An agile marketing journey: From tribulations to triumph

  • Posted on July 23, 2019
  • Estimated reading time 3 minutes
Agile Marketing Journey

This article was originally written by Avanade alum Dave Carmichael.

I started my agile marketing journey in 2015. In 2017, I finally understood agile enough and how it could work for marketing to write my first blog post. Our journey has continued and I’m pleased to say that writing this follow-up blog post has now got to the top of my backlog.

Once we’d decided to “give agile a try” for marketing, our journey really began back in September 2015. We agreed with our global agile coach that the first thing we should do would be to run a half-day introduction to agile and specifically Scrum, one of the agile frameworks. This was done face-to-face with our UK-based marketing folks and included UK-specific, European, as well as global-based employees. So, a good representation of our marketing organization. 

The introduction was well received, and we agreed the next step should be to trial agile for elements of a campaign with myself and Louise Walsh, a campaign owner I worked closely with. We sought permission from our chief marketing officer, Stella Goulet, and she was extremely supportive. Stella wrote her own blog post outlining what we achieved in our early pilots.

I’d like to share a bit more detail on how those pilots went and the insight we gained. It certainly wasn’t smooth sailing. In November 2015, three of us from marketing (including Louise and myself) went on a two-day Agile Scrum Project Management course run by one of Avanade’s own Scrum Trainers. We were with a bunch of software developers and project managers. Obviously, the course, the exercises and all the examples used were focused around software development. That created some challenges for us, but we got the gist of it and certainly came away aware of the roles, events and artifacts Scrum uses.

Putting agile into action: A rough start
Over the next three months we tried to get started using Scrum for a campaign. It didn’t go well. We struggled in the following areas:

  • Tools: We didn’t really understand how to use the tooling (for those familiar, we were transitioning form Microsoft Team Foundation Server (TFS) to Visual Studio Team Services (VSTS) at that time and got frustrated with TFS.
  • Backlog: We didn’t know where to start in terms of how to define product backlog items (PBIs) for marketing and aspects of the campaign specifically.
  • Roles: We couldn’t work out who should be the product owner; i.e., whilst Louise ran the campaign, I was responsible for the story and the messaging. Plus, we are expected to work together and collaborate in marketing, so how could there be one owner?

I have a confession: By the end of January 2016, I was ready to forget about agile marketing and submit that the pilot didn’t work. Fortunately, Lou and our agile coach thought differently and convinced me to sit down and discuss. It got emotional. 

The outcome: Just start small. Very small. Baby steps in fact. We’d moved over to VSTS by this time and got some training on how to use the tooling. Plus, a third and very enthusiastic member had joined Lou and me on the campaign. They were determined to make Scrum work. They convinced me. We gave it another go. 

Agile takes off, but we’re still learning
The rest, as they say is history. Every member of Avanade’s marketing organization is now trained on Scrum and it is used across our global team. Importantly, we’re still learning. About a year ago, I had the opportunity to sit down with Dave West, CEO and product owner at Scrum.org. Dave was very keen to hear the journey we have gone through to date, discuss the challenges we have identified and explore the wider business benefits we’ve seen from adopting Scrum. Dave wrote a blog, which captures and expands well beyond our conversation to show why marketing and Scrum are a perfect fit. 

If this topic of agile marketing interests you and you’d like to learn a bit more about Avanade’s experience, but also hear the perspective of others, I’d encourage you to check out and comment on our podcast series (it’s feedback that fuels agile). It is a three-way conversation among me as someone who has been practicing agile marketing since 2015, but more importantly Simon Jones, vice president of marketing and operations at SiriusDecisions, and Dave West from Scrum.org. Together, we discuss several topics, including the impact agile can have on marketing and the challenges of adopting Scrum for marketing. 

Take a look at our LinkedIn Group page, have a listen to our podcasts and join in the conversation.


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