Agile Marketing Using Scrum

Agile Marketing Using Scrum

This is a guest post by John Armstrong, CMO, Zettaset.

Many people in the technology world mistakenly believe that Agile is something new, but it really isn’t.

Back in the 1940’s, Toyota adopted Agile manufacturing methodologies (specifically Kanban) to reduce waste and increase transparency across teams, and as a way to promptly address constantly changing customer needs.

Agile Marketing With Development

Using Agile innovation for software development may help accelerate and optimize completion of a product. But if marketing is not involved in the process, then developers simply run a higher risk of more quickly creating a product that is not a “must-have”.

With Agile, teams can more efficiently develop software that is released on-schedule and without bugs. However, if the product is not viewed as a necessity in the marketplace, then the outcome of the development process cannot be described as a success.

According to the Standish Group’s 2015 Chaos Report, only nine percent of software projects at large companies are successful and for every 100 projects started, 94 will have to be re-started at least once.

The primary reason for failure was a lack of customer input and involvement.

Too often, marketing is not a part of the Agile development conversation.

The resulting product development process can sometimes be described by the phrase, “Ready, fire, aim”, as the development team forges ahead without a clear understanding of market requirements.

For Agile to succeed… for the development team, marketing team, and the entire company…the process must include capturing, validating and clearly defining buyer requirements for the product before and during development.

That means including marketing in the process.

Agile marketing is an iterative and experimental approach to marketing that values adaptability and responsiveness to change over inflexible long-term planning, as well as two-way marketing interactions and collaboration among the various marketing disciplines. It builds on the agile methodology that has been widely adopted by software developers since the early 2000’s and has transformed how software products are created.

Agile Marketing Using Scrum

There are several Agile models that marketers can adopt to not only improve overall marketing efficiency, but can help them to be more in sync with the software development teams that can benefit from marketing collaboration.

The Agile marketing method I am most familiar with is Scrum, as it has been the preferred tool of most of the development and product management teams I have worked with. (Another popular Agile method is Kanban). Agile marketing can use Scrum to manage their work, just as Agile development teams use it to manage software development.

Within the context of Scrum, marketers break down tasks within a project into digestible portions that can be accomplished within timeframes between a day and a week long.

The goal is to clearly understand and communicate what needs to be completed, what the market driver is, and who is the recipient of the output.

Scrum revolves around a regular series of events, and has its own “Agile-speak”.

  • A scrum sprint is the period of time the team has to complete their current projects. This can be from two to four weeks, depending on the complexity of tasks. Sometimes it’s a good idea to break up complex products into multiple sprints, spaced two weeks apart. That way you have a regular opportunity to check on status and make adjustments as needed.
  • A stand-up meeting is a daily scrum event that includes a project’s entire agile marketing team. These meetings are brief and to the point, with each team member concisely describing yesterday’s accomplishments, what’s on deck today, and problems they may have encountered. It’s an opportunity to identify and address any roadblocks and clear the way for progress.
  • In a sprint planning scrum session, the agile marketing team meets with sales and executive management for an update on the latest sales and corporate priorities. This is the time to fine tune activities and make any necessary changes and additions to the marketing backlog. The team then prioritizes and accepts enough work from the backlog to fill the next sprint.
  • A scrum sprint review occurs when a sprint is completed. It’s where the marketing team reviews the results of their efforts with their peers, and is analogous to the sprint demo that software developers have at the end of their sprints. The sprint review is an opportunity for marketing to share what they have been doing with sales and executive management, and provides a forum for accountability.
  • The follow-up scrum sprint retrospective is an agile marketing only meeting, where the team can assess the sprint’s successes and failures, and make appropriate adjustments for the next sprint.

This chain of events is repeated throughout the life-cycle of an agile marketing project using scrum.

Agile innovation process should always begin with a true understanding of your market and buyer, and subsequently translating that into a meaningful set of product requirements.

The key to product success is not limited to integrating product development processes, like planning, coding, testing and QA. It must also include ongoing collaboration with marketing with an ear to the voice of the customer.

What are your thoughts? We’d love to hear from you.

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