Welcome To The New World Of Agile Marketing
When my CEO approached me about changing the mindset
and practice of our marketing organization, I was excited, nervous and intrigued. He handed me a book titled, Lean Six Sigma for Service: How to Use Lean Speed and Six Sigma Quality to Improve Services and Transactions and said, “This is going to revolutionize the work you produce and expand the capacity of your team.”
Before introducing this idea to my team, I familiarized myself with the concept of agile. This term is used to describe an approach to software development that emphasizes incremental delivery, self-organizing cross-functional teams, adaptive planning and continuous improvement. In laymen’s terms, agile enables organizations to master continuous change and innovation.
In the past, agile was predominately used in software development organizations. Agile is now spreading to every kind of organization and every part of work, as recognized in the Harvard Business Review article “Embracing Agile” by Darrell K. Rigby, Jeff Sutherland and Hirotaka Takeuchi. Agile is a framework for management. It provides the methodology to implement cultural change within an organization. Simply put: Agile will not work if management is not on board.
Agile, scrum, kanban and lean may sound complex and intimidating, but once you embody the agile mindset, you will find yourself living the change and focusing on realistic goals that drive innovation.
The Assembly Line
Marketing campaigns can be viewed as an assembly line with different business owners handing off tasks at different phases of a project life cycle. For example, a product marketer will write the copy for a new solution, it gets reviewed, potentially rewritten and then sent to another owner in the assembly process. This process mimics the steps of an automotive assembly line worker. We can use many of the same concepts to build modern marketing organizations. This approach provides incremental and evolutionary change for organizations.
Scrum Vs. Kanban
One of the first steps in rolling out agile practices to your marketing organization is to understand the difference between scrum and kanban. Scrum is a framework that allows you to address complex problems while delivering products of the highest possible value. This framework involves a sprint, a span of time during which a product increment is created. Each scrum team determines how long its sprints will be within a fixed timeframe. Kanban is an approach used to manage work by balancing demands with available capacity and improving how you handle bottlenecks. Work items can be visualized via a Kanban board to give you an idea of the process and progress.
Your Kanban board should be set up in a pull system, which is a manufacturing strategy that reduces waste during the production process. In this type of system, a marketing team will only work on projects and campaigns that they can handle at any given time. This is meant to be flexible — it will control and balance the flow of resources on your team.
Our team uses epics (large bodies of work or campaigns) and tasks (incremental pieces of a project that are tied to epics) to track our workflow. The epics and tasks are a way to organize the hierarchy of our projects and are linked to the workflow steps listed above. The cards on the kanban board provide visibility to the management team to track efficiency, reduce work in progress (WIP) and uncover any bottlenecks in the process.
The Daily Standup
It is essential to have daily standup meetings. These meetings last approximately 15 minutes and offer many benefits (e.g., improved communication and decision making, eliminating the need for other meetings and helping to identify obstacles). They also improve transparency and knowledge amongst the team.
Our marketing team is based around the globe, so we schedule daily standup calls and run through our digital kanban board on JIRA — the modern way of running standups, instead of standing at someone’s desk running through post-it notes. By developing a routine, it makes it easy to track progress from the last meeting and focus on improvement so everyone knows what they need to accomplish.
All Hands On Deck
In today’s day and age, there are many tools and technologies that teams can use to enhance collaboration. Not only does agile marketing enable better alignment between project needs and available resources, but it can also dramatically improve the communication and productivity of your teams.
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