Agile Marketing and the role of the PMO
Most PMOs I meet with nowadays seem to be working with teams using Agile frameworks to deliver rapidly. But the focus always seems to be on software. There are not many PMO teams focused on supporting the rise of Agile Marketing. This may not be surprising. The uptake of Agile in the Software Industry has grown steadily since Scrum was created back in 1990. Agile organizations complete more of their strategic initiatives than less Agile organizations [source]. And Agile organizations reportedly grow revenue 37% faster and generate 30% higher profits than non-agile companies [source]. But if Agile is so good, there is an obvious question that needs asking:
If Agile is so good, why do we constrain it to software projects?
When we talk about Agile, we tend to think about software projects. Indeed, the oft-referenced Agile Manifesto is not actually a manifesto for all Agilists. Its full and correct title is “The Manifesto for Agile Software Development.”
In this year’s State of Agile report, 70% of those who contributed to the report survey that that they believed agile positively impacted their ability to manage changing priorities. Other benefits cited included faster time to market, improved team productivity and improved predictability. Surely we should be sharing these benefits with other areas of the business?
Strategic and Enterprise PMOs are well-positioned to help other areas of the business embrace Agile working. As well as providing training and coaching in Agile techniques, the PMO can help in other ways. For example, it can help other parts of the business avoid mistakes and pitfalls that may have uncovered whilst using Agile within IT. Many PMOs are reluctant to start encouraging other areas to adopt Agile, fearing resistance or outright refusal.
In reality, nothing could be further from the truth. As businesses face the increasing challenges of keeping pace with a faster-moving world, they are looking for new ways of working, just as software engineers were towards the end of the last century. And in the same way that software tool the principles of Agile from the manufacturing industry, now the rest of the business is looking to adopt the principles from our software teams.
I explored this topic at PMI’s PMO Symposium in 2016. You can view the deck here:
The reasons to adopt agile approaches are clear, and I am not going to dwell on them. So in this particular article, though, I am focused on one particular area of the business that is starting to recognize the advantages an agile approach can have in a fast-moving world. Welcome to the world of Agile Marketing!
Marketing and Agile are a match made in heaven. And many teams are already adopting agile marketing. The rise of social media has changed the landscape for marketers. Marketing departments are scrambling to find ways of working that allow them to be fast (yet predictable), transparent (yet adaptable). Agile Marketers have even gone to the effort of creating their own Marketing Manifesto, declaring that they value:
Validated learning over opinions and conventions
Customer-focused collaboration over silos and hierarchy
Adaptive and Iterative campaigns over Big-Bang campaigns
The process of customer discovery over static prediction
Flexible vs Rigid planning
Responding to change over following a plan
Many small experiments over a few large bets.
Historically, marketing followed a traditional funnel model. There would be time to analyze data and plan out awareness campaigns. Time would be spent crafting engagements, and schemes would be put in place to ensure customers stayed loyal. In this digital age, the traditional approach is less useful. Potential customers come from all angles, and fewer enter the funnel at the top than we would care to acknowledge. Elements such as exposure and the customer relationship come to the foreground like never before.
Marketing teams need to be able to respond rapidly
Now, more than ever, Agile marketing teams need to be able to respond rapidly to the outside environment and change direction at the drop of a hat. If they cannot respond quickly, they can miss valuable opportunities to gain exposure and build brand loyalty. Consider this example from Oreo back in 2013: During the third quarter of Super Bowl XLVII, there was a power cut that lasted for over half an hour. Moments later, Oreo responded with a tweet that rapidly went viral. Whilst others were paying eye-watering fees to advertise during the Superbowl; Oreo got incredible exposure for free.
How did they achieve it? According to Sarah Hofstetter, President of the Agency behind the tweet (i360), they achieved it by having a colocated team from the agency and Oreo working together. In this article, Hofstetter notes that having the executives in the room was key as it allowed them to pull the trigger rapidly and get the image on to social media fast enough to capture the moment.
The site AgileMarketing.net advocates using scrum within Marketing teams. By forming empowered scrum teams who can make decisions and reprioritize the backlog to deal with changing situations, Marketing teams can ensure the work that would fit in the traditional marketing funnel still gets done while responding rapidly to change.
How Marketing teams are adopting Kanban
Kanban has its origins in the automotive industry, yet elements such as Kanban boards and control charts have been adapted to fit the needs of agile IT teams. Now agile marketing teams are adopting Kanban to give them a competitive advantage. One of the big advantages of using Kanban to manage work is that it focuses on delivering – on finishing work rather than starting it. It also promotes team collaboration, as tools such as Work in Progress limits (WIP) drive positive behaviors such as swarming to remove blockers and continuously improving through feedback loops.
Start adopting Agile Marketing today
Agile is an adaptive and iterative process, which means there is no need to rethink everything in one go. Marketing requires different skills to IT, but the principles applied on agile projects are universal. The first step is to review agile practices that are used elsewhere in the organization. Ask yourself: What skills do we have in-house? What can we learn from other areas of the business? Simple yet powerful steps such as introducing daily scrum or ‘standup’ meetings to creative teams can have an immediate benefit of helping teams adapt to changes in the market. If you have them – consider ‘borrowing’ a scrum master from your development team to act as a coach. Their insight and experience will help the team get started with agile marketing and adopt agile practices.
Retrospectives are another ‘must have’ as they create essential feedback loops for the team and encourage teams to focus on iteratively improving ways of working. Encourage the team to meet on a regular cadence to review how they are working as a team and where they can refine and improve the way they work.
Building Kanban boards are a powerful way of increasing transparency and making processes more efficient. This is especially true with cross-functional teams. Kanban boards make the handoffs explicit and allow marketing leaders to see what is being worked on and when campaigns are likely to go live.
Why does the PMO have a role to play in Agile Marketing?
In most large organizations, the PMO is uniquely positioned to connect different business areas across the traditional department of functional lines. The PMO has the ability to join the dots between the needs of the marketing team and the agile experience from software development.
One of the concerns that PMO teams often have is that they won’t be listened to by other business areas. “Why would a marketing executive listen to me?” is a common question. Rather than answering that directly, I’d like to share this quote from David Quinn, Senior Director of Corporate Marketing at EMC. Because while I could point out to you that your experience and expertise is exactly what modern marketing teams need, I think the message comes across much louder and clearer when an actual Marketeer delivers it:
“ I feel a lot of us marketers tend to focus too much on the ‘small’ world of just our department, our company, our Management, our strategy and our (internal) customers. In the current connected economy everything influences everything else, so we must accept the outside so that we know how to function ‘on the inside’. That is actually the very first step to becoming an agile organization”
Want to learn more about Agile Marketing? Why not try our free agile short course, ‘Agile Ceremonies Explained’? It provides an introduction to agile and shows you how to get the most out of daily standups, retrospectives, and other agile meetings.