The Crucial Role of Process in Agile Marketing
Our Agile for Marketing Operating System™
An important part of the Agile for Marketing Operating System™ is the process that allows teams to effectively deliver against objectives through iterative learning cycles. As marketers and organizations are continually asked to do more with less — and to do it faster — new processes are often sought to achieve heightened objectives. It makes sense. By definition, a process is a series of actions or steps taken in order to achieve a particular end. The problem with traditional marketing processes is that they assume either that one step will neatly follow another, or that circumstances won’t change on the way to a long-term annual goal. Internal and external forces can easily break this type of rigid process. Agile, by contrast, is a more flexible process that enables organizations to adjust to new circumstances or to improve based on frequent measurement.
The Agile for Marketing Operating System is not a one-process-fits-all solution. Part of the approach to agile is finding the right system for your particular team. Some teams choose a strict scrum process, others use Kanban, while others adapt their own approach. Some teams are built around a campaign, other around a product or function. The processes that enable effective Agile teams can be as unique as the team or organization. They are intended to be highly customizable. To understand how to identify and implement the right process for your organization, consider the following:
The ability to create alignment with and garner the support of key stakeholders in your organization will directly impact your success with Agile. You must be deliberate and purposeful in how you engage this group.
First, identify stakeholders and understand their level of involvement. How much input do they need to have? How much influence do they have on marketing activities and priorities? Stakeholders that play a significant role with agile marketing teams are often found across functional groups including, but not limited to, Product, Sales, Legal, etc.
Second, understand where the points of integration are with those stakeholders and determine when and how they need to be folded into the process. We’ve worked with clients who have incorporated members from distribution or channel marketing into their agile teams to ensure alignment in how they go to market. Others have set up sync-up meetings to ensure stakeholder input into the backlog. Consider the role each stakeholder will have and whether they may need a regular check-in to ensure that you are all in alignment.
Third, give thought to building the right level of transparency and integration with stakeholders into your processes. Is inviting them to sprint review meeting sufficient or do you need them involved in other planning activities? Striking the right balance of transparency and integration will ensure that all parties are aligned on priorities, and that expectations are clear.
Work Process Design
Designing effective work processes for your Agile teams comes down to:
- Defining how agile will work within the budgeting and planning cycles sometimes mandated at the corporate level. Agile is built for flexibility, but many corporate processes are not. We have seen clients who do quarterly planning sessions with budget reconciliations and forecasts; whereas others who want more fluidity can revisit marketing plans and priorities monthly.
- Understanding where and how the various teams need to integrate to achieve successful outcomes (customer value and company value). Similar to understanding the points of intersection for stakeholders, it’s important to understand where those points are for your teams. Then, you can design workflows that streamline the process instead of creating roadblocks or burdensome approval paths.
- Determining how you, as marketing leadership, can get a big picture across teams for how you are progressing against your macro marketing KPIs.
Points of intersection across teams typically present as dependencies. One example of this is a shared services team (e.g. graphic design). Designers typically support more than one agile team so they need visibility into the work of each team in order to prioritize. Another example is the agency relationship. In a traditional model, the agency relationship might be owned by one team and all of the work would be funneled through them. In an agile environment, each team might have its own direct contact with the agency, so a set of standards and communications will need to be set for healthy agency engagement.
Tools & Technology
What is the process by which your teams will share information, collaborate, and track progress? All too often, teams become enamored with the latest and greatest tool only to find, after a significant investment, that it doesn’t meet their needs. Perhaps the workflow design wasn’t fully understood and therefore it wasn’t implemented properly; or it’s too sophisticated and user adoption is low. Regardless of the reason, a tool that doesn’t meet the team’s needs is often worse than having no tool at all.
Nearly all of the “agile” tools available today are built for the complexity of software development. They can be used, but were not designed for the basic needs of a marketing organization, which is to easily track progress and share information. Some of the most successful agile teams simply use post it notes on a wall or a dry erase board to capture activities that are in progress. Others use more sophisticated, web-based agile tools and adapt them to marketing as well as they can. The key to success here is to focus on simplicity. Choose the methods and tools that work best for your team so you garner higher participation.
To accelerate agility within your organization, you must infuse your operations with processes that are structured enough to be streamlined and flexible enough to adapt to change. It’s a fine balance. The right process, which primarily refers to the way teams work together, will support getting the right team doing the right work at the right time. In other words, the right process will foster agility.
Continue reading our content series:
Part 3 of 6: Agile Marketing Success Depends On The Right People
Part 4 of 5: Create An Agile Culture To Foster Change