The Agile Method is an iterative approach to planning and managing project processes. It emerged nearly 50 years ago as a response to the unpredictability of some software development processes. Agile means early delivery and continuous improvement, while encouraging rapid and flexible responses to change. Marketers could adopt this agile approach to develop and deliver marketing campaigns in this dynamic, digital age.
Why should marketers use Agile?
Marketers are continually seeking ways to be nimble, especially now that digital marketing technology has changed the way they have traditionally gone to market. The days of executing static campaigns planned months ahead are gone. Hence, Marketers need a process that lets them run experiments, work collaboratively with clients and use data to create more relevant marketing campaigns. In today’s world of continuous customer feedback, marketers must be able to adjust their plans based on what’s trending in digital and social media.
Adopting an Agile model of continuous iteration allows your marketing team to quickly test new messaging or campaigns, react faster to product updates, and set expectations with stakeholders who request work from your team. That is why agile marketing, and frameworks such as Scrum and Kanban, are here to stay.
What will change if you adopt Agile?
- You will respond to change by following a plan: Instead of writing a 10-20 page marketing plan, you will write a one-page plan that specifies your goals, bringing all of your team members onto the same page. Things change so fast in marketing nowadays. We know, for example, that Google is frequently changing the PageRank algorithm so we need to be able to adapt to that change quickly and accurately.
- Rapid iterations over huge, time-consuming campaigns: Instead of planning and executing a huge marketing campaign, the success of which is uncertain, you will take an iterative approach. Brainstorm with your team what you think might work. Then figure out how to test it. Measure the results and document what you have learned. If something doesn’t work, you have the data to prove it and you can try something else next time, thus increasing your efficiency.
- Accountability: Most marketing teams struggle to know who the ultimate owner of a project is. Who is directly responsible for the success of a deliverable, or who sets measurable outcomes for a task? To prevent this, you will have to assign a problem owner to every project. In that way, one team member is responsible for the quality of the project and the rest of the team gets involved in brainstorming a solution and implementing a fix.
- Focus on problems, not on deliverables: You will start thinking about your work as a set of problems to solve, instead of a set of deliverables with a fixed deadline. Stakeholders don’t always know what they want, thus problem-solving helps foster collaboration for better outcomes. Start every project with a problem statement that is clear to everyone, without initially proposing a solution. The solution will be found during the brainstorming session with your team members.
- Learn to prioritise: Without a shared sense of priority, you have no idea where to focus your time. You resort to saying yes to everything. As a consequence, you find yourself in a stressful period with a lot of half-finished deliverables. Many Agile teams use guesstimation to prioritise work and increase their velocity as a team. They approximate the amount of effort a project will require, or discuss how many hours it may take for individuals to complete their tasks. Over time, many Agile teams arrive at a sense of average output per sprint, which helps them plan new tasks. A Sprint is the Agile name for incremental, iterative work sequences.
- Improved communications: Having regular (and short) stand ups will help your team stay focused on solving problems and getting stuff done. Of course, side conversations with smaller groups to go deeper into problems will still happen, but agile marketing will help you optimise everyone’s time. Everybody can see exactly what the marketing team is working on and where the team will focus next. One of the key things in many organisations is that different silos of the organization don’t seem to talk to each other. Maybe marketing isn’t talking to sales, or that senior management has no clue about marketing activities. Adopting agile marketing means that you will put some processes in place to make sure that all of those groups are in the loop and collaborating.
Summary: Agile is the ability to create and respond to change, in order to succeed in an uncertain and turbulent environment. Traditional Agile can be categorised into two leading schools of thought, or frameworks, called Scrum and Kanban. While Scrum is focused on fixed-length iterations, Kanban is focused on continuous releases. When a project in Kanban is complete, it is launched and the team moves on to the next challenge.
I personally recommend Kanban for Marketers and I will further describe it as a framework in my next article.