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Performance

Changing Company Culture with Agile for Marketing

Going All-in on Agile

ext_newWith more than two decades developing solutions that streamline creative workflows, Extensis’ marketing team set its sights on finding ways to accelerate performance, enhance collaboration, and synchronize with other departments who had adopted Agile methodologies. To do so, they called on CMG to help them fully implement Agile for Marketing™. CMG worked with Extensis’ leadership to align on goals and priorities, design their custom Agile for Marketing program, and coach them through successful activation of the Agile operating system––fundamentally changing their way of thinking, and their company culture.

In 2013, Extensis adopted Agile software practices. Their product and development teams sought the customer focus, flexibility, and speed that Agile brings to software design and production. But once the development team was Agile, other departments—including marketing—found themselves out of sync.

No longer just a solution for software developers, Agile is being used to help implement multi-team collaboration, iterative processes, and overall effectiveness in going to market. Extensis’ VP of Marketing, Amanda Paull, realized that the marketing team would have to adopt Agile methods to match the pace of the company’s new development cycle. With organizational agility being paramount to future business, the company would only gain benefits if they had a comprehensive, integrated application of Agile across all divisions.

Extensis’ options to implement Agile included going offsite for a coaching session, which would be a quick fix, or a decision to really invest in long-term change. They determined their best course for success required bringing in strategists who understood both marketing and Agile, so they engaged with CMG to tackle the challenge.

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CMG did a really good job of getting to the heart of the challenge we're trying to tackle. It's not just that we're changing the way we work—we wanted to change the culture." Amanda Paull VP of Marketing, Extensis

Think

Agile for Marketing begins with clarity of purpose, goals, and priorities. From the onset, two important aspects of Agile adoption are:

  1. Understanding the real problems that need to be solved.
  2. Making sure the marketing team has support from the rest of the organization.

Discovery interviews with the Extensis leadership team—from the CEO and CFO to the heads of product and sales—were paramount to understanding challenges, setting expectations, and garnering support for what Agile in marketing would mean for the organization. With those insights, CMG and Paull were able to see the need for greater integration and prioritization at the leadership level, in addition to changing the company culture, their way of thinking, and their way of working within the marketing department.

“The seven principles of Agile for Marketing”

Equipped with this understanding, we defined Extensis’ top goals for Agile:

  1. Improve alignment with other teams, especially product and sales.
  2. Enhance prioritization on the work that drives value.
  3. Increase transparency of marketing’s work and support of other teams.
Right up front, CMG was really instrumental in getting the rest of the organization behind this shift, in part because they elicited feedback. They made it really clear that it was imperative that everybody be on board and support us. It was critical to the success of our shift." Amanda Paull VP of Marketing, Extensis

Do

The key to adopting Agile is getting teams to embrace the principles on which it’s built––collaboration, empowerment, transparency, and flexibility. Yet, every company needs a different road map to reach their specific goals. This requires designing the right operating system, and clearly defining how the organization will:

  • Structure their Agile for Marketing teams
  • Determine operating cadence (how planning and budgeting works with Agile delivery)
  • Align priorities with sales and product
  • Communicate progress and results

For Extensis, in order to elevate performance and drive the business outcomes they desired, they needed to align on organizational prioritization, increase visibility across the company on marketing initiatives, and enable marketing to use data and insights to drive decision-making. 15-minute sync-up meetings per sprint were put into place with sales and product to assure that priorities were aligned and everyone was aware of each sprint backlog (i.e., work stack). The Jira agile software used by the product team was customized for marketing so there was a single, common tool for work progress and communication across departments––allowing for further team collaboration. Lastly, the process helped to set up a formal time to review data, discuss implications, and present learnings and work progress to the leadership team.

Project Approach Graphic

One of the most satisfying things is just watching the team stretch and grow their skillsets. Watching them expand their abilities and cross train one another in formal and informal ways.” Amanda Paull VP of Marketing, Extensis

Move

It’s no easy feat to change set ways of thinking and doing. In order to break years of muscle memory, the marketing team needed to understand the big picture and the reasons for changing the way they work. Trainings helped set up the larger context and practical application before getting into the tactical aspects of working in an agile way. But where the rubber really hits the road is working with the teams through the transition, and holding them accountable to the goals and objectives they set as a team.

Barre Hardy, Associate Partner for CMG, explained, “As a coach, you want to help them understand the mechanics, but also find the right way of working as a team.”

CMG helped the team to challenge themselves and focus on what drives the most value, to ensure each sprint had a clear business purpose underlying the various initiatives going to market, and to use the learning cycles to drive greater business outcomes. Barre noted: “We did this by asking a lot of questions across the company and making sure teams were focused on goals, learning, and improving with each sprint. In short, we challenged them to think differently.”

The team has embraced a lot of additional responsibility. Because they own certain things, they drive them differently than they would otherwise. It forces them to look at the business purpose of what they’re doing." Amanda Paull VP of Marketing, Extensis

Potential Realized ↗

Several months in, Extensis describes a marketing team that is collaborative, empowered, and integrated. The team has embraced additional responsibility and they drive projects with personal ownership. They understand the big picture, and are smarter because of it. Equipped with the thinking of Agile for Marketing, the team’s work today has purpose, and their culture is sustainable for tomorrow.

“CMG helped us break 20 years of muscle memory,” Paull summarized. Extensis accomplishes goals in a new way. She cites four areas of impact for her company in the way marketing follows Agile principles to:

  • Select programs based on those that will move the needle.
  • Adjust in real time to the needs of the business (e.g. do we need more leads right now, or swap out a lead program to help sales close).
  • Embrace more testing.
  • Develop a more accurate understanding of the customer which aligns our campaigns more closely to customer needs and pain points.

Paull’s role as VP of Marketing and her day-to-day contributions have also changed as a result of Agile. She says, “I equate the transition to Agile as a catalyst for me having tighter relationships with other members of senior staff. I have now been afforded the time to think ahead and be proactive as opposed to reactive—and to be strategic with them, not just in isolation. So for me, it’s been a really interesting shift in my role and one that I didn’t anticipate.”

Going Agile?

What advice does Paull have for other marketing leaders considering Agile for Marketing?

  1. Know why you’re doing it—define your goals.
  2. Pick a good partner in crime, a good advisor to prepare and train your team. It’s going to be messy so it has to be someone you’re comfortable with when things are not operating well. You have to find that right fit.
  3. Bring your senior management aboard—not just as you’re getting started, but when you are evaluating the idea.

Want to learn more about creating an agile company culture? Discover how the proper behavior standards, performance management, and rewards can create a culture of transparency, collaboration and experimentation with agile.