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Few approaches, processes, or methods can be taken off the rack and immediately put to work without some adjustment. Every team, company culture, and project has its own unique qualities that must be taken into consideration. Agile is no exception. However, once it’s up and running, it has built-in processes that improve effectiveness and fit over time.
That said, Agile needs some momentum before these built-in processes can take effect. Here’s how to get that momentum going.
1. Talk shop with your peers
If your company already has Agile implemented by another group (e.g. development or product management) that’s a great place to start gathering advice. While different teams may have very different functions, they do tend to share the same company culture. Connecting with the Agile leaders within your company will allow you to benefit from what they’ve already learned. The fact is that there are lots of options, body types, and suit styles to choose from.
If there are other marketers within your company that have experience with Agile, that’s a huge advantage because they’ll be able to provide insights that non-marketers won’t. Remember that Agile was originally developed for software development, not marketing, and marketers are still figuring out how to interpret Agile in the marketing context.
One common pitfall that marketers make (and pay for later) is that they try to replicate how Agile works in a development context rather than interpreting Agile for the marketing context. Following this, they tend to start with an approach that is too prescriptive than is appropriate.
2. Start out loose (and less prescriptive)
There is a range of Agile methods that you might implement depending on your team, culture, and project. The range is best defined by how prescriptive the methods are. Of the two most common methods that marketers use, Kanban is less prescriptive and Scrum is more prescriptive. Said another way, Scrum has more detailed practices to follow than Kanban.
As I’ve watched colleagues and fellow marketers implement Agile, I’ve witnessed a fairly common pattern that goes like this: They start with a more prescriptive method (on the recommendation of development), have adoption problems, move to a less prescriptive method, get adoption but find that they need more structure, and then end up somewhere in the middle. This is not necessarily a bad thing because part of the Agile retrospective process is designed to provide feedback on the Agile process itself. Again, the issue is that it takes time for these retrospectives to get traction and establish credibility.
Following this, my advice for most marketers is to start with a less prescriptive method and to gradually add more structure. This does not mean that you should ignore the input from your peers in development; their input is useful as you add more structure. Their input can also be useful when it comes to establishing your sprint cycle (if you’re using sprints) because there can be benefits associated with being on the same cycle in some industries.
3. Refine your style
Kanban and Scrum sit on a spectrum and are not mutually exclusive. Rather, most marketers end up blurring these methods into what some refer to as Scrumban.
If you do not have colleagues at your company using Agile, then you may need some help establishing ownership of your method. In this case, I’d recommend working with an Agile coach. In the best-case scenario, this coach will take on a project and participate alongside your team. Once that project has a few iterations under its belt, you should be able to manage on your own.
Once established, the internal process feedback loops built into the Agile retrospective process will start to take effect. Your method must by dynamic and always changing because your team, culture, and projects are always changing. Agile is an adaptive approach after all, so you’re going to get a lot of mileage out of your get up.
Roland Smart is VP of Social & Community Marketing at Oracle. He is also author of the upcoming book The Agile Marketer: Turning Customer Experience Into Your Competitive Advantage. Visit http://rsmart.ly/agilemarketer to get notified when the book is available for purchase.