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Claire Kula 

It’s time to walk the talk on agile working

It’s time to walk the talk on agile working

Starcom's managing partner has ideas for how to address the slow adoption of agile working across the media industry

“Agile” is one of those funny catch-all words that can mean lots of different things to different people, a bit like the word “digital”.

For some, their brains jump straight to tools, processes and automation. For others, it conjures up images of late nights in super lean teams and just a chance for the “powers that be” to make more bang for their buck resourcing-wise.

For us, it is clear that agile is first and foremost an ethos, underpinned by powerful tech to automate the processes that can slow agencies down. It is the ideal gateway to smarter, faster and braver solutions.

It’s this ethos that stops us reverting to those old slow processes and tech we’ve come to know and loathe. Traditional planning techniques are poor at dealing with change and that becomes all too apparent when something like a global pandemic hits, but such a crisis can offer the chance to introduce new ideas and approaches.

Replacing the linear planning process

Now, “agile” is not exactly a new concept or ask, but adoption has been lacking across our industry. Clients still want insight, imagination and diversity of expert opinion from their teams. The increasing demand is to get those at speed.

And, let’s be honest, the last thing this industry needs is to work later and harder. We need to rebuild the way we operate, replacing the typical linear planning process with an agile approach.

Taking our inspiration from the forefathers of agile in the software development industry, we believe there are four key principles for success in the adoption of agile:

People first (over processes and tools)

Build projects around motivated individuals, giving them the support they need and trust them to get the job done. Agile should be a collective spirit, a cultural default, which means coming to projects with a fresh energy and being willing to create and adapt your work in the way that is best suited to the need.

Outcome focused (delivery over documentation)

Favouring smaller and frequent deliverable deadlines over long-run projects. Make sure you have tangible measurable outputs at the end of each iteration of a given project while keeping a clear end outcome agreed. This is all about progress over perfection and the art of simplicity - a hurdle that holds many large agencies back.

Seamless collaboration (over separate teams and scope)

Moving away from the unhealthy baton passing of the more linear planning process, to working together daily throughout a project allows for feedback at pace.

Our approach is to ensure we are more inclusive and collaborative by building cross-agency diverse teams, or agile ‘squads’, aligned around the needs of our client’s bespoke challenges.

It’s important to include clients and media owners in our squads – building stronger more dynamic relationships by blurring the lines between where their roles end and ours begin.

Adaptability

Responding to change rather than following a fixed plan. Here is where we need to get super comfortable and welcome changing requirements to harness these pivots in direction for the greater good of the project.

Don’t be afraid to fail fast, learn faster and innovate - failing early gives you the opportunity to recover quickly, before larger failures that can put your project at risk.

Putting this into practice

Like most things, the best way to encourage uptake is through doing.

At the beginning of this year, we formed our own evangelists of all things agile, lovingly referred to as the “Agile Architects”.

Their first port of call was to road test proven solutions, principles and tangible examples that the broader teams could start embedding into their day-to-day ways of working.

This blueprint has now been widely adopted across the agency and is responsible for a lot of our new-business success over the past year.

To cap it off, at the beginning of October we will be bringing the whole agency together behind an important cause, along with several of our key media owner partners to run a ‘Pitch in A Day’; empowering even greater confidence of agile in action.

Covid-19 not only created a global stress test for remote working, it also paved the way for the future of hybrid working with an agile ethos at its heart. The good news is, there has never been a better time to put this into action.

Claire Kula is managing partner at Starcom

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