceremonies, and focuses on helping the team succeed. They help remove impediments, manage conflict, build team engagement, and ensure good communication.
For us, that’s me, but if you don’t have a Scrum master, you can find a coach, read books, or take a course. How deep you go depends on the size of your business and how many teams you have.
The team or teams responsible for deliverables.
We use a pod structure – a content specialist paired up with an SEO expert. The pod works with the strategist to determine the best actions to take to deliver value. This structure helps us focus on clients’ goals and collaborate to achieve them efficiently.
Definition of Done
All the requirements for the increment (product) to be considered finished.
This is different in an agency than a “product” context – we have a lot of different deliverables that we consider products, all with their own definition of done.
This is a large batch of work (or an entire project) that can be broken down into smaller parts.
Then you have the Scrum Artifacts:
A list of all the work that needs to be completed.
A list of the work to be completed during a sprint.
What is delivered to the customer after a sprint – once the item meets the definition of done.
Then there are the Scrum ceremonies – meetings your teams participate in to ensure everyone is on the same page. These include:
This is a meeting run by the Scrum master, or another person in a similar role. You review the product backlog with the team and determine what they can deliver in a specified period. The usual sprint is two weeks.
This is a simple daily check-in with your team to discuss the plans for the day. It’s a chance to bring up any issues that need to be addressed and make sure nobody’s work is held up waiting for guidance or information.
This one can be a stumbling block, because many teams don’t have the time (or desire) for daily meetings. Try these less meeting-heavy check-in schedules:
- Check in with people in the morning, either in a team chat or individual conversations on your messaging system.
- Reduce the number of check-ins to one that works for your whole team and make it a bit longer.
These are team meetings held at the end of every Sprint. You want to focus on what went well, what didn’t go so well, and identify any potential risks. You can use Miro, Asana, or ScrumExpert to help facilitate these meetings, especially if you have a distributed team.
Backlog Grooming / Refinement
The process where the team, with the help of the product owner (project manager), will prioritize what’s in the backlog. The goal is to ensure the tasks chosen in the next sprint deliver value.
Note: You might have noticed that there is a lot of communication. That’s because Scrum and other Agile methodologies rely on a continuous feedback loop to be effective. When someone on your team is blocked or having trouble with something, it’s essential they know who to talk to.
Agile Project Management Benefits
Still not convinced Agile is the way to go? Then let’s take a closer look at some of the benefits of Agile project management for SEO, content, and other types of marketing agencies:
- It’s flexible enough to benefit a variety of business types, including content marketing.
- It’s simple to implement when you realize these methodologies are, by definition, meant to be agile.
- It allows you to really listen to your team. The more your team feels heard – the more they feel like their input matters. The result is increased engagement and a happier team.
- It builds trust between you and your team. Making changes based on your team’s input to streamline processes and reduce unnecessary work demonstrates your trust.
- As your team gains confidence, they take more ownership of their role. The outcome is a team that is resilient, adaptable, and high-performing.
- It ensures that work is completed in a timely manner and to the highest standards, ultimately resulting in total customer satisfaction.
How DCP Uses the Agile Framework
As a digital marketing and content creation agency, Digital Commerce Partners (DCP) could rely solely on project management software to get things done.
While this works, it isn’t great for growth or optimizing workflows.
All our projects have two sides – content creation and SEO analysis – and this can create a bit of a silo. And as a remote team, we often work asynchronously. That makes collaboration and communication sometimes challenging.
To remedy these issues, we implemented a Scrum framework with an Agile approach.
We took elements of various Agile methodologies and created a project management approach that works for us. Here’s our current iteration:
Every two weeks, we have a team meeting to review the backlog and choose the items that will deliver the highest value to the client.
We assign tasks and estimate how long they will take. We also organize editorial tasks and ensure we have clients’ approval on topics so we can move forward. We check to see that writers are available, that we have topics in the backlog, and note any feedback or new requests from clients. For example, a client may have a great idea for a thought leadership post or case study they want us to work on next.
The key to being Agile is making all work visible – we do this by setting a status – which lets us know exactly where a piece of content is in its life cycle. For our content projects, that’s backlog, research, brief review, writing, editing, revisions, on-page, publishing, published, and done.
We tailor the process for each client depending on how much input they would like to have.
Daily stand-ups aren’t necessary for our agency because we’re all available for a quick chat in Slack to discuss any issues. Although we have a remote team in multiple time zones, we’re all online for part of the day.
We also have a weekly check-in meeting to address any issues. This allows us a bit of face time and builds team engagement.
These meetings provide everyone with insight into how the sprint went. We determine whether or not goals were met, and discuss how to improve processes for next time.
During a retro, we highlight potential risks and plan accordingly. We mention issues that held us back (what didn’t work) and what helped us resolve them.
We discuss what helped move us forward (what worked), then finally, what made us feel good during the sprint (this could be work-related or not).
We use a Sailboat Retrospective on Miro to make it fun, engaging, and visual. It takes a few minutes before the meeting for everyone to share their thoughts on the board.
Work With an Agile Team That Understands Content Marketing
The secret to making Agile work is adopting and tweaking the parts that work for you – but it’s also having a great team.
Our processes ensure that we always focus our efforts on tasks that provide business value to our clients – whether it’s developing a content strategy to drive leads, optimizing their website’s performance, or publishing engaging content that gets results.
Our team is Agile – collaborative, value-driven, adaptable, and continually improving – and that is the result of successfully implementing an Agile project management approach.
Contact us if you’d like to work with an Agile team that can help you get the results you want.