Agile Graphic Development

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Change is inevitable in our industry and it’s happening faster than ever. Agile methodologies are how businesses navigate rapidly evolving landscapes and mitigate brittle, anxious, nonlinear, and incomprehensible environments. Companies across a spectrum of industries have successfully applied an Agile methodology process to everything from software development to project management.

So, why not use Agile methodologies when creating proposals?

Since the proposal industry is constantly in flux, I believed applying Agile best practices would benefit our processes. To test my theory, I reviewed proposal graphic development as this process is a stumbling block for most organisations.

Two of the eight Agile methodologies I reviewed aligned better with the best practices of my organisation (24 Hour Company) developed through trial and error over the last 30 years. They were  Kanban and SCRUM (though SCRUMBAN, a hybrid of the two, also worked very well).

The SCRUM-based Agile approach is ubiquitous. I aligned it with graphic development and the result was incredibly efficient and flexible. SCRUM is essentially a pre-defined process called “sprints”. It is executed again and again to deliver a ‘final’ graphic at each sprint (not all of which were different).

There are three key roles for this approach:

  1. Product Owner – Equivalent to the Capture or Sales Manager
  2. Scrum Master – Equivalent to the Proposal Manager
  3. Development Team – For our purposes, this included Solution Architect(s), Designer(s), and Authors/SMEs/Reviewers

Each sprint comprises 13 steps. The following graphic is an overview of one sprint.

Step 1: Product Backlog

The Capture Manager (Product Owner) defines the scope of work and communicates the needs, value, scope, and prioritisation to the team. They may coordinate with the Proposal Manager (Scrum Master) and Development Team.

Step 2: Sprint Backlog

The Proposal Manager (Scrum Master) discusses user stories (i.e., describe what is communicated in each graphic) and estimates the level of effort. Then they “groom” the Backlog, which means they choose and prioritise the visuals ready for the Development Team to log the chosen visuals.

Step 3: Sprint Planning

The Proposal Manager (Scrum Master) reviews the requirements and value of each visual with the Development Team. Next, they share relevant documents, review the timeline, discuss any potential barriers and define graphic template needs. The template must be created by the Development Team and approved prior to the first sprint.

Step 4: Discovery

The Development Team reviews documents and solution content, identifies gaps, and asks SMEs and the Capture Manager questions to fill the gaps. The information is organised and evolved until complete.

Step 5: Message

The Development Team then writes the message (i.e., action caption) for each graphic. The message succinctly summarises the value of the graphic’s content. For example, your message may read, “Resolve 99.9% of Trouble Tickets within 6.2 hours of creation using New Tech’s customised Help Desk solution.”

Step 6: Concept

The Development Team conceptualises each graphic using basic tools like a pencil and paper, an app, or their tablet. Before conceptualising, they first ‘chunk’ the content by highlighting the most important elements found during the Discovery step. Next, they sketch or mock-up visual ways to represent that information. I use my Graphic Cheat Sheet, Build-a-Graphic software, or search the web for ideas. The concept is the “Minimum Viable Product.”

Step 7: Render

Once they receive approval for the sketch or mock up, the Development Team renders the graphic in an agreed style (design or an existing template if needed) using the Adobe Suite, PowerPoint, or an add-in like Build-a-Graphic (as in the following example).

Step 8: Quality Control

The Development Team reviews and edits the graphic for compliance, grammatical errors, inadvertent omissions (or additions) and aesthetics.

Step 9: SME Edits

The SME and Proposal Manager review the graphic to ensure:

  1. Content is accurate.
  2. All gaps are filled or can be filled.
  3. Up-to-date data is included.
  4. Graphic communicates what it needs to say to the evaluator

Step 10: Submission

The Development Team submits all completed graphics for placement in a reviewable document.

Step 11: Sprint Review

The Proposal Manager leads a formal graphic review process. They note needed changes for the next sprint.

Step 12: Maximum Value Product

The Proposal and Capture Managers gather and analyse reviewer feedback. The Development Team corrects the graphics if needed. Your goal is to ensure the graphic is as mature as possible and evolves with the proposal. Once completed, the graphic is deemed the Maximum Value Product. This means that it is the greatest level of maturity and the highest quality graphic we can submit at the time.

Step 13: Review

The Proposal Manager coordinates a ‘Sprint Retrospective’ to review the process, feedback, and deliverables to identify areas for improvement. They work with the Development Team and Capture Manager to implement any recommended changes to their workflow before the next project. Once complete, they move to the next sprint.

An Agile approach (like the one for graphics demonstrated here) helps the entire team deliver the highest quality work in a rapidly changing environment.

This article was written by Mike Parkinson.

Mike Parkinson is a geek. He is CPP APMP Fellow, 1 of 36 Microsoft PowerPoint MVPs in the world, best-selling author, and an industry thought leader. Mike’s keynotes, training and books (Do-It-Yourself Billion Dollar Graphics and A Trainer’s Guide to PowerPoint: Best Practices for Master Presenters) help companies succeed while saving money and time. He is a partner at 24 Hour Company, a premier creative services firm, and owns Billion Dollar Graphics.

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