Scrum is an agile process framework, introduced by software engineers in an effort to more efficiently tackle complex work in a structured way. The agile methodology includes rigorous planning but also regularly questioning of what is being done, which we see as areas where we can always improve. Software is different in many aspects to a team at a digital marketing agency though, so minor adaptations in the approach were needed in order to successfully implement Scrum at Precis.
In short, within the framework we collectively as a team are responsible for the output in relation to our clients rather than individuals owning their client/s . We compile a backlog of all things to be done for the foreseeable future and rank the various tasks based on complexity, required time and impact for the client. We rank these tasks by giving them a number – higher equals more complex, time-consuming and impactful. We then work in one-week sprints, which we plan for every Monday morning.
During these planning sessions, the entire team sits down and goes over the planned tasks for upcoming week. What are the essential tasks to be done this sprint? Outside of the essential things to be done, which things can we fit in that will have the biggest impact?
Since we are ranking our tasks with a point system, we are able to track how much work we usually can accomplish during a sprint, in order to more efficiently assess our capacity for upcoming sprints and plan accordingly. By breaking down bigger projects into granular tasks, we can improve our pacing of these projects over time and distribute the workload across all team members.
Once a full scope for the week has been drafted, we collaboratively oversee the workload of each team member and decide on whether we have to move some tasks to next week in order to accommodate for more urgent tasks. When we have unanimously agreed upon the scope and committed to the work, the sprint is officially started.
To keep track of the tasks we have in the backlog, as well as the active sprint and future sprints, we use a third-party software designed for Scrum. This allows us to visualise the current progress of the sprint to enable more proactive work in moving things to upcoming sprints, prioritise tasks over others during sprints or adding new tasks when a larger proportion of tasks has been completed relative to the amount of time left in the sprint.
To further the monitoring of progress and identify when team members might have ran into roadblocks, we meet each day and conduct a 15 minute meeting where we answer three specific questions individually.
- What did I accomplish yesterday?
- What am I doing today?
- And if any, what roadblocks have I had?
These meetings frequently lead to members of the team chipping in with ideas for alternative solutions for colleagues, tasks being moved around to accommodate unforeseen heavy workload and discussions around topics that could be of relevance to the team.
Once the sprint is closed, we sit down and conduct what we call a Review and a Retrospective meeting. During the review session we assess the completed work that we have accomplished during the sprint as well as our progress on bigger strategic projects, how well we planned in relation to the completed work and if we were able to avoid ad hoc tasks that risk delaying strategic initiatives.
During the retrospective session we instead look into our modus operandi and question if there are things that we can do better. What are we doing well and should continue with, what can be improved and what is keeping us from performing at our highest capacity, are all relevant questions to be posed in this setting. During these open discussions, ideas flow freely and usually result in changes or tweaks being implemented the following Monday. This can be anything from changing sprint lengths to how we evaluate points or the frequency of our morning meetings.