When we decided as a marketing team that it was time to reinvent the way we worked, we looked around within the company and externally to see what other teams, not just marketing teams, were doing.
What we found were mostly the typical processes (project lists, goal settings, Adaptive Framework (APF), Waterfall etc.), but we needed something that created both flexibility and accountability – enter Agile mindset with Scrum methodology.
Agile project management is an iterative approachto planning and guiding project processes. Just as in Agilesoftware development, an Agile projectis completed in small sections called iterations. (SearchCIO.com)
Previous to Scrum and Agile
Prior to taking the Agile mindset, our team used a fairly old school approach to goal setting and communication. Before the start of each quarter we’d meet and decide what our team priorities would be, then each team member would be assigned to the priorities and off we’d go. We’d meet two mornings a week to discuss the progress of our priorities, our KPIs, and our blockers.
What we ultimately lacked by using this system was focus our work and productive communication. More often than not we didn’t have clarity on our task details or how long they would take until we were heads-down on them.
Not having a clear focus of our tasks and communicating them as a team was inherent to our two-meetings-a-week system, and led to a lack of effectiveness in our work. We were doing okay – we always completed our priorities by the end of the quarter – but we knew there was a way to work smarter by bringing focus and accountability to our team, and ultimately, to accomplish more without having to work more.
Making the Shift to Scrum
Agile isn’t a new or revolutionary method of project management, but it’s mostly used by product teams to encourage flexibility and collaboration. For this to work with our team and the workload we have, we embraced the Agile mindset with a few modifications in the process.
First off, we broke down our work into two-week sprints using a Scrum-type methodology. This involved taking our priorities for the quarter and our currently-running projects, and breaking those down into bite-sized tasks.
After those tasks were broken down, we assigned story points to each task and gave them an owner. The points are meant to act as estimations to give accountability and an understanding of the complexity involved with each task. A lot of smart people have written great articles on story estimations for Sprint Methodology, and they can break down this process much better than I can. Here’s a few:
Now that we had our sprints organized and estimated, we used a kanban board to track the progress of each task. Here are the 7 lanes we used to help track each sprint:
- Icebox (ideas and epics)
- To be Estimated (tasks that haven’t been given a story point)
- Backlog (tasks queued up for the next sprint or current sprint if we need to adjust)
- Current Sprint (tasks to be completed this sprint)
- In Progress (tasks currently being worked on)
- Sprint # Done (completed tasks)
- Ongoing Work (recurring tasks that need to be completed each sprint)
Once our tasks were set and estimated, and the kanban board built, we began our sprint planning.
Our Current Sprint Process
We agreed to work on two-week sprints with daily scrums. Here’s what the process looks like across the two weeks:
Day 1: Backlog Grooming and Sprint Planning
Day 2-13: Daily ten-minute scrum
Day 14: Sprint Retrospective
The Backlog Grooming and Sprint Planning meetings are usually tedious, but they’re absolutely essential to the Scrum process. As for the daily scrums, this is where we discuss what each person did the day before, what everyone is currently working on, and if there are any blockers on tasks.
The last, and arguably most fun, part of every sprint is the Sprint Retrospective. To the stylings of retro music (of course), we write our thoughts and feelings – whether happy, sad, or neutral – about the past two weeks on post-it notes. Once all the post-its go up on the wall, we have a discussion with the aim of resolving anything that requires it, and to come together as a team to celebrate everything we’ve accomplished. We also make sure to discuss what we can improve, process-wise, for the next sprint.
Over the past 2 months of working with an Agile mindset and using the Scrum process, we’ve found that we can work more effectively without having to work more. While that makes Scrum sound a little bit like a magical recipe that makes us productivity wizards, the key part is that now we’re getting more of the right things done. “Right,” meaning tasks that fulfill our higher-level Marketing priorities and responsibilities.
While Scrum helps us get work done, Agile helps us keep a flexible mindset top-of-mind. We’re learning that as a marketing team we need remain flexible because we receive internal requests for work, trends in marketing are always changing, and we’re a software company – product release dates are constantly on the move.
To help remain flexible, we now plan up to 80% of our capacity and every sprint has 20% allocated to these ‘late-addition’ items. We assess the new task for relative importance, and if it doesn’t get added into the current sprint, it goes into our Backlog which gets revisited every Sprint Planning meeting.
What We’re Working On
We’re still relatively new to Agile and Scrum, but already we know it has helped us become more dynamic and flexible as we orient our marketing activities around the constant change in the marketplace.
This shift has allowed us to work quickly but with razor focus because we know what tasks we’ve set ourselves over the course of two weeks. We have a purpose with our work because we’re aligned with our high-level Marketing goals which feed into the company goals.
Making this shift has boosted our team productivity and purpose, but we’re still facing some challenges in our process. As any marketer knows, internal requests for assets, collateral, copy, etc. never end. Our next project is building an internal request process using an amazing tool called Function Point.
There’s more to come in the next few weeks, so subscribe to the blog below to get the latest FP updates.