Can Scrum work in a digital agency?


I was recently involved in a project where Scrum was used as the development lifecycle. While Adelphi Digital had used an agile approach for many years, this was the first full Scrum project we had been involved in. It was interesting to see if Scrum could work in an agency environment.

So the question is,

Can Scrum be a viable development lifecycle for a digital agency?

Let me start by saying I am a huge fan of Scrum and the methodology behind it. I had previously run Scrum in a few small projects with a small team and it had worked very well. Going into this project I knew there would be some difficulties, the biggest being the client’s own internal project process.

Here is my experience of Scrum in a digital agency:

The good

  1. Instant feedback from the client:

    In this instance we ran 3 week sprints. Having the client be able to quickly provide feedback on what we had developed allowed for changes to be made early and prevented long UAT periods.

  2. Constant discussion on features and functionality:

    Meeting with the client for sprint planning every 3 weeks gave us a great opportunity to engage in discussion on the direction the website was heading in and the product the client was looking to have delivered. This discussion gave us a more in-depth understanding on the client’s business process and allowed to us to really tailor the site to the client’s needs.

  3. Sense of ownership:

    One of the things I love most about Scrum is that it removes the success or failure of a project from the project manager and passes it to the development team. For me I think this is a great thing, it gives the development team a sense of pride over the project and brings out the best work from the individual.

The Bad

  1. Internal chain of command:

    While we were running sprints, there was still a chain of command on the client side that deliverables needed to go through for approval. This led to sprints being left incomplete, waiting for the required approvals, and also created some confusion on acceptance criteria. To mitigate this, it is important to ensure that decision makers are present at all sprint planning and inception stages.

  2. Client expectation:

    In some cases it was difficult to manage client expectations as to what was achievable during a sprint. Early on it is important help your client understand that the product delivered at the end of a sprint is not the complete product, but more a piece of the puzzle.

  3. Resourcing:

    Often in a digital agency you have the development team working on multiple projects over a period of time. When using Scrum it is best to have a dedicated development team. This allows the team to become fully immersed in the project and creates a constant velocity which stakeholders can use to determine how much functionality can be completed in a sprint.

Where does this leave us? Can Scrum work in an agency environment? The short answer is yes, providing that all parties involved have a clear understanding of the Scrum methodology and process. It is also important the there is a level of trust between the client and the agency. All parties need to be working towards a common goal, which of course is to create a product that fulfills its objectives.

Do you want to explore Scrum for your business?