Why Your Team Needs to Be Agile
There is no doubt that we live in an "information age," in which anything we need to know is easily and quickly found. Our tastes and trends change, adapt, and respond to the rapid real of information around us. And for businesses, that means success now comes from adjusting practices to match this fluid environment.
A relatively new concept, the agile methodology, is becoming increasingly common in business practices, especially in the field of marketing, as a way for businesses to work with and not against the rapid pace of our culture.
Agile marketing can be defined by four main emphases:
- Individuals and interactions over processes and tools
- A working product over comprehensive documentation
- Customer collaboration over contract negotiation
- Adapting to change over following a plan
Implementing this in your marketing program: Transforming your marketing program or team into one that is agile should begin by focusing on the delivery of an end product that affects change for your client. Ditch cumbersome approval processes, and trust your team members to produce high quality work. Make sure you are always working closely with clients by communicating with them on at least a weekly basis, and be ready to change your game plan if that's what your client wants.
Making Your Team Agile
The agile methodology was first introduced over ten years ago in the software development field. The software market was changing too quickly for its then-current waterfall method to sustain development programs.
The more traditional waterfall method has too slow of a process to develop software, and by the time developers were able to roll out a product, the market had already changed enough that their software was outdated.
Obviously the waterfall method doesn't work for products and ideas that need to be shipped quickly; so, enter the agile method, which uses a much more adaptive approach.
Implementing this in your marketing program: Being agile means being flexible enough to change your project plans when either a client or current events requires it. If something changes and you need to change your marketing strategy, be ready to get all hands on deck for a "ship day" devoted solely to developing a new strategy.
Instead of focusing on long-term goals, like the waterfall method, the agile method focuses on shorter time periods, called sprints, which is a time period between one and four weeks. Before each sprint, a team will hold a pre-sprint meeting, in which they decide what tangible goals they want to accomplish during the sprint period. The goals will then be broken up into short tasks, between 1-3 hours each. For my team, those tasks often look something like this:
- 2 hours writing
- 2 hours editing
- 2 hours research
When using the traditional waterfall method, teams often focus on annual goals, which are really difficult to execute on a daily basis. But, when using the agile method, those annual goals are broken up into sprint goals, which are broken up into daily tasks, making it much easier to actually progress towards goals in a tangible way.
Implementing this in your marketing program: First off, you need to decide how long your sprint periods will be; most companies bill on a month cycle, so it might be easiest to have a 4 week sprint. Second, divide your tasks up based on your budget for your clients and your hourly billing. For example, if your client's monthly budget is $1,000 and your hourly billing rate is $100, then you can devout 10 hours to that client. Next, divide those decided hours up into specific tasks based on your goals, which might look something like this:
- 2 hours of situation analysis
- 2 hours of strategy development
- 4 hours of product development
- 2 hours of implementation
An important part of every sprint is the SCRUM meeting. SCRUMs are short, daily meetings in which the SCRUM master (meeting leader) asks the team a series of questions:
- What did you do yesterday?
- What are you going to do today?
- What are the roadblocks or obstacles you are facing?
The SCRUM master then records each team members' answers to refer back to should there be any confusion (SCRUM masters often find mobile technology, like tablets very helpful during short or off-site SCRUMs).
SCRUMs keep every team member informed about what the progress and problems of each project, which allows all members to effectively work across all projects, so no one person gets buried under mounting roadblocks. SCRUMs also allow team members to track progress, so if anyone project falls behind, all members can jump on it immediately.
SCRUMs provide a certain level of accountability, as well. When a team member claims a day's worth of tasks, that member will be asked whether or not those were actually finished at the next SCRUM.
Implementing this in your marketing program: SCRUMs need to be mandatory for all team members every day. Keep meetings short and on topic by appointing a regular SCRUM master. If issues arise that need to be discussed further, set up a separate time to talk about those problems—SCRUMs should always be brief.
At the end of every sprint period, the team will hold a post-sprint meeting, in which they evaluate what tasks and goals did and did not get completed. Goals that were met or projects that were completed during the sprint are then presented to the client. Items that did not get completed are then put on the list of goals and tasks for the next sprint session.
Implementing this in your marketing program: After presenting completed projects to clients, ask for their feedback, so you can better evaluate client satisfaction. Adjust your marketing strategy according to the feedback and reaction of the client.
Adapting to Change
By focusing on short tasks and short sprint periods, the agile method allows teams to easily adapt to change. If a certain project needs more work, then all team members can easily work on that particular project until it's caught up (this is normally called a ship day, hack day or hackathon).
Shorter sprint periods also allow for more frequent client/customer feedback, which allows the team to adjust to any desired changes.
While adapting to the agile method might mean large internal changes, ultimately, being agile and adaptable to change is by far more marketable and effective than the traditional waterfall method. We live in a fast paced world, where mobile technology makes information instantly accessible. Your team needs to be able to adapt to changes as quickly as they come in order to stay relevant to your clients.