What working in Agile really means

Agile is increasingly common way of running large scale projects. But is it fantastic or just fad? Read our rundown of what working in Agile really means.

 What working in Agile really means

Heard about ‘working in Agile’ but not quite sure whether it would work for you and your organisation? Then read our highly flexible guide to the ins and outs of Agile.

If your organisation is planning a major website relaunch or web build, you have two options. You can either spend weeks and weeks plotting out a detailed project plan that tries to anticipate and cost every possible nuance - or you can just get started. The second option is known as Agile.

The Agile methodology is a way of organising and managing a continuous flow of work and the people producing it. It is a project management system and at its heart is a will to get multiple teams, and teams within teams, to communicate better. Agile enables individuals to understand what their fellow team members are tasked with, where they have got to and how it all fits together.

How Agile works

You can tell an Agile work environment as soon as you walk in. There will be workflow diagrams drawn on every spare piece of wall and a proliferation of multi-coloured post-it notes.

There will be many casually dressed people staring into laptops, lots of hot desking, fold-up bikes and home-made cakes.

At the beginning of the day, you will see people standing together in small groups for a matter of minutes, rattling through what they plan to do that day. Things will be written in felt pen on the wall charts and pieces of paper moved from left to right.

Is Agile right for you?

The Agile principle is to keep revising what’s being made, which is commonly referred to as an iteration. If something doesn’t work or user testing shows it’s not understood, or there’s just a better way of doing something, then you just change it.

To achieve this, in the web world, you need the entire team to be working the Agile way. Content writers need to be able to write on demand and coders and developers poised to rebuild functionality overnight.

This works best with a large in-house development team and is popular in the public sector and government.

It can be difficult to pull off if you have an external digital agency who want to be paid every time they switch on their laptop.

If there are stakeholders or clients involved, it can seem like they are working without deadlines which can lead to content drift and a very unagile crunching of gears.

If you’re tempted to try Agile next time around, it’s worth talking to content teams who have used it. Content agencies like Sticky Content are used to working in a variety of project environments and clients, companies and organisations unsure of the best way to handle their next project.

In the meantime, here is a snapshot of Agile terms that help to explain further how it works on the ground:

Sprint

A set piece of work deliverable within a short timeframe of, typically, a few days and usually centred on software development, design and functionality.

Story

A unit of work, a task or problem to solve, such as “make the button turn green when you click it”. A story is usually linked to user need and comprise as set of tasks. Points can be used to show the size of the tasks in hand. Related stories become an epic.

Scrum

A framework that comprises a series of iterations or sprints. Led by a scrum master, it has nothing to do with its rugby counterpart.

Stand up

Chat-free, 15-minute meetings. Team members state what they’re working on that day and discuss any blockers or impediments preventing them delivering those tasks.

Release

A completed piece of work which can be of any size.

Retrospective

Useful, constructive look back at the work delivered in a sprint. Areas for improvement are identified.