A seven step approach to agile marketing

In the past, I’ve discussed the benefits of applying agile project management to marketing programs without actually discussing the details of how it works.  Here is the agile process I frequently use for managing marketing projects.  Keep in mind, that this is not great for projects with many hard deadlines like tradeshows, direct mail or print advertising.

1. Assign roles – The key stakeholders are the “scrum master” (the person who runs the daily scrum meetings), “program owner” (clearly articulates the goals for the project), “chickens” (people involved in the project from an informational standpoint), and “pigs” (the people who will do the heavy lifting for the project).

2. Decide on the duration and frequency of the sprints – In the world of agile project management, the idea is to break the work into smaller digestible chunks (ie sprints) and meet frequently to discuss progress on the specific tasks.  I prefer two to three week sprints.  In a perfect world we would have short scrum meetings daily but most of my agile marketing projects have meetings every other day.  The scrum frequency depends on the work velocity.

3. Set goals for first sprint – The first one is the most difficult.  I suggest first convening a “sprint planning meeting”.   Before starting the sprint, we discuss the theme, review tasks and estimate time requirements.  We’ll then put these tasks on post-it notes on a dedicated wall.  I prefer Post-its to note cards to avoid the need for pushpins.  Finally, we segregate the Post-its into the current sprint (what we will work on for the next two weeks) vs. the sprint backlog (what will come in later sprints).  If there is time, we’ll also discuss who will handle specific tasks.

4. Sprint meetings – I put the scrum meetings in the calendar for all the stakeholders except the “chickens”.  I’ll send the birds an email letting them know about the meetings and welcoming them to join us.  My logic is that this is an open meeting but only the people with real tasks responsibilities are required to attend.

5. Discuss, discuss, and discuss again – We basically run through the Post it notes on the wall and sort them into “in process” tasks vs. the “spring backlog”.  We then close the meeting by asking the “pigs” “what have you completed”, “what are you working on next” and “what are the risks”.  The goal is to quickly identify risks.  These meetings should be short (under 20 mins) so there is nothing wrong with taking issues offline to keep things moving.

6. Move the Post-its – When tasks are completed, move the cards to the done column.

7. Sprint planning (again) – As you approach the end of the sprint, it is time to think about the next one.  This meeting will review the last sprint’s results and look at what is next.

It is sort of like the instructions on the shampoo bottle … lather, rinse, repeat as needed…

I hope this is helpful.  Please let me know if you have anything to add.  I am by no means a scrum or agile expert and would value people’s suggestions on ways to improve this process.