Top 10 Pitfalls When Adopting Agile for Marketing

As a firm with more than three years experience researching and practicing Agile for Marketing (A4M), we have seen some common challenges emerge. We’ve found the overarching misunderstanding to be viewing A4M as a way to just “move work along” instead of a way to learn and improve your marketing performance.

The methods of A4M are meant to transform your marketing organization from a production house to an engine driving experimentation, performance and results. We’ve outlined ten common pitfalls when adopting A4M to help you watch out for these deficiencies.

1. Unclear Objectives & Strategy

If your organization is unclear on its objectives and the problem you’re trying to solve, your teams will lack the guidance they need to prioritize their work. The first step of Agile for Marketing (A4M) is to define and share your company’s marketing goals and priorities.

2. Noncommittal Leadership

Working with the A4M operating system will be a big change for your organization. Without enthusiastic participation and encouragement from leaders, teams are less motivated to get on board and truly change the way they work.

3. Hesitant to Change

Teams are living things; the culture of a business or department can take on the characteristics of its leaders. Fear of change that permeates A4M teams will result in lackluster performance. Show a flexible attitude and encourage boldness.

4. Inflexible Team Members

With A4M, we refer to “T-shaped” people as those who contribute deeply in their area of expertise, but are also able to contribute broadly in a variety of areas. Without T-shaped people, cross-functional teams are less effective.

5. Wrong Stakeholders

The leadership may choose the wrong stakeholders, or too many stakeholders, to manage the alignment, prioritization and review processes. Choose your stakeholders carefully (and sparingly) and make sure they are fully committed to agile principles.

6. Insufficient Insight

An important principle of A4M is to be data-driven for input and measurement. A4M capitalizes on the data analytics that are integral to marketing today. Lack of insight into the customer experience harms prioritization, while lack of measurement takes away the ability to learn and improve.

7. Cautious Culture

Another key principle of Agile is fostering an experimental test-and-learn approach to marketing. If your leaders or teams are uncomfortable with launching just part of a campaign, testing new channels, or trying new methods, A4M may not be for you.

8. Impatience

It takes time to get A4M right. Leadership and teams need to commit to a learning curve. In the words of Kim Wells, CMO at Scottrade, discussing her team’s adoption of A4M: “We advised our teams, ‘We’re not going to get this right and we know it, and we just want you to come along with us and give us feedback as we go and we’ll fix as we go, just like you do in Agile.'”

9. Lack of Empowerment

Adopting A4M means that traditional hierarchies and complex approval processes should be left behind. Teams have to be empowered to decide how to get their work done. While the goals, priorities and acceptance criteria are shared, the work itself belongs to the delivery teams.

10. Loose Methodology

Beyond the change in culture, there is a disciplined methodology with Agile. The best implementations come with experienced training, adherence to the methods and commitment to continual learning.

Now that you know what to look out for, you and your teams can guard against these pitfalls and drive a successful adoption and implementation of Agile for Marketing. Remember that your goal is not simply to move projects to the “Done” column, but to perform better and better with each cycle of work launched in the marketplace.

Learn more about the right way to get started by reading our research with interviews of over 40 marketers on the Mindset and Methodology of Agile Marketing.

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