Marketing Teams Can Use Agile Methods Too

Marketing (product marketing, sales support marketing, social and marketing communications) can use Agile/Scrum methods to  adapt to changing conditions, provide metrics and add real value. Development and software teams are not the only product teams who must be responsive to global challenges and attentive to customer requirements – in short, “be Agile.”

I am a marketing product manager in the B2B technology sector.  My IT roots are deep as consultant/developer/analyst, but I am first a business person.  I think results, profits, and gaining share of markets and minds through creating and launching great, successful products. Structuring Agile methods to work within a department’s organization is a critical success component  in this fast paced, competitive marketplace.

Testing Scrum Methods in a High Visibility Project

My first experience using Scrum with a global software product team was great.  The team included product manager, technical web manager, web site editors, regional product marketing managers and marketing product manager (me).  This was the first time we worked together. The goal was to launch an app from our community site within a very aggressive Sprint time-frame. I knew enough about Scrum to know its methods could lead to our success and I was ready to experiment. 

Operating as product owner and partnering with my PM, we broke the launch tasks into related user stories, created story points and assigned point scales within the task “silos”  – many moving parts and challenges.  A global team, we telephoned-in to attend our morning Standup.  When we identified a blocker, it was addressed, no secrets. After the launch we conducted our Sprint Review and shared virtual brews. We all agreed next time we wouldn’t launch during a CMS overhaul!

Agile Tried is Better than No Agile

Was this done using pure Agile  and Scrum methodology? No, we were not an Agile shop and our time to burn down limited.  I admit we took shortcuts, made modifications. Our Standup was longer than fifteen minutes (sometimes) and we operated without a formal Scrum Master. We worked the backlog and used success criteria (especially when reporting to the ever vigilant higher ups and regional marketing teams) to define “done” and to socialize the need to launch this product “iteratively”.

Our newly formed Agile team of mainly marketers and writers quickly became self-directed, efficient; we were totally focused on how to get  product to the customer and the messaging created/posted. HubSpot calls this “the Modern Marketing Team” and they find Agile as important in their marketing successes as I have done.

Your Turn, Your Stories

I look forward to hearing from you. Who else uses Agile with marketing teams? What are your accomplishments and shared stories?

Cheers!

Karol

6 Responses to “Marketing Teams Can Use Agile Methods Too”

  1. Ken 'classmaker' Ritchie
    March 13, 2012 at 1:24 pm #

    Hi Karol — Great insight! Great results!

    Seems to me you all were very agile, indeed!

    In case there’s any lingering doubt, here’s my quick analysis.

    Reviewing your post… You had a *business focus* on “results, profits, gaining share of markets and minds” and *adding value* by “creating and launching great, successful products.” You *broke it down* into stories; managed with a *backlog* (prioritized?); *estimated* story size by creating a points and scales; *defined done* with criteria based on measures of success (way to go!); coordinated work/tasks *across silos* (did I get that right?); worked *iteratively* (did that lead to *incremental* deliveries?) inside a hard *time box* in your market; *socialized the process* with your stakeholders; and held a *sprint review* while the dust was still settling. Not only all that, but you managed to do so with a *distributed* team, apparently getting enough collaboration bandwidth with each other to stay in touch and help each other meet commitments (that’s the best reason for stand-ups, isn’t it?), quickly outing any *blockers* and sharing with a “no secrets here” approach.

    Clearly… You guys *collaborated* to get the job done — even without facilitation, guidance, or shepherding by an experienced “agile coach” or ScrumMaster. And, as you put it, you “worked within” the existing department’s organization. “Shortcuts” and “modifications” considered, that’s adaptive and emergent behavior. Your team mates were “self-directed, efficient” and “totally focused on how to get product to the customer…” Gosh! That sure looks like “self organizing” behavior, doesn’t it? What more could you ask for? Granted, most marketers and writers I’ve had the opportunity to work with are very, uh, “communicative.” That’s the kind of openness that contributes heavily to team success. That, and your willingness “to experiment” as you called it… apparently unafraid to try, fail, inspect and adapt, and Press ON! Whatever mis-steps you may have had along the way… those don’t matter now except for the *lessons learned* in the process. What matters most is that you apparently succeeded in getting the job done!

    So, all that sure looks like “Agile” product development to me. Yet you say you “were not an Agile shop?” You could have fooled me! ;-) Karol, I think you can quit apologizing now. You and your teammates can hold your heads high.

    Enjoy your success! You earned it! Kudos y’all!!!

    Now, please go and help others do likewise.

    Cheers,
    –Ken
    ;-)

  2. Ken 'classmaker' Ritchie
    March 13, 2012 at 5:23 pm #

    Karol, I just took a quick look back at the Agile Manifesto site. (agilemanifesto.org and http://agilemanifesto.org/principles.html)

    Finding every instance of “software” and reading “product marcom” (or whatever) into it, the AM still speaks well. And, as you noted, the HubSpot folks have explored that in much more detail. I’ll simply restate some old news, for the benefit of agile newcomers…

    Ye olde “Manifesto for Agile Software Development” ain’t just for software any more, folks. Make it yours, too! For example, translated into a parallel universe for developing and delivering marketing communications and media, the original agile manifesto morphs into a

    “Manifesto for Agile Product MarCom Development”

    ;-)

    • Ken 'classmaker' Ritchie
      March 13, 2012 at 6:19 pm #

      PS, Other than interpreting ye olde Agile Manifesto, I have reference for whatever “pure Agile” might mean. If you’ve found something definitive, let me know. I’m still learning!

  3. Karol McCloskey
    March 14, 2012 at 9:20 am #

    Yes Ken, If a process is based on solid human engineering (how we get it done in teams) it will translate to other functions and groups. Agree totally. To my mind, the word “pure” sometimes gets in the way of practical application of methods. Thoughts?

  4. John Peltier
    March 15, 2012 at 9:46 pm #

    Personally, I think it’s fair to say business (and therefore marketing and product management) has always needed to be agile, but software development is just now catching up!

    I plan to write a blog post about this over the weekend.

    Congrats on joining AgileScout!

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