In my earlier post, Helping marketers keep up, I discussed the need for marketers to embrace Agile. Agile enables marketers to deliver far greater value and results. We can increase the output of our teams, while creating motivating and purpose-led environments.
Sounds great, but how do you actually get started on the Agile Marketer journey? Here’s some practical advice to get you going:
1. Clarify why you’re changing
Adopting Agile takes time and commitment. It won’t always be easy. It’s not as simple as attending a conference or downloading new software. I’d advise you read as much as you can before embarking.
After you’ve familiarised yourself with Agile, stop and take a moment to think – why do I want to become an Agile Marketer? This knowledge will give you a measurement benchmark. It will provide context for the ways you implement Agile. It will confirm if it’s making things better or worse. And most importantly, it will reinforce the need for change when you meet scepticism or resistance.
Great marketers are constantly improving, looking for ways to get faster, better and smarter.
Here’s a few reasons you might be considering Agile marketing:
- Your market is moving faster and faster. You need to stay ahead of your competitors and keep up with customer demand.
- Your work is increasingly digital or software based. You need to run projects differently to account for changing needs throughout.
- You used to release 3 or 4 big campaigns a year. Now you’re releasing content continuously.
- Your yearly marketing plan is out of date before it’s finished being written.
- Your team is overworked and turnover is high. No matter the hours you put in you can’t get everything important done.
- You need to show transparent ROI for marketing investment. Marketing is seen as a cost centre internally.
- Your development team is getting out more releases, faster and seem happier. You want some of their kool-aid!
Do any of these resonate?
2. Find a coach
Agile is hard. It’s not the practices around Agile that are hard. It doesn’t take long to learn what a backlog, product owner or Scrum is. What is hard is learning the mindset. Or more accurately, unlearning your previous habits!
A lot of Agile principles go against traditional marketing practices. You’ll constantly be fighting the temptation to revert to your old ways. Holding back too long before releasing work. Tackling big projects rather then breaking down into smaller ones. Holding the vision at management level rather than empowering teams. Making assumptions without real feedback.
A mentor who is experienced in Agile can hold you accountable and point out when you’re drifting off track. They can also give advice on Agile methods such as will Scrum or Kanban suit your team better.
3. Recruit your support crew
Agile is a team approach, you simply can’t “do” Agile in isolation. For the best chance of success surround yourself with believers first. They’ll keep trying even if things go off the rails for a bit. You’ll likely experience teething issues and you’ll want positive supporters not haters ready to pull you down.
Once you’ve identified who wants to come along for the ride then get them excited for the change. Find someone who has experienced success in Agile. Invite them to come speak to your team to explain the good, the bad and the ugly. Start with a realistic view on the process. Adopting a new way of working requires adjustment and can be jarring at first. If it’s a marketer, that’s great, but developers or project managers will also be able to share the most important elements of Agile such as iterative work, creating customer feedback loops and empowering the team.
4. Start small
My mother always says “the first step of chicken soup is catching your chicken”. The same applies for change management, take one step at a time. The best way to change the world is to change one person at a time. Start small with a project that you can use to experiment with Agile. Build from there. Use the successes of each to grow confidence in your team and spread Agile further in your organisation. Create a ripple effect that causes others to want to become Agile too.
The ideal first project would be a digital one involving developers, designers or Scrum Masters from existing Agile teams. If that’s not possible look for projects with these characteristics:
- There’s a clear goal you’re working towards (maybe an event or product release)
- There’s some level of uncertainty, you don’t know everything upfront and will value learning as you go. This might be because you’re trying a new software or you’re unsure how customers will respond yet.
- There’s a dedicated team responsible for the success of this project – you won’t get stuck waiting on other teams and lose momentum
- There’s strategic business reason this project needs to succeed (i.e people care that this goes well). It might be tempting to start with a no-risk project but that’s not going to win supporters. In Agile you’d be questioning why that project was on top of the backlog at all!
Ideally it spans over 4-6 weeks, this allows 2-3 “sprints” or periods of work. After each sprint you have a review (retros) to discuss how to improve as a team. Team improvement is an important aspect of Agile.
The true learning begins when you get started applying Agile to real life. Have fun! It’s a rewarding experience that will change the way you look at marketing.
If you’re ready to get started as an Agile marketer, check out our Agile Mojo Booster - with some great advice on how to become a product owner and lead an Agile team.