This infographic from the good folks at Gist resonated with me. It summarizes the notion of the Agile Business succinctly and lays it all out simply. It is very much worth a look. You see, we run an agile-inspired workflow here at SMG. It takes collaboration, communication and a great team. It also takes work.  I believe it is worth the effort because it creates the best conditions for success. Being an Agile Agency introduces some unique challenges and opportunities. Before I get to those, lets take a look at the infographic which gives a quick overview of what Agile is all about: (Click for the easier-to-read full-res version).

 

The Agile Business

 

I was first challenged to think about agile and how it applies to marketing and communications when I worked on the client-side at an internet services company. I witnessed the development team (and large chunks of the business related to the delivery of web services) transition from waterfall development to agile. It was a significant transition, but entirely worthwhile (and needed for the business).  Since the business was moving to agile, I was given the mandate to come up with an agile approach to running our communication and marketing team.

I struggled initially. The agile development work teams tackled one project or problem at a time in a scrum methodology. Our marketing communications team was a service to the business and typically ran over a dozen projects concurrently. Another challenge — we didn’t necessarily have control or influence over the prioritization of our work. For example, quarterly financial reporting had to happen at set times during the year. Product updates rolled out to meet the needs of the customers. Rarely did this happen on a schedule (or in a manner) that set optimal conditions for our team.

But my (incredible) team and I cracked it. We created a wiki-driven central nervous system where we actively documented, tracked and managed all “Active” projects; kept a prioritized “Next” queue of defined projects waiting to be resourced and kicked off; maintained a prioritized (and frequently changing) “Backlog” of projects and a dream list of “Someday Maybe” projects. I came to adore the flexibility, collaboration, communication, knowledge management, improved workflow, increased productivity, transparency, accountability and improved morale that accompanied our successful agile-influenced marketing and communication team.

When I joined SMG in 2009, I knew I wanted to be part of an Agile Agency. With Maggie’s support and collaboration, I became obsessed with creating workflow and defining the processes and supports needed to allow us to see the benefits that come from being an Agile Agency:

  • Accelerated time to market for our client campaigns, and quick starts for our programs (frequently large-scale campaigns and transformation initiatives)
  • Enhanced ability to manage changing priorities helped us roll with the fluidity of social media service delivery — the unpredictable nature of pilot programs and the discoveries that come when we co-innovate with clients
  • Increased productivity is crucial for the morale of our team of A-players. No-one likes to spin their wheels and waste time. In a services business this has a direct impact on quality of work for clients and the bottom line.
  • Enhanced quality is essential. The ability to bring the discipline of fast iterations, frequent and disciplined communications and collaboration to our work has had a demonstrable impact on the quality of work product and results generated for our clients.
  • Increased visibility into projects immediately reduces risk. There is nowhere to hide inside our Agile Agency. We are accountable to ourselves and our clients. Our team knows that a snag or a new discovery is not a crisis, but the opportunity to iterate for improvement. We embrace these moments and support and lead our clients through, frequently gleaning new insights along the way.

I could go on and on. I’m a total geek for this stuff. I’ll own that.

At the start of the post, I mentioned some challenges and opportunities. It really boils down to what is a true clash of cultures between how SMG is (agile) and how the majority of our clients are (not terribly agile). So yes, this brings challenges. But it also brings incredible opportunity for us to lead and support our clients. SMG’s Agile Agency model is about being proactive, nimble and responsive and excellent collaborators and communicators. We strive to inspire our clients with our workstyle and our ability to turn-on-a-dime while producing great results.

I truly hope the agile business movement continues to gain traction and catch on. We are certainly spreading the word by bringing elements of agile business to our client engagements.  After all, in many ways, successful and sustained operations in social media requires an agile approach. The internet is anything but static.

 

(infographic: h/t Global Nerdy )

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