[VIDEO] What does being an agile agency even mean?

By Daisy Wolfenden
26th May 2021

Like many agencies, we talk about having an ‘agile approach’, it’s something we’ve talked about with our internal team and our clients for years, but with so many other companies talking about it too, has it lost its meaning? What does being an agile agency actually mean in practice, and what are the benefits?

In our latest video in the Discovery Den series, I explain how an agile approach touches every element of our agency, from our fee structure to the way we plan client activity. Move the video to 02:35 to check out our top tips to becoming more agile.

What does being an agile agency mean?

To us, an agile agency is having the foundation and culture in place to be able to recognise the need for change, and then being able to respond to that change quickly and effectively. It’s about prioritising results over unnecessary processes.

Whilst it can often be misconstrued with a lack of stability, in fact, it’s quite the opposite. Reacting to change is what we do as digital agencies. It’s an incredibly fast-paced industry and we’d fall behind in performance if we weren’t structured in a way which allowed us the flexibility to continuously adapt.

Becoming agile was never a conscious decision for Wolfenden from the start, but something that – true to form – has evolved over time.  In recent years, and 2020 in particular, we’ve recognised it as an important factor in our growth.

We have a flat structure with no unnecessary hierarchy, giving each member of staff ownership over what they do.  Not only does this mean they can work quickly and without constraint, but it means they get more job satisfaction and more chance to develop and progress.

One of the key drivers of being agile, is having a constant test and learn approach. We can implement ideas quickly and learn from them. Of course, some of this is down to being a smaller agency, but we really empower the team with the mindset of – ‘if you can find a way to make our agency better – do it, try it.’

We constantly review and introduce new technology and software; we try not to get stuck doing things one way. We’ve embedded a culture of continuously assessing whether there’s a better way to do things. We ask questions of ourselves along the same vein that we ask clients about their businesses.

What does that mean for how we work?

Taking an agile approach doesn’t mean a lack of process, it simply means that processes should always empower the team member or the client towards their ultimate aim of business growth.

One of these processes is our 90-day plans. This is a shared plan of all activity which is completely visible to our clients and the rest of the team. They give individual team members the room to be flexible and adapt activity based on any changing needs or priorities, for example a client’s internal dev resource.

We have a great deal of transparency across the agency and with our clients. We’ve found that this opens up more opportunities for collaboration, which in turn, leads to activity that’s more aligned with the client’s business and creates stronger relationships.

Data’s playing a huge part in this and in our ability to be more agile overall. We’ve invested in this with a dedicated data team and we’ve developed the software we use over the past 6 months. This better enables us – and our clients – to identify opportunities to iterate and adapt activity.

Additionally, our retainer budgets aren’t split between different teams, we find that this is when focus on the overall objective can become diluted. Instead, we keep the budget fluid across all resource and we can then dial up or down specific specialisms when and where it’s needed, as long as we’re achieving the client’s business objectives.

This means that we’re not left in a position where we’re stuck within the confines of a rigid resource plan, but also that mean that the client isn’t getting charged for extra hours for a particular team one month.

How can a company become more agile?

By the very nature of being agile, we’re always evolving to better our approach and we’re not claiming to be perfect, but there are a few tips we’d recommend to creating a more agile culture:

  1. Firstly, create an open and transparent working environment which easily allows opportunities for communication and collaboration. We know this definitely isn’t as easy when you’re not all physically together, but consider what tools and software you can use to keep your teams accessible to each other as possible. As an example – we use Slack for our internal comms and SharePoint for document collaboration – many agencies use software like this, and it can be business-changing for any regular business.

2. Secondly, consider your team structure and whether you have really clear, accountable roles. Trust staff with the freedom to own their work and you’ll probably realise that they flourish in their role. We try to instil an entrepreneurial spirit in the team, we find that they then have more passion in what they do and a stronger drive for excellence.

3. Lastly, continuous testing and learning is key – regularly take a step back to review and assess your processes and software. Just because it’s working doesn’t mean there isn’t a better solution out there.

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