How We Use Agile To Deliver Results For Our Clients

Have you been curious about achieving more quality, speed, and consistency in your client projects that also meets expectations? Shin breaks down how Augurian uses agile to empower their SEO team to do just that.



Shinhee: Hey, guys. My name is Shinhee Son. I’m the Director of Organic Search or SEO here at Augurian. What I’m going to be talking to you guys about today is how we use agile to deliver for our clients.


Shinhee: The goal of the organic team at Augurian is that we really want to focus on the 80/20 rule. We should focus all of our effort on the 20% that yields 80% of the results. That sounds pretty simple, but there’s a lot to that. We had to discover which methodology actually allowed us to achieve this. We have traditional, which is sometimes called waterfall. Then we have agile, which there’s a lot of different frameworks for agile. What you’re seeing here is the project management triangle. You have scope, time and cost. These are the things that you have to factor in when you’re doing this work.

In the traditional approach, it works really well when the scope is known and clearly defined. In other words, in the SEO world, it’d be like they have the SEO game plan. Then the time and cost is what moves around. We found that this actually does cause a lot of stress because it just feels like it’s a never-ending thing and the costs are mounting up on our side. Then we have the agile approach where time and costs are fixed, but scope is variable. In other words, because we have a fixed amount of time, fixed amount of cost, it forces us to figure out what is the right scope to deliver the right quality that, again, achieves that 80/20 rule.

Now that we talked about the project management triangles and why we chose agile for our internal process, I’m going to show you guys a simplified diagram of what goes on on a day-to-day basis at Augurian. As usual, client goals, we have that kick-off meeting and the client says, “Here’s what our goals are and here’s why.” The reason why we actually like this agile approach is that it really wants the execution team to also be in the same meeting as the client so there isn’t any miscommunication there. That’s where that direct communication happens.

The SEO team receives the what and the why for the business objectives and goals. Then we have to come back with, “Here’s how we think we can achieve that goal.” Here you see that line that goes back, or the arrow that goes back, and again, this requires the entire team to really use their previous experience, look at their audits and then come up with a plan for the client. Next step is the priorities. Internally we call that the rocks. It’s taken from the US, but really, now that we’ve communicated directly with the client of how we’re going to achieve your goals, we need to figure out exactly what that means internally.

The SEO team has this meeting and tries to discuss how are we going to achieve this goal by breaking it down into very clear tasks. This is understated but this is the most important part of our process. For example, if we said, “Hey, there’s a mixed content warning from Google that they’re going to show a different type of message if your site is not secure or pages aren’t secure,” we need to have that rock so then the team has to break that down clearly as step one, step two, step three, so that the execution team does not have to worry about or stress about the complexity of it because it’s all laid out and the road map is set.

Once we have defined all the different tasks that’s related to each priority, the team has a clear road map of how to achieve this. Then we operate in these sprints. These are one to four weeks. It really depends on how often the priority shift for the client. Typically, here we use two-week sprints. During that two-week sprint, we’re operating and executing off of those clearly defined tasks. You’re seeing here this little loop. This is called the scrum. This happens on a daily basis and we just ask three questions. What did you do yesterday related to the sprints or the rock? What are you planning to do today? Are there any things that’s preventing you from completing those tasks?

Because we have that quick daily scrum, this feedback is there so that it ends up clarifying and also mitigating any risk of going down the wrong path because we did not have that check-in. Once that’s done, we go into the review when the sprint is completed, and we’ve released or finished a portion of that project or maybe the complete project, we go in and the SEO team comes in and presents that to the client. They get to approve based on the results, or we get a dialogue around that.

You’re seeing three different arrows that point out from this point. It could go back to our SEO team before the priorities. Because maybe we found out that we learned a few things when we ran this SEO test. We don’t want to shift the priorities, but we want to change the way that we did a certain rock. Another scenario is that it goes back and maybe we learned something big. Maybe there is a big test that ends up nullifying the other rocks that we have set. We’ll have to go here into this section and discuss what are our new rocks because we just learned this revelation of how to complete a page optimization project. Then we’ll figure out what the new priorities are and then it goes through that same cycle. Then eventually, when there’s a new quarter or a new year, this is where we reengage with the client in terms of planning for the quarter, long-term, mid-term planning. Then it starts the cycle all over again. That’s how we internally get things done for our clients.

Now that we’ve talked about our internal agile process, here are the benefits, and these benefits are– It sounds simple, but it’s actually really motivating internally for us. One, we get to learn faster because we’re iterating. We have that daily scrum, we have the sprints. We also focus on the impact. When we talked about the project management triangle, it forces us to make sure that we have the winning tests or the learns that really impact our strategy. Then we have clarity, it kind of called it out that that is a big component of agile, is that the internal team has clarity on what they need to do and how to do it. Then the external team knows a clear road map of success based on our rocks. Then finally, the morale. Because you’re stacking up wins or stacking up learns, and it’s very clear to them what they need to do, they don’t have to spend so much time thinking and internalizing all these things because they’re all laid out. With a combination of all of these things, this is why we continue to use agile to focus on the 80/20. I hope this was informative for you guys. I strongly consider if you guys have the traditional approach to consider an agile and see how that works within your organization.

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