Pairs Agile Marketing

pairs agile marketing

Courtesy of Menlo Innovations, LLC

The developers who gathered in Snowbird, Utah in 2001 to write the original Agile Manifesto represented many different approaches to improving programming productivity: Scrum, Extreme Programming, Dynamic Systems Development Methodology (DSDM), Adaptive Software Development, Pragmatic Programming, etc. Other than rejecting the traditional waterfall methodology, they had little in common. It’s amazing, really, that they were able to agree on anything in 3 days, much less something as crisp and influential as the Agile Manifesto.

Since 2001, Scrum has emerged as the most commonly used Agile methodology, and many of us have applied Scrum to marketing. However, I’ve been asking myself if some of the alternative Agile methodologies can also be applied to marketing. The answer, I think, is yes. Over the next couple of weeks, I’d like to look at several of these alternatives, beginning with Pair Programming.

Pairs programming requires that two programmers sit in front of one computer – one drives, or enters code, the other observes, looking at the big picture, looking for mistakes or for unwarranted assumptions, commenting as the first programmer types. Every so often, they switch roles. The emphasis is on communication and quality.

There is some evidence that although pairs programming may take somewhat longer initially, it reduces the number of defects, and leads to long term productivity. Pairs programming has other benefits as well:

  • It improves communication among the team
  • It spreads knowledge. If one developer leaves, his partner has knowledge of the code
  • It can be used to mentor less experienced programmers

How might this apply to marketing? Can we adopt something I’ll call Pairs Agile Marketing? Imagine a marketing team, divided up into pairs. Rather than having lots of group meetings (something us marketers seem to do a lot of), brainstorming  particular marketing programs or deliverables, pairs of marketers divide up, one outlining or even creating marketing programs or materials, while the other looks over his or her shoulder, suggesting improvements, correcting mistakes and generally contributing to the finished product. After 30-60 minutes, they switch off.

The emphasis is on deliverables, not meetings. Quality control is built in. The pairs take a list of stories from the Sprint backlog, and complete them in a timely fashion. They could also use more of a Kanban style methodology to pull the next work item into their pair. Let’s call this Pairs Agile Marketing.

Can this work? I honestly don’t know. We’re going to try it at my office, and we’ll let you know.  Has anyone else tried this? Is anyone else willing to try it and report the results?

Interview with John Mardlin

A couple of weeks ago I had the chance to interview John Mardlin of PMRobot. John’s video isn’t very clear (some kind of problem with his camera), but he has some very interesting things to say about how to (and not to) bring Agile Marketing into an organization, and his own experiences using Agile Marketing from his background in formal project management.

The Transformation Agenda

transformation agendaOne of the toughest jobs for any marketer is to repair a damaged brand. Sometimes, it’s not repairing damage, but simply changing the attributes that the market associates with the brand. In early 2008, Howard Schultz of Starbucks was faced with this challenge. Starbucks, while a well recognized brand, had become associated with cookie-cutter coffee houses and mediocre expresso drinks. Their stock had fallen by almost half, and Howard Schultz, the founder, had returned as CEO after several years away from running the day-to-day business.

Schultz re-invigorated the Starbucks brand through what he called the “Transformation Agenda”. This was a concept he borrowed from Michael Dell, and it allowed him to articulate on a single page his vision, his strategy, and the key moves or tactics that he would take to transform the brand. He communicated this Transformation Agenda through a series of 15 memos to Starbucks Partners (their word for employees) in his first four months after returning as CEO.

As Agile Marketers, we can use this concept of the Transformational Agenda to articulate our own vision for where we want to take our brand. We can use it as a roadmap for a series of Sprints to take us on a long journey of transformation.

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Guest Post: Roadmaps for Agile Marketing

Agile Marketing RoadmapAgile marketing owes the world of software development a debt for the origination of agile methodologies.  Agile software development is quite mature and much thought has gone into modifying its processes to suit the needs of individual teams and organizations.

Though Agile Marketing is relatively new, the benefit of showing up late to the game is that agile marketers get to pick and choose the best moves from the players who’ve been at it longer.  That’s how agile marketing has learned from agile development, but there are still more tricks to be learned from the software world.  This post is inspired by Roman Pichler’s excellent article about roadmaps in agile development

The practice of creating a roadmap for software products is well established and is used in both waterfall and agile development to keep the team focused on the long road ahead, and let stakeholders know what to expect.

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The Agile Marketing Scrum Master

Scrum Master

Photo courtesy of Søren Cosmus

What are the duties of a Scrum Master? How do you choose someone who will make a successful scrum master, what personality traits and skills do you look for? And are there differences between the role, duties and skillset necessary to become a successful scrum master for Agile Marketing, as compared to Agile Development? I’ve been asking myself these questions lately, and I’d like to share my thoughts and ask you to share yours.

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How Not to Do Agile Marketing

199747855_6f2219703e_nI’ve been working lately with Matt Heinz of Heinz Marketing. If you don’t know Matt, he’s one of the most consistently insightful marketing practitioners around. If you’re in the Pacific Northwest, hire him. If you’re not, subscribe to his newsletter, which is full of nuggets of goodness.

We had just finished our first Sprint together at a company I’m now running, and we were conducting our Sprint Review, working our way into planning for our second Sprint. I’ve introduced Matt to Agile Marketing, just as he’s introduced me to some of his techniques, and he made a comment that I found particularly insightful.

We have to be careful that we don’t let all this great activity that we’re getting done because of Agile Marketing lull us into thinking that we’re accomplishing our goals just because we’re moving so much from the Sprint backlog column into the done column.

I think that’s exactly right. The point of Agile Marketing isn’t just to get more done, it’s to get the right things done so that we can hit our goals and ultimately generate more business for the company.

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Swimlanes, Subscriptions and Standups

KanbanToolWe’ve been using a new tool (new to us at least) for managing our Sprints: KanbanTool. In using it, we’ve found several features very useful, and it has also changed how we do our standups. Just to give you some background, in previous Sprints, I’ve used either whiteboards and large colored index cards or Trello.

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Winning at Planning Poker

Image courtesy of

Image courtesy of

Planning poker is one of the most useful tools in Agile Software development, and yet most Agile Marketing teams don’t practice it. Here’s why, if you’re not already practicing planning poker, you should start.

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Strategy is Delivery

UK Government siteOne of the best curators on the Net, particularly of all things agile, is Neil Perkin at the blog Only Dead Fish. I sometimes have to translate the british-isms (We are two nations separated by a common language), but I always find something interesting in his weekly fish food. This week is no exception. Neil led me to a wonderful article by Mike Bracken, the Executive Director of Digital in the Cabinet Office of the UK, responsible for all things digital for the British government.

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Creating a World Class Marketing Team

eConsultancy Marketing Capability ModeleConsultancy Marketing Capability Model

eConsultancy Marketing Capability Model

How do you create a marketing function within your organization that is world class? There are some interesting clues in a brilliant article by eConsultancy’s Ashley Friedlein. [Read more…]