April 18, 2012
Too many businesses are ill-equipped to handle change. The problem is not the people in the organization—it’s the process.
Many organizations are too rigid and their approach is too focused on the long term to swiftly take advantage of marketplace opportunities. Teams then have only one shot to “get it right.” And if they fail, widespread frustration ensues, creating potentially serious repercussions throughout the entire company.
Marketers often find themselves on the front lines, fighting the battle to keep pace with rapidly evolving product offerings, communication channels, and business software—while stuck with time-consuming processes and procedures.
Make the Move to Agile
I’ve spent a tremendous amount of time working with software developers who have taught me the ins and outs of their Agile development process. Agile lets developers receive instant feedback from customers, so developers can make immediate changes. The method breaks tasks into small increments, with incremental successes building into high-level milestones. The goal is to minimize the overall risk by allowing the project to adapt rapidly.
Over the past few years, I’ve developed a marketing methodology that borrows heavily from that process. When applied to marketing, Agile principles provide short-program “sprints” that act as a feedback loop, which enables fast experimentation, learning and adaption. Ideas are improved upon or discarded as to iteratively improve performance.
Here are a few things that I’ve focused on as I built out my Agile marketing team.
1. People. Consider hiring agency veterans. They have an advantage over internal creative types because they are used to a rapid pace, can focus on many priorities in short bursts of time, and operate in an environment of high expectations.
2. Atmosphere. Eliminate fear. Hire smart people, and let them take risks. Create an environment that’s conducive to experimentation and open to failing—but never in the same way twice.
3. Time. Forget the old set-it-and-forget-it attitude or arcane processes of big presentations and sign-offs. Instead, create time-based problems to solve (e.g., in the next two weeks, we must identify how to integrate Facebook into our website) and use daily scrum check-ins to share ideas and progress against priorities, face to face.
4. Tools. Allow the team to focus on the task at hand by using collaboration tools that promote and dynamically capture the group’s thinking and plans. Ensure that your tools are flexible and user-friendly, so all team members can participate—regardless of platform, device, or location.
5. Leadership. Consistently guide and encourage members to make decisions and execute them while watching the metrics to guide future iterations. I believe in a “get it right, not perfect” approach, which allows for flexibility without obsession and offers the ability to double-down on efforts that are producing results.
How Agile Improves Your Marketing
Marketing teams are no strangers to being asked to do more with less. Through Agile practices, however, marketing teams have a clearer focus and a better vision into potential issues and opportunities, which they can then report with greater transparency to the rest of organization. Working within the Agile marketing model means understanding the scope of work, confining it to a specific time frame, and ensuring that all team members know their respective roles in making it happen.
While real-time reprioritization sacrifices marketing perfection, the tradeoff is worth it. In getting deliverables in front of stakeholders more quickly and incorporating their feedback dynamically throughout a project cycle, you ensure that the most important work gets done first. The end result is compounding successes and course corrections that also foster happier, more engaged employees.
Marketers who embrace Agile and its iterative processes are better able to react and engage. Rather than queuing “to dos” for an initiative six months in the future, teams can better focus on near-term deliverables that make the most impact on customers and the business. This iterative approach can produce smart, fast and flexible marketing in today’s ever-accelerating, ever-changing business environment.