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Romek Jansen, 04 Dec '15

6 Fundamental Differences Between Agile Development and Agile Marketing

Do not simply “copy & paste” all Agile development principles to Marketing without making the necessary adjustments for their new habitat.

Speed Kills is what the road sign says. That might be true for road traffic, but in business it’s the opposite. Because these days the yearly marketing plan tends to be outdated or irrelevant before the execution actually starts, flexibility and speed is critical for survival.

By applying Agile principles to marketing you can speed up execution and maintain organizational flexibility. But only if you understand the differences between Agile Development and Agile Marketing. It is clearly not a just a simple “copy & paste” job.

Without the agility to quickly respond to changing market conditions, companies struggle to survive. As a company you need to constantly improve, measure, learn and adapt to stay ahead of the curve. New technology, new processes and new work methods need to be applied. Marketers need to shift gear and Agile Marketing has all the promises to be the clutch. So, in the hallway of the marketing department the sign actually should say Speed Up. Be Agile.

Agile methods like Scrum, Kanban and other variations have been Software & Product development methods since the 90’s, and marketing itself is getting more techie every day. It was just a matter of time before these successful software development methods were applied to the changing marketing function too. It is not a coincidence that it all started at marketing departments of smaller tech companies.

The results of the first Agile Marketing teams are promising. Agile marketing teams outperform traditional marketing teams in terms of speed, relevance of messaging and innovation, to name a few. However, there are also marketers who recognized that not all agile development principles can be easily applied to marketing. Some dynamics are just different, but the agile principles seem to be literally copy-pasted from development to marketing, without making the necessary adjustments for them to feel at home in their new habitat.

There are some fundamental differences between how software & product development teams are run and how marketing teams are managed. This seems to inhibit some marketing departments from adopting agile. We identified six fundamental differences between the nature of Agile Marketing and Agile Development which need to be clarified. Agile marketers need to overcome these obstacles and get their heads around it to fully benefit from agile principles.

Differences exist surrounding the following concepts

1. The Definition-of-Done: when do you consider your agile team to have done a good job? When they have done all their tasks in time or when they successfully changed customer behavior?

2. The User: Agile is a method which preaches “customer centricity”. The user has a central place in everything. But who is the user? Who is the main beneficiary of the deliverables? Isn’t that the one who is willing to pay?

3. The Team: where development teams normally move from one sprint to the other in relatively stable compositions, marketers tend to work on a multitude of parallel projects with even more agencies. How does this influence the dynamics in the agile teams?

4. The Meeting: The scrum meeting/the daily stand up, can it be done on a daily basis? And can it be done standing up? Although this may sound trivial, the consequences can be felt.

5. The Costs: Every team has resources and costs money. How does the agency dependency and a considerable chunk of media costs influence agility in Agile Marketing?

6. The Estimation: Because Agile preaches maximum value creation it is all about prioritizing activities based on returns and investments. The higher the complexity of the deliverables, the more difficult it is to estimate the required investments. Which tricks are used to estimate development efforts and how do marketers estimate?

If you want to adopt Agile Marketing you and your team need to agree on what you mean when you talk about the User, how to do the meetings, how to allocate budgets, which metric to use for estimations and how to define success.

In the next six weeks we will elaborate on each of these topics in a separate posts. Just to make sure they get the attention they deserve. We will describe the challenge or confusion and justify how we solve it.

Remember Speed Up, Be Agile.