How to make agency Agile work — for you and your clients

Lessons learned from executing redesigns sprint by sprint

Emily Theis
Jul 12, 2018 · 7 min read

After publishing an interview about our Scrum-based process at Upstatement with one of our awesome clients (Harvard Gazette), I thought it would be helpful to write up a more detailed appendix for the Agile devotees out there. We’re often asked by these folks to get specific: When applying Scrum methodology in an agency setting, how does it actually work?

One personal disclaimer is that I am not an Agile/Scrum diehard believer. I arrived at Upstatement when the company was coalescing on switching from waterfall to agile framework, so I dove in to learn and helped make adjustments accordingly . But as time has gone forward, I’ve wished for longer periods for focused work (2 week sprints can be stressful) and more of a long-term plan for our projects. We’ve adjusted accordingly and continue to make smart exceptions. Since Scrum was designed for continuous software development within internal teams, we’d be destined to fail if we went by the book.

But otherwise, here it is — our scrummy secrets exposed! After a few years, we have settled on some trends in the process:

Core principles we follow:

  • Work in small, multi-disciplinary, self-organizing teams. Typically our teams are comprised of a creative director, a producer, a designer, and engineer — and sometimes supporting designers and engineers as needed.

Our Agile adaptations. (…Agiletations? No?)

  • Our Orientation and Research & Strategy phases don’t follow the sprint process at all. Every project starts here, and these weeks are organized loosely waterfall style, with some fairly known steps and deliverables planned along the way.
Our version of it, anyway

There are plenty more details, but that’s the highlight reel. I’m eager to hear from folks practicing a version of Scrum in a similar setting, or folks who want to rip me apart/provide suggestions to the process we’ve landed on. Part of why we love the Agile approach is because it bakes in adaptation, and we can learn as we go. Let the sprinting continue!


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