Agility: Athletics Applied to the Interactive Agency

Agility: Athletics Applied to the Interactive Agency

mcfadden.jpg “Agile” was a term I associated directly with athletics when I began my internship at LevelTen. Growing up, I always heard football announcers describe running backs like Barry Sanders as agile, fawning over their quick reflexes and creativity. Now that I have become more familiar with the agile process, its time to put together an “Agile 101” guide for those who don’t know what interactive agencies mean when they use the term. We are coming up on the 2010 NFL Draft, so here is a guide that combines my previous understanding of football agility with the new methodology and techniques I have learned.

What is Agile Development?

Agile is an all-encompassing term for software methodologies that depart from traditional, fixed-bid waterfall development. Firms and agencies use Agile to complete projects at a desirable quality and price for customers. LevelTen uses the “scrum” method (I’ll explain more about scrum in a minute), underneath the Agile umbrella, to complete tasks and review projects during a “sprint” (1-4 week time period for development). I like to think of the Agile process as a recurring summer training camp of sorts. Training camp is about a month long (on the long side for a sprint, but still), has a learning curve, requires a “feeling out” process among members of the team and is crucial to the success or failure of a season. During an agile sprint, different tasks are assigned to the specialty areas that will accomplish them best. This is comparable to a cohesive team breaking up into groups and practicing positional drills.

What is a Scrum?

A Scrum is a daily meeting that functions to increase productivity and reduce the amount of the time that workers are impeded by problems that arise. Scrums consist of team members answering three questions:
  • ° What have you done during the last 24 hours?
  • ° What do you plan to do in the next 24 hours?
  • ° What’s stopping you getting on with the work of the next 24 hours (or what is impeded)?
The ScrumMaster is assigned to manage the daily scrum by gathering feedback and tracking the burn down of work completed. A scrum plays the same role in project management that studying film does for football teams. Film sessions are a time for reviewing the last game’s action and looking forward to the next opponent’s schemes and tendencies. If there is a flaw that is causing a player to get beat consistently, studying film is the best way to correct it.

Scrum and Agile's Advantages

Agile stays true to its name when the time comes to assign prices for services. Rather than fixing a bid, agile allows agencies to be flexible with projects and incorporate or omit tasks as needed. Just a few years ago, fixed bid projects were the norm, with projects consistently maxing out their budgets without delivering on what was promised. Agile was once the "outcast" idea, but as results have come in, businesses and clients see the value in avoiding fixed bid projects. Another football idea that is proven now was once considered an outcast: The spread offense. Once upon a time, football teams lined up in the wishbone formation and ran the ball again and again. Today, some quarterbacks never even take a snap from under center, opting instead to throw the ball 60-70 times per game. 50 years ago, this would have been unimaginable because the best teams were running over people with their option-pitch running attack. But as times change, and teams win consistently by spreading out defenses, coaches win games and keep their jobs by keeping up with the curve. For your next project, whether its as manager or client, look more into the agile method and watch your productivity increase as your costs decrease. Awesome results whether you are building an online presence or a football team.