We often stress the point of Agile and Scrum being beneficial to everyone, not just the software developers or IT departments. Now more than ever, Organizations need to be Agile to adapt to the constant changes around us.
But we also understand that at first glance, terminology like Agile and Scrum can sound daunting to learn and adopt—especially if you associate it with IT and software development.
That’s why we love to train and then share case studies of Organizations in non-traditional industries that adopt Agile. Here’s an example of an advertising agency that went from using a waterfall approach to working with clients to becoming fully Agile, including adding Certified Scrum Masters and Certified Product Owners onto their Team.
The Modern Brand Co. is a full-service branding and marketing agency based in Birmingham, Alabama. They specialize in brand development, graphic design, website design, and digital advertising. As a small, nine-person agency, they routinely manage 10-15 active projects at any given time. Their challenge is that no two projects look alike.
To manage this constant flow of variable projects, Modern Brand used the traditional waterfall methodology for six years (both owners of the agency are PMP certified). But, one thing that Modern Brand noticed across all of their projects was a need for shorter feedback loops. In their traditional waterfall approach, it was not uncommon for a project to run for 6-8 weeks before being presented to a client.
While this is a pretty standard approach for advertising agencies, this method was creating a lot of problems for Modern Brand. It was not uncommon to get to a final client presentation and have the client reject the idea or the concept and then have to scrap weeks of design work. They knew that there had to be a better way to involve clients earlier in the process.
That’s why The Modern Brand partnered with Braintrust Group and became Agile.
Through the Braintrust Agile Assessment process, The Modern brand found several opportunities for improvement.
- The traditional advertising agency approach for product delivery wasn’t working. They would start a new project, create the concept, write the content, design the piece or pieces, and then finally present the finished product to the client, only to have it potentially rejected.
- When they tried to implement Scrum on their own, they tried to unsuccessfully fit every project into a Scrum process.
- Agile training and knowledge was inconsistent among agency employees.
Braintrust facilitated private, on-site training for the entire agency. Workshops included a mix of Scrum and Kanban essentials classes.
Additionally, every project manager attended Braintrust’s Certified Scrum Master public class. The partners of the agency also attended Certified Agile Leadership classes to learn how to better lead the team.
When Modern Brand turned to Scrum as a solution to shorten client feedback loops, they were initially intrigued by the idea of sprints as a way to shorten work cycles and get client feedback at multiple intervals rather than waiting until the end of the project. The goal was to reduce wasted hours pursuing ideas that did not meet their Stakeholders’ (clients) objectives.
Like most people experimenting with Scrum, they started with a single project as a test for this new method of project management. They chose a large, multi-phase website project as their pilot. Working in three-week sprints, they appointed the client marketing director as the product owner and appointed several of the client’s marketing coordinators as team members.
As they worked through the project, Modern Brand saw that working in Scrum did more than shorten feedback loops. Partner Brad Kachelhofer said, “Scrum did more than just reduce wasted work. It actually changed the entire dynamic of the client relationship. The client on our pilot project stopped seeing us as a vendor and started seeing us as a partner. They became more engaged with the day-to-day work on the project, they were more understanding of timelines and estimates, and most importantly, they were communicating with us as equals. It was a complete game-changer to the way we interact with clients.”
Overall, Modern Brand estimates that they use Scrum for 40% of all agency projects and use Kanban for the other 60%. Together, these two methodologies have changed the entire culture of the agency. Feedback loops are shorter, clients are happier, and final products are better.
Clients view the agency in a totally different way now. They see Modern Brand as a partner as opposed to a vendor. The team is completely energized. Every team member feels like a bigger part of the process. And perhaps the biggest surprise is how well team members have adapted to learning new skills. Because Scrum emphasizes well-rounded team members, Modern Brand now has designers who are taking on programming tasks, copywriters who are taking on testing tasks, and developers who are taking on UX tasks. Scrum has helped the agency find hidden talents, taught team members that they are more capable than they thought, and it has brought the team together in a way we never expected.
In addition to improved client relationships, Scrum increased employee satisfaction throughout the agency. Advertising as an industry is very accustomed to the model that the client talks to the account service representative, but never gets to communicate directly with designers, writers, or programmers. Scrum throws all of that out the window. Suddenly everyone is on equal footing and can communicate openly and honestly. For Modern Brand, this made designers feel heard for the first time in years. They felt they had a voice in how and why things were being done. They had access to stakeholders that they had never had before. Overall, it created a much more engaged team and a better final product. Team members felt that they were being heard.