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Agile for Agencies

The problems using agile in digital service delivery agencies

Luke Pivac



Agile for Agencies

The Agile framework is effective for building digital products, but how can digital agencies work with agile, especially when client engagement is more prevalent?

In my years of working in digital agency environments, agile can be inherently challenging, especially when each client has different requirements of varying time, cost and scope.

For product companies, where product owners and scrum masters are working on one product; they have time to refine and master their work. Agencies do not have that luxury — a lot of the projects tend to be just several weeks long in duration. So, you are are required to pick projects up quickly and run with it.

Photo by Austin Distel on Unsplash

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Tips for doing agile in a digital agency

Here are some tips to help you navigate through the many ups and downs of agency life by using the lightweight framework that we all know and love — agile.

This is what I affectionately call “Agile-as-a-Aervice

Do your homework

Working in an agency, can be very exciting. The different types of projects and people you meet provides you with the opportunity to gain experience and insights you don’t get in a product company. However, you do need to be resourceful and pragmatic; you cannot afford to be a purist.

So: do your homework. Make sure you are up to date with the scrum framework, Kanban and other agile related frameworks.

As a digital agency worker, you need to tackle projects with broad strokes, you need to study up on all the basics so when a left-field query comes your way you know enough to respond and act.

Use the strengths of agile to benefit your project

We all know when running agile projects that customers are more engaged with the process. And they like to be part of all the events, so embrace this.

For instance…

Sprint Backlog will contain new features, innovation, refactoring and support. In the end this will result in a stable, reliable product and therefore a happy client and happy agency.

Share the risk and be predictable

The great thing about agile is that risk is shared, managed and mitigated along the way. Having a road map, product owner and regular meetings means you have the assurance of knowing where you are going. This is because agile is predictable enough that you can build up a small repeatable time boxed processes that can be scheduled throughout the project.

The secret being all the time-boxed events have outcomes to each one to help you move forward.

Being transparent means you can be nimble

Using the agile framework and the pillar of transparency, along with inspect and adapt (other two pillars of scrum) each step of the way. Agile provides you with chances to inspect and adapt along the way you are able to build and deliver value incrementally — like Lego building blocks.

Photo by Ryan Quintal on Unsplash

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Being lightweight means you can adapt easily

Being lightweight, teams are encouraged to work together through co-location and using osmotic communication. Working together on a common goal, getting the increment of done completed within the allocated time-box is what it is all about and that is a good thing. Being adaptive is about having the tools and methods in place for you and your team to align together and respond to the ever changing requirements that could happen. But be patient, it is a process and not a destination.

Be easy on yourself

You don’t know what you don’t know. Be honest and upfront but do so with integrity and professionalism. That means following all the things I mentioned above.

Next Steps

Now that we have explored some useful tips on working agile in an agency environment, let’s look at next steps in ensuring you succeed by remaining lightweight.

Just enough agile

Like just enough to make it work. But not too much that you are constrained by ceremonies and the deliverable(s) that are not flexible in its approach.

Ability to respond to change

Keep continuous improvement at the forefront of your mind. It is your ability to respond is more important than sticking to a ceremony. And that is what your client will respect at the end of the day.

Use Modern Agile

Modern agile is far broader than the agile framework. It is a concept that is takes many different areas into account. It can be applied to software companies, startups and agencies. World famous organisations like Google, Amazon, AirBnB, Etsy prove the power of these four principles.

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What does modern agile mean for digital agencies?

Modern agile provides clearer strategies beyond software practitioners. While agile is modernising, mainstream agile adopters in the digital industry are still being fed a sluggish process, often constrained by bureaucratic tools, frameworks and certifications.

As an agency using the modern agile techniques, if you focus on adding value in small chunks through combining events to be less intrusive and prescriptive.
It will help you manage projects more simply. So you can adapt and inspect in smaller increments for faster and leaner feedback loops. This Agile-as-a-service approach is very effective when not a lot is actually known upfront.

Putting modern agile into practice

  • Make meetings that are less intrusive and prescriptive in this process.
  • Think just enough agile!
  • Adapt and inspect in smaller sprint increments for faster and leaner feedback loops.
  • For example, for smaller projects, could one-week sprints or increments be done?
  • The aim on using Modern Agile is to reduce drag while optimizing value.

What do you think? Feel free to leave a post in the comment fields available.

Originally published at on November 3, 2019.

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