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Agile Marketing

Tempting Marketing Folks into an Agile World

18 March 2014

Agile marketing

The explosion of technologies over the last few years has forced many of us to find new ways to keep up. Suddenly, it seems we are out of date before we can even finish a project! How does one keep up?

Agile marketing seems to be the key -- but why is that? Because it works! We can thank Agile software development for testing and perfecting the Agile method that is the foundation for Agile marketing. Let's take a look at the manifesto, which revolves around four values. Yep, four -- that's it:
  • Individuals and interactions over processes and tools: Recognizing that building software was a decidedly a creative human endeavor.
  • Working software over comprehensive documentation: All those binders of specs and designs weren't what people really wanted.
  • Customer collaboration over contract negotiation: Let's spend less time haggling over paperwork and more time building something amazing together.
  • Responding to change over following a plan: Requirements will change, and we should embrace those changes instead of fighting them.
The Agile framework that most people are familiar with is the Scrum process, which has three components to a Scrum team:
  • The product owner has a vision that is shared with team. He or she is responsible for the success of product and works with business partners, decides which offers the best business value, handles ROI. The product owner trusts the team to be professional and do their jobs without micromanaging.
  • The development team is made up of three to nine full-time, dedicated professionals who are cross-functional, self-organizing, and have the ability to deliver a product at the end of each sprint.
  • The ScrumMaster supports the Scrum practice, removes impediments, protects the team, and is a facilitator. He or she may also have a project manager role.
We start off with the sprint backlog of items: features, enhancements, bug fixes are written as user stories. We also have "epics," which are our bigger projects that are broken down into manageable stories. Scrum generally calls for a short period of time for these user stories to be developed, tested, and readied for implementation. Most teams work on a two-week sprint, although I have heard of sprints being up to four weeks.

This is what the plan often looks like, and it is typically represented in a circular graphic:
  • Backlog -- Update with details and work with the development team as to how much time each story will take to complete, as well as complexity with a clear Definition of Done. The whole team is involved and makes agreements regarding workflow.
  • Sprint planning -- After you know how much time each story will take, you will then need to see how many of those stories will fit comfortably in a two-week sprint. You figure out your capacity plan for each member of the team, choosing your stories from the backlog.
  • Sprint and daily stand-up -- This is where you will have the work completed. Each day, you gather the team in a circle and ask each person what they accomplished yesterday, what they are working on today, and whether they have any roadblocks or impediments. This allows the team to be transparent and help each other. The daily stand-up lasts no more than 15 minutes. Roadblocks or impediments are noted by the ScrumMaster, and that person works to resolve those issues.
  • Sprint review -- Work has been accomplished and it is time to let the team shows its work. This can involve the business partners, product owner, and other departments that may be affected.
  • Sprint retrospective -- The team gets together and talks about what went well, what could be improved, and what tools are lacking, along anything else that might have affected them in the last two weeks with regard to their stories. Using a "no shame" approach, these retrospectives are all about learning how to get better with each sprint.
These are just the highlights of the process, to paint you a picture of Agile marketing. It would be easy to write countless pages of text about each role and the process, but I think you get the idea. Now the big question: What good is this Agile marketing?
  • Transparency -- Allows management and sales to see clearly what is being worked on and what is in the backlog.
  • Prioritization -- Allows stakeholders/product owners to prioritize their requests for work.
  • Measurement and accountability -- Fail fast, succeed faster. Agile teams run small tests measuring results and therefore can invest in what is working well.
  • Adapt to change -- Never has marketing been more challenging! Social networking, touch devices, and the technology craze have created a whole new landscape that must be maneuvered and that demands adaptability. Agile marketing accommodates change by using short sprints.
  • Customer satisfaction -- Consumers benefit with their needs being met in a timely manner by what they really want, as opposed to by what we thought they might need or like.
  • Team communication and creativity -- Better internal communication within marketing through the daily stand-up allows each team member to know what the other is working on and what issues they may be experiencing. This knowledge fuels communication and allows creativity in finding solutions for those issues without the redundancy of others working with the same difficulties on different projects.
With a long list of benefits, the question is: If you are not working in an Agile business, why not start?

Opinions represent those of the author and not of Scrum Alliance. The sharing of member-contributed content on this site does not imply endorsement of specific Scrum methods or practices beyond those taught by Scrum Alliance Certified Trainers and Coaches.

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