Defining the Agile Process at GS&F

Guest post contributed by Evanne Lindley, Director of Interactive Products and Services. 

Agile is a big buzzword in the interactive and creative space. When it comes to digital and interactive projects clients and agencies tend to agree that Agile is better, but what that means and how to implement it can be confusing. This year our development and UX teams decided to take a closer look at what Agile means to us. We’re really excited to share with you where we landed.

What does Agile mean?

Agile refers to a way of conducting a project in time-boxed increments that allow for an iterative approach to project delivery. This builds on the deliverables incrementally, instead of trying to deliver them all at once near the end. This latter approach is often referred to as the waterfall method.

The best analogy might be building an estate. Say you want to build a house, a garage, a pool, and a guest house. Using the waterfall method you’d design each structure down to the last detail, then break ground on all of them, frame out each one, and so on. You wouldn’t be able to move in until all were built. However, if you start with the house because it’s critical to living there, the other structures can be completed after you move in. That’s how an Agile process works.

For another example, take our own website. We used to aim for annual website releases, but last fall we reset our release expectations and committed to release code updates to the site every couple of months. By releasing more often we’re able to get features out sooner, see how they perform, and improve upon them in the amount of time we would have launched one release in the past—that’s Agile.

Why does everyone love it?

There’s a good reason there’s so much buzz around this iterative method. It allows for changing requirements on projects that tend to take months, not weeks, to complete. It encourages interaction and collaboration over process. And it’s been found to increase project success rate, accelerate delivery, increase productivity, and improve business alignment. Win, win, win.

What’s the hang up?

Clients, prospective hires, and even our own employees tend to make general claims that “we do Agile,” but when pressed on what that meant they struggled to find an answer. It’s important to remember that the Agile movement started as a manifesto of 12 principles, not as a process or even a specific method. Many methods have come from those 12 principles—and have led to a lot of confusion.

Defining Agile at GS&F

We hoped to adopt a common vocabulary around our version of Agile to drive consistency and collaboration, taking into account our unique perspective and concerns. Here’s where we landed:

Set priorities at the beginning of the project and meet frequently to reset them if needed. If you’re always working from the highest priority items to the lowest, top tasks will be completed even if you run out of time or budget. Always stay in lock-step on how vital your different deliverables are. Your audience should come first when possible, but sometimes outside influences can cause an item to be prioritized higher.

Expect, plan for, and welcome changing requirements. Things change! Current events (do we even need to mention COVID-19?), new research, new stakeholders or changing priorities can shift the direction of a project. Treat change as an opportunity to improve the final product.

Check in intentionally with your project leads each day progress is made. Agile means we value individuals and interactions over processes. At GS&F we follow the Leads Model, which informs this principle. Whether in person or over a video call, we have more opportunities to collaborate and give live feedback when we connect in face-to-face ways.

Measure progress through launchable deliverables. Under this principle, a work-in-progress doesn’t count as measurable progress. We sometimes say, “Good and done is better than great and never done.” Our goal is to get things into production.

Deliver working, reviewable deliverables as frequently as possible. Share the work and progress to encourage transparency and collaboration. It can be tempting to save your deliverables up for a big reveal, but resist the urge and gather feedback frequently for a better final product.

Strive for technical excellence and good design that enhances agility. In other words, be friendly to your future self. Make it great, but don’t let your ego overcomplicate the final product.

Simplicity is essential. We can all get on board with simplicity. Yes, this means you’ll likely have a team member who falls back on this principle in every meeting. They’re fighting the good fight.

This is how we’re defining Agile at GS&F…for now. It’s been about six months since we rolled out our definition of Agile, and so far it’s been a success as teams adjusted internally and with clients. Like anything related to Agile design and development, we should expect our principles to change over time as we learn and grow. We’ll learn from every project and make our approach better over time.

Ready to grow with us? We’re all about partnering with brands who are passionate about taking their business to the next level. Learn more about our approach and reach out!

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