It's been so motivating for us to have a record of everything we are accomplishing
Product Marketer at Navigating Cancer
Stephanie Lin, a product marketer, and the marketing team at Navigating Cancer were having trouble keep track of deadlines and making sure everyone was on the same page.
After some research and experimentation, they found adopting an Agile workflow in Hive completely transformed the way their team worked.
We talked to her about what their experience had been like.
Can you tell us a bit about your team and what you do at Navigating Cancer?
Sure. At Navigating Cancer we provide patient relationship management software that enables cancer clinics to provide, coordinated, comprehensive and better quality cancer care.
Our marketing team works closely with operations, sales, and engineering on many projects. My focus is primarily on developing positioning and messaging for new products or features to help drive new demand and grow utilization within our existing network of customers. My counterpart, also named Stephanie, leads our corporate communication and brand efforts, such as managing our blog and writing press releases.
What was it like before your team adopted Agile?
Despite being ‘The Stephanie Department’, our current org structure has us reporting to separate managers.
It isn’t easy getting everyone on the same page!
Before Agile, there was a lot of miscommunication when prioritizing requests from different groups.
Often this would result in tasks being thrown on our plate even though we were already overextended. We felt we were constantly falling behind, and not being thoughtful about what we were deciding to work on.
So, in the end, we decided we needed a system to not only manage our workload but also give leadership insight as to what we were working on at any given time. Agile seems to work well for our engineers so we decided to give it a try as well!
Was the transition difficult?
It was great!
We wanted to keep it as simple as possible. In the end, we decided to work in 2-week sprints using action boards in Hive, the project management tool we use.
It immediately became much easier for key stakeholders to just log in and see our progress on the latest sprint. It’s been motivating for us to have a record of everything we are accomplishing each sprint.
How do your team’s two-week sprints work?
We keep a growing list of ideas, or a backlog, of all the tasks we want to work on. Every sprint we prioritize and the pull ideas we want to work on for the next two weeks. We organize our sprints on a board with multiple lists that each represent a step in the process.
When we start working on a task, we move it horizontally from the “unstarted” to “in progress.” When we’ve completed it, we move the task into “in review” and the relevant stakeholder takes a look. It goes back a forth a few times until it finally moves over to “completed”.
Here’s a simple example of how we set up one of our most recent sprints:
If something urgent comes up during the sprint, we add new tasks and re-prioritize. What’s great is that it allows us to keep a record of what is done, and explains what happened if we change course.
Every day we have a short stand up meeting with our project manager. In this meeting, we talk about what we are working on and any roadblocks we’ve encountered. We brainstorm together about how to get through the obstacles and identify any ways we can be more efficient. It has been extremely helpful to be accountable to each other in this way.
What tips would you offer to marketing teams who want to use Agile methods?
First, make sure all the tasks in your sprint are of a manageable size.
One mistake we made, in the beginning, was making tasks too general. These general tasks would often involve many steps and would seem stagnant because they would remain “in progress” for days. It was the difference between updating the website (a large project with many steps) and updating the copy on the homepage (an actionable item that can be completely relatively quickly).
We found it was easier to show what we were accomplishing by breaking down these large in smaller milestones. After making this adjustment, working in Agile was much more efficient.
I would also recommend that you make sure you have regular meetings to check in on progress.
Seeing all the tasks in your workspace is one thing, but it is important to make sure everyone is accountable. Our daily stand-up helps us keep each other on track and push through obstacles. It is also good to have these meetings as a way to identify improvements you can make to the process.
Other than that, I would just say while the switch may see daunting at first, it is absolutely worth it in the end.