“Write a blog post about using Agile”, my boss said before he left to go on holiday.
Agile? Sounds like a yawn-fest, I thought, but OK.
“Let people know about the benefits”, he said, joyfully leaping and clicking his heels together on his way out, bucket and spade in hand.
So, in this article, we’ll highlight some of the similarities and differences between how Intuitiv Digital works as a website design agency and the Agile methodology of software development.
Thankfully, it’s actually more interesting than I thought.
Now, working in a long-established website design agency which employs some very bright cookies, I’d obviously heard of Agile.
I'd heard the word bouncing around the office over the last few years, along the lines of "we work in an Agile-type way, we have stand-ups and sprints”. It felt like a bit of a buzzword, to be honest.
I knew we had morning stand-up meetings and the bigger projects were planned in sprints, and I knew Agile had something to do with small incremental releases. But that’s it.
(You might like to read our article “What’s it really like working in a web design agency?”.)
So, as a website design agency, what have we successfully borrowed (subconsciously or not) from Agile and what doesn’t quite fit within the web design world?
Some research was needed.
Like anyone attempting to write a blog post, I did lots of research.
And, oh boy, there must have been a gazillion articles covering Agile, the Agile development workflow and its related frameworks like Scrum, Kanban and XP. Some of it was original and useful, a lot of it was opinion or duplication.
It was hard to work out what was worth taking on board and what was worth taking with a pinch of salt.
I’d suggest you save yourself a whole lot of time and brain ache.
Go straight to the horse’s mouth – The Agile Alliance.
Here’s their manifesto:
We are uncovering better ways of developing software by doing it and helping others do it. Through this work we have come to value:
Individuals and interactions over processes and tools
Working software over comprehensive documentation
Customer collaboration over contract negotiation
Responding to change over following a plan
That is, while there is value in the items on the right, we value the items on the left more.
© 2001-2019 Agile Manifesto Authors
This declaration may be freely copied in any form, but only in its entirety through this notice.
Next, have a quick scan of the key Agile concepts – they’re neatly explained down the right-hand panel of this page:
The Agile Alliance lists 12 guiding practices involved with Agile.
We’ll pick out a few principles that leapt off the screen as particularly relevant to our web design agency.
Principle number one is:
Our highest priority is to satisfy the customer through early and continuous delivery of valuable software.
Here at Intuitiv, we’ve taken on board the principle of reduced cycle times and smaller releases in a big way.
It’s helped to make projects run smoother and our clients are seeing the benefits too - it’s had a big ripple effect. More on that later.
However, it does sometimes prove trickier for a new website build.
We could certainly create a basic home page and contact page very quickly (depending on the design) to get something up and live, ready to build on further pages and functionality later in small releases.
One of the possible issues though is an emotional one.
When clients want a brand-new website, they understandably might have built up quite an emotional connection to it. They may have been:
Thinking, planning and proposing a new website for months, sometimes years.
Arguing their case long and hard with internal stakeholders, long before they come to us.
Picturing the website with all the bells and whistles from the start.
The thought of ‘just’ releasing an MVP (Minimum Viable Product) and then evolving it in short release cycles thereafter, may feel like an anti-climax.
Then there might be issues of marketing and strategy.
A company may often plan the launch, or re-launch, of a website to include a fair bit of marketing fanfare or to coincide with an event, exhibition or product launch.
An MVP-type website may not fit the bill.
They want something to really shout about, first time round. Maybe more of a waterfall approach would be better in this instance.
However, having said that, we often do recommend a phased-release approach for new builds too.
Get the website up and running, see what’s working well and what needs improving or adjusting, then follow-up with smaller releases adding more functionality and requirements.
Another of the 12 Principles is:
Business people and developers must work together daily throughout the project.
This principle struck a chord. For example, we have calls scheduled every morning with clients for the bigger projects. These calls are vital for two-way feedback, reacting quickly to changes in requirements and planning subsequent sprints.
Principle six says:
The most efficient and effective method of conveying information to and within a development team is face-to-face conversation.
Again, this stood out. You get much more useful information in face-to-face conversations than via email or via comments written in our issue-tracking software.
This is one of the reasons our daily stand-up meetings are so useful. It's why we prefer a conversation to a long email chain.
Principle nine states:
Continuous attention to technical excellence and good design enhances agility.
This is vital.
Striving for technical excellence and good design also enhances website efficiency, speed, security and user experience.
We regularly go back and refactor code to enhance website performance – this includes admin and CMS sites as well as public-facing sites.
Since adopting these and some of the other Agile concepts, the benefits to us and our clients have been clear to see.
Early and predictable delivery
Predictable costs and schedule
Improved quality as testing smaller releases
Prioritisation of features and functionality
Requirements are easily defined and adapted
Increased project control
Increased client satisfaction
Does Intuitiv Digital follow an Agile methodology for web development? No.
Does Intuitiv Digital use processes from Agile? Yep.
We follow many key Agile concepts in some shape or form, including:
We also incorporate many associated practices such as:
Working from backlogs
Easy adaption to changing requirements
Out of these, I’d say the three concepts and practices that have had the biggest ripple effect in our web design agency are:
Smaller releases and reduced cycle times
So, although we don’t follow the methodology exactly, we certainly tip our hats to Agile.
And I don’t think the Agile Alliance and real Agile aficionados will see that as a bad thing.
After all, the first value in the Agile Manifesto is:
Individuals and interactions over processes and tools.
Do you have a project you’re considering or do you need some website development advice?
We’re here to help.
Give our chief go-to guy, Mat Parker, a call on 01844 888 777.