The Choice Is Yours: Be Agile or Follow The Status Quo
These days, there’s no more time to waste, and with easy access to data, CMOs have a choice: Be agile—use data to inform quick test-and-learn activities and rapidly adjust to the market—OR follow the status quo and “wait for perfect.” Marketers who wait to deliver a big splash are not taking advantage of real-time ways to infuse market feedback into the development process.
Instead of the traditional waterfall method, where the end-game is defined up front and teams don’t course-correct along the way, Agile for Marketing (A4M) focuses on reality-based prioritization to create marketing initiatives that meet customer requirements. A4M breaks big, long-term deliverables into mini-projects, delivers small wins every few weeks and iterates toward an optimal solution.
“Every month, every quarter, every year, there’s something that fundamentally impacts your underlying business model,” explains Jonathan Becher, CMO of enterprise application software developer SAP. “The reason I want the ability to adapt is not so much to be faster, because I think we’re pretty fast, but because the needs of the consumers are changing much more quickly.”
Agile for Marketing also dramatically cuts down on misdirection because it’s based on weeks between concept and delivery vs. months. Frequent status meetings focus on what’s working, what’s done and what’s keeping your team from doing more, making it harder for problems to hide. If things change or people go off course, it’s a quick correction, not a complete overhaul.
Agile for Marketing evolves organizations into keenly focused units dedicated to delivering more value to customers and moving the needle on organizational KPIs. In CMO’s Agenda research, 67 percent of the CMOs using A4M said it increases profits and revenues. It does this primarily by:
- Keeping the organization customer-focused
- Improving speed-to-market
- Making teams more productive
- Enhancing prioritization
- Delivering better, more relevant end-products
- Increasing throughput/velocity of work delivered
Stronger Team Culture
Adopting an agile for marketing mindset helps drive organizational change. Leslie Snavely, VP of marketing and corporate business development for CHG Healthcare Services, explains, “It’s all about culture. Your customer and process are important, but if you don’t have a culture where your people feel empowered to be adaptable, to learn and communicate, you won’t be able to serve the rest of the business. Some people join my team who haven’t been in environments where they’re comfortable with risk or being willing to fail and it takes them a while to adjust to the way we operate. But once they’re part of our culture and recognize our Agile focus, their ability to drive positive business and personal progress is amazing.”
CMOs no longer have months to develop and execute brand launches and re-launches. Today, marketing groups need to produce faster than ever. Lisa Arthur, CMO of Applications for Teradata, knew Agile for Marketing would enable her team to develop a new brand, website and GTM strategy super- fast. “There were 326 moving pieces and parts for that entire launch to be done in six weeks, and we did it,” she recalls. With A4M, her team focuses on what customers want and need and then responds with relevant campaigns, offers and sales programs that take advantage of additional growth.
Continuous Delivery Process
With consumers living more round-the-clock lives, CMOs need to deliver work regularly, not just quarterly or monthly. And the old waterfall approach just doesn’t allow for that kind of ongoing delivery. “The era of the annual marketing plan—that’s basically one costume short of being a candidate for Renaissance Faire, right?” joked former Teradata GM of Marketing Operations Bob Boehnlein (now with Perscio). For Teradata, Agile for Marketing was an opportunity to transition from traditional waterfall software development to a process that was more amenable to continuous delivery. “Something that we could put on a cloud that we could update on a weekly basis, show incremental results and build upon.”
In a fast-moving world, everybody wants everything now. But focusing solely on the marketing activities that create results takes a consistent approach to managing priorities. “Because there isn’t necessarily a system for ‘ooh, how do I deal with this really urgent thing that just came up,’ it tends to be more ad hoc and ultimately very hard to manage,” says Scott Brinker, cofounder and CTO of web development company ion interactive. “When you implement an Agile system, you’re providing a framework to deal with the unexpected and to deal with the more urgent things in a more structured and systematic way so it doesn’t have to be a fire drill every time something new comes up.”
Alignment With Internal Divisions
Many CMOs adopt Agile for Marketing because they see the benefits of aligning different parts of the organization behind one approach. Harit Talwar, EVP and president of U.S. Cards at Discover Financial Services, saw the value of integrating with an already Agile-savvy division: “We are reorienting our entire project management process between the business and Agile technology division.” Starting with a new product launch, Talwar plans to use the learnings that come from alignment with Agile to inform future marketing activities.