Agile for Agencies: How Gabriel Uses ClickUp to Implement Scrum
Gabriel Hoffman is a ClickUp Consultant and Solutions Engineer at ZenPilot, a training and consulting business that helps agencies streamline their operations in ClickUp. ZenPilot has helped 1900+ agencies improve their processes and project management. With his extensive engineering background, Gabriel helps agencies implement an agile framework using proven, pre-built processes and custom-built ClickUp solutions.
Agile management and Scrum are the go-to frameworks in the ever-changing digital and connected world.
These project management methodologies open a new frontier for agencies that have historically run projects and retainers using a waterfall or similar approach.
In the old days, with less tech and innovation, the only way to get an engaged team was to have a physical board in the office or spread your Scrum across multiple places.
Scrum is fantastic, but it can become busy work without the proper guidance, engagement, and tools.
Breaking down of the Scrum Events & Artifacts
Following the Scrum Methodology, we break down the Scrum Events into five Sections:
The Scrum Sprints are fixed length events of one month or less to work and develop Backlog items. Most teams run one or two-week sprints. My sprints take two weeks.
- Sprint Planning
During Scrum meetings, the Sprint Planning initiates the Sprint by laying out the work to be performed for the Sprint. Workload management is vital in this event, as most of the time, we share the same resource pool with other areas within the agency.
- Daily Standup
The Daily Standup is a short and time-boxed event for Team Members to discuss sprint items and keep the team aligned with coordinated efforts. The Daily Standup is held at the same time every working day of the Sprint for consistency’s sake.
- Sprint Review
The Sprint Review is a working session to present the work product to stakeholders, inspect the Sprint outcome, and determine future adaptations.
- Sprint Retrospective
The Sprint Retrospective is the session to plan ways to increase the quality and effectiveness of future sprints, and keep those sprints updated and aligned with the agency work culture.
We also have the Scrum Artifacts, representing the actual tasks and work that provide value for the client. It has three sections:
- Product Backlog
The product backlog is a list of prioritized tasks that meets the requirement of the client.
- Sprint Backlog
The Sprint Backlog is the section of the Product Backlog that the team plans to accomplish during the Sprint.
The Increment is the collection of Backlog Items completed during the Sprint.
Now that we’ve surfaced the main items here, you’re probably already sketching a workflow to manage these steps. That’s where the tool side of things comes into place.
Throughout my career, I’ve worked with platforms like Jira, Notion, Miro, Trello, Monday, and old-school whiteboards. None of those solutions fully met my needs, and I always felt that something was missing or that the tool was forcing me to adopt their prescriptive method – or simply creating a lot of busy work.
Even though there are a lot of commonalities, most of the agencies we work with at ZenPilot have their own individual approach to work. Because of this, I needed a place where my workflow creativity could shine with freedom. After using many different methods to create and manage Scrum frameworks, I finally found the most flexible and powerful platform: ClickUp.
ClickUp is the most straightforward to use, yet powerful tool to run sprints. It allows me to create a consistent and repeatable Sprint format with features that speed up my process when creating multiple sprints, allocating team members, and adjusting my forecasts. Sprints can be very tedious to manage without some element of platform automation for the consistently repeated Sprint components. Sprints are all about the iterative process, and there is nothing iterative and continual improvement from creating everything from scratch or taking steps that can be automated or standardized.
Sprint Structure in ClickUp
All my Sprint tasks are actionable tasks inside a conceptual EPIC.
For creating this process, I used the Mind Map feature to showcase the structure below:
The Sprint Folder is the place where all the Sprints-related items are. I use this as a higher-level item, given that we can use ClickUp to do other small things in different areas and combine them in a single card on the Sprint board. Inside the Sprint Folder, I have three Lists (we will get a 4th+ down the road):
📚Backlog: A List containing all our tasks before they go for the Sprint – A place to manage and groom your backlog items, adding descriptions, custom fields, time estimates, priority, and Sprint points.
🏆EPICs: A list Containing all our EPICs – A group of related tasks combined for a specific goal.
🔹Sprints XX – Standard: A Standard for our Sprints – A container that combines our Sprint Board, Spring backlog, and Sprint DOC.
Managing the Backlog
The first thing that I keep in mind when implementing an Agile framework is to make sure that we have a flexible and robust Backlog management system. I use a list to groom my backlog and run planning poker sessions with the team. Here, you can leverage Tasks in Multiple Lists together tasks across your workspace and put it in the same place. This approach will allow you to manage all tasks in the standard Sprint format.
To manage the backlog, we created two views inside this List. It contains Assignee, Comments, Priority, Sprint Points, Lists, and linked tasks. They all have the same ClickUp format. However, one is sorted by Priority and the other by Sprint Points.
Using both views inside the Product Backlog allows us to visualize the highest priority and effort items easily. The Planning Poker occurs in this stage, so the team can have a birds’ eye view of the overall scope, estimate, prioritize and plan the fastest delivery of value for the client.
The views contain:
- Assignee: the team member responsible for the completion of the task
- Comments: the hub for all information related to the task/ a history of what happened previous, during, and after the “In Progress” phase
- Priority: a prioritization metric utilized to rank and sort the backlog items
- Sprint Points: a relative estimation related to the effort of each task in the backlog
- Lists: a field to see where the tasks primarily live
- Linked Tasks: a place to see the related EPIC that contains this task
Creating our EPICs
In Agile, EPICs represent a series of items that share a broader strategic objective.
It’s important to know that EPIC, different from User Stories or simple tasks, typically requires development work covering several sprints. That’s why we can create an EPIC manager as a view in our EPICs list and have them as tasks that can be the container of all other actionable tasks.
In ClickUp, I can link multiple tasks into a single related one, thus creating an EPIC.
In the EPIC list, I can manage grouped tasks and see their common objectives. Linking the tasks will show which EPIC the tasks belong to when I load the Linked Tasks field in the backlog or Sprint. This Relationship feature helps me leverage information across all related tasks.
ClickUp’s Rollup Fields help us work even better! We can now track dozens of tasks at a glance and get development information for the Project manager or Scrum Master directly inside the EPIC manager view.
The Sprint Standard
To keep our Sprints consistent across the agency, I use the same Sprint template for multiple teams. The sprint template summarizes what views and fields the other Sprints of our series will have, and I would use them when we start creating Sprints.
The Sprint template consists of three views:
The Sprint Backlog View
Similar to the Backlog List, the Sprint Backlog gives you an overview of the Sprint, showing what must be done, in which order, and management information. The template contains the priority of the tasks, status, sprint points, assignee, List where tasks live, and the linked tasks – in this case, our related EPIC. We can also track individual task progress and time that will feed our EPIC later on, and get an overview of the Sprint using the calculator at the bottom of the column. This gives us the average progress of tasks, a sum of the time tracked, and the total Sprint Points of the Sprint, which is why I group tasks by None in this view.
Sprint Board View
The Sprint board is the heart of the Sprint! It’s where the whole team can visualize the Sprint Backlog and in which stage the task is. In ClickUp, we can use the Board view to organize our Sprint Backlog and use the status to group the tasks that are in the same stage.
⭐️ TIP: For better results when facing different Statuses, you can introduce a “Sprint Phase” Custom Field that will apply only to the tasks that are inside the backlog. This Custom Field will have the development stages of the Sprint and can be tailored for each team, giving a standard for the Sprint board despite the actual status in the task location.
We can also use some ClickUp features to power up our board. We can have actionable fields inside the task card and use them for easy access. I use the progress bar to quickly get progress estimation from the team and track time directly inside the card. We can also see how many points that card has, the assignee, and the related EPIC.
Also, the Work in Progress Limits allows me to limit the total number of points per column and prevent team members from using them as a buffer for blocked or more challenging work. I set the point limits of each column according to the team velocity and size.
The Sprint Doc – In every Sprint, we have a well-known event List that needs to be addressed and documented. The best way of doing this is getting a consistent Minute format that the entire team understands, knows how to do it, and where it’s located. I use the ClickUp Docs feature to combine all of them in one place. This standard Doc formatting ensures that our Sprint documentation can be edited efficiently and collaboratively. ClickUp also allows me to quickly export and share any page of the Doc. Those features are very helpful when dealing with external Stakeholders outside ClickUp.
My Sprint Doc view contains four main pages:
- Sprint Planning
- Sprint Review
- Sprint Retrospective
On each of the pages, you can write the minute for the event and quickly send them back to the attendees with easy storage and a standardized format. You can deploy and update your Doc template by accessing the Template center via the Doc settings.
The Dailies page has subpages for each one of the days of the Sprint – this is very helpful as some team writes the minute of each daily to use later on in the retrospective session.
Preparing the launchpad
Once we have an updated version of our ClickUp Sprint Framework, we can now prepare our real Sprints.
To maximize deployment speed, I use the Sprints [ClickApp] to have a standard name and leverage the Sprint automation. My Sprints are estimated by points, use a simple Month/Day/Year format, and typically start on Mondays. This can be changed in the default Sprint Settings of the ClickApp.
I create our first Sprint by going into the Folder that contains this framework and by clicking on the New Sprint to create a Sprint List.
Even if I know that I’ll need more Sprints, I would create one of them at a time to allow us to inherit the List configuration of our Sprint Standard List in the most recently created Sprint. I would then select the Statuses and View from the “🔹Sprints XX – Standard” List and hit apply.
Inheriting this setup automatically creates the following views:
Sprint Board, the Sprint Backlog, and the Sprint Doc
We can do this one by one until we get a reasonable amount of Sprints that meet our needs. I usually don’t create Sprints upfront. It might develop in some teams the idea of plenty of time. Time is the most valuable asset in Sprint management, and we must always be running!
⭐️ TIP: When using the “Sprint Phase” Custom Field, I always create automation to make the Phase Match with the relative Status. For example, When a “Ready” phase is reached, I set the Status to the respectively “Done” Status via automation. The “Done” Status is achieved accordantly with the DoD (Definition of Done) of the team. The Closed Status will only be set after the client or Stakeholder’s assurance that the requirement was met, and there is no other need for the team to change that item.
I usually create the new Sprint after the Sprint retrospective (after all client validations) and apply what we and the team learned during the Sprint process that could be improved for the next Sprint. ClickUp made it so fast that we can create a new one in less than 10 seconds.
When creating a new Sprint, I inspect and determine which tasks need to be moved into the backlog and which tasks could be passed onto the next Sprint. To do this, I use ClickUp Sprint automation to automatically move the spillover tasks that aren’t Close or Done onto the next Sprint.
After carrying the tasks over and adding more from the backlog, our new Sprint can start running.
ClickUp is so important because it lets me use all the small details in my Sprints and allows me to adapt the method for each team. It gives me the flexibility to work by my own rules and create the workflows that each Agency needs.
Need More Help Implementing Agile in ClickUp?
In this guide, we’ve covered the core components of implementing agile in ClickUp. When I work with teams to optimize their agile setup in ClickUp, I deploy one of our pre-built solutions (sometimes as simple as what we’ve covered here) as a starting point and then customize based on the individual team’s needs.
Now that you have this playbook, you can modify it and create your own framework in ClickUp to manage your Sprints.
If you’d like additional help streamlining your Agile setup in ClickUp, you can reach out to a ClickUp Vetted Consultant or you can contact my team at ZenPilot to discuss your needs and learn more about our ClickUp solutions for agile agencies.
If you’d like to connect with me, reach out on LinkedIn!