Three Keys to Agile Content Development

Agile Iteration CycleAre you trying to adopt the agile mindset in your enterprise but not sure how to apply it to your marketing and communications teams? Our clients often find that once they have created new digital systems leveraging an agile design and development approach, content creation is not able to keep pace. Being agile in your technology platform is not sufficient for project success if content is out of date or if it is not created with a true understanding of your customers’ needs. To truly succeed with your content-driven product you need an agile approach to content development.

Since agile is not an end in itself, your agile content strategy should be tailored based on the strategic outcomes you’re trying to reach with your content. Based on these outcomes, EK recommends the following approach to best focus your time and energy in adopting agile practices for content:

  1.     Reducing your content’s time to market: Reducing technology products’ time to market is one of the most common objectives of adopting agile software development. From the content perspective, this is an area of focus if you are constantly playing catch-up to keep pace with news and trends or find that another group is beating you to market with similar or better content.

If reducing time to market is your objective, take a close look at your teams and processes first. Agile software development works best with small, self-organizing teams, and agile content teams are no different. You will need to consider how empowered your content team truly is, and make sure that lengthy approval processes are not getting in the way of publishing timely and relevant content.

For example, the Oreo social media team was able to capitalize on the power outage during the 2013 SuperBowl by quickly publishing to Twitter, “you can still dunk in the dark.” The result of this first-mover advantage: more than 15,000 retweets.

  1. Better engaging the consumers of your content: Digital platforms in particular are conducive to interactions and engagement, but many traditional content organizations are struggling to leverage them effectively. Customer collaboration is one of the core values from the agile manifesto, and feedback loops have been central to software development teams for more than a decade. Content creators are now going through some of the same challenges.

For example, for some groups it may seem risky to ask for feedback because if the content does not resonate it will open the door to public criticism. One approach is to identify a small group of customers with whom you can test new ideas and “fail fast.” Other organizations may have the opposite problem – very low customer engagement with their current content practices. These groups will need to seek out customers where they already are, such as LinkedIn Groups or blogs they already frequent.

The key to either approach is understanding your customers better, and it will take real interactions and even co-creation of content – not just Google analytics – to truly grasp your customers’ needs.

  1. Innovating at a low cost: is your organization stuck in traditional modes of communication or trying to break into new spaces like digital publishing or social media? In software development, teams will often iterate on prototype and pilot versions of their product with smaller audiences to gain feedback before rolling out to larger groups.

Your content team can do the same, whether it’s budgeting for experiments or shortening the duration of a campaign to days or weeks rather than months. You can also try out new tools such as content dashboards and workflows to streamline and automate your publishing process. This approach will help your content group learn what works well for your content and brand while being able to course correct early if the experiment does not pay off.

This iterative, innovative approach is not typically done in isolation, because not all experiments will bear fruit. In the technology space this is known as two-speed IT, where both traditional and agile groups exist within a particular department. These groups often operate independently with different sets of processes, tools, and norms. The same approach can be applied to a marketing and communications department, where investments are made in both traditional marketing and experimental content development.


To get started with agile content development, EK recommends the following:

  • Shorten the length of your campaigns and series and gather feedback after each minor release;
  • Streamline approval processes and empower your teams to make decisions and come up with novel ideas;
  • Find ways to get closer to your customers and test your content regularly so you can ensure it resonates; and
  • Consider forming a small innovative content group to operate alongside your more traditional marketing and publishing activities.

Are you still struggling to take an agile approach to content development or not sure where to start? EK has developed a Quick Starter Kit for Agile that provides you with actionable steps to accelerate and actualize agile in your enterprise. Contact us to learn more about how to maximize success in your agile transformation.

EK Team EK Team A services firm that integrates Knowledge Management, Information Management, Information Technology, and Agile Approaches to deliver comprehensive solutions. Our mission is to form true partnerships with our clients, listening and collaborating to create tailored, practical, and results-oriented solutions that enable them to thrive and adapt to changing needs. More from EK Team »