by Katie Cothran, ROI Product Manager – ASPE, Inc.
Mindjet’s Experience and Advice About Agile Marketing
There has been a lot of talk about agility in marketing, getting projects done quickly and efficiently. The hot topic is “agile marketing“ but there’s not much about how a team that really practices Agile Marketing functions. Yes, all marketers can, or rather should, say they adapt to change quickly, and they can react to market changes rapidly, but many times it’s frantic, reactionary and final products go unmeasured.
So how can you truly become an Agile Marketer? I had a great conversation with Ian Jackson, product marketing programs manager at Mindjet, about just that. Mindjet adapted Agile for launching products into the market. They took the pieces of Agile used in software development that suited projects they were working on and applied it to marketing by dividing resources, creating reasonable timelines and changing HOW people work.
Below are questions I asked, and Ian’s responses about Agile Marketing.
Can you tell us a little bit about your background and your current role?
I’m a marketer first with a background in direct marketing and lead generation. I was hired at Mindjet to coordinate product launches between marketing and products. My role has evolved to incorporate the Agile process and how it can be applied to marketing.
What motivated you to embrace Agile Marketing for your marketing team? Where did the inspiration come from?
Simply put, the inspiration came from our CMO, Jascha Kaykas-Wolff, who has been a big proponent of applying Agile techniques to marketing. He is very open to trying new ideas and processes to see if they work in the context of the Agile process.
How did you get started? What were some of the challenges you faced in adopting an Agile approach, and how did you overcome them?
One of the biggest challenges was actually getting started. It took two or three sprints for the teams to get the hang of it and into the habit of dividing work up in quantifiable chunks, then work under defined deadlines. We found that the best path to success was practice.
You must also be open to change and be able to adapt to changing market needs as well, and changing company focus as necessary.
What are the different roles and responsibilities in your Agile Marketing teams?
We work in a scrum – optimal for us with five to six team members – that is made up of a team lead and a scrum master. Our team lead isn’t necessarily who you would think would be in charge sometimes. For instance, our VP of PR could be writing content while another person has the lead for launching the PR for that product. It really depends on the strengths of the team.
Typically, working in scrums helps drill down and define individual goals and take responsibility. The best part is getting everybody on the same cadence. You get more work done faster.
Can you walk us through the process — what are the steps of an Agile Marketing project with your group?
Typically we operate on a three week sprint basis, plus one week for planning and retrospective. The four week process gives everyone a week break to reflect and time for managers to plan out the next steps. Back-to-back sprints became too much and caused burnout.
During sprints we have daily scrum stand ups limited to 15 minutes. Each member of the scrum team must answer three questions during the stand ups:
- What did I accomplish yesterday?
- What am I going to do today?
- Do I have any blockers today?
The daily stand up is a place where everyone is kept abreast of the initiative’s progress. The pressure of not “letting the team down” is a good motivator for participants to do their part.
Typically, these are the steps of our sprints:
- Pick a project from the backlog list
- Ensure it complies with the current marketing mandate/goals
- Define what resources are needed (primarily who will make up the team)
- Define and agree on the measurement of success (mostly, but not always, this is pretty obvious)
- Execute the print and hold daily stand ups to measure progress
- Agree (or not) the goal was accomplished
- Include the results in ShareDay presentation (and have team members present the project and results) This is where they are recognized for their efforts
What happens when you have a large or long-term project where you can’t possibly accomplish everything in just 3-4 weeks?
That’s what you would call an epic, which is subdivided into several sprints with planning, execution and retrospectives. For instance, we still have quarterly planning, but then those goals are broken down where appropriate into sprints. We also tend to frontload projects during epics because the unexpected WILL occur. That goes for any marketing project.
Looking back, what would you say have been the greatest benefits of Agile Marketing?
As a communication tool, it is a really great way of including marketing personnel who are otherwise siloed (specialized) in their contribution. It also helps formalize the project management in a uniform manner. It helps you stay on track with immediate goals and burndown lists, building blocks and time management.
In general, Agile Marketing helps overcome archaic paperwork and red tape while using a formal process that makes sense. We’re all project managers at some level, but using Agile Marketing helps formalize the process when other colleagues are involved.
If you could offer one key piece of advice to CMOs who are considering adopting Agile marketing, what would you tell them?
Start today. Watch and learn from the participants and iterate. If a particular process doesn’t work well in your situation, change it to suit your needs. The basic principles are the same; to move the projects along at an optimal pace using a similar framework where everyone is contributing to the agreed upon goal. It will reenergize a team, keep them focused and informed and make them part of the success.
A great thanks to Ian Jackson for taking the time to answer these questions, and another thanks to Scott Brinker who inspired the interview idea and questions from his interview with EMC about their experience with Agile Marketing on the Chief Marketing Technologist Blog.
Think it’s about time your company started in Agile Marketing? Learn more about how you can accomplish that goal with our web seminars “How to Apply an Agile Marketing Roadmap” or “Agile Marketing: What’s all the Fuss About?” or check out our Agile Marketing Boot Camp developed by Agile Marketing Manifesto Co-author Jim Ewel.