Agile: Pick And Mix, Pay As You Go?

Project Evolution Shouldn't Cause Sleepless Nights

How Digital Agencies Can Offer Clients More Freedom To Change

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Agile: Pick And Mix, Pay As You Go?

Digital agencies don't always sell the benefits of agile project management to their clients in the simplest of terms. In this article we'll try and make the case for agile project management and a 'pay as you go' billing option.

Probably first of all we should say we are not agile officianados. We pick and choose the bits that we've found to work for our clients in terms of planning, workflow, pricing and sleepless nights. We don't go crazy for it - its just a tool... I'm not planning to name any of my children Kanban.

I have genuine sympathy for anyone non technical who is tasked with running a digital project. It can be a daunting experience, especially for those with knowledge outside the web realm. We work with people who know their own subject, but not necessarily websites. I am so thankful that I have never been in a position where a boss has said to me 'I need you to build a website and save this company' but I can appreciate the anxiety that it might induce and that being entrusted with a large budget in what seems like a sea of sales hungry digital agencies has its own pressures!

To me, this is where agile project management steps up. I don't want to anger the Agile Illuminati, but one way of describing agile in our client's language is 'pick and mix, pay as you go'. What does that mean?

Agile Client Involvement

Clients prioritise what we work on in each sprint from the backlog, and we bill per completed sprint - no big invoices or sleepless nights. This takes the pressure off clients because they aren't feeling like they are swept along with waterfall gantt charts and little or no control - they are driving the project direction according to their value judgements about features within a framework. If need be, clients can sack us and move to another agency with their completed sprint work, not that we'd ever want that to happen, but why shouldn't our clients have that kind of freedom? Why should clients be hindered by unwieldy and often ineffective waterfall project methodologies? Not with StuntRocket.

Agile is a much nicer way of doing business in my opinion. We aim to give clients all the options they expect in other regular commercial transactions and offer a flexible feature prioritisation and pay as you go structure rather than the traditional, inflexible waterfall structure.

As a quick aside, why is the traditional project management called waterfall? Because once it has started there is no way back. Agile sounds better on that basis alone.

Pick & Mix Features

As an example of a win for agile, a recent client of ours initially wanted a forum section on their new website. As it turned out a month into the project, they decided not to include the forum, and decided to develop another interactive feature instead - a feature that they deemed to be more valuable than a forum upon reflection. This is the pick and mix aspect.

With a traditional waterfall project approach that might have been a difficult to accommodate in terms of planning but with agile we were able to cope with ease and offered a 'like for like feature swap' since the time involved to produce their favoured replacement feature was more or less the same as the forum. Agile helps clients save money on dropped features or redirect funds into other features and because we only plan and build in small sprints there is no wasted planning time or money due to change, like in waterfall projects.

We especially love delivering customer designated value early because it fits in with our own company vision for exceptional customer service design. The liberation of having a project management methodology that copes with changing or evolving project specifications is fantastic and allows us to really concentrate on quality output and innovation.

Project Management That Embraces Change

Having an embracing attitude towards changing project specifications without rocketing prices really helps keep our customers happy and stress free because nothing is ever a problem for us.

Prioritising sprint features is all part of the natural project routine and gives our clients a chance to make decisions about what features they want to tackle next. They like putting together a shopping list for each sprint, and we've had client's who have been absolutely delighted by being able to easily prioritise work on features that their C-Suite were keen to see early on. We notice this client satisfaction with agile PM a lot, especially with clients who have previously been exposed to traditional waterfall project management in the past (with other agencies I might add) and have had problems with the outcome, project management or finance.

Thinking about it from a client's point of view, having the kind of involvement and flexibility that agile brings is important because when you set out to build a website, especially a large one, its very difficult to envisage exactly what you want ahead of time, even with months of planning. As agencies we forget that sometimes - digital projects should evolve with new insights and we can't expect clients to have a perfect vision for their website. Conceptualising entire websites is tough even for website professionals, so I believe we have to account for this with our clients.

Good ideas can come out of nowhere and if you can successfully harness and incorporate them into your project in real time (and within budget) it might make all the difference. We believe there has to be some element of evolution within a digital project - agile is like a torpedo making fine adjustments to stay on target!

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