September 6, 2012 by James Daugherty - 3 comments
Agile marketing and agile methodology are terms that are receiving a lot of attention currently. Businesses are interested in agile methods, especially as they pertain to marketing practices, but few people seem to know what the agile method is. If you search “agile marketing” on Wikipedia, nothing will come up. That’s because agile marketing is an new adaptation of the agile method, which was originally developed as a strategy by software developers.
In the world of software development, the traditional waterfall method of accomplishing tasks could backlog software for years, and by the time the product is set to be released, the market will have moved on. So the software development community instituted a plan of action that allowed them to keep up with market changes: the agile method.
The world of marketing is now looking much like the software development market just years ago: incredibly fast moving. There is a definite need for speed in modern marketing. Information can be spread so quickly on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and in the blogosphere, that the old methods of market response are too slow—archaic really.
Adapting to the incredible speed of modern information sharing is not as difficult as it may sound. The agile method uses four key values that are easily implemented:
The agile method allows marketers to adapt quickly to change, as they are unhindered by cumbersome negotiations, long term plans, and documentation. It allows marketing teams to be agile.
When working on a marketing project, instead of focusing on long term goals, the agile method instead focuses on sprints, which is a period of time between one week and one month. By breaking up projects into sprints, teams can focus on immediate tasks and goals. If there are longer term goals that cannot be met in the current sprint, put them into a backlog list to be included in the next sprint. Before each sprint session starts, the marketing team holds a sprint planning session, in which they decide how much they can handle during the sprint.
My company does this by breaking up the monthly client budget by our hourly rates. By doing this we can see how many hours we can devote to each client in each sprint, then we divide those hours into tasks (based on the goals for the sprint), which might look like this:
The tasks are then kept all in one place, we use a program called Trello, but this can be done manually on a (giant) task board. This process allows us to know exactly how our hours will be used during each sprint. The key is to break up tasks into small increments (30 minutes-2 hours). This allows team members to switch tasks several times a day, and work across projects.
The key to dividing those tasks up between team members during a sprint is SCRUM meetings. SCRUMs take place on a daily basis, and are meetings with all project team members. There is a SCRUM master who keeps the conversation on task, and asks three questions of every member:
Typical answers look something like this: I worked 2 hours on project X, and 4 hours on project Y, and I am dealing with Z as a roadblock.
The SCRUM process avoids lengthy documentation, and keeps everyone on the same page. If every team member knows what the others are working on for the day, it eliminates the possibility of miscommunication. SCRUMs also make everyone aware of potential problems, which helps the team correct them before the project fails, and no one person is drowning alone. Since every team member is a part of the sprint planning process, everyone is up to date on goals and tasks for each project, which allows all team members to work across all projects. SCRUMs also allow the team leader to identify strengths and weaknesses in the team, based on what was and was not accomplished.
At the end of the SCRUM the SCRUM master assigns each team member a list of tasks (2 hours of research for project X and 4 hours of writing for project Y), based on what is left on the task board. This keeps everyone accountable to their projects and on track. When a team member finishes a task they can cross it off the task board, which gives everyone a good, visual indication of what has been done and what still needs to be done.
This process allows everyone to work collaboratively on every project, which creates the ability to respond quickly to change. If, for example, project work for a certain client falls behind, the entire team can devote a day or two to the project in order to catch up. And responding quickly to change is the purpose of agile marketing and the agile method. If your team is struggling in the collaboration department, there are plenty of productivity collaboration tools that can help you identify the weakness in your collaborative communication. At the end of each sprint there is a sprint review meeting, in which the team reviews the work that was and was not completed and presents the completed work to the client.
The marketing sector has seen much change, but there is certainly more to come. Make sure your marketing team is agile and adaptable to change, because your success likely hinges upon it.