Over our nine years as a company so far we’ve worked hard to deliver projects in the most effective way possible. Part of that has meant using Agile methods – mainly Scrum. When Agile works, it’s great. And we really believe in it; indeed, our entire team at Cohaesus is ScrumMaster-certified.

But Agile takes commitment from both sides of the table. When we set out on a project using Agile, we need equal commitment from the agencies we work with; they need to be product owners.

Agencies might talk about Agile, but in our experience they are very, very rarely able to provide the level of commitment required to really follow it through. And for a very good reason: that tricky word, finance.

When a campaign or a marketing project gets the green light, approval is always conditionally attached to a fixed budget. That’s basic business. You pay a known price for an estimated amount of value. Agencies live on margin; therefore the most successful agencies get the biggest budgets but reduce their outgoing costs as much as possible. Again, pretty basic business stuff. You don’t have to wonder why they make it really difficult to spend any money – triple approved purchase orders, expense sign-off rules, etc.; you know the pain.

So, the agency has agreed a fixed budget with their client, and in any event they want to reduce the amount of money they spend by as much as possible. Also, to get a purchase order and sign-off from the client they need a “Statement of Work”, which typically includes a set of wireframes, designs, etc. Essentially, the client wants to know what they will get so they can agree to it upfront.

You now have a fixed cost and a fixed scope. Add to that, that the client usually has an immovable deadline; you end up breaking all the basic project management rules – not just the Agile ones!

It’s ugly, it’s messy, and, alas, Agile just doesn’t cut it in this environment.

This is why we’ve developed a brand new process for our work with agencies, and scrapped Agile altogether.

Well, sort of; we’ve found that by incorporating just enough Agile methodology with tried-and-tested Waterfall techniques, we’re able to offer the right balance. (Our new process is based on the V-model, which is used in defence and aviation.)

Agile is great for projects where you’re able to flex scope, but it means not being able to adhere to a “Statement of Work”. And unless everyone’s on board – that means agencies and their clients – something is always going to break.

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