Why Tourism Victoria decided to go agile

Government agency shares the adoption of agile development methodology for digital marketing and the results it has delivered

Government agencies are not renowned for their willingness to adopt avant-garde systems and processes. But for destination marketing agency, Tourism Victoria, a decision to adopt an agile development methodology for its refreshed website has delivered greater certainty and overall value for money.

Tourism Victoria is responsible for the Visit Melbourne and Visit Victoria websites, both based on Sitecore, which attract around 9 million visitors each year.

Its group manager for online marketing, Paul Baron, said Tourism Victoria has enjoyed a long relationship with Melbourne-based digital agency, IE Digital, as its primary Web developer, during which time IE has frequently extolled the virtues of agile working.

So when it came time to refresh Tourism Victoria’s main Web presence late last year, the two organisations agreed to do so using an agile model.

According to Baron, the motivation for Tourism Victoria was to take on some of the risk that would normally reside with the developer, and get a better deal on overall costs in exchange.

“When an agency is giving you a quote they need to put in ‘risk money’ for things that don’t go quite the way they would expect,” Baron said. “The problem with that is it makes the project more expensive than it needs to be.

“Through an agile process, you can reduce the cost of the project by taking some of the risk on yourself. You are more in the driving seat in terms of decisions around resourcing, and there is less arguing between yourself and the agency on whether something was in scope or not.”

Paul Baron, Tourism Victoria
Paul Baron, Tourism Victoria

Staff from IE were embedded in Tourism Victoria through much of the six months of the project. They engaged in stand-up meetings at 9.30am every morning, with review sessions each week. A stand-up board was used to track progress, with all details also recorded in Jira.

Baron said the result for Tourism Victoria was better visibility of the development process, and the ability to decide whether additional resources should be deployed when those allocated at the start of the project proved inadequate to achieve the result desired. Baron said if he wanted perfection in one area, he could make decisions to leave out other components of the original plan.

“It is easy for a client to have high expectations of an agency that are unrealistic in terms of what it takes to deliver what we you really want,” he continued. “The agile process prioritises all of your features, and very early in the scheme of things you know if you have enough money – not at the end, when you have received something unsatisfactory.

“But when you see the ‘concrete’ being mixed and poured - and what happens when it rains - then you see where the costs really are.”

While the use of agile might be considered unusual for a government agency, Baron said he and his team were trusted by management to deliver within the budget available.

“In destination marketing, often times we do advertising that pushes the boundaries and gets people nervous in government, so we are used to trying to be innovative and trying new things,” he said. “People who work in our space are not risk-averse, and more inclined to be driven more by marketing practice than government practice.”

According to consulting director at IE, Murray Robinson, agile is the preferred method of working across all clients. The company has developed its own methodology using concepts from agile, design thinking and the lean startup methodologies to support rapid delivery and rapid feedback over two-week sprint cycles.

“Clients love agile because it means that we work closely together in one collaborative team to rapidly deliver high quality digital solutions,” Robinson said. “Rather than delivering waterfall projects, which nearly always take much more time and money than expected to deliver anything of value, agile allows us to deliver completed work quickly in small increments.

“In this approach, the highest value features are delivered first, which means that we’re delivering maximum value within a dedicated budget. This reduces risk for clients and the agency, and ensures speed to market so clients can delight their customers.”

More insights on how you can adopt an agile marketing approach:

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