How to get more from your content people on an Agile project

Agile is now the predominant way of working for digital agencies and in-house teams. Here’s how to involve your content people in the right way.

 How to get more from your content people on an Agile project

Agile has its roots in software development. And because it’s historically been the domain of techy folk, content people can sometimes be excluded.

Not to mention that content people usually run Waterfall projects, where everything is produced and then published at once. As you’ll know, seasoned Agile teams see Waterfall projects as very outdated.

If your content people are new to Agile, make sure they understand these basic principles and how it relates to their work:

  • Iteration – there’s a constant flow of feedback and new versions going back and forth. And the first version of a product that a customer will see is constantly improved upon in later updates.
  • Collaboration – UX, design, content, IT and the business are supposed to work together and share work in progress constantly.
  • Colocation & reviews – while Agile projects rely on collaborative software like JIRA, there’s also a need to work in the same room and review things in person.

You can also direct them to the original Agile Manifesto.

5 things content people need to do

Once they have a grounding in Agile, train your content people to do a few things:

  1. Respond and work quickly
    Easier said than done, but content people need to be on the ball about work and comments directed at them.

    With daily calls, any delays get raised immediately – if they’re holding someone up, they’ll be told. And you might get word of it, too.
  2. Develop inter-agency skills
    No agency is an island in an Agile project. But content people can sometimes find themselves left out of the loop as design, UX and testing folk fight it out.

    But if they can have a good relationship with important people in other agencies – project managers especially – it’s a great start.
  3. Get familiar with the software
    They’ll need to know how the main collaborative software works. This might be where work is assigned to them, or where feedback is collected. They may not get an accompanying email, so they need to know how to pick up and drop work in shared folders.
  4. Take feedback in a positive way
    Tell them not to worry if they get a lot of feedback – they’ll quickly find out the design and UX teams get a whole lot more. Content people might be used to getting comments on a first draft, then getting sign-off on a second. In Agile, they need to get used to the idea of constant redrafting.

    The key thing is amending work quickly. Being defensive during review sessions goes against one of the core tenets of Agile: peer review leading to another round of iteration.
  5. Leave perfectionism at the door
    With Agile, getting work finished is more important than getting it perfect. With short feedback cycles, the idea is you’ll reach a final product faster than if you spent longer on it in isolation.

    Basically, make sure your content people understand the idea of the MVP – Minimum Viable Product.

What’s wrong with Agile?

It doesn’t hurt though to know where Agile sometimes falls down and some of the common criticisms levelled against it. Your content people might come to you with these issues, so it’s good to have a standard response ready.

Here are a few things you might hear (or might’ve heard already):

  • Nothing’s ever finished – even when something goes live, that’s the start of a new round of iteration. This can frustrate content people and business stakeholders alike.
  • There’s too much feedback – sometimes it feels as though people are critiquing work just for the sake of it. Feedback begets feedback, so to speak.
  • Projects overrun or are back-loaded – work can sometimes get pushed back from sprint to sprint and backlogs get filled up quickly.
  • Senior stakeholders aren’t always keen – Agile requires a lot of their time and they’re not always thrilled with the idea of a minimum viable product which is constantly improved upon.

On balance, though, Agile is the best way of connecting teams from across a business and starting to produce digital products on a continuous basis. It’s a sign of a more mature digital set-up within a business, versus the more one-off nature of Waterfall projects.

And that’s what you can tell content people who are unsure of Agile’s merits.