I recently read an article on LinkedIn about the death and destruction of agile software development. In his article titled “Agile is Dead,” Matthew Kern writes, “All these hyped trends have a lifespan. Management fads especially have a lifespan.” Based on the hundreds of comments the article attracted, Kern’s controversial take on a trending project management trend frightened some people—myself included.
Parts of the article made relevant points about agile development and how it’s fallen short, with senior leaders at technology companies chiming in. As Xavier Amatriain, VP Engineering at Quora wrote, “I think there is some truth to the writing: most enterprise mindsets only respond to hypes and labels without putting enough time and thought into understanding the important ideas behind them. Agile, and DevOps have both powerful transformative ideas behind them but very few large enterprises have the time or corporate IQ to understand them…”
The article’s argument is scary for business leaders—because aren’t some of us just starting to develop using agile methodologies, especially in marketing?
Coming from an agency background, the discussion around agile software development’s demise resonated with me, but as a marketer, it made me wonder if the same was true for agile marketing as well. Could it be that this type of marketing was going the same way agile software development was, even before it went mainstream across enterprise businesses?
The recent rapid adoption of agile processes across IT departments is clear: According to a recent TechBeacon survey among 475 IT and development professionals, by 2014, 100 percent were using “some adoption of agile methods.” Their success with agile has led to other tech-focused departments like marketing wondering how to reap the benefits.
So if the discussion has shifted to the death of agile, are marketing leaders implementing already irrelevant processes?
I’ll explain why I don’t think this is the case, but first, a quick review on what it means to be an agile marketer compared to agile software development, and why it’s is still going strong.
You’re familiar with agile software development, right? Agile in development means sprints, Scrums, user stories, and burn-down charts. While you’re likely familiar with what it means to be agile in software development, I wanted to compare and contrast what it means to be agile and what it doesn’t mean.
As you can see, agile marketing has many similarities to agile software development. It’s also not new. Organizations have been employing its techniques for a few years already, in various forms.
Agile is also not foolproof. It’s not a quick fix your triple constraint of scope, schedule, and budget. It won’t turn your teams into marketing superheroes, but it may improve productivity and morale. Using an agile methodology is not a silver bullet solution and it’s also not easy for some individuals and teams to get used to. Quite frankly, it’s not for everyone, just as agile development isn’t.
Changing the way an organization thinks and works isn’t easy, especially in an enterprise environment. And it’s difficult to acknowledge that if we don’t adapt we will be left behind. If we can’t (or won’t) provide the customer with what they need, there are others more than willing to step in and do just that.
That’s why it’s imperative that enterprise brands begin to think and market differently. We need to think and behave more like startups when it comes to marketing. I don’t mean to sound melodramatic, but nothing short of our livelihoods and our organizations’ futures are at stake. If we continue to try to steer our Titanics, we will end up going down with the ship.
A more flexible and responsive marketing mindset can save us. We can disrupt the disruptors by becoming what they are. We can begin to transform our teams, we can adapt to change more easily, and we can speed our time to market, just like they do. We are actually in a better position to give our customers what they want when they want it—we just have to act.
But do you make your organization more agile? Where do you start?
You and your organization can become more agile, more responsive, more productive, and more startup-like. You just need a path from point “A” to point “B.” Here’s that path.
Of course, there will probably be some opposition to going agile. If your brand’s leadership team (or even the marketing team as a whole) is old-school and change-averse, how do you convince them? The key to change in an environment that resists is to implement change incrementally and keep moving forward. Keep in mind the two most important elements of going agile: communication and organization of tasks.
Perhaps your morning Scrum isn’t formal, but rather, you and a few other team members simply walk around the office and get updates on projects water-cooler style. I had to do this in a past role. My leaders were locked into a protracted strategy that took months to plan and equally as long to implement. We learned a hard lesson when the competition went to market with a brilliant campaign (for an existing service), seemingly changing their strategy overnight. Meanwhile, it took us nearly five weeks to regroup and come up with our own plan, then another three months to get it to market. We were too late.
After this lesson, I played the role of the one-man agile team for a short period, “secretly” gaining insights on what teams were working on, what was holding them back, and how myself or my team could pitch in to help. We adopted a pseudo-agile process that helped us get out of our own way and accomplish tasks faster, and we did it without a dedicated agile tool like JIRA or Wrike, but rather, just tracked our key projects and tasks on a whiteboard until we were able to prove the value of the process.
You can go “all in” with agile, but if you think that’s too risky, start small and ease your teams into the new processes and tools. You don’t have to put it in your “done” column this year, but you should at least be able to see you’re on your way to being more agile.