Are You Agile-Inclined?

In-house agency leaders are advancing from a Waterfall mindset to incorporate Agile in the way they work. Why? Because Agile can help them provide timely, personalized experiences that attract customers at scale.

Over 37% of marketing organizations are moving to Agile, making them 3x more likely to increase market share than those who don’t (Forbes/CMG Partners). If Agile has that kind of potential, why aren’t more marketers on board? Marketing’s been structured the same for the past 30-40 years. While marketing leaders appreciate that old ways don’t always fit new environments, they’re not sure how to change.

Agile principles and tools can (and should) be applied to agency and marketing work—but perhaps not all at once. Understanding when Agile should apply and then discerning which flavor of Agile is right is helpful in making initial go-forward decisions.

 While Agile is an iterative, team approach emphasizing rapid delivery of high-value materials, Waterfall is a sequential approach to campaign and tactical development, i.e. Insights > Brief > Resourcing > Ideas > Pull-outs > Creative > Production > Distribution > Launch. Rather than creating tasks and schedules as in Waterfall, Agile time is “boxed.” As work is completed, it is reviewed by the team/customers daily.

Here’s a guide1 to what works with each:

Both Agile and Waterfall are typically incorporated within in-house agencies according to the nature of the work, with integration to a target operating model. Once you decide which work to develop via Agile, it’s time to determine the best agile approach. Knowing the differences is critical to understanding how to apply Agile to traditional, digital, online and offline activities.

● Scrum revolves around short, iterative cycles called sprints—characterized by brief stand-up meetings to review/plan the day’s work.

● Kanban has less emphasis on roles and process, encouraging teams to adjust (not change) existing structures to get work done—characterized by a workflow visualization board.

● Scrumban is a mix of the two, Scrum and Kanban.

Recently, Zee Jay Digital worked with two clients to get them started on Agile:

● A B2B logistics company with a 12-person marketing org adopted Scrumban for tradeshow work, incorporating daily stand-ups and WIP limits immediately. While the rest of marketing was still Waterfall-managed, the Agile pilot built momentum and got people talking. 

● A B2C retailer with a global marketing organization was wary of Agile transformation because day-to-day operations move and change—fast. But they knew they needed to manage work better. By introducing a work-estimation system based on story points into existing Waterfall management and identifying available “points” across the team, marketers became Agile-familiar while taking steps toward broader change.

Most in-house agencies will use Waterfall and Agile in the foreseeable future, unless undertaking transformation. In this hybrid state, leaders coordinate disparate teams by leveraging tools they know to link plans and campaigns (ed-cals, messaging architectures, brand guidelines, etc.) so each approach brings value. Enterprise tools, like Workfront, manage Waterfall and Agile projects in the same environment. Pure Agile tools, like Trello and LeanKit, allow for increasing maturity.

1 Adapted from Segue Technologies

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