The benefits of agile approach: a short workshop

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Post written by Emily Webber and David Mann

Held at the BBC, Digital Bristol Week, was a series of talks, workshops and events to introduce new ways of working and best practice to the creative industries of the South West. We were invited by Kevin O’Malley from Connecting Bristol to run a session about agile development.

From conversations in the green room, yes it was the BBC so we got to relax in the green room before our workshop, there is a perception that ‘agile’ is the latest government buzz word. It’s often damned with faint praise, it’s just about speed, it’s just for start-ups, it won’t work in a complex environment like government or a big corporation.

So the challenge we faced was that we had been asked to fit a short presentation about GDS , as well as run some exercises to help explain agile techniques to an unknown audience (both size and experience) in 45 mins. It’s possible to run a week of agile workshops that just deal with a single part of the discipline so we decided to focus on what an agile planning session might look like for a large group of stakeholders.

We wanted to demonstrate how prioritisation can bring out the most important features and how that can create a minium set of features that could form an initial release, the minimum viable product.

We took an imaginary project that the group could relate to, an idea for an local iphone app: “Yeah!Bristol, a mobile app that showcases the best that Bristol has to offer.” We asked the group to write features for the app on post-it notes. We found the group loved Bristol so we weren’t short of ideas, a much better outcome than having barely any, but it did put some extra pressure on time.

There were no spare walls in the room, so we used the windows for the exercise photo by: Annie Warburton

We then went through and grouped the features into common themes, e.g. pop-up restaurants and restaurant reviews came under the broader topic of food. The group were then allowed three votes each to indicate what broader topic thought was most important. We then took the top three broader topics and ran a similar exercise on the features within them. You can see how that looked below:

We took the top three features within the top three groups and played them back to the room as their initial minimum feature set.

What we found was that although time was a big pressure (no one can explain everything about agile in such a short time) the people who attended the session left with a set of techniques to help focus thinking when there are a lot of voices and ideas in the room. In particular, delegates from Bristol City Council were excited about the possibilities of trying agile in their work. We demonstrated that a large, disparate group, can come up with a focused set of product features in an incredibly short amount of time.


  1. It was a brilliant, energetic and inspiring session. We now have an Agile whiteboard in our office at the Council and its really revolutionised things. Thanks again for presenting and getting us on the Agile path

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