I published an article on my German-speaking blog last week about the implementation phase and how I think it is more than overrated. Feedback was interesting, so I think it makes sense to summarize it here as well.
You – being a developer – might not need to be convinced, but you might want to convince your friendly marketer and other stake holders, so here are some ideas for discussions.
My main issue with having an implementation phase at the beginning is that it is highly unlikely that anyone involved in the project will actually be able to define it properly.
Marketers might not yet fully understand what can and should be done. Developers might not yet know how to do any of it. Both of them might not be able to even understand what the other wants or needs. In a situation like that, how do we expect anyone to come up with a plan that makes any sense?
In the real world, where small teams that are struggling for time are “also responsible for web analytics”, an implementation phase is more likely to end due to factors like go-live date, man-hours or contract used up or people going on holidays, I think we should avoid implementation phases like the plague.
If you are reading this, you are probably a developer or at least close to the mind set. It will not surprise you that I think web analytics could learn a lot from agile methodology.
I especially like “responding to change over following the plan”.
Because marketing is the one area of a business that changes. Often. Permanently. And since web analytics, optimization and all the other aspects of digital marketing are part of the marketing tool box (d’uh), change is the only constant.
I know that everybody says that. But I reckon that for marketers, it holds more truth than for most other parts of the business.
Let’s get real then. How can we apply agile methods to web analytics and digital marketing?
I’d tell a marketer to start with very small steps, like for example Campaign Tracking. Once they have mastered that step — meaning it has been implemented, it collects data and the marketer understands the data and actively uses it — then they can move to the next.
I’d tell them that when they move slowly, they are more likely to succeed in the long term.
To you, I’d say help your friendly marketer!
Help them understand agile. Teach them how stories work for you and what they need to give you so you can create one and then make it happen.
Your friendly marketer might not understand development or agile, but I’m sure he’ll get the concept of a story, a small, contained, fully defined “spec” that makes sense to him and you.
When you are asked to plan for a massive implementation, ask questions, go into details. Help those who ask understand that small steps would make more sense, that it would be easier for you and them to go one step at a time.
You could aks them to rate their requirements, then work them from top down and deploy as you go.
Show your marketer how stories and your implementation log can be used to report on progress. Since the whole idea is to help both users and developers communicate and understand the problem, they can be used brilliantly to report upwards.
And last but not least (at all), push for agile in your organization! Make sure there are more than just two deployments per year. Campaign for a work environment that is more fun for you and more useful for everyone!