Article

Margo Romanowski
Margo Romanowski 11 October 2017

Your Project Management Sucks. Here's Why.

For every amazing finished project produced, there is a project management process put in place that made it happen. The question is -- Are you using the process that’s right for you?

Why Your Project Management is Failing 

We’ve seen it all too many times. You’re the team lead on a multi-million-dollar project and you feel behind because it isn’t moving in the direction you originally envisioned. Now, all of your future work is jeopardized thanks to the traditional “waterfall” process.

Even if you’ve never heard of the term "Waterfall,” you will most likely recognize this type of workflow approach to a project:

15-GI-1001-003_Blog_Margo_01-Waterfall_v1-01.gif

Though this traditional method may - to some - appear as the status quo when dealing with clients and project management, it’s not. In fact, it’s why your agency’s project management sucks. It’s also a key contributor to strained client relationships and team burnout. So you’re probably asking, is there a better way?

To answer: Yes, and it’s known as Agile project management. The Agile process is an iterative, team-based approach to development and has a prescribed task and schedule construct that allows for flexibility and breathing room for teams to reach a velocity in their ability to churn out work. All time is “time-boxed” into phases called “sprints,” which have a defined duration (usually in weeks) with a running list of deliverables assigned to each member of the team. Agile isn’t exactly a methodology, it’s a framework for execution to reduce risk, increase quality and foster engagement among the project team and with the client.

All About Agile

While Agile methods have been in place since the ‘80s, it’s still a relatively new concept for most companies and even agencies who don't traditionally do software development (which is how Agile got its start). If you haven’t noticed, our culture today has become digital-first. Gone are the days where traditional methodologies and processes translate to success for our clients. We are existing in a world with a “digital-first” mentality to the extent where we’ve seen it trickle down into our traditional marketing methods and executions.

At Genuine, digital is a part of everything we do, so Agile methods can be applied to any project we work on. According to the Agile Manifesto, we are uncovering better ways of executing projects by being advocates of Agile and helping others be successful. Through this work we have come to value:

  • Individuals and interactions over processes and tools
  • Working software over comprehensive documentation
  • Customer collaboration over contract negotiation
  • Responding to change over following a plan

And, while there is value in the items on the right, we value the items on the left more. This diagram illustrates the key steps of Agile project management.

As a digitally-led creative, tech + media agency, we believe incorporating Agile project management is an investment in collaboration. Often times, agencies compartmentalize the work associated with a project into silos, going through each process as if it were a gate that can’t be opened until completion. At Genuine, we take the Agile approach of integrating the specific departments that are affected by a deliverable so they have the insight and a voice into the execution and can hear firsthand what the client is looking for. This ensures our strategic offering is grounded in a solid plan involving the development team that will be building it out. 

Additionally, any proposed work that is presented to the client is rooted in a strategy that also takes into consideration any cross-departmental concerns. This allows project management to commit to the overall execution and not just the task at hand. The key here, however, is to keep teams small, while putting emphasis on face-to-face communication and collaboration internally and with the client.

Our clients benefit from this holistic top-view strategy that allows for flexibility without compromising the end goal. At Genuine, our job is to make our clients successful, and this is just one way to remove obstacles and allow our teams to do some excellent work, reducing the “transfer risk” that is inherent with handoffs from department to department (or client to agency).

However, the process we have in place is only as good as the clients with whom we’re working and their willingness to invent together with us through the Agile process. Once the teams are solidified and the roles and responsibilities are delineated, it’s imperative to clearly identify a “product owner” (from the client side). Ideally, the product owner is an individual who understands the nuts and bolts of what goes into project execution - an individual who ultimately understands their responsibilities. If we cannot identify a distinct project owner, Genuine helps define the skills required of a suitable product owner for the client to seek out internally. And, if that’s not an option, we equip whomever is owning the project with the tools necessary to succeed.

Implementing the wide variety of digital tools to support the Agile process can be a challenge. As an agency, we’re not always able to use our preferred toolset with every client. However, the tools by themselves don’t not create success. It’s the communication throughout the process where success is buoyed by the tools we implement to support Agile. Upfront communication with internal teams about the project tasks at hand and how they’re to be executed is critical to project success.

Sit down with your team, discuss everything, and agree on an order of operations. How are you going to tackle this project? Get team buy in, because that is how we invent together better. No team is going to consistently follow a process that doesn’t support their workflow, but teams that have the process in place can move forward and focus on the things that make the project great. Trust the Agile process.

Key Takeaways for Agile Project Management

  • Be open and honest with your teams: Listen to what they need to do their work, and craft a process plan that integrates their workflows.
  • Include everyone, all the time: Use Agile tools that promote open communication and exposure to the project’s deliverables and tasks. This will help streamline dependencies throughout the project and reduce transfer risk of tasks. Minimize the surprises.
  • Trust your team, trust the Agile process: You spent all this time creating a process and toolset that sets up your project for success - don’t mess it up by going off the plan or not trusting the teams to do their job. Without trust, there is no communication or collaboration.
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