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Agile-Nightmare or Dream Solution?

By Jason Fletcher
May 9, 2017

Ever had a nightmare where you’re falling? You scream but can’t find a way to stop your downward momentum. Often when this happens, it’s due to a feeling of something being amiss in your life. It could be finances, it could be a relationship, or it could be related to your job.

When you finally wake up, you think about why you had that dream and how you can learn a lesson from it, but then your day starts and you forget all about it. By the time you get home, you’ve cleared your mind of any lessons learned and you fall asleep to repeat the same nightmare over again.

This pattern is something I often see repeated at companies with established rules, software, and processes. Employees come to work, excited to get going; then a nightmare process that was created long ago is introduced and causes frustration. People might talk about it right when it happens, but time goes by and everyone goes back to sleep.  

But fear not! It’s not too late to shake yourself from that repetitive nightmare and learn a lesson!  It’s as simple as taking a few minutes to look at your processes and making honest observations before you fall back asleep.

Solution

The solution we’ve adopted at Site Strategics is a system known as Agile methodology.  The key to this system is the ability to quantify the work required to complete marketing activities so your team ensures all work gets done in a timely manner while allowing you to make changes to the direction of your marketing at a moment’s notice. By working within an Agile mindset, we’re able to solve common problems agencies face.  

Changing Client Needs

In the modern workplace, things change constantly. Technology is always on, trends rise and fall minute by minute, and it’s impossible to know what you will be talking about in a future marketing campaign 6 months from now.

Using an Agile mindset allows your team to observe how different channels of marketing are performing, make decisions based on that data, and adjust by moving spend from one channel to another. We work in Sprints which allow us to focus on specific pieces of work for 2 weeks at a time. We review progress and make adjustments to our plans before starting the next Sprint.

Prioritization

When your business has a variety of tasks to complete involving many employees over multiple business offerings (web builds, subscription marketing clients, podcast studio recordings, accessibility reviews, etc.), it can be difficult to see what needs to be done first.  

With Agile, all the work is planned for completion by the end of each Sprint. This alleviates a lot of the stress of specific (and often arbitrary) deadlines for work. The most important thing about any Sprint based model is that the work gets done. If there is something that must be done by a specific date, it’s much easier to focus on completion when workers are focusing on a two week block instead of all the work to complete over the next year.

Capacity

As a Project Manager or Operations Manager, it’s hard to wrap one’s mind around not only all the jobs that are going on but their current progress, including which employees are working on each task and what work they have to accomplish.  With Agile, tracking is no longer a problem. You can use mathematical equations to figure out how much time a person will have during the two weeks and then figure out how long all the work will take and calculate an employee’s capacity.

For example, at Site Strategics we assume that each employee will have approximately 6 hours per day of high-quality work. The remaining two hours of a typical 8 hour work day are lost due to meetings, lunch, and other distractions. When calculating available effort for an employee, we take the number of days they are planning to spend in the office during the Sprint and assign them 1 point per every 3 hours. So, a full time employee will have approximately 20 points worth of available effort during a Sprint.

We then assign all the tasks that need to be accomplished by that employee during the Sprint and reach a sum. Say that the average employee, without any days allotted for vacation, had 18 points worth of work to complete in a given Sprint. They would be at 90% capacity, giving them some wiggle room if a task takes longer than expected or a client is out of town and can’t approve something critical to the completion of a task.

Instead of guessing how busy someone is, we can now calculate it.

Fair Work for Fair Pay

One difficult thing about any business relationship is assuring a client that they are receiving everything they are paying for. In marketing, many things are intangible so it’s hard to assign them a value.  Agile is an elegant solution to this problem because we can literally assign a value to each piece of work.

So, if it takes 3 hours to create a report, then that report costs 1 point worth of effort.  Now that work has a value and we can use that against the employee’s capacity to ensure that we are keeping everybody busy while maintaining a high quality of work.  Better yet, we can show the client exactly what they got for their money.

When reviewing activity with a customer at month’s end, all we have to do is walk back through the Agile Sprint to show them the completed list of all the items promised and paid for.

Are you ready to wake your company up and break out of the recurring nightmare that is old processes? Why not give Agile a try?

If you have any questions or would like to meet to discuss the benefits of Agile, just let me know by visiting our Contact Us page or contacting me at:

jfletcher@sitestrategics.com

Thanks for reading!