Riddle me this, How do you turn Waterfall into Agile?
I work on a marketing team where all projects and requests come from within. Our department, “Marketing Experience,” consists of four teams which include, Marketing Communications (Strategy), Creative Operations (Project Management), Creative Services (Copy & Design), and Marketing Technology (Web and Email Development). While recently working through our required certification on Project Management Foundations, I became curious about the 5 phases of the APM framework (Envision, Speculate, Explore, Adapt, Close) and why it doesn’t work for my team. It seems to fit perfectly with how our team works through projects. However, we’re not set up to be Agile; we’re Waterfall. So how could we take advantage of the trends of Agile methodologies?
- Envision: In this phase, a product is conceptualized, and all the project stakeholders are identified. This phase is where our strategy team, “Marketing Communications,” comes in and provides insight into the project’s goals, which are often directly related to a product launch. They will typically create a PPT deck that outlines the reason for the project, what our goals are for the project, and what printed/digital assets would be needed to complete the project. I’m a part of this process to ensure the strategy team is aligned with our technology and not requesting anything outside the ordinary that would cause an extreme delay in developing the final project.
- Speculate: This is the planning phase. It deals with two key activities; breaking down the project into a series of high-level milestones while deciding the expected project timeline and developing an initial understanding of the project’s critical tasks. “Creative Operations” is our project management team. They receive the project brief from the strategy team and break it down into smaller projects based on the type of deliverable. There are several projects/ for one campaign; for printed items like a product manual, PM’s will break down the project into tasks for the Copy and Design teams. And for digital assets, the project will include tasks for Copy, Design, and Development.
- Explore: Team members explore the various alternatives to fulfill all the project requirements while staying within the given constraints. We reference previous projects and the current requirements for both Design and Development tasks. Then “Explore” the best approach for visually representing the marketing tactic.
- Adapt: This is perhaps the most distinct phase of this framework. The ability to adapt to different circumstances allows the team to be prepared for anything that gets thrown towards them. Our projects have a few steps that allow for feedback from our internal customers as we are designing and developing, thus ensuring that each aspect of the project is up to the stakeholder’s requirements. Unfortunately, this can create excessive back and forth as requestors don’t always thoroughly review the content.
- Close: This is the final phase. Teams ensure that the project gets completed in an orderly manner without any hitch. Nothing special here; we incorporate this phase into our process as well. Every project has a proposed deadline, and many times we have to adjust to get the project completed because the due date has moved forward.
So although we align with each of these 5 phases above, we just happen to do them in distinct stages where we move team by team until the project is complete. The design team can’t start working until the copy is created, and the development team can’t build the web pages until the designs are done. Although we might be rooted in a waterfall approach, I was just thinking that we could set up our own Agile iteration steps with the design team. So, as they begin a preliminary design/visual wire-frame we can run a quick review phase and let them know if any of the elements suggested by the requestor or copy team are actually feasible. Basically we could create our own hybrid of Waterfall and Agile. I think I’ll give it a try.
- “The 5 Phases of the APM Framework.” Kissflow, Kissflow Inc., 8 April 2021, https://kissflow.com/project/agile/5-phases-of-the-apm-framework/
- Delos Santos, Jose Maria. “Agile vs. Waterfall: Differences in Software Development Methodologies?” PM project-management.com The Ultimate Reference for Project Managers, Project-Management.com, 12 August 2020, https://project-management.com/agile-vs-waterfall/