How to create an agile marketing team

A current trend in the business world today is to take a business function and prefix it with the word Agile and marketing has been no exception with the term Agile Marketing  gaining popularity. Many large enterprise organisations are jumping on the band wagon by restructuring their marketing department into smaller agile marketing teams .

Many are attempting to go even further, and integrating their marketing teams with other business units or other business units into standalone agile marketing teams.

Agile Marketing

  1. create, communicate and deliver unique value to an always-changing customer in an always-changing market

Although the need and desire for business agility is nothing new and over the years there have been many great books on the subject i.e. [amazon text=Business Agility : Sustainable Prosperity in a Relentlessly Competitive World&asin=978-0470413456].

What is new is that many organisations seeking to extend the relative advantages enjoyed software development industry by adopting agile project management practices and methodologies.

What is Agile?

At it’s core agile is about breaking work down into smaller units and having teams focus on discrete work packages, which have SMART objectives, so teams can measure and evaluate their progress and ensure they are continually delivering value.

SMART Objectives comprise :

  • Specific (simple, sensible, significant).
  • Measurable (meaningful, motivating).
  • Achievable (agreed, attainable).
  • Relevant (reasonable, realistic and resourced, results-based).
  • Time bound (time-based, time limited, time/cost limited, timely, time-sensitive).

The premise is that teams as whole commit to focusing on these objectives for defined periods of teams. Usually a period of 2-4 weeks.

Over the years a number of frameworks and methodologies have come to the fore which have most commonly been adopted by the Software Development industry. The most notable of which are SCRUM, KANBAN , Dynamic System Development Methods (DSDM) , Extreme Programming and a whole host of others.


Scrum is a type of Agile project management methodology that was developed by Jeff Sutherland and Ken Schwaber in the early 90s. Agile focuses on working collaboratively and responding to change, rather than sticking to linear plans, meaning different individuals make their contributions in turn.

In an Agile team you might, for example, all work together to conceive, write, design, publish and measure the success of a campaign, rather than having a writer who is waiting for a brief, a designer who is waiting for copy, and an editor who is waiting for designs.

Scrum It is a lightweight process framework.

A set of practices that must be followed in order for a process to be consistent with the framework

overhead of the process is kept as small as possible, to maximize the amount of productive time available for getting useful work done.

SCRUM’s primary objectives:

  • Continuous Improvement
  • Eliminate of waste
  • Increase the quality of the deliverables
  • Reduce bureaucracy.
  • Empower teams

Scrum teams comprise of three distinct roles:

The Product Owner is the champion of the product and tends to be a key stakeholder, whose role is to define a clear vision for the team to follow.

The Scrum Master is the member of the team who has a primary responsibility to help the self-organising, self-managing team achieve its goals.

Team members are the team of people responsible for driving the plan for each sprint.

There are four prescribed meetings in Scrum:

The Sprint Planning Meeting: this happens at the beginning of each sprint, the whole team will meet up and determine which work will be tackled in the next sprint. They then have to lay out how that work will be delivered.

The Daily Stand Up: this is usually the shortest meeting in Scrum but also the most important. It should happen at the start of each working day and involves each team member updating the team on what happened yesterday, what will be achieved today and whether there is anything blocking progress.

The Sprint Review: this is not a sign off meeting, it is where work completed in the sprint is demonstrated and the progress of the team is assessed against the sprint goal.

The Sprint Retrospective: this is the final meeting and the opportunity for the team to discuss together their successes and failures: how they measured up to the goal(s) they committed themselves to; and what they could do differently in the next iteration.

It is essential that the whole team understands the Agile process and not just the Scrum Masters. In order for any Agile Process to succeed it is important the organisation as whole has a base level of understanding of the processes.

Businesses should take the time to introduce Agile and keep an open line of communication for those who might have questions.

Project Management Tools

Although teams do not necessarily need to adopt or create any new specific tools to implement agile practices, the software development community have adopted a combination of different tool set, each with particular focus towards particular skills sets.

It is not uncommon for a marketing team to be a dispersed or even geographically separated team and members that may be assigned to a marketing project may more than likely be made of from people from various other business units or even external agencies. So making use of project management tools that are web applications or even cloud based is often a good idea.

These applications assist teams in planning, managing, testing and visualising there workload with particular focus on collaboration.

A few of the most popular project management tools;

  • Atlassian Jira
  • LeanKit
  • Rally
  • Jama
  • HighRise

In order to ensure data is synchronised across the tools and information is relevant to other disciplines, organisations my implement a tools like:

These tools enable the integration of disparate tools to various delivery teams, by enabling specific disciplines to continue use their tool of choice but still effectively and efficiently communicate with other teams, by ensuring data is continually synchronized throughout the toolchain.

Defining Marketing Sprint Goals

Unlike software development, marketing objectives do not always relate to a finite deliverable and more often than not a team my be engaged in multiple fronts in an average sprint.

According to the Scrum Guide, a Sprint Goal “can be any other coherence that causes the Team to work together rather than on separate initiatives.” Using that definition, marketers are definitely still using Sprint Goals. We are just working together while working on slightly different things (email, social media, content marketing, ppc, etc.).

Marketing Definition of DONE

Marketers may be producing ads, emails, tweets, ebooks, or more in a sprint, each of which is done in different ways.
The team will need to decide what constitutes each of your Sprint Goals being finished, and make sure to stick with that. Another key point to remember for marketing, is that although an item my be done, it is not necessarily finished or that you’re never going to work on it again.

Agile marketing is all about continuous improvement; you’ll almost certainly be working on that email campaign again or refining your content or optimising a web page for conversions.

Scrum Teams for marketing

Marketing teams, while potentially self-organizing, are much less likely to be self-directed than software teams.
They are probably already close to management in some way and don’t really need a Scrum Master or Product Owner to run interference and keep them from being derailed.

Marketers are routinely asked to drop what they’re doing to take advantage of an emerging opportunity or address an emerging threat, or assemble additional sales collateral for a prospective large account.

Teams will need to take this into account and never over commit on items in there backlog. It may not always be necessary or even possible for a scrum master to run interference for a marketing team.

Marketing Product Owners

The product owner is a good role to port over to marketing, but the rigidity of the Product Owner’s control over the backlog often relaxes for marketing scrum teams.
As a general rule, there are a lot more kinds of things that belong in a marketing backlog, and multiple people are going to need direct input into its construction.

If your team is setup in such a way that you have a single Product Owner, that’s a great setup.

If you need 2-3 people who have direct access to the backlog, don’t assume that Scrum can’t work for you. Democratize the backlog if you need to, just make sure that the right people are choosing which items the team brings up from the Product Backlog to work on in a sprint.

Using Scrum for Agile Marketing

With a few minor adjustments, the Scrum framework applies well to agile marketing teams. As long as you’re mindful of your team’s unique makeup and overall personality, you should be able to succeed with Scrum.

As with most agile practices that have their roots in software development, it’s vital to take what works and leave the rest behind. Trying to port everything 100% will create frustration and impede your success.

Scrum can work for agile marketers, as long as we’re selective and pragmatic in the adoption process.