Get agile or get left behind
On February 11-13, 2001, at The Lodge at Snowbird ski resort in the Wasatch mountains of Utah, seventeen software developers got together to, as they put it: “Talk, ski, relax, and try to find common ground.” What they produced and signed up to was The Agile Manifesto: a 12-point commitment to optimising the development of software that I think could serve as a guiding inspiration for optimised digital engagement in the digital world.
Manifesto signatories follow these 12 principles:
Our highest priority is to satisfy the customer
through early and continuous delivery
of valuable software.
Welcome changing requirements, even late in
development. Agile processes harness change for
the customer’s competitive advantage.
Deliver working software frequently, from a
couple of weeks to a couple of months, with a
preference to the shorter timescale.
Business people and developers must work
together daily throughout the project.
Build projects around motivated individuals.
Give them the environment and support they need,
and trust them to get the job done.
The most efficient and effective method of
conveying information to and within a development
team is face-to-face conversation.
Working software is the primary measure of progress.
Agile processes promote sustainable development.
The sponsors, developers, and users should be able
to maintain a constant pace indefinitely.
Continuous attention to technical excellence
and good design enhances agility.
Simplicity–the art of maximizing the amount
of work not done–is essential.
The best architectures, requirements, and designs
emerge from self-organizing teams.
At regular intervals, the team reflects on how
to become more effective, then tunes and adjusts
its behavior accordingly.”
Exploring commitment 1
If we take the first commitment, “Our highest priority is to satisfy the customer through early and continuous delivery of valuable software,” and change valuable software for valuable content, we in digital marketing are already in troubled waters. Marketing systems designed for continuous delivery in the real-time world are far from perfect or mainstream. With customer attention-spans reducing by the minute, we need to exponentially speed up everything we do. In future campaign research, planning, delivery, evaluation, optimisation will take place in milliseconds rather than weeks and months.
Exploring commitment 2
If we take the next commitment, “Welcome changing requirements, even late in development. Agile processes harness change for the customer’s competitive advantage,” and think in terms of how few brands think and work like a publisher rather than a grossly inefficient agency/client co-dependency. Client changes at the last-minute and updates in general lead to tantrums in the creative department, convulsions in the media department and changes of career in the account handling department. The operative issue here is in the word department. We need to develop collaborative work practices that actually remove all barriers to productivity on the fly. Those with collaborative agendas that involve humans and technology to working cybernetically will create distinctive and differentiating competitive advantages.
Exploring commitment 3
A look at Commitment 3, “Deliver working software frequently, from a couple of weeks to a couple of months, with a preference to the shorter timescale,” puts me in mind of the outmoded briefing practices and sign off frameworks that add weeks and sometimes months to every tactical, never mind strategic task. We need to automate more of the process so that systems (and us ourselves) can get out-of-the-way of delivering a job from start to finish faster with each productivity cycle.
Exploring commitment 4
As for commitment 4, “Business people and developers must work together daily throughout the project.” I constantly remind clients that I need to work with product designers, experience delivery teams, marketing departments, agency contributors, data and analytics players, business officers and campaign managers in fully integrated and polymathic digital training sessions – every stakeholder and contributor all together, in the same space, at the same time, every time. The fact is, we tend to work and train in silos and end up with even less common ground and a widening collaborative chasm as a result.
Exploring commitment 5
On to commitment 5, ” Build projects around motivated individuals. Give them the environment and support they need, and trust them to get the job done.” This is a problem in 3 parts that requires us to change the way we allocate, resource and manage tasks. Can you imagine putting projects out to tender for self-organising teams to work on? Can you imagine giving them access to the resources they need rather than those pre-ordained by procurement or IT administrators? Can you imagine ensuring they have the current training and evident authority to self-audit without the need for every thought and action to be micro-managed into time-consuming submission by management? Thought not. We need to create collaborative networks that are born, live and pass into history in ways that have nothing to do with existing silos and vested interests, but are all predicated by opportunity, desire and capability.
Exploring commitment 6
Commitment 6, “The most efficient and effective method of conveying information to and within a development team is face-to-face conversation,” challenges us to ditch email as the main means of communicating with people who could be anything from two feet to many miles away. The average person is said to be on the receiving end of 140 emails a day. Far from enhancing productivity, email eats away at our time and our minds with a diminishing effect on productivity and well-being. It stops us putting our heads together and turns us into responsibilty-shfiting-pests that infect other people with inboxaphobia, a condition that means even when we are not checking email, we are worrying about what might be waiting for us in the rising tide of inane messaging that continuously overwhelms the mission-critical stuff hidden within our inboxes. Stop emailing. Start talking.
Exploring commitment 7
Commitment 7, “Working software is the primary measure of progress,” is a short and sweet reminder about focus. Despite all the jargon and professional flim-flam in our industry, the only real measure of success is getting a response from a customer. Every transaction, relationship and experience we engineer is simply a means to that end. And yet, along the way we have to deal with human motivations that are often in conflict with business objectives. Clients that spend more time and energy covering their asses than taking action. Agencies that spend more time pitching for new business than working on existing accounts. Media specialists that focus on profitability rather than the customer. Giant global agency structures more interested in stakeholder revenue than customer experience. An industry more interested in awards than connecting with ordinary people. If we stay focused on making connections in real-time, we will find the key micro-moments that maximise ROI: Relevance, Originality and Impact.
Exploring commitment 8
Commitment 8, “Agile processes promote sustainable development. The sponsors, developers, and users should be able to maintain a constant pace indefinitely,” is about facilitating progress with a sense of practical humanity as well as purpose. How can humans working in a service industry keep pace with a 24 hour world? While we sleep, we will need to depend on AI systems that replicate our best work. In oder to do that, we will need to map the way our minds evaluate and respond to contextual digital stimulus and create systems that replicate the processes intuitively and effectively. These cyber companions/augmentations/implants will help us keep productivity levels up even when we are absent and enhance our ability to deliver at optimal levels even when we are suffering from man flu.
Exploring commitment 9
Commitment 9, “Continuous attention to technical excellence and good design enhances agility,” reflects the fact that it is not just what you say but the way that you say it that counts in digital. While the primary focus of communication is relevance in any given context, that context is often determined by different digital platforms working in combination with a specific location. Hence the growing importance of responsive design in combination with contextual marketing. Google is a mobile first company and is developing algorithms designed to punish your site if it is not mobile-friendly. If your site is not responsive to different screen sizes, properly configured and able to be viewed on multiple devices your SEO work will be for naught. We need to design for the age of now that’s what I call mobile.
Exploring commitment 10
Commitment 10, “Simplicity–the art of maximizing the amount of work not done–is essential,” refers to our inability to declutter or de-dupe our processes and workflows to the point where work and tasking is simplified to the nth degree. When you think of the complexity inherent in outmoded legacy systems, established but unchallenged work practices, long-standing but inefficient business frameworks and relationships, in combination with media fragmentation and the shifting trends in customer channel preference, you know we need to find new ways to automate as much of the marketing and communications process as possible. As humans, we are amazing at thinking the un-programmable. So let’s find ways to use martech to set us free from the drudgery of repetitive and robotic tasks.
Exploring commitment 11
Commitment 11,” The best architectures, requirements, and designs emerge from self-organising teams,” is a direct challenge to micro managers, the lack of investment in training and the lack of autonomy we are prepared to devolve to teams and individual delivering our campaigns. Can you imagine putting up a project board that allows client, agency and customer teams to collaborate from start to finish? We must build systems that allow us to unshackle creativity and cultivate motivation. As a creative director, I once instigated a project management process that optimised creative and production workflows to such an extent that the agency was turned from a loss-making dog to an award-winning cash-cow.
Exploring commitment 12
Commitment 12, “At regular intervals, the team reflects on how to become more effective, then tunes and adjusts its behaviour accordingly,” asks us to instigate a culture of reflective practice that is rarely a part of the agency/client relationship unless someone is looking to apportion blame after a mission-critical failure. As we move from transactional to relationship and to experience-building business strategies, we need to ask customers and partners and staff, “How was it for you?” as often as we ask ourselves, “How much did we make?”
Cutting to the chase
1. We need to work at the millisecond level of we want to keep up with customers
2. We need to remove silo-building barriers to productivity
3. We need to automate the bread and butter stuff to free our thinking
4. We need to work in polymathic teams that solve problems on the fly
5. We need to harness the power of autonomous motivation
6. We need to eliminate low-value electronic communication from processes
7. We need to be actively present in the critical micro-moments of peoples’ lives
8. We need to work cybernetically, combining the best of humanity and technology
9. We need to think mobile first
10. We need to map, audit and streamline every process
11. We need to empower the self-organising collective
12. We need to collaboratively reflect on events and actions in search of the truth