Podcast: Agile Development and some surprising upshots with Jason Wills

Agile Project management techniques, lean principles, learning and iterating are things that I’ve become quite passionate about over the last years.

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Seeing the results that “Going Agile” can bring to an organisation in terms of delivering value to the end user and business value over and beyond traditional methods gets me happy. It makes me think of the other applications for agile outside of software development – ways to really challenge organisations to take it to other teams like marketing and even into the sales and the recruitment process as well.
I even think in minimal viable product terms when I look at websites, marketing materials and even my renovation list at home.

I’ve been down in Christchurch today. Our fighting city in New Zealand that’s grinding its way to recovery from two city flattening earthquakes. A town of survivors, reminded of loss each day. A town that needs to iterate fast to get back on its feet and adopt new practices. We talk of digital disruption, we’ll this town has every disruption, from its core, to its psyche, it’s direction, transportation, infrastructure and lives turned upside down.

Many would say the town council needs to adopt some lines from the agile manifesto “working content over documentation” and “Simplicity – the art of maximizing the amount of work not done – is essential”. Getting themselves up to speed again and functioning in a new normal shall we say.

Despite the hardships the city faces, Jason Wills the CIO of Harcourts introduced me to an excited team. Enthusiastic, that’s focused on improvement and learning. A team that is excited about bringing value to our end users. A team that has adapted Agile project management quickly. Despite being only in their second year of agile the team sizes epics with great accuracy (chunks of work taken into a cycle of development) and knows what they can accomplish in a sprint cycle (the time frames they work in).

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Jason and I had a fantastic day and thought we’d summarise some of the key points in a podchat – yes autocorrect I’m making a new word – for you.

Some of the pieces that most surprised me were:

  • Our commitment to agile, going all in with a coach and training
  • The rate of agile adoption in New Zealand amongst CIOs
  • The surprising side effects of agile adoption
  • The breakdown of knowledge silos
  • The resolution of business continuity issues through the sharing if knowledge
  • How it has lead to greater transparency
  • How the artefacts of scrum, like the scrum board with post it notes depicting workflow, have really helped business prioritisation
  • And yes, even some agile marketing slips into the mix which I’m amplifying as we role out our strategy.

I’ll let Jason continue the journey but please let me know what you think of this podcast format and if you’d like to hear more. I’m keen to start talking about incremental improvements, business value and that crossover between online and offline.

I’ve been talking to another of our Harcourts leaders Gilbert Enoka, the mental skills coach for New Zealand’s greatest sporting team the mighty All Blacks rugby squad. Hopefully he’ll share some tips and insights in a coming podcast too!

Digital Marketing Strategy and The Product Owner’s Vision

Last week I touched on brand storytelling for businesses. Conveying the ‘why’ you are in business – and how you got there – to your target audiences. This ‘why’ for many companies is core to their business internally as well. Not just in their outward facing sales/marketing/recruitment pitch.

Converting that ‘why’ into strategic digital marketing goals is paramount for an affective web presence. Knowing what success looks like enables you to define key metrics to validate success. It can in most cases influence tactical decisions as well. Guiding your design and execution.

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Today we sat in the castle grounds and I’m pretty sure from this shot, even blurred, you can tell it’s a castle. Understanding it’s a castle you know what is needed or entailed in the creation of a good castle. Turrets, fortified, gate, maybe a moat, and 9 times out of 10 made of brick or stone. You also know what you don’t need and potentially after building a few, know what works and what doesn’t.

Product owners and their clear vision

Your strategic goals should have a similar broad stroke definition. They should tell you it’s a castle, but not how to build the windows or the finer details of execution. If your site is about new business generation, it should be highly optimised and proportionately text rich. If it is about sharing images it will have a whole different shape. As a lead in digital marketing or product owner for digital, this story belongs to you.

The vision should be well articulated, regularly, to the team.

The clearer the vision, the easier it is for those working on the website to make decisions and proceed. This also extends to epics, and then individual stories or groupings of work.

The vision and prioritising the most important features to users (internal or end users) means that even for release one your website is providing value to users. Much like the journalists inverted pyramid.

From there the vision will dictate your next iterations and the success of the site.

Today’s podcast

A few extras on evaluating you tactical adjustments and refinements against your core goals.