We’re coming out of the closet: Simply Accessible is agile! We’d love to introduce you to the smartie guiding us through the transformation.
We write introduction posts for the new badasses who join the Simply Accessible team—but this particular badass has been with us for quite some time. Charles Callistro has been SA’s scrum master since 2013, but it’s only recently that he joined the leadership team, taking the role of Agile Coach, and officially guiding us through an agile transformation.
“We’ve found that being agile, internally and externally, works better than any other process we’ve tried,” Charles explains. “We’ve worked in an agile framework for many years here, but we’re now going all the way and applying agile methodologies to everything we do.”
Traditionally, agile starts in the IT department and doesn’t extend beyond it. So the developers are agile, but marketing and leadership, for example, are still building requirements upfront or in a vacuum. Simply Accessible is doubling-down and incorporating agile throughout the company, even including our hiring process and editorial.
“We believe that the agile processes are of benefit beyond iterative software—people just work together better this way.”
Our agile awakening
Charles’ own agile transformation happened two years ago after a conference. He invested in scrum master training and became an advocate for agile internally here at Simply Accessible. Derek and Elle took Product Owner training and that clinched it. Since then, we’ve been transforming every aspect of how we do our work, both internally and externally, to get agile minded, nimble, and more efficient.
“Agile and accessibility are both paradigm shifts at an organization—they’re each really about putting the user first. When done poorly, they’re frustrating and costly. When done well, they’re transformational and game changing.” – Elle Waters, Director of Strategy
“Agile transformation never ends, but we’ve hit lots of milestones,” Charles says. “We’re embracing the process, and we’re finding more of our clients using this methodology, too. Our workflow meshes with our clients’ more seamlessly now. Communication is easier. Things can change rapidly without a lot of impact on either side.”
“Agile process and practice makes us constantly think about what is most valuable to our clients, and more importantly…most valuable to their clients.” – Derek Featherstone, Founder and Team Lead
Since agile transformation is an ongoing thing, the role of Agile Coach fits perfectly with the constant iteration and improvement implicit in the methodology. It also fits with Simply Accessible’s focus on teaching and learning. Charles says, “My job is to convince people that agile is going to help them and then partner with them to make it happen.”
Agile editorial: a case study
Charles also says I’m the poster child for that here at Simply Accessible, and I have to agree.
During our team retreat in February, Charles led daily agile sessions with the team. I had heard of agile, but had no hands-on experience with it, so this was my first real exposure to the methodology and how it works for teams. Through Charles’ sessions and taking a deep look at our internal processes, I had my own agile awakening. I saw immediately how agile could benefit our editorial workflow, get the whole team engaged with our blog, and produce content more efficiently.
Since February, we’ve gone from squeezing blog posts out of already-taxed developers and our assessment team to accelerating our publishing schedule, working collaboratively across departments, and at one point being seven posts ahead of schedule. As an editorial strategist, I couldn’t be more amazed or thrilled with the results.
Agile editorial allows us to stay responsive, pivoting posts based on what’s urgent for our clients or our community, adapting the scope of our posts to current workloads, and improving our process as we go.
Agile and accessibility
Agile also melds well with Simply Accessible’s approach to accessibility. We need to have the ability to adapt to change, as human beings and their needs change.
Many clients come to us with accessibility guidelines in mind. But our perspective, and our criteria for success is: does this work for someone who needs it? Truly usable accessibility has all kinds of nuance and it changes every day. “With agile, we can keep ‘is this working for people?’ in the forefront,” Charles explains. “The requirements aren’t the focus, people are the focus. Agile lets us keep the focus on the people.”
“Agile, for me, is a more humanistic approach to business organization. It ties into UX and usability testing, and other things we value. It’s a people-first philosophy—and the best fit to match our core values.” – Charles Callistro, Agile Coach
We’re lucky to have someone as passionate as Charles leading the charge of our transformation. Look for more posts about agile accessibility in the months to come. We’re excited to share what we’re learning with you!