Agile is a project management approach that originated with product developers, but can be adapted and applied to support demand creation
For decades, organizations have experimented with empowering small teams, freed of bureaucratic restraints and inflexible processes, to accelerate strategic initiatives and innovations. For example, the concept of an independent “skunkworks” team (whose name was inspired by the dilapidated Skonk Works factory located on the edge of Dogpatch in the Li’l Abner comic strip) was invented at Lockheed Aircraft Corp. during World War II to accelerate the development of a jet fighter plane.
More recently, agile project management has become prominent as a method for harnessing the energy and innovation of small teams. Although agile approaches began as an alternative to traditional methods of software development, they can be applied to other business processes, including marketing. In this issue of SiriusPerspectives, we introduce agile principles for marketers, describe the mechanics of agile teams, and outline four approaches for deploying these teams to incubate and accelerate demand creation efforts.
Agile practices reflect a set of principles to define and prioritize work, empower teams, foster greater communication and collaboration, and ultimately accelerate productivity and innovation.
Applying agile practices to demand creation starts with setting clear goals for what the team has been formed to do. Here are four possibilities to consider:
Compared to developers, marketers are at a disadvantage applying agile to their work. Marketing teams are more distributed, their work more varied, and not all marketing activities can be easily constrained to the near-term time-box of a sprint. These disadvantages, however, do not diminish the potential for greater productivity and innovation when leadership sets clear goals and objectives, and scrum teams have the time, space and discretion for iterative experimentation. Deliverables from one sprint will often spawn new projects and user stories for subsequent sprints. Start small, using one or more of the approaches outlined above, to pilot an agile marketing approach. Invest in training for scrum teams, and select team members with the appropriate skills and expertise, as well as a mindset that places the needs of the team ahead of personal interests. When initial scrum teams are successful, extend the agile approach more broadly across marketing functions, not just demand creation.