Marketing Communications Chapter by Agile Consortium

by Ben Linders on Mar 24, 2016 |

The Agile Consortium has launched the MarComs chapter which aims to exchange knowledge on agile among marketing and communication professionals. The vision of this chapter is:

Creating a world where IT, business and Marketing professionals work together using a shared collaboration philosophy to enhance the overall effectiveness of their engagement opportunities with their customers.

InfoQ interviewed Jeremy Curtin, one of the founders and chair of this initiative.

InfoQ: Marketing involves understanding customers needs. It already existed long before agile started talking about customer value. Isn’t marketing agile by nature? How does agile enhance marketing?

Curtin: Yes marketing overall can be an agile environment whereby the focus is adjusting to the overall market place. The marketing environment is one that has been traditionally campaign and research focused and not always focused on evolution or iteration once a concept is developed. Historically when you have entered the campaign planning cycle the focus is delivering a big bang/high impact launch. Where agile enhances marketing in general is to de-emphasis the big bang elements and to augment the campaign delivery with a framework that allows for constant optimisation and iterations.

In a traditional marketing environment it can be difficult to make rapid adjustments to the ways that we are engaging with customers because there is not always a mechanism that brings all the different stakeholders together. By using weekly or bi-weekly planning sessions augmented by retro’s you now have a safe and transparent framework whereby all the stakeholders can come together and review the effectiveness of what has been done but also to plan the next iterations to ensure that they are staying relevant and adjust to the reactions within the market place.

Another element that needs to be looked at is the fact that the lines between technical delivery and campaigning are becoming more and more blurred. We are now more reliant on our partners within IT to help deliver an aligned and iterative approach that will ensure that our marketing dollars are spent in the most effective way. Many IT teams have long ago adopted an agile approach and by working with a methodology that is already aligned with theirs we can significantly reduce time to market as well as an output that is positioned for constant improvement.

InfoQ: In your opinion how are agile software development and agile marketing related? How can they support each other?

Curtin: With the acceleration of digital capabilities within the marketing world the gap between the methodologies are closing. If you focus on the digital elements of marketing it is about delivering a minimally viable product, working through iterations to optimise what has been delivered, and augmenting your baseline delivery. By using these tools and frameworks it allows marketing teams to begin to release an incremental pay back on their spend quicker than they would have in a more traditional delivery cycle.

From a support perspective it is about having a similar way of working that allows for a more inclusive approach. When I began to adopt the agile frameworks we were launching iterations on a monthly or quarterly basis but by re-aligning what we were doing and having that similar way of working we were able to reduce this delivery cycle to bi-weekly sprints.

InfoQ: Can you elaborate about what has lead up to the start of the agile marketing and communication initiative?

Curtin: To give some context to my experience I have been fortunate to work in an environment over the last few years that has exposed me to many different ways of working as well as the development of new and exciting technical capabilities that have been leveraged to improve the way that we interact with our customers. Through these activities I was always intrigued at the ways that our technical counterparts were able to work in a transparent way and always seemed to be aligned and working to same goals. At that stage I became more and more interested in the principles that enabled them to work in this way and how these could be adopted to a non-technical field.

I then had the good fortune to meet Marielle Roozemond from the Agile Consortium who had already done a significant amount of work and research around how these methodologies could be adopted outside of the traditional IT functional areas. We then embarked on a process of embedding these principles within Telenet and saw how this impacted several different areas in a very positive way. We were able to increase the quality of the iterations that we were delivering, stakeholder engagement and alignment, and reduce overall time to market.

Once these benefits became more and more apparent we wanted to create a way that other organisations could benefit from the adoption of agile principles in a controlled way. Although the agile principles are flexible there is always a certain baseline that must be attained and therefore a knowledge framework is needed to ensure that you have the right starting points.

InfoQ: What is it that the agile marketing and communication initiative aims to deliver?

Curtin: It is not just about certification, although this is an important step in creating a framework within which to operate, it is much more about creating a community whereby people can help to build and enhance a methodology that is creating an evolutionary step in how we engage in with our customers, not only internally but also with our consumer base. This community can then support each other in adopting different best practices and ways of working, but also to be a safe place to address challenges in concerns that they have with peers who are in similar situations.

InfoQ: How can you deploy the agile values and principles in marketing?

Curtin: The first step is to approach the process with an open mind and if you feel comfortable to begin to socialise the concept with your peers and stakeholders. Once you have created the awareness then bring in an agile coach, if you do not already have access to a suitable internal resource, to help to identify the best way to progress. The great thing about agile is that you can apply it to one particular campaign or project to get used to how to create the best operating rhythm for you. Then you take a gradual approach and expand the agile way of working to more and more of your activities bringing in more and more stakeholders as you progress.

The methods that you will use are guidelines and are flexible enough for you to experiment with and find the elements that work best for you. There is no wrong way to progress only the way that works best for you and your organisation.

InfoQ: Can you give some examples of how agile can have an impact in marketing and communication?

Curtin: In my experience the agile marketing approach will lead to reduced time to market, enhanced ROI on marketing spend, because you are creating incremental value through phased delivery, and finally a more engaged and transparent way of working across a wider range of stakeholders. Some of the other benefits that you will experience are more iterations incorporating a culture of continuous improvement, as well as a better ability to optimise your deliveries and enhance the quality of your customer engagements.

InfoQ: If people want to get involved in the agile marketing and communication initiative, what should they do?

Curtin: If you want to get involved I suggest that you check out our MarComs chapter on the Agile Consortium website and drop us a line. There is a form there where you can ask any questions or just reach out to have a conversation on how to get started.

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