“A smooth sea never made a skillful sailor” may have worked in the olden wooden-boat days, but not in your two-monitor, hyper growth, Google Analytics filled work environment. I’m constantly on the lookout for better project management systems and more action-focused task delivery methods, so naturally scrum and agile development continued to appear in my search, both online and amongst colleagues. Though it’s traditionally used by engineers for software development, I assumed a few tweaks could make it useful for marketing teams.
Here’s Wikipedia’s explanation of scrum:
Scrum is an iterative and incremental agile software development framework for managing product development. It defines “a flexible, holistic product development strategy where a development team works as a unit to reach a common goal”, challenges assumptions of the “traditional, sequential approach” to product development, and enables teams to self-organize by encouraging physical co-location or close online collaboration of all team members, as well as daily face-to-face communication among all team members and disciplines in the project.
A key principle of Scrum is its recognition that during a project the customers can change their minds about what they want and need (often called “requirements churn”), and that unpredicted challenges cannot be easily addressed in a traditional predictive or planned manner. As such, Scrum adopts an empirical approach—accepting that the problem cannot be fully understood or defined, focusing instead on maximizing the team’s ability to deliver quickly and respond to emerging requirements.
Iterative, flexible, intended to maximize resources – important stuff for any startup team, be it engineering or marketing. I dove into the vast amount of free information on agile development through search and attempted to separate the wheat from the chaff. What I ended up with was an amalgam of various scrum, agile, and kanban techniques and philosophies, customized to my personal work style and preferences.
Here’s an example of a BoomboxFM board I have hanging in my office, with section explanations below:
Stories: A list of marketing areas in which work needs to be performed. I’ve kept these top-line enough so as to not crowd the board, but detailed enough to have sufficient tasks associated with each.
To Do: I’ve been working with seven-day sprints, so I fill my to-do pipeline with this timing in mind. The sprint begins with a team meeting to establish overall goals for the next seven days, then I go away and break down those goals into individual tasks. Those tasks get placed on post-it notes (different colors for each Story), which are affixed in the To Do column.
In Process: Once my To Do tasks are all on the board, it’s up to me and my team (aka my awesome intern) to prioritize appropriately within that sprint timeline. As soon as we begin work on a task, it moves to In Process. Not surprisingly, this is the stage that gets crowded quickly, so the focus is on clearing this column out efficiently.
QA: When a task is completed, it is moved to QA, which is Quality Assurance. Here, the finished product is proofread, reviewed, and edited as needed. In QA for marketing, we double check things like messaging, design, campaign timing, audience targeting, vendor alignment, etc.
Done: Self explanatory. Having a Done column helps you visualize all your wins and, ultimately, the end game of each sprint.
*The grey box in the lower right hand corner is where I informally collect tasks for the next sprint. As the team works through a sprint, I find that new action items pop up often, so I wanted a way to get them out of our heads quickly so we could maintain focus.
*At the end of the sprint, any leftover tasks that didn’t make it to Done are immediately discussed and reviewed. In almost all cases, they move to priority To Do / In Process for the next sprint, though ideally you have a cleared board every week.
Am I missing anything, from your experience? Anywhere I’m being inefficient?