There’s a scene playing out in lots of offices right now. Product management and product development have declared they are “going agile.” Marketing’s reaction is usually confusion (“What does this mean for us?"), though sometimes it can be intentional ignorance (“Won’t impact us, don’t worry about it”) or even active resistance (“It’s probably going to be bad for us, so let’s put a stop to it”).
The reaction depends particularly on how the organization has implemented or is planning on implementing agile and whether the rollout impacts marketing processes. (Note that we’re talking here about using agile product development approaches, not about “agile marketing,” a related concept that involves applying principles of agile to marketing activities themselves. We’ll cover that in a future blog post.) Agile is usually focused on product delivery, so marketing is more of an interested bystander than an active participant, often eliciting comments like:
These complaints are legitimate – unfortunately, they’re caused not by agile, but by agile done poorly. If you’re in this situation, treat the underlying cause, not the symptoms. Implementing agile doesn’t mean that all other good product management practices go out the window. There still needs to be an overall innovation and product management process. Remember, as I stated in another blog post, Agile Is Not a Product Management Framework. Concepts that help align product management with product marketing – like personas, roadmaps and release planning – are still very relevant in agile and necessary for marketing to be effective.
Assuming you do have a solid innovation and product management process in place, how should marketers react to the move to agile? First, realize that while some things change with agile, many things stay the same:
Next, realize that your planning horizons will change, requiring some details and decisions to be deferred until later on in your process. Here are a few tips:
Many of our clients use variations of agile to develop products. We help their product management teams apply agile appropriately to help their marketing teams understand and adapt to the switch. If you’re interested in learning more, contact us.
Jeff Lash is Vice President and Group Director of Go-to-Market at SiriusDecisions, where he leads the Product Management and Portfolio Marketing Research and Advisory Services. A recognized thought leader in product management, he has over 15 years of experience in product management, product development, product marketing, and user experience design. Follow Jeff on Twitter at @jefflash.