The values of Agile Marketing, what Agile for Marketing is not, and how your team can get started today!
This post was originally published in April of 2018. It has been updated since.
The buzzword in marketing project management is “Agile”. Everyone seems to think that Marketing teams should be Agile, but how many people actually know what Agile is? The fact is, most Marketing teams are told by someone else that they need to be Agile. Then they (maybe) do some quick Googling, rush to buy some new software that says it “does Agile”, and are then frustrated by what feels like just another clunky, tedious series of processes and procedures.
Nothing about this current state of affairs is Agile in the slightest, so let’s take a minute to understand what Agile is, what it is not, and three things your team can do today to start being Agile.
Values of Agile
The concept of Agile workflows has its roots in software development. The Agile Manifesto laid out the original principles of Agile software development. With a little tweaking, we get the values of Agile for Marketing:
Responding to change over following a plan
Marketers love their plans. And we need them, as we are accountable to the business for some very important goals. However, since we only report to the business on a monthly or quarterly basis, there are plenty of opportunities to respond to change and still hit our metrics. In fact, rigidly sticking to the plan no matter what may actually make it impossible for us to hit our goals.
Rapid iterations over big-bang campaigns; Many small experiments over a few large bets
The idea here is to not follow the “Mad Men” approach to marketing. Putting all our eggs in the basket of one big idea or one big campaign sets us up to fail, big time. By doing more small things quickly, we can learn what works and what doesn’t, and keep our failures small.
Testing and data over opinions and conventions
This is an easy one. As marketers, we are so overrun with data that there is simply no excuse to not use it to make decisions. Of course, we don’t have to completely toss out ideas born of innovation, experience, or just plain “going from the gut”. Many small and rapid iterations allow us to still experiment, while putting more resources into ideas backed by data.
Individuals and interactions over one size fits all; Collaborating over silos and hierarchy
In all the excitement over Agile it can be easy to get caught up in the minutia and forget that at the end of the day the point of all this is to work better together, to get more done, and meet the ever-increasing demands on the Marketing team. It’s ok to sometimes throw out the rulebook and just talk to each other. After all, we’re all striving for the same goal.
What Agile is NOT
The same for every team.
A lot of Marketing and Creative teams are encouraged to “go Agile” from an operations or IT department. The only problem with that is that Agile was not created with marketing in mind. That just means that we as marketers must adapt and recognize that there are many factors that make following an Agile methodology to the letter impractical. For example, smaller teams can probably dispense with some of the formal meetings and reporting, simply because every team member is close enough to the data that such formalities would be redundant.
A requirement to buy more stuff.
Right after being told they need to go Agile, many Marketing teams are also told that their current project management software, or a software they are considering buying, won’t cut it because the software is not Agile. This is an incorrect and incomplete understanding of Agile.
The main problem with thinking about software as an Agile solution is the implication that a software alone is what makes a team or process Agile. Agile is a way of organizing work that is responsive to change and enables teams to be more efficient and productive. Many teams will find certain softwares helpful in running an Agile team, but the first step is more about setting up new workflows and less about researching vendors.
The more you read online about different Agile methodologies and all the meetings and charts and boards and terminology (oh my!) it takes to “be Agile”, the more intimidating and the less “agile” Agile seems. If this is happening to you, don’t worry about it. Just because a certain list of elements is prescribed by Agile experts does not mean your team has to do all of it. Cherry pick what sounds good, try it out for a few weeks, and then either tweak it, or drop it entirely.
Go Agile Today
If you’re thinking about moving your team to an Agile process, don’t wait. Start making changes to your team’s workflow today that allow your team to be more responsive to change. Start by doing small experiments, incrementally. Here are three things that your team can start doing right away to move towards agility.
Start working in sprints.
Sprints are a foundational aspect of a popular Agile methodology called “Scrum”. Basically, a sprint is just a block of time, often two weeks, wherein each team member commits to completing certain projects or tasks. Sprints are crucial to Agile because they allow for a more incremental, iterative approach.
Weekly Check-in meetings.
During weekly check-ins each team member discusses where they are in their sprint, what they need to do to complete the project, and what obstacles they face to hitting their goal.
Stand Up Meetings, or “Daily Scrum”.
This is a daily meeting, usually in the morning for 15 minutes, where each team member discusses what they did yesterday, what they are going to do today, and what obstacles are preventing them from completing their goals. These meetings foster team communication and help the team decide if they need to pivot from the current plan.
Moving to Agile processes can be very intimidating for some marketers and Marketing leaders. It can seem like there are a lot of rules and new processes to implement. By focusing instead on the problems your team is trying to solve with Agile and phasing in new processes iteratively, your team can begin reaping the benefits of Agile.