digital content development using agile

The digital world constantly changes and evolves. In one minute, Snapchat users share 527,760 photos, more than 120 professionals join LinkedIn, users watch 4,146,600 YouTube videos, 456,000 tweets are sent on Twitter, Instagram users post 46,740 photos. New content, new trends, and new information is being created and curated on the internet way faster than we can imagine.

Digital content, including eLearning courses, is not alien to this trend. Even though they are created a little less frequently as compared to social media posts, their rate of production has increased massively. Due to this ever-evolving market, traditional methodologies like ADDIE, or Waterfall don’t cut it anymore. The simplest reason being, they don’t have actionable feedback loops integrated into them.

The agile methodology, which has transformed the software industry has begun making an impact on the digital content creators massively. This iterative process helps creators build content that is more targeted, has more value, and generates more revenue. In this article, we will discuss how the 12 principles of agile can be used to develop better digital content.

12 principles of agile for developing digital content

Customer satisfaction by delivering valuable content

  • Using minimum viable products and rapid experimentations: Creating an outline for the development process and choosing tools. Validation of ideas is crucial as it determines the impact that the content will have.
  • Construction of a complete feedback loop: Deciding which individuals will be providing feedback and how it will be processed. Integrating the feedback loop with the development cycle is ideal.
  • Types of MVPs: Concierge MVP, Sales MVP, and Wizard of Oz MVP. Choosing an MVP that is a good fit is elemental to the idea validation phase.

For example, Dropbox chose to use the Wizard of Oz MVP. There they used a video to show what their product will appear to their potential users. Depending on the type of content that your team is trying to develop, an MVP is a great way for idea validation.

Welcome changing requirements, even late in development

  • Be open to changes: Even if some portions of development are completed and there is an actionable insight that your current strategy will not result in desirable content, time to pivot. Monitoring the market conditions and new trends is extremely crucial for the process.
  • Define your strategic goals and react to actionable insights: Understanding the aim of the content being created and its desired impact will assist the development team to move faster. Especially while creating courses.
  • Take feedback from the right people: Identify the target audience and your clients’ requirements. Define the problems that they wish to solve and after creating a small chunk of the content, get their feedback. Having a dedicated focus group also helps.

For example, while developing an eLearning course, if it is concluded that objective assessments will make the course effective, they should be included. It could cause a bit of convenience to the developers and designers and/or may push the deadlines, but the course developed in the end will have higher business value.

Deliver useful content frequently

  • Focus on creating bite-sized iterations: Hand-drawn sketches and simple outlines assist the end-users gain a deeper perspective on the entire project.
  • Initially, focus on idea validation: Iterative design phases and iterative development phases help the creators validate their ideas pretty quickly. To ensure that the content will have the desired effect at the end, frequent delivery of bite-sized chunks is important.
  • Iterate based on feedback: Shape the content the way it is preferable by its end-users, clients, and stakeholders.

In multiple instances, designers, developers, and creators are not comfortable sharing something which is not “finished”. However, it is important to have eyes on things even when they are a “work-in-progress” so that feedback can be provided. Course correction becomes simpler and losses can be minimized drastically.

Business people and developers must work together

  • Consistent communication: meeting daily, sending daily reports, and having review sessions.
  • Insights from all of the sides: Interact with technical and non-technical members of the team to gain a complete understanding of the project. It is important to know the technical aspects and the current market trends when it comes to digital content.
  • Cross-functional teams: Individuals with desired skills and experience are a must to make sure that collaboration is fruitful. Communication needs to be organic and spontaneous.

In a cross-functional agile content development team, business people are in charge of the “what” and “why” and the developers are in charge of “how”. For example, marketers and analysts can help the development team to understand what makes the viewers tick.

Give them the freedom and support they need

  • The team should figure out the “how”: The strategy, the methodology, and the tools required to create the content should be defined by the team’s collaborators.
  • The absence of micromanagement: is necessary to keep the agility alive of a team. This makes sense because the development team has more knowledge than external management regarding the project.
  • Financial independence: If a team requires a tool now, they need it now, not after three months when the finance department approves it. Financial independence makes the team able to make their own decisions and maintain agility.

For example, if a designer requires a visual feedback tool, they need it as soon as possible. Providing them that tool after three weeks when the finance department approves it will delay the process. Bureaucratic hurdles like these, even though their intentions are good, discourage the team because they aren’t able to make decisions based on their needs.

Prefer face-to-face conversation

  • Standup meetings: help everyone in the team to be on the same page. It makes all the members of the development team aware regarding other departments too. Video conferencing calls also help and are advised by most agile coaches.
  • Do it together: Sprint planning, demo reviews, backlog prioritizations, and strategic planning should be done together. New trends constantly emerge in the digital world and a lot of information with it. Constant communication will help the creators build better content.

For example, having an EOD meeting, even for 10 minutes, is more efficient than sending out a detailed EOD report via mail. Although EOD reports help, a face-to-face meeting (or video conferencing call) helps the agile content development team to avoid any confusion.

Useful digital content is the measure of progress

  • Fail fast: The idea behind this practice is to experiment with as many ideas as possible. As a result, the elimination of bad ideas becomes easy because there will be data based on that.
  • Ship iterations and get feedback often: Also, a useful piece of content now is better than a perfect one in the future.

Promote sustainable development

  • Work-life balance: The rate of development should not disrupt the work-life balance of the development team. Better to invest 7 hours every day than investing 10 hours one day and suffering burnout the next.
  • Expectations and estimations. The goals set for every sprint or developmental cycle should be achievable by the team. There should be an organic agreement among the team members regarding the goals of the week.
  • Don’t edit a sprint once started: Once a sprint has begun, no edits should be done to its flow except for some rare conditions. It will help the team maintain homogeneity. The product manager should act as a shield from external interference in the development process.

For example, if an agile content development team over delivers through one sprint and under-delivers through the next two, it will impair the progress as a whole. The agile team should not be overworked as the consequences of burnout are more drastic as compared to momentary gains of overtime.

Attention to technical excellence and good design

  • An ear on the market: An agile content development team needs to be aware of the new available technologies and their impacts on their process.
  • For example, if there is a particular tool that can potentially double their efficiency, they should consider using that. Or course, a decision should be taken after doing a cost-benefit analysis.
  • Refactoring: of resources, efforts, and the quality of content developed is and should be a continuous process. After a meeting, everyone in the team should leave the room feeling optimistic, heard, and empowered.
  • Good CIOs make all the difference: CIOs are present in agile organizations with the sole purpose of maintaining efficiency and optimizing quality based on evolving technology. The goal here is to adapt with time.

Remember the Pareto principle

  • 80/20 rule: Agile’s principle encourages the way of thinking that suggests 80% of results could be obtained with just 20% of work.
  • Some cutthroat prioritization decisions that make the team focused on the strategic goals is paramount. Doing things that will have the utmost impact on the processes and results is encouraged.
  • Plan together: These prioritization decisions should be taken together by the team, not just by one individual. Analyzing the predicted impact of an effort and validating ideas at the initial stage should involve the entire cross-functional agile content development team.

For example, 80% of the content could be developed within 20% of the development time. One way to achieve this efficiency is to make some great backlog prioritization decisions together with the agile team. Focus on 20% of the tasks which can potentially yield the maximum results.

Agile needs self-organizing teams

  • Working is easier: Self-organizing teams take responsibility voluntarily for the content to be built. The primary reason being the discussions within the team is organic and the self-motivated atmosphere within it.
  • Collective planning: The practice of collective decision-making based on productive discussions depends on how self-organizing the agile team is.

If the communication within the interdisciplinary agile content development team is organic and is motivated by the individuals themselves, better content will be developed faster. The aim is to build a team where all the members are focused on solving the problem together.

The team reflects on how to become more effective

  • Experiment with your process: This could be done in multiple ways, including, hiring new developers, designers, creating a new content creating strategy.
  • Nothing is permanent: None of the processes which are created under the agile framework are set in stone. These could be edited, modified, and even replaced if the requirements demand so.
  • In retrospect: Periodic reviews and retrospective meetings within the members of the cross-functional teams help maintain trust and transparency.

For example, at the end of a sprint, the agile content development team can take a look at their wins and losses and determine how to improve based on that. Retrospective meetings are an integral part of agile and they help everyone in learning. While leaving the meeting, everyone in the cross-functional agile team should feel optimistic and heard, ready to go to the next sprint.

Wrapping up

In the present age where things change drastically, it is important to have a system or process in place which is capable of that. Agile methodology equips the developers and creators of content to make changes immediately and adapt to the changing demands. Moreover, due to rapidly changing trends and the introduction of new products, new content has to be designed and created in shorter time frames.

To meet these requirements adoption of an agile mindset is necessary to create digital content. As a consequence, the content designed is more streamlined and gets the visibility of the stakeholders in mind.

About the author

Tarasekhar is a SaaS marketer for zipBoard who also loves to learn. He enjoys following old and new trends in the digital domain. Whenever he is not busy with his work, he loves to read history, philosophy and catch up on Formula 1.

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