Replacing Big 'A' Agile with Little 'c' Collaboration

Matthew Smith
C2 Team Member Alumni

The truth is not all clients can afford to adopt an agile management approach to their project. All too often there are limitations on the client side when devoting resources or budget, and even capacity issues when planning out the timeline.

However, there is a way to structure your project and still access some of the same benefits of agile project management.

The solution is simple: it’s collaboration. It starts at the very beginning, during the strategy and design phase and can be structured in a way to require minimal overhead for those outside of the design team while still producing the same long-term results.

Identify a new approach

After some recent time spent auditing our internal processes, in the interest of documenting and improving areas of weakness, I worked with our internal teams to create a new approach. The key ingredient is to get all of the teams involved in the process early on. This includes increasing the number of touchpoints with the client to ensure buy-in and understanding, which helps avoid nasty surprises later on in the project.

A visual of the prototypical approach to each targeted experience of the design phase.

Let’s take a look at a breakdown of the approach:

Break the project into ‘experiences’

Throughout the design phase the project team will meet before every major experience for a kick-off meeting. This meeting is to review the experience, define the goals and surface any potential limitations from a technical or scope perspective.

For example, one of the experiences for an ecommerce project might include updating the checkout flow. Prior to starting work on the checkout experience the team meets to discuss topics like: What are the technical requirements needed for taking payment? Do we want the customer to be able to save their address? How do they create an account during the flow?

Progress reviews with the client

C2 will meet with the client a minimum of twice a week to cover progress, review what’s new, and ask/answer any currently open-ended questions. These meetings are key to gaining stakeholder understanding of decisions being made and enabling client side change management when dispersing design artifacts to the internal team.

Using the example above, client touchpoints would be used to cover progress through artifacts such as the strategy, user flows, wireframes, and interface designs for the checkout flow. This involves the client in the decision-making and leads to surprise free delivery.

Weekly recap with the project team

The project team will meet once a week to recap progress and discuss potential friction points or identify clearly defined concepts that can begin to be entered as stories or specifications ahead of the development phase. This allows the project team to stay informed on all the decisions being made and identify potential problems early before they become issues later on in the project. And all of this can happen during the design phase with little interruption to other work that may be happening.

Throughout the process internal meetings would take place to fill in the team on progress made for the checkout flow and encourage them to ask questions or identify potential misses or improvements to the experience.

Wrap up

The phase wraps when the project team and the client agree that the goals have been reached for the current experience being built. After the design team creates the necessary artifacts for hand-off to the development team, the next target experience can begin and we repeat the process as many times as necessary.

At the end, we have arrived at a solution that meets the necessary technical requirements, has buy-in from the stakeholder team and minimizes the chance of surprises further down the line.

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