Agile methodology may not be new, but with 2019 being slated by some as the year that this human-centric approach to project delivery finally proves its worth, teams that haven’t made the shift should be paying close attention. Given the highly collaborative environment of publishing teams, if you're a publisher - this means you.
An agile workflow is the perfect process to get your team used to the rapid pace of publishing in today’s multi-platform world. Unlike the traditional print-first approach, teams that use an agile workflow deliver in small steps, measure their success, and iterate more swiftly and tactically along the way.
If you aren’t already using this approach, then it’s time to take a look at how both it and the right toolset can set your team up for ongoing success.
The Nuts and Bolts of Agile Publishing
For those who may need a quick refresher, an agile approach to project-based work allows teams to achieve smaller milestones aiming towards a larger project goal instead of relying on the traditional all-at-once method. These smaller mini projects are often referred to as "sprints," and they allow for more intentional, focused attention on individual project components, whereas the all-at-once approach may lead to scattered, varied attention and prioritization of work.
Said differently, agile emphasizes quick creative cycles, self-organizing working groups, and the breaking down of complex tasks into smaller achievable goals. Most important, adopting an agile approach to publishing means that the entire team has a fundamental understanding of the fact that you don’t always know what the finished product will be when you begin the development process - there is quite a bit of evolution that occurs throughout.
This is especially true for organizations that have adopted a simultaneous or digital-first workflow in order to accommodate the constant changes in technology. By focusing on short, prioritized goals and sprints, agile teams are prepared to pivot their efforts to create the most effective and relevant content possible.
Kristen Mclean, a consultant who has long been a champion for agile methodology in the publishing world, discussed the role that agile can play in the publishing process. She sees the potential for an agile approach in both content development and publishing workflows, particularly in the modern user-centric world.
Agile Empowers Self-Sustaining, Cross-Functional Teams
The ultimate goal of the agile workflow is to create self-sustaining teams that feel a sense of ownership over the final product. Team members should be prepared to review content, articulate feedback, and contribute to the development process from their own unique vantage points. In other words, shifting to an agile approach means breaking down silos and hierarchies and creating flat, cross-functional and collaborative teams.
The development team should be made up of voices from editorial, marketing, production, and design departments, and they should all be involved in the process from day one. Make sure every member of the team is aligned with the strategic and business objectives that tie back to the content in question and equip them with the tools they need to collaborate in real-time.
In a truly agile workflow, the managing publisher should be guarding the process itself - not the content of the text or the design of the book.
Introduce an Iterative Approach
Although every organization has its own reason for switching to agile, one of the most impactful benefits that publishing teams experience is the opportunity of constant improvement or iteration.
With the right tools and framework in place, teams can go beyond collaboration and begin to measure the quality of their collective efforts more often - waiting weeks or months for validation of work can be frustrating, whereas assessing along the way helps build and maintain project momentum. You also have the flexibility to implement changes to improve on the fly.
By keeping every member of the agile team in the loop, publishers can go beyond simple revisions and updates and keep their teams producing engaging content that their audiences want to read.