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How to do Successful Agile Project Management for Marketing

22 Apr 2019

Changing consumer behavior, new technology and market trends are reshaping pretty much every marketplace at an ever greater pace. Marketers that are unable to adapt to these changes won't be able to remain relevant or competitive unless they are willing to try something new. But, is Agile project management the answer and can it help marketers deliver in such a dynamic environment?

Let’s find out if agile project management for marketing is the right way to go.

A shift towards Agile

The modern digital marketing environment is as dynamic as ever. Emerging technologies, market trends and an ever-increasing influx of information have forced marketers to adapt and to adapt quickly. Consumer interest can and does change often, sometimes practically overnight based on the latest trends.

This means that marketers must stay ahead of the trends, in order to accurately predict changes in consumer behavior, as well as to have enough time to adjust their marketing campaigns and overall efforts. That way, they can ensure that their messages resonate well with their target audience and that their marketing strategies yield results.

However, keeping up the tempo is becoming increasingly difficult for marketers.

Concepts such as big data analysis can provide proper information for the future but it's a costly and time-consuming effort.

Agile, on the other hand, does not require a massive investment upfront and mostly relies on modifying the way in which marketing teams work. Of course, while this sounds easy on paper, it usually is not.

Putting the team together

Agile focuses on small teams which work autonomously to deliver work of the highest possible value. There is absolutely no reason why this couldn’t be applied to marketing teams.

agile marketing team

The two characteristics that define agile teams are their cross-functionality and the self-organized nature of those teams. Their cross-functionality means that the marketing team should be able to do the majority of their work on their own, without the need for external experts. For instance, this will mean that an Agile marketing team should have a designer as a part of it so that the team does not have to go outside for marketing visuals. Of course, this is not always possible in reality and, sometimes, agile marketing teams will still need to invite outside help.

The self-organized part of the teams’ designation means that agile marketing teams should be left to self-organized in the best way they see fit in order to deliver great work and bring value to the company or clients. In other words, agile project management in marketing entails giving more power to teams themselves, teams that adopt more responsibility and ownership of their product (successful marketing).

An essential part of building an agile marketing team and something that should never be circumvented is getting the buy-in from the team. Pushing agile onto teams is the biggest mistake you can make and it will fail 100%. An agile marketing team needs to be agile willingly, after quite a bit of research and discussion.

Leveraging Scrum and Kanban

Scrum and Kanban are the two most popular agile approaches and they are also the most commonly adopted ones in the marketing field.

Scrum focuses on an iterative approach that uses Sprints in order to discover what works best for the team and how it can improve, while Kanban focuses on the visual representation of the work and improving the workflow in a more evolutionary way.

Scrum is generally considered the more structured approach with events, artifacts and roles that are well-defined and work together towards highlighting the issues and the ways in which the team delivers value.

We wrote about using Scrum for content marketing for the Content Marketing Institute blog and you can check out this article if you want a more detailed overview.

On the other hand, Kanban is used to visually represent the work that needs to be done and it is used to gradually improve the way the team works. While Kanban prescribes fewer elements than Scrum, there are still a few concepts entailed that you need to know about and know how to approach in order to get results:

  • Visualizing the workflow.
  • Limiting the Work-in-Progress.
  • Measuring and managing the Flow.
  • Making process policies explicit.
  • Using models to recognize opportunities for improvement.

It should be pointed out that you will probably want to have a discussion about which of the approaches would better suit your team. Also, keep in mind that you are not making a decision that you will need to stick with for years to come. After all, Agile is about trying out new things, analyzing how they worked for your team and then adapting to them.

Which brings us to the next part of our article.

Test and improve

As mentioned before, the digital marketing landscape is very dynamic and prone to quick changes. This is where the underlying ideas behind Agile come to focus. In fact, the Scrum Guide even points out those - transparency, inspection and adaptation.

In other words, with Scrum (and most other Agile approaches), the way in which teams work become far more transparent than with the more traditional ways of doing things. In fact, it goes as far as some people actually pointing this out as the main selling point of Scrum - it will shed light on the problems your teams have (both obvious and obscure ones). Transparency is encouraged both as an underlying concept but also through events, roles and artifacts that illuminate the work that is done and the effectiveness of the decisions that are made.

Thanks to this high level of transparency, an agile marketing team will also be able to inspect honestly how they operate as a team and how well they deliver value to the company and/or the clients. Nothing is pushed under the rug and everything is discussed.

The adaptation aspect of Agile is something that all marketing teams can get behind. This goes beyond just inspecting and adapting the work that the team has been doing and it extends to adapting to marketplace changes and additional new information.

think twice if agile project managemet is for marketing

A few final considerations

While agile project management for marketing can bring about great results, it is not something you have to adopt at any cost. Many marketing teams do not have the resources or even the need for going agile and this can only bring an added layer of confusion and stress. This is especially true for massive organizations where an Agile transformation is being undertaken for all the wrong reasons.

Read about it, research some more, talk to marketers who already work in agile teams. Check out some scrum software for free and see if it makes sense for you. 

Give it a go and don’t be afraid to make changes or give up altogether.