Scaled Agile Marketing using SAFe — The Essentials

Yuval Yeret
Jul 27, 2017 · 6 min read

Focusing on SAFe™

In the previous article in the Scaled Agile Marketing series I provided an overview of how Scaled Agile Marketing looks like. This time around I want to provide some more details on one of the approaches I mentioned for implementing Scaled Agile Marketing — the Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe™).

Let’s make sure we cover the SAFe Essentials

Essential Scaled Agile Framework 4.5 Teaser - We will apply to Agile Marketing next...
Essential Scaled Agile Framework 4.5 Teaser - We will apply to Agile Marketing next...
  • #2 Real Agile Teams And Trains (In the “The Agile Marketing Team of Teams” section)
  • #3 Cadence and Synchronization
  • #4 PI Planning (covered in the “The Agile Marketing Team of Teams” section as well)
  • #7 Inspect and Adapt (Learn at the System Level)
  • #10 Lean Agile Leadership
  • #6 — System Demo
  • #8 — IP Iteration
  • #9 — Architectural Runway

#5 — DevOps and Releasability -> MarOps and Releasability

This is an essential that requires slight tweaking for a Marketing context: SAFe Agile Marketing organizations aim to break down silos between marketers and marketing technology (MarTech) and operations. Each Agile Marketing Train should be able to continuously run marketing experiments or deliver new marketing plays/campaigns to the live customer/buyer journey. Over time, the separation between marketing and marketing tech/ops is significantly reduced and marketing trains operate with an automated continuous delivery pipeline that includes easy instrumentation and measurement to enable continuous experimentation and validation of hypothesis.

#6 — System Demo

When we defined Agile Marketing we talked about some of the key things we value — “Validated Learning”, “Customer Discovery”, “Adaptive Campaigns” among others. One value that isn’t explicitly mentioned in the Agile Marketing manifesto but is implicitly required to achieve these is “Working Marketing” meaning objective observation of working marketing deliverables rather than lengthy comprehensive documentation/designs/plans. I used to tell agile development teams that unless they’re the Microsoft PowerPoint development team their demos shouldn’t be running PowerPoint. In a marketing context I cannot say that anymore because sometimes a PowerPoint deck IS the marketing deliverable but you get my drift.

#8 — IP Iteration

The Innovation and Planning iteration occurs every Program Increment (8–12 weeks typically). Since we don’t plan specific content for the IP iteration it can act as an estimating buffer for to help meet your PI objectives. In addition it and provides dedicated time for innovation, continuing education, PI planning and Inspect and Adapt events.

#9 — Architectural Runway

In product development, Architectural Runway refers to side work that needs to happen to support in order to support fast and clean implementation of high priority near-term features. In a marketing context it refers to marketing technology/infrastructure that needs to be in place to support upcoming high priority marketing plays/campaigns/activities (think for example a lead nurturing solution in case we plan to do lead nurturing in the next PI), exploration/research, and maybe some key architectural components like a page template or a slide deck template or brand guidelines that reduce the amount of effort when getting to work on actual marketing plays.

Essential SAFe works pretty well for a Marketing context, with some limitations

As you can see applying the 10 essential SAFe elements to a marketing context isn’t too hard. There are some modifications but at this high level the mapping works. This doesn’t mean that Agile Development is Agile Marketing. What it does mean though is that once you have a good team-level agile marketing process/structure, there’s good applicable guidance for how to scale it. This is exactly what we’ve seen in CA Technologies when we applied SAFe to a marketing context. Our main challenge was and is changing leadership mindset especially around decentralized control and organizing around customer focus and de-emphasizing the marketing specialties/silos as well as driving a real learning/experimentation mindset and process at at all levels.

There’s one thing I would always add to Essential SAFe

Yes, I know, the thinking is to keep it to bare essentials, and 10 elements is better than 11, but there’s one key concept and practice that is part of SAFe, is portrayed in the Essential SAFe big picture above, but isn’t mentioned as a key element here. It is also one of my favorite focus areas. Enough clues for now. I’ll let you try to figure that one out until the next article which will focus on this topic…


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    Yuval Yeret

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    Agile | Agile Marketing | Coach/Consultant/Trainer | SAFe SPCT | Sparking and Sustaining Transformational Change | Partner & CTO @ AgileSparks


    Agile Stories from AgileSparks