Managing client projects efficiently is so critical to an agency’s success.
We have tried a few different approaches over the years, but after hearing many agency owners at the Inbound Conference in Boston last year, sprout the benefits of SCRUM, we gave it a bash and are absolutely loving it.
Here to give us the run-down on our favourite digital project management approach is Jen, the CleverClicks project manager.
If you work in tech (or any set-up where you have a production process), you have probably heard about agile work methodologies. There are several and they are great – but we love SCRUM the most!
Traditional work methodologies do not always work very well in the world of tech. To add to this in the evolving work environment we need to be more reactive. At CleverClicks, not only are we working in the tech world, we are also lucky enough to work both flex-time and remotely – so agility is key to making that work.
So why SCRUM? SCRUM refers to itself as ‘the art of doing double the work in half the time’. That is a pretty tall order, and perhaps a slight exaggeration, that being said it does help us a great deal!
Why? Well, it provides a structure in which to plan workflow, production and team dynamics – all while allowing for maximum flexibility (because we all know that almost nothing ever goes exactly according to plan).
Structure? Process? Why don’t you just plan my entire day for me, item by item? No!
People tend to shudder at the thought of any system or process. Arrangements of this sort are often seen to be intrusive, prescriptive and just generally a bit of a pain in the ass. As a lover of systems, I enjoy a bit of structure, but as a creative, I sometimes resent being told how to work and when – as this is not the creative way
Our attitude is different – we feel that a good system actually sets you free.
The freedom comes in when you no longer have to worry about the petty planning, SCRUM takes care of that, now you can just apply your mind to the creative things. Ah, so good!
We have a month plan. All this is, is an outline of what we want to achieve that month:
What are our client’s needs, what have we already done and put in place and what do we need to do next to take each client to where they need to go?
We then take this month plan and prioritise each piece of work according to what is most important and most urgent. We take that month plan and split it down into weeks. Each week is called: a sprint. The sprints allow us to be limber enough to refine our plan once per week to make sure we stay on track.
Once we are able to map out the main pieces of work that need to get done, we then just get to the work, without getting stuck into a specific order in which things need to get done or a rigid routine of how to do it.
We prioritise at the beginning of each month, sure, but we are agile enough to be able to also prioritise each week and even each day due to the weekly sprints.
This keeps us honest and able to catch any problems very quickly rather than just sticking to a plan that is no longer relevant. This is the nature of tech – a plan will only make sense for a short period of time, and because planning is such a lengthy process, a plan is often null and void by the time it rolls out.
There are 3 key things that make this work
Each morning at 8am we have a status meeting. Nothing major, just a quick 15 min check-in with the entire team to see what we are all up to.
It all starts with a “TAG” question. We take turns to ask each other questions before we get down to business, to get everyone talking (this is key for those that are not naturally communicators), and it is also a nice way to get to know your team or to just be a bit silly (it can’t be all business all day).
Recent tag questions at CleverClicks have included things like: What is your spirit animal? If you had one superpower which one would you choose? If you could go back to university tomorrow, what would you study? Would you rather have no knees or no elbows? We weren’t kidding about silly 🙂
This TAG question is a great way to break the ice and get everyone laughing.
Then on to the business at hand. After “TAG”, we talk about what we are working on, who we need inputs from and what we are waiting on from other team members.
We also discuss any challenges that they are encountering, which makes it easy to ensure these things are avoided in future and to get more heads involved with the problem-solving process. More heads are better than one after all.
From the outside this may seem silly and obvious, but trust me, when you get into it this becomes extremely valuable. Status sets the tone for the day.
After status the team feel as though they all have a good idea of what the key priorities are for that day as well as what they need to get done for other people internally and also what they are waiting on from others.
On Friday, for an hour (while drinking beer) we do a sprint review. Our month is broken up into weekly work sprints and logged on Trello (we also love Trello for a visual work dashboard).
Each sprint is reviewed. This is gauged through a point system where each task equates to a certain number of points that this task is measured on. Here we look at the value, complexity and volume of work completed for each task. We have a weekly point target, and the team are reviewed based on this target.
Along with work completed, we discuss: work in progress, challenges, obstacles, victories, successes and then we do a bit of planning for the following sprint, based on the results of the previous one.
This means on Monday morning we are ready for our status call and know what we need to work on that week. Rad!
SCRUM keeps us on our toes. Due to the fact that we are continuously planning, we are more agile and to be more agile you need to know what it is that trips you up. Status and weekly review provide this vital information.
Once we know what our challenges and obstacles are, we can make sure to eliminate these as best we can (or at the very least to prepare ourselves for those that cannot be helped).
Sound good? That’s because it is!
We highly recommend SCRUM, or any variation of it. It will change the way you work.