Exploring the promise of Agile marketing

  • Posted on May 26, 2016

This article was originally written by Avanade alum Stella Goulet.

Today marketers need to be able to move as fast as the digital world requires. Yet some of our approaches and processes are old school and slow. It’s time for marketing to take a lesson from the delivery side of the business and shift to a more agile approach.

Think, for example, of the time and cycles it can take when working on an initiative with an external agency. You start with a briefing. Then the agency comes back in a few weeks with an initial proposal. After numerous review and feedback cycles, by the time you get an agreed-upon proposal, several months may have passed. That’s too slow in today’s world.

Putting agile to the test

Agile has the potential to cut this time dramatically, which is why we’re testing it in our marketing organization. For those who aren’t familiar with agile, it’s an umbrella term for delivery approaches that are highly collaborative, team based and iterative – meaning that you add value regularly, over short periods of time. Agile was originally designed for software development.

At Avanade, agile is an approach we take with our clients, using Scrum, which is an agile framework for completing complex projects. We’re fortunate to have one of the world’s largest contingents of Scrum.org certified people and we’ve enlisted their help in our agile marketing journey.

The goal of our initial pilots was to see if an agile approach could be applied to marketing and, if so, whether it would help us achieve faster cycle times. The results so far are encouraging. Our first pilot focused on one of our global demand-generation campaigns. Several of our marketers took formal Scrum training and worked with a Scrum coach. They extracted the key principles of Scrum and took a pragmatic approach to try to make them work for marketing. They are now executing two-week sprints, each consisting of a sprint planning session, daily scrums, a sprint review and a sprint retrospective. The benefits were noticeable, including faster campaign execution, and improved collaboration and transparency.

Noted one of our business leaders who worked with the marketing team: “The team showed great flexibility and ability to deliver results very quickly.”

Our second pilot involved a brand project where we used an agile-like approach. We worked with one of our agencies to conduct a design workshop using a one-week sprint. At the end of the week, we had a proposal that was nearly complete – a far cry from the several months it might take to reach the same point with a more traditional approach. It was also a more collaborative and satisfying way to work.

Unlocking agile success

It’s still early in our agile journey, and we suspect the agile approach that works for one marketing activity may not work for another. It will be a case of matching the marketing activity with the best agile approach. And although we have been successful so far, our agile experts point out that an agile approach isn’t right for every project.

An important key to agile success is culture. Agility is an entirely new state for many teams and hence culture and mindset must change as well. That kind of change doesn’t come easily.

However, our ultimate goal is to make agile the de facto operating model for our marketing organization. The initial signs are positive, and we will continue to explore how we can adopt an agile marketing approach to enable us to continually innovate to better – and more quickly – meet the needs of our clients and the business.

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