Agile, Scrum, and Group Productivity

Several months ago the engineering and product development teams at our NY-based startup Dashlane adopted the scrum approach to agile software development. I was speaking with some of the Dashlane team the other week and they were excited because they felt that it was having a big positive impact on the productivity of the engineering team. I asked our head of marketing how he could tell and he said that it had improved their ability to predict when key features would be delivered. He also said that the short daily meetings helped to improve communication, identify obstacles and make them visible to all team members, and help to identify resolutions. As I’ve been learning more about the scrum approach it makes a lot of sense to me. I started my career as a Java developer for a big bank in the late 1990s. Our development team followed a monolithic waterfall methodology for application development using tools like Gannt charts for project management and we were frequently behind schedule. As I learn about scrum and Agile the short sprints and daily check-in meetings seem like a much better approach to project management, especially for small startup development teams where requirements change frequently during development.

However it’s made me wonder whether the agile approach could be applied effectively to other areas of business like sales, marketing, or even customer service. It seems like the approach has benefits in many situations where groups work together on complex projects with frequent changes to requirements and expectations, whether they are software applications or big marketing campaigns or sales efforts. For example, could an agile approach to sales help to improve the ability to forecast or to win competitive deals? I also wonder whether our investment team should think about applying some of the agile principles to managing our pipeline of investments. At a recent end of year partner meetings we discussed what has been a record investment pace for our firm in 2014. This provoked some good internal discussion about portfolio allocation to early vs late stage investments, as well as where we are in the overall VC investment cycle. Our partnership intuitively knew that we were on pace to invest a lot of capital this year, and our COO does a great job of keeping us on track, but perhaps an agile approach to our investment pipeline would allow us to do an even better job of identifying these portfolio allocation trends much earlier?

Finally, I’ve heard of several good software products for agile software development from companies such as Atlassian (JIRA), Rally Software, and Fog Creek (Trello). What software exists for managing an agile sales team?