Agile methods of project management are increasingly popular in digital marketing—and for good reason. Agile allows for a collaborative loop of testing and feedback that's highly effective at pushing projects forward.
But agile isn't for every team or organization. The method is built for flexible timelines, open-ended testing, and heavy collaboration. Projects or organizational structures that don't fit those categories typically aren't a good fit.
If most of your programs have fixed requirements and deadlines, or approval processes and workflows that are out of your control, agile may not be the right fit for your team. Event marketing, for example, struggles with agile processes. With its succession of tasks all built around a one-off conference or social gathering, there is little room for testing and iteration. This type of marketing thrives with a waterfall approach.
Likewise, organizations with a lot of staff working independently on projects, or those in need of strict timelines and measurable goals, will struggle to implement agile methods. Before simply jumping aboard the agile trend, take time to assess your staff, projects, and goals to ensure you choose the methodology that's best for you.
Determine if a Change Is Needed
Change in business is inevitable, but teams can be resistant to it. Before overhauling your process, be sure to conduct a clear and honest assessment of your team’s project management maturity. To start, there are some common signs to look for. Flow of communication and ease of collaboration are easy first symptoms to check. If innovative ideas seem to be stifled or there are walls between departments inhibiting creative energy, it's time to shake things up.
Everyone knows how much fun change in business can be. There's probably nothing your team will enjoy more than putting in all the work to change your whole system only to realize that what you had before was a better fit. If you'd rather not give your team this lovely experience, you should ask yourself and trusted team members whether your project management process actually needs an overhaul.
Don’t assume, though, that increased collaboration will solve for intractable productivity needs. I encouraged my team to consider agile methods after realizing the amount of time being spent in meetings vs. productive work. We needed a way to push projects forward and get to market faster.
Honestly assessing your current systems—and the results they are delivering—will help you decide whether the time has come for a change.
7 Questions to Ask Before You Go Agile
Once you've committed to implementing a new methodology, you can evaluate whether agile is a good fit for your organization. Start by asking these seven questions:
How content are you with your current project management process?
Are you open to changing your workflows and processes?
Are you willing to make time for training and experimentation with agile?
Have you adopted any agile methods already (e.g. sprints, backlogs, work-in-progress boards, retrospectives, etc.)?
How easy is it for your team to shift gears when priorities change?
Does your team or department have an effective method for communicating the status of active and upcoming projects?
Do you have a multidisciplinary team that can work on the same program simultaneously?
Test Before You Commit
Even if all your answers are pointing toward agile, it's still wise to test the method before committing your entire team or organization to it. Start with a limited scope of one small team and a simple project. This will alleviate the stress, risk, and reorganization that it requires to go all-in with agile.
It also helps you limit and deal with backlash. Even on a small scale, a big change like this will provoke resistance. A Forbes Insights and Scrum Alliance survey shows that longtime employees are rigidly resistant to change, accounting for the largest group of critics of agile processes.
Opposition from these veteran groups will make it difficult to gain traction. Adequate training is the only way to overcome that resistance, and that must go beyond webinars and conferences to hands-on work. A small launch group makes it easier to put resources into in-depth training.
You can also find simple ways to borrow from an agile mentality without an initial wholesale buy-in. By encouraging your teams to be self-reflective about their processes, implementing regular habits of communication, and dicing up projects into bite-sized tasks, you can invite immediate results while nudging your organization a bit closer to adoption.
Even if your organization is ready to fully embrace agile, gradual steps are the best way to get there. Set clear milestones—perhaps every quarter to start. Choose goals you can achieve in that time frame, and then hold a retrospective to evaluate at the end of the period. Set new goals, and repeat.
Going agile isn't a zero-to-60 move. You will hit bumps along the way. Stop and learn from those mistakes, and you will ultimately build momentum toward becoming a more agile marketing team.