“Agile and content strategy” - Lisa Moore at Content Strategy Forum 2011

 by Martin Belam, 6 September 2011

Download this, and all of my notes from the Content Strategy Forum as one printable PDF or in epub format for iBooks

I’ve been trying to blog my notes from the talks I’ve attended at the Content Strategy Forum as fast as I can, but I’ve got a little bit out of synch. These notes are from the last session I attended before I had to head off - Lisa Moore talking about “Agile and content strategy”.

Lisa Moore - “Agile and content strategy”

Lisa Moore’s talk focused on working alongside LBi as a Content Strategist on an Agile project for Virgin Atlantic Airlines.

The first phase was the baggage section, a cluttered page with a lot of information. One key area was the “Frequently Asked Questions”. As part of the project she wanted to explore how to bring some of that content out so that it had more value for both the client and customers.

In collaboration with the IA team, they took a modular approach and produced “glorified sketches” to demonstrate the ideas. These even - shock! horror! she confessed - sometimes contained “lorem ipsum”.

The finished product has a new FAQ call-out section, which includes a direct search, and shows three of the most popular questions relevant to that page.

Lisa explained that the Agile methodology encouraged iterative growth - and that “the epic task” of producing a content strategy for a site that size can be “broken down into discrete pieces”. It is the approach we followed during the CMS rebuild at the Guardian - where a tiny “See more on this story” component was the first fruit, verifying that the approach being taken was correct.

Lisa says she “put her deliverables on a diet”. Most content strategy people have produced some “hefty tomes” in their time, she said, but with Agile the “develop early, test often” mantra means documentation is kept to a minimum.

Lisa said that the rapid iterative turnaround helped her generate ideas and recommendations more rapidly, and if they were not implemented in the next sprint, they would be done the one after. The scrum meetings also helped keep content “front of mind” - everybody was reminded every day that content had a voice in those project discussions.

Given that the relationship between Agile development and UX practitioners can sometimes be a fractious one, it was good to hear someone talking positively about how it had impacted on a project. I have no doubt that Agile is the best way for software developers to write software, but I always find that the disruption to the rest of the business can be intense if the business does not really understand or “buy in” to it.

Lisa added that it was important to work one or two sprints ahead of the developers - and personally I am always in favour of there being a lengthy Sprint 0 or even Sprint -1 when the UX team can do some up-front product discovery and user research.

Lisa Moore suggested that anyone joining an Agile project in a content strategy role would benefit from some Agile training. At the Guardian we have been working with Kelly Waters, and his “All about Agile” site has a lot of resources to help you understand and get the most out of Agile development.


I think I’ve got good enough notes from two or maybe three more sessions worth turning into blog posts, which should come along in the next couple of days. In the meantime, the next thing really will be the essay version of the talk I gave this morning. Promise.

This is one of a series of blog posts written at the Content Strategy Forum 2011 in London:
Download all the blog posts in one PDF or in epub format for iBooks
“How the Guardian’s custom CMS & API helped take content strategy to a traditional publisher” - Martin Belam
Gerry McGovern, Melissa Rach and Margot Bloomstein at Content Strategy Forum 2011
“CMS - the software UX forgot” - Karen McGrane
Lisa Welchman and Eric Reiss at Content Strategy Forum 2011
“Making sense of the (new) new content landscape” - Erin Kissane
“Agile and content strategy” - Lisa Moore
“Measurement, not fairy tales” - Catherine Toole
“Topic maps, disambiguation, and multi-disciplinary teams” - Elizabeth McGuane
You might also be interested in these notes on these talks from the August London Content Strategy meet-up:
Lisa Welchman, Sophie Dennis and Tyler Tate

1 Comment

Excellent summaries of all the sessions. Very helpful to those of us unable to attend.

Agile development is a fascinating process but very important that all stakeholders and dependents understand the process fully and how to engage in an optimal manner to ensure quality in their deliverables.

Keep up to date on my new blog