Is ‘agile’, when applied to Marketing, a better way to work? As the leader of product marketing for CA Technologies, I am always looking for a better way to do marketing — to be faster to market; iterate rapidly; have more business impact; and have a more engaged and satisfied team.
My first experience with agile was when I was part of a BU (business unit) that was all in on agile, across all functions. I had taken a Leading SAFe (Scaled Agile Framework) course and started applying a few of the principles to marketing, but I knew we weren’t really agile. Despite realizing the big differences between small, co-located app development teams, laser-focused on a well-defined deliverable, and a large, spread out marketing staff, conditioned to long duration initiatives, in my new role I decided to give Agile Marketing another shot. Has it been a straight shot? The short answer is no, but we’ve learned a great deal and I’m gratified to say we’ve achieved a level of success.
Where are we now?
We’ve been on our Agile Marketing journey for over two years, applying agile principles and methodologies to our cross-functional marketing teams — at scale.
Along the way we’ve run many experiments, not all intentional, and learned from every one of them. We’ve had our share of ups and downs — our own “hype cycle” — building up our expectations only to enter a period of disillusionment before eventually leveling on a road of productivity. It’s all been worth it.
Today we have six BU-aligned Delivery Groups, each consisting of all the marketers that actively support the business activities of that BU. Within each there are several persistent and temporal or initiative-based teams. Our agile marketing reach is now over 100 people within CA, approximately 60 of whom are practicing everyday as part of our core agile delivery teams. The others are engaged leaders, specialists such as communications, data scientists, and regional marketers who support the core teams when and where needed, as well as active stakeholders such as digital sales who meet with our teams regularly to provide critical guidance and feedback on the work.
How did we get here?
We started small, with a reasonably co-located marketing team for a single product line, CA Agile Central. When we acquired Rally Software in 2015, a leading provider of agile development software and services, we inherited a marketing team that was two quarters into their own agile journey. I was part of the acquisition and integration teams and closely watched how their marketing team worked. While it looked like a promising way to work, it couldn’t apply to us, could it?
Step two, we expanded to a full marketing Delivery Group supporting Agile Management, a multi-product BU. This presented three challenges:
- more marketers with widely divergent levels of agile experience — including none,
- more products at different stages of the development life cycle,
- and fewer co-located people.
In step three we added seven persistent cross-functional campaign teams, supporting five more BUs and in step four we added the remainder of the marketers in Delivery Groups supporting those five BUs.
Four steps over two plus years gave us plenty of opportunity to learn.
Are we there yet?
No, this is a journey, not a destination, but we are always learning.
We learned that marketing and app development teams really are different. Marketing needs more vision and context to develop solid messaging and campaigns. The nature of the marketing work is harder to deliver in two week sprints. The terminology is different and marketers in a large company tend not to be co-located, even within a product line.
What we also discovered is that those differences can be managed and our teams quickly grew to love it, but departmental managers had a harder adjustment. They couldn’t just add work to an employee of ‘theirs’ who is part of an agile team intent on completion of a well-defined shared deliverable. They had to relinquish control and shift gears from directing to coaching.
The bottom line, though, has been positive. While we can’t attribute all the benefits below to Agile Marketing, the transformation was part of the process that resulted in:
- 20% improvement in pipeline (with flat budgets)
- Campaign delivery times of 2 weeks vs. previous, siloed approach of 1–2 months
- Tripling of the win rate of marketing sourced opportunities
Agile Marketing has proven to be a better way. We are faster to market, have more business impact and our team members are more engaged and satisfied in their jobs.
Along the way there were three pivotal moments that convinced me we were heading in the right direction for us. I’ll take a deep dive into these defining moments in my next few blogs. In the meantime, feel free to share your feedback or questions with me on Twitter: @CWvanOrman.