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Agile Project Management

John Doherty —  September 7, 2012
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There has been a lot of buzz around agile marketing/the agile methodology in the SEO/online marketing space in the past month or so.

I blame Jonathan Colman. First he did an interview here on this site, then he spoke at Mozcon, then he did a Whiteboard Friday, and all along the way for the past couple of years he has done presentations that have shaken things up.

He’s gotten SEOs started talking and thinking about agile marketing and project management. As SEOs/marketers, we’re not able to make developers get things done faster, but we are able to optimize how quickly we get things done for our clients (and then the work is onto them), unless we are doing the work directly on their sites for them in which case we are able to affect that timing.

So where and how do agile practices intersect with marketing? What if you’re a consultant – how do you do it? I’ve worked with a good number of clients up to this point, so I’d like to share with you my methodology for it. Now remember, I’m not one of those consultants who talks to their client, then goes away and prepares a 100 page document and presents it to them, then follows up with a phone call to discuss it.

I visit my two clients in New York City at least once a week, meet with their teams, and spend time in their office. With my clients who are further away, I’m constantly emailing and talking on the phone with them. My work is very collaborative, and that is the type of work that lends itself to this approach. I recommend it.

I must note that in true agile methodology, you do a scrum each week or two and a standup each day. When working with clients, when you are not in their office and not focused on their project all day every day, you may have to push this out to less frequent, but still consistent, meetings.

Here’s my methodology.

Weekly meetings (aka standups)

With every client of mine, I have a weekly status call or meeting to check in and make sure everyone knows what is going on this week. We get necessary parties on the call or in the meetings and go around saying what we are working on that week, as well as a recap for the past week. Often this time will result in new brainstorms and ideas for my smaller and more agile clients, and it keeps each person accountable in the bigger organizations.

Monthly planning (aka scrums)

Every month I plan out my projects, based off of what we did the month before and what we’ve been moving towards. I like to put down what each person is working on, what projects we have going on, clean up the Trello board that I use to track projects, and put next steps into my TeuxDeux list (which is my daily list for what I need to accomplish that day). Without these monthly planning meetings myself, I am much less focused and productive for the month.

These meetings are more ad-hoc with my clients, as since we have the weekly meetings that keep us up to date, but every now and then it’s good to look back on what has gone on and what we are moving towards.

Shared documents

One way that I am “agile” with my clients is that we collaborate on projects. I’m the project manager on them usually, and we share documents of information, whether it’s link prospects or feedback to a boss in order to get buy-in for a new project or a new budget.

My clients are all on GoogleApps, as is Distilled. So, we create documents and share them with each other, then ask for feedback which is given in the comments. (Protip – you can see who has added which edits in Google Docs by hitting ALT+CTRL+G).

Deadlines against shared documents

This one’s pretty straight-forward – we put deadlines against documents. This helps us to keep on track, but the kicker is that it’s not just me that has a deadline against them. Everyone on the team can have a deadline, and if one person misses their deadline, then it ceases to work well and deliverables/projects are delayed. This peer pressure keeps things moving along well.

Someone owns it

As with each project, someone takes ultimate responsibility. With my clients, I take ultimate responsibiltiy. Since they are the ones in-house, it is my job to make them look good. Therefore, if something goes awry and I am managing the projects, ultimately it is my responsibility. This isn’t an agile tip, this is just good practice. Your job is to make your points of contact look good.


That’s how I manage my projects. My way may work for you, or you may be able to take bits and pieces and apply them to your own work. I had to figure it out for myself, and I’m still figuring it out.

Once again, the tools I use are:

  • Google Docs
  • Trello
  • Asana (If the client uses it)
  • TeuxDeux
  • Telephone

John Doherty

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I'm the Senior Marketing Manager of HotPads.com, based in San Francisco. Previous to Hotpads I worked at Distilled for 2 years as an online marketing consultant. In my spare time I shoot lifestyle photography, ski, rock climb, and update my Twitter and Google+ accounts.

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