In this guest post, Eithne McSwiney (pictured below), MD of Sydney creative agency GHO, explains how being ‘agile’ can help with the creative juices and offers her five top tips to help you do it, too…
Clearly, ‘agile’ is a term with which everyone is now familiar. But the jury still seems to be out on how helpful it is. In conversation with many marketing managers, enthusiasm for this way of working is mixed.
Perhaps they have been burned by those agencies that pay lip service to it by adopting elements of agile practises but quickly return to the safety of waterfall processes and hierarchical approval regimes.
In today’s fast paced world of marketing and as more and more CMOs are responsible for growing revenues, the need to be faster and more responsive to consumer behaviour is driving teams to find new ways of doing things.
In response to the challenge marketing teams have been adopting agile methodologies, usually found in the software development industry, to try and achieve greater efficiency and effectiveness in their output.
At GHO, we recently completed a website for a major financial services firm and found that jumping into agile boots and all can have some terrific advantages. Not just in terms of speed and collaboration but also with the creativity in problem solving and optimising user experience that was evident from end to end.
Here are our five tips for boosting creative output through agile methodologies.
- Collaboration in practice not theory
The time has come to walk the talk with collaboration. Not warm sentiments from team leaders up front on how it would be nice to work together. But involvement of all and a true democracy of ideas. We literally placed all our clients, creative teams and technical teams in one of our board rooms for twelve weeks and this made collaboration perfectly natural and easy.
- Discovery is stage one and sets the tone for the team
By involving everyone in the stage of developing the statement of work (“Discovery”) you get a great feel for the collective knowledge in the room. It’s a fast route to ensuring there is also a collective purpose in the team. Most critical, it takes out the often troublesome negotiation of what is feasible given business objectives, timeframes and costs. In our experience, this step alone saved weeks and certainly awkward conversations at a later stage.
- Problem solving on the spot not diarised for later.
It’s interesting how team meetings in traditional forms can be simply be note taking on the things to do later. However, if everyone is at the same table with a collective interest in delivering the work, whenever issues emerge you’ve got the people in front of you with the knowledge and the motivation to sort it. Often all that is required is for a couple in the room to turn their chairs around and deal with it.
- Move quickly to something you can see and touch
Everyone has been in the situation where the long-awaited unveiling of weeks of creative and design work are to be unveiled only to be received by puzzled looks around the room. Getting rid of working in a box away from decision makers and other areas of expertise is central to agile. Given there are many tools at our disposal to prototype design, there are no excuses but to move to something where everyone can see how expectations are living up to actual user experience.
- Strategy, conceptualising, design and build all wrapped up in one.
By breaking the project down into smaller tasks and “sprints” the productivity and creativity of the team can be enhanced substantially. In practise, you are collapsing design-develop-test-review steps and everyone has visibility on how a task is tracking against desired outcomes. Everyone plays a role in thinking fast and creatively to get the result they are after. Rather than process being an impediment to creativity we found the opposite was the case.
This list is not exhaustive and is based on our most recent website design and build experience. Certainly, the list will grow as further learnings accrue. The point for today is that there is no doubt that the commitment of the wider team to be genuinely Agile delivered an end-product of which we all could be proud.
Sure, there were some bumps along the way. The pressure to deliver more for less is always going to have a big influence on any project of this scale and complexity. But such is the nature of the digital creative space that marketing and creative people need to work now.
Given this, our conclusion is that an Agile approach to creative projects of scale is now a mandatory as business leaders endeavour to build competitive advantage for their companies.