The agile digital agency: fit for the future
A number of major projects running in parallel, three forthcoming pitches and, shortly before the Go Live of a new website, the client is still requesting changes: an entirely normal day for a digital agency.
The agile digital agency
To adhere to deadlines and budgets and keep clients happy despite all this, efficient project management is an absolute must. The challenge: in the wake of digitisation, conventional agency project management frequently reaches its limits. Caught between the increasingly rapid progress of technology, constantly changing customer expectations and global competitive pressure, digital agencies are really feeling the full force of this development.
Agency project management is changing
No matter how meticulously project managers plan, brief, organise and control – the more complex the project, the greater the probability of requirements changing during its course. This may be because market players are turning value chains upside down, technical innovations are making brand new features possible or user feedback from initial tests differs from what was expected.
Traditional “Waterfall” project management with its fixed project plan, rigid processes and milestones is not flexible enough to respond to this VUCA (volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity) environment. Specifications, laborious consultation rounds, lengthy validation phases and skills silos in specialist teams do not work well with versatile start-ups, disruptive business models and the dynamism of modern channels, platforms and touchpoints. Allowing new insights or unexpected problems to be incorporated into a complex project plan is complicated and delays all subsequent phases. In the worst cases, not only are budgets exceeded and time to market extended, but also products emerge that the market no longer needs in their current form. It’s no surprise that many digital projects fail. Stubbornly slaving away on adopted project plans makes little sense when the project goal changes repeatedly along the way. The consequences are unfulfilled client expectations – and frustrated personnel, who have given everything to achieve the predefined milestones.
Wouldn't it be better not to spend so long on preliminary planning (which, from experience, is out of date in a few weeks anyway), but instead to quickly get started by flexibly aligning the project sequence with market conditions and customer expectations? Many agencies are already successfully testing this agile approach. Agile project management, with methods such as Scrum, Kanban and Design Thinking, focus on small, manageable sub-steps, maximum transparency and intensive dialogue within teams and with the client. On the basis of a jointly defined vision, teams are given the space to find the best solution for the task at hand – while, at the same time, bearing responsibility for a timely deliverable, functioning interim result. At regular short intervals, the client receives an insight into the team’s progress and is able to flexibly shape the priorities for the next sub-steps by means of feedback. The major advantages: mistakes, blind alleys and changes of direction do not result in blockages, but guide the project onto the right path, in small steps. This involves:
- A fast start to projects
- A high degree of flexibility
- Maximum transparency
- Efficient workflows
- A positive error culture
- Optimised knowledge transfer
- Short time to market
- User-oriented results
Positive side-effects: From experience, agile teams are more motivated and happier, which is why many agile agencies are also one step ahead in the “War for Talent”. Ambitious Generation Z employees expect modern working models with flat hierarchies, recognition and individual responsibility – precisely the conditions required for agile project management. In the next blog post in this series we present agile models for digital agencies and demonstrate why the use of agile project management methods alone does not necessarily result in an agile transformation.
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