Agile Planning : Project Management Beyond Software Companies

lessons from our LAB

September 12, 2013

Agile Planning : Project Management Beyond Software Companies

Our Digital Scientists are made up of tech-loving, results-oriented, passionate, digital marketing nerds who have an unnatural obsession with all things digital. Most likely seen glued to a screen and spewing new digital marketing trends.

Planning projects for a digital marketing agency is not always an easy feat. With how much the industry changes I was challenged with the heavy weight of finding the right project management path to set our agency on. Unlike most, I jumped at the chance to compare and contrast the varying methods of managing a digital agency and its ever-changing environment. The most important thing I learned was there is no such thing as Project Management or really Project Managers at all. POW that was the sound of me blowing your mind.

Let me step back and explain myself before you go firing your Project management team. What I am saying is that Project Management is merely a theory that each member of your team must agree is necessary and better yet, understand the concept. That concept being, there is a need for always having a plan for every instance, even if that instance is the unknown. This is where I found Agile method known as SCRUM.

When you think of the word agile you think of Usain Bolt or a cheetah, but you rarely think of your company project management process as fast and easily able to change directions in the drop of a hat. Well, here I ask, why not? If the Googles and Facebooks of the world change their algorithms like we change underwear then what says we cannot change our process direction just as fast? I think the word you are looking for Michelle, is Adapt, yes thank you, that is the word.

After attending the SCRUM certification course it taught me how this Agile style of planning can help our agency plan and arrange our weeks to adapt project changes, industry changes, basically any change that occurs! Unless the internet is banned by the government, then we have to change our entire company, but heck why not, Agile can do that too!

Let’s set some rules. Seriously I have rules not recommendations. Rules.

1. Define Your Organization. SCRUM only works if everyone in your organization knows their role and responsibilities, here is the high level key players:

SCRUM Master formerly known as “project manager” - they are here to do 3 things: Facilitate meetings, Clear Obstacles from the Team, and Protect the Team from interference.

Product Owners formerly known as “Account Managers” - they are responsible for gathering information for the Team to complete tasks, create the deadlines and priorities of tasks and communicate with the SCRUM master on all project needs.

The Team formerly known as “Drones” (just kidding): this is a group people that are doing the actual work, they plan the sprints (time frame that the work will be completed, for example we use Monday-Friday), put time to all the tasks and most important do the work!

2. Don’t think for one minute that anyone on your Team works 40 hours. That is irrational and naïve, on average you are lucky if your team works 25 hours a week! Variables like planned client and internal meetings, bathroom breaks, phone calls or even getting water takes up time in their day.

3. Let your team plan their work. Let’s face it, you own the company you have more important things to worry about than planning the “minutia”, as our CEO likes to call it, of each portion of each project. In their Sprint Planning meetings your Team will decide what needs to go into that sprint and what tasks are associated with each project.

4. Give them all the goods. Product Owners need to give the Team information in an organized manner that pertains to their role. Things like “Besty from Chive likes to have meetings over lunch” is awesome to know but they do not really care. Each department has specific wants and needs break that down for them so it is quick and dirty info they can really use.

5. Interruption 57! A client comes to you with a dire need; what do you do? Don’t panic and for sure don’t say “Sure we will have it back in an hour”. Bring that info back to your SCRUM Master and let them take it to your Team. They have already planned their week to let the Product Owners come to them with emergencies. This allows them to digest, create a plan and organize as a collaborative team and see who can take on the new obstacle!

Making this work for your company is easy once everyone knows the terms and conditions. Setting clear expectations and have your Team hold each other accountable is a huge portion of this. Everyone needs to buy off and abide by the rules that there are filters set up so that every project and client is getting the attention they deserve. The overarching goal behind this system is “All for the end user” that means every single person is dedicated to the responsibility that this task no matter how small is going to the great good of our Client. For more information on SCRUM and how to get certified check out Scrum Alliance!

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