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Adopting Agile Marketing Techniques [Interview]: Sprint Planning, Retrospective, SCRUM

Adopting Agile Marketing Techniques [Interview]: Sprint Planning, Retrospective, SCRUM

Whether you’re trying to launch a new product or roll out a website, there’s little time to search through emails or schedule meetings to catch up on the status of projects and deliverables. The demand for better technology is no longer a nice-to-have, but a must-have in today’s increasingly connected world. Many marketing organizations are embracing agile marketing methods like sprint planning, retrospective, and SCRUM, along with the right technology solution.

In this post, I interview the Marketing Director of a leading software company, who shares the story about how their marketing organization made the shift from using a ticket system that provided little visibility into work and resources to using an agile marketing approach. We’ll discuss some of the challenges the team faced, and the steps taken to improve overall project delivery and communication. Let’s get started.

Where was your marketing organization before agile adoption?

“Marketing had two primary teams, Demand Generation and Web and Creative Services. We used a traditional ticket system to accept work requests from the Demand Generation team, corporate marketing, and other cross departmental teams including, sales and product management. These tickets had the standard details like due dates and other fields to help us sort the list. Typically, we would have 120-150 ticket requests—all in one long list. It was difficult to see and set priorities, much less understand any individual team member’s full work load. Tickets would get lost as they moved from assignee to assignee or from status to status. The original requester often found it hard to track all they had requested. No one could see the full view of work that was being requested. Simply working off due dates for 100 cards made it appear that everything should be rushed as a priority.”

“Tickets would all come into one central manager, who would firm up details and then assign tasks to team members. All communications were done through emails. The other issue was that there were multiple styles for project documentation and planning across the team with little consistency in processes. We knew something had to change.”

What methods were you looking to use to improve processes?

“We looked at creating a set of templates and standards to use for documenting projects and campaigns. We thought that if we had a consistent process, it would make us more efficient. We created SharePoint forms and shared network drives for documents. We tried to use MS Project and SharePoint calendars to help with visibility. Using the more traditional waterfall method of planning, we created massive project plans only to fall back to spreadsheets and tickets. Checklists and white boards became the visual of what items were needed for a project.”

Why did you choose an agile marketing approach? What were some of the features that attracted you to it?

Agile marketing allowed us to break projects up into smaller time segments so we could plan for what was coming and set priorities accordingly. It also gave us the ability to do projects in phases. This meant we could get things out, see how they worked, and make changes or edits very quickly. By using Kanban boards, we gained visibility into what was needed over the next two-week sprint. Then, we could focus on the tasks at hand. Finally, being able to see progress across status columns for the whole team gave us the department-wide visibility we needed to do our jobs more efficiently.”

How did you get started with the transition/change management of agile marketing?

From a change management perspective, it was helpful that our Marketing VP and our EVP of Products were supportive of this change effort and helped to communicate the importance of the adoption of this new initiative across marketing. We also conducted research into different elements of agile and brought in an agile development expert to discuss basic agile methods and how they might be implemented into a Marketing organization. We discussed options and made a cross-team decision. We implemented agile with two-week sprints and had our review, retrospective, and planning meetings every two weeks. We also scheduled daily SCRUM meetings, which helped to keep priorities in order and spark better communication.”

How did you adjust the process along the way?

The retrospective was our central point for process changes. We would go over the previous feedback to determine if we had addressed all issues. After reviewing the last sprint, we would go around and give everyone a chance to speak on what went well or didn’t go so well. How could we improve? What processes needed to change? With a passionate group, we had some strong opinions and lively discussions, which ultimately made our team function better as a whole. As time passed and sprints ended, each retrospective became shorter and shorter. There were fewer issues and everyone was saying ‘this is really working well,’ because it was.”

So, how did agile marketing evolve and what are some of the benefits?

We started out with a more ‘formal’ agile process and developed into our own style. The team would make suggestions and give input on changes. We now have greater visibility into the total team workload. We can set and adjust priorities to meet changes easily. Our workload has actually increased but the stress level and emergency firefighting has gone way down. It doesn’t get any better than that.”

What are some of your tips for a marketing team just getting started with Agile Marketing?

It’s important to start with your executive team and get that upper-level support for this type of change. This should the easy part because most executives want better communication, visibility, efficiency, and less stress. Once you have them on board, you should hold a kick-off meeting to present the different elements of Agile and teach the basics. It’s a great idea to bring in an outside expert in Agile if you have one. Backing up the executive team with an outside voice will lend importance and credibility to the project.”

“At that kickoff, I suggest starting with discussing process and what meetings needed to happen and why to hold them. Notice, I didn’t say tell them the process to follow. Let the team come up with how the agile process will work for them. Because the more the team members get involved, the better the results will be for adoption.  And you should always keep in mind that with agile being agile, nothing is permanent. Do what works for the team and be open to change. For example, we tried one approach to cards for only one Sprint, when it didn’t work out, we stopped. You should also spend more time early in the process for the Retrospective. Take lots of notes, share them, review them, provide options, and customize Agile for your team—that’s the whole point.”

What technology is the team using to make agile marketing a reality?

“We tried a couple of online tools. Some were good for small things, but we quickly outgrew them. We use Planview Projectplace for managing our projects, status updates, and Kanban boards to run our agile marketing practice now.”

Why did the team choose project collaboration software?

“At any given time, the team has close to a hundred tasks – in multiple projects across multiple markets and geographies, and we work with both internal and external stakeholders. Projectplace gives us the platform to collaborate, communicate, and gain visibility so we can properly set our priorities. Members have also been able to leverage the mobile app via their phone or tablet to check on that status of a project. Members have told me that the mobile app provides them peace of mind knowing the project is moving forward, even when they’re not in the office.”

“By far, the Kanban boards are a favorite part of the project management tool. Members can see all the work the team is involved in for a project and instantly see status. If priorities shift, we can move cards, add comments, or shift dates. We hold a daily stand-up meeting where we review the board, assign cards if needed, and set the priorities for the day. The important part is that we’re all looking at the board as a team—true visibility, a game changer.”

For more information on how Projectplace can help in the adoption of Agile marketing techniques, visit projectplace.com, and register for a free trial to experience the solution for yourself today!

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Jason Morio
Written By

In the span of his 20 year career in the technology space, Jason’s experience has run the gamut from roles in Fortune 1000 companies all the way to the “four dudes, a dog and a garage” level of startups. Jason isn’t just a spokesperson for project collaboration and the notion of “virtual teams”, he lived it in true fashion having run a software development group in Romania from his bedroom desk in Austin. He now works with several multi-faceted virtual teams that span between Austin, Stockholm and Bangalore in his current role at Planview, where he helps companies large and small to overcome the challenges they face with the ever-changing nature of collaborative projects. Twitter: @JMProjCollab