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5 Kanban Implementation Tips for Marketing Teams

10 Dec 2019

It's no secret that Agile approaches and practices can be used and implemented in, not just software development, but other processes as well. 

Kanban, in particular, can be a great asset to marketing teams. By following the basic principles of Kanban, marketing teams can achieve so much more. 

We’ve already covered agile marketing and today, we have a few Kanban implementations tips for marketing teams for you.

The modern marketing plan

Many marketers are adopting the Agile approach when it comes to not just planning their marketing efforts but also for developing campaigns, strategies and tactics. The main reason is that the market today has become more crowded and more competitive than ever. 

What's more, the growing uncertainty and sudden changes, as well as shifts in the market are enough to give even the most experience of marketer time for a pause. That said, Agile is adaptive to such changes and it works well in dynamic environments. 

The ideas of visualizing the work, as well as limiting the work itself in order to do more are quite appealing to marketing teams, making Kanban one of the most common choices.  

1. Visualize the workflow with a Kanban board

The essence of the Kanban framework is the visualization of work. This is achieved by creating a Kanban board that will represent the workflow as what needs to be done, what's currently worked on and what's completed. 

Now, even a simple marketing campaign consists of many strategies and tactics. In other words, there are a lot of things to be done and a lot of tasks that demand attention. Therefore, when creating a Kanban board, try to determine how many columns are necessary to truly visualize the workflow and improve transparency for the teams. 

Normally, a Kanban board has three essential columns: to-do, work in progress and completed. You can always add more to suit your way of work. 

Note that a Kanban board is designed to portray the reality of things and not an ideal or official process of completing work.  You can also expect to spend more than a few days figuring out the best way to visualize your process. But that’s also part of the process. 

2. Prioritize backlog items

Marketing teams usually pull information from other departments, in order to create an ideal marketing campaign. They need information from sales, customer relations, executives, finances and other departments. 

Each of these departments is a backlog of its own. Of course, marketing teams create their own backlog by pulling information from all the sources to create the project. 

Prioritization is, therefore, vital for the success of the project. The teams can prioritize items and create a Kanban card for every working task. Each card is a form of a deliverable that will provide business value when it reaches the done or completed column. 

3. Limit the work in progress (WIP)

Now we come to the core of the Kanban process, which is limiting the WIP. As mentioned before, this paradox allows any team to accomplish more by limiting the work they do at any given time. The fact of the matter is that no one can multitask. 

In reality, we're just task switching. Therefore, when we limit the WIP and avoid multitasking, we're actually saving a lot of time. That said, the marketing team should decide how many tasks they can work on at a given time. Once that number is determined it should not be altered anymore. So, if the number of tasks is set to be 8, you can't have 10 tasks in the WIP column. 

Only when the number of tasks falls below the specified number can you pull more work. This enables a constant workflow where teams can focus on completing a task at hand before moving to the next one. Whether you're developing content, creating a social media approach or an email newsletter, it's imperative that the marketing team doesn't get overwhelmed with work. 

4. Measure and Manage the flow

When the real work begins, it's up to the marketing teams to decide the best way forward. The fact of the matter is that Kanban doesn't dictate a specific way to manage work nor does it define any roles. What it does is encourage people to think for themselves. 

Therefore how you measure and manage the flow is entirely up to you. If you want to use meetings and daily stand-ups to discuss what to do, then you're free to do so. 

Such meetings can be extremely useful as they help identify bottlenecks, potential improvement opportunities and so on. What's more, you can add the additional sub-columns to help categorize the flow further and measure the outcome. The purpose of it all is, of course, continuous improvement of the entire process.

5. Recognize the improvement opportunities

Continuous improvement of the entire process is pretty much the purpose of the Kanban framework. For marketing teams, this can mean any number of things but in essence, it comes down to identifying opportunities that will make you more productive and ultimately more successful. As an example, here are a few practices that will help you improve.

  • Define - Identify a problem.
  • Measure - Gather data about the current process and the problem that needs to be solved.
  • Analyze - Determine the cause of the problem.
  • Improve - Apply solutions and improve the process by eliminating the cause of the problem.
  • Control - Monitor the process after the solution and validate the results. 

As for the team functionality itself, there are practices that will help improve the overall environment.

  • Make the Kanban board visible to all.
  • Simplify and minimize tasks through meetings.
  • Decentralize and accelerate.
  • Optimize the team's communication.
  • Make continuous improvement your top priority.

Closing word

You are not the only one who has considered implementing Kanban in your marketing team's practices. Others have done something similar before you and there are already some formalized approaches to doing this, like for example STATIK Kanban. It might be a good idea to check out these too.