Hijacking Agile

Hijacking Agile

Using a famous software development methodology can help marketers win in the face of unexpected difficulties.

What does a software development methodology have to do with marketing? A fair question. Bear with me.

With product cycles becoming shorter, and consumer trends changing so rapidly, it’s more important than ever to prepare for unplanned disruption. Marketers can take a leaf out of the software development book to build a strategy that’s ready to knock crises on the head before they even happen.

It’s drawn from ‘Agile development methodology’ – one of the darling phrases of the tech world. Originally a radical new way of thinking about software development, it’s about being less prescriptive and more reactive.

What is Agile?

It all kicked off in 2001 when a group of engineers got fed up with the traditional approach to software development and decided to do something about it. Back then, when a software company embarked on a new project they would spend months planning and developing it. By the time it was released, however, it would often transpire that the software wasn’t fit for purpose, or mainstream tech had moved on so much in the meantime that it was virtually redundant.

Obviously, this isn’t great for either morale or profits. So the group of engineers pioneered a collaborative approach to product development instead: testing new features regularly; working on incremental rather than ‘big bang’ releases; and adapting to feedback and external conditions as needed. The result: the Agile Manifesto.

The impact of the Agile approach on efficiency and improving output was off the scale. No surprise that it’s been hijacked by more tangential parties than you could shake a USB stick at – and marketing is one of them.

How can you apply an Agile approach to a marketing team?

Agile methodology is founded on four main values. While there’s no point crowbarring this system into your workforce just for the sake of it, when used judiciously, it could work wonders.

1. Valuing individuals and interactions over processes and tools

It’s easy to get addicted to sensible-sounding but long-winded processes and fancy applications that lead you down a rabbit hole you’ll never escape. It’s also easy to get addicted to the warm cocoon of your inbox. But why waste your precious hours on endless processes or a Frankenstein’s monster of an email thread when a conversation would get the job done in a tenth of the time?

Two ways to ease yourself into an agile mentality is to swap emails for real-life chats and introduce stand-up meetings instead of snooze-inducing sit-downs. In a stand-up meeting, everyone speaks for a few minutes max, and the format is geared towards identifying any impediments to progress:

  • What are you currently working on?
  • What do you plan to work on next?
  • What are the ‘blockers’? Who can help you overcome them?

2. Valuing working software over comprehensive documentation

This translates into marketing terms to getting a project off the ground when it’s perhaps only 95% perfect. You’ll save a surprising amount of time – a scarce luxury in this technological climate – and be able to iterate quickly to get closer to that glorious 100%. Review the project as it progresses and adapt to results and changing conditions on an ongoing basis, rather than blindly seeing it through to the end and then reporting on how well or badly the whole thing went.

3. Valuing customer collaboration over contract negotiation

Does what it says on the tin. Whether you’re an agency working with external clients, or an internal marketing team working with other colleagues to get a particular project out the door, joining forces and tackling sticking points head-on rather than beavering away in silos will help you get it done faster and better.

4. Valuing responding to change over following a plan

Being reactive rather than prescriptive means that sometimes you have to face facts and throw your project plan in the bin.

Acknowledging failure is a good thing. And failure itself is a good thing. Failure means you’ve learned for sure that a particular strategy doesn’t work, which means you can strike it off your list and focus on other strategies. An Agile approach means not being afraid to fail, and reacting quickly when you do fail.

Give Agile a go, kick the tyres, and see if it helps you turn marketing crises into a thing of the past – or, even better – into a fast-track learning curve.

Agile takeaways

  • Replace lengthy sit-down meetings with quick daily standups.
  • Have more conversations and send fewer emails.
  • Review projects candidly as you go and react as necessary.
  • Move quickly, forget 100% perfection, embrace failure and learn from it.
  • Make use of light-touch project management tools such as Trello, which is crafted to make Agile workflows a doddle for technical and non-technical minds alike.
Corissa Nunn Freelance Journalist CPL
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