Embracing Agile Marketing: Q&A With Nick McCleery at DMA

November 23, 2016 Marcus Varner

You might've heard, but at DMA's 2016 &Then Marketing Conference in L.A., Workfront was given the DMA 2016 Innovation Award in the category of content native marketing. After the awards ceremony, our very own Nick McCleery chatted with the editorial director at DMN about the advantages of Agile marketing. We've included a transcript of their conversation here for your reading pleasure...

Keith: Hi, this is Keith O’Brien, editorial director for DMN, here with Nick McCleery, group product manager for Workfront. So, Workfront just released an Agile Marketing report. Can you tell me about some of the most important takeaways from it?

Nick: Absolutely. We’ve gone out and interviewed our potential customers and those who are just looking at Agile as a solution for their marketing problems within their teams and getting organized. We’ve interviewed hundreds of people and found that there are more people who are adopting Agile than we expected.

There are so many questions in the market about how to use Agile to solve problems in marketing. So we figured there was probably a low adoption rate. But what we found is, about a third of the people we interviewed were already using Agile to some degree.

And of the remaining people, the thing that’s really holding them back from embracing Agile is simply a lack of knowledge. You know, "What does it really mean? How do we find the solution that’s best for our team? How do we get the training that we need to embrace Agile to solve our problems?"

They want to embrace Agile. It’s a buzzword in the industry, and they know that there’s something important there. But they don’t really know how to embrace that yet, take that in, and use it for their solution.

Keith: Tell me a bit about how Agile Marketing works from an organizational standpoint.

Nick: Absolutely. You have to remember that Agile is a state of mind or a way of being. You can be agile, but it’s also a methodology. So, you can do Agile as well, although there’s different approaches to it.

When we go out, we help our customers understand that they need to break away from  waterfall—or milestone-based planning, where you try to know all of your problems up front—and then really focus on delivering value for your customer.

You have to be able to look at that in a prescriptive manner, so you can quickly respond to changes.

When you’re doing a banner ad and halfway through that development cycle, someone changes a requirement? Maybe they change a date, they change a color, something like that. How does your team respond to these changes?

Agile helps them break it down into those functional deliverables so that they can focus on the thing that they need to deliver for their customer. You’re taking it in more bite-sized chunks and getting it done just as your customer needs. So you can respond to their changes and their needs as those evolve.

Keith: Okay. And you touched upon this little bit, but what are some of the key benefits of changing to Agile marketing?

Nick: Yeah, you’ve probably got a process in place. So why would we want to change that, learn something new?

We find that they are increasing their market share. They’re able to respond to their customers’ needs more quickly. And a big one for the teams that really embrace Agile is, it helps them to understand, from an estimating perspective, what they can get done and in what timeframe.

With Agile and with time, teams are going to learn what their capacity is, and what they can deliver in a time period.

So, you can come to me and say, “Well, this is what we need you to deliver. What do you think it’s going to take? And how long is that going to take?” And we can do a good job of estimating it because we have experience. I think those are the biggest benefits from using Agile.

Keith: One of the biggest challenges for marketers is the idea that they have this big deliverable looming, and they have to work an 18-hour shift before the day it’s due. Does Agile marketing help to mitigate this overtime culture of having to get everything done at one time and work until it’s done, even if it’s way past the normal business hours?

Nick: Yes, absolutely. A lot of times we’ll hear people call that the “death march." And nobody wants to be involved in the death march, because we’re stuck in kind of a reaction mode. A request comes in for something new. We’ve already made a commitment to deliver something. So how do we respond to this new piece of work that’s suddenly been put into our stream?

With Agile, you’re working in sprints, which are really just a way of taking a bite-sized chunk of time and prioritizing what your team’s going to deliver. Depending on if you have a one-week sprint or maybe a month-long sprint, you have opportunities throughout to prioritize your backlog, prioritize your work, and then shift as needed.

And what this does is, it helps external stakeholders understand what’s on your plate right now and what you have capacity to take on in the future. And you can respond to incoming requests very quickly. 

It really helps teams understand where they are in the process. And that really alleviates that, “You’re gonna have to get it done now, so you’re gonna have to work overtime to do it.”

To learn how marketing teams are using Agile to work faster and smarter, download our free ebook "The Complete Guide to Agile Marketing."

About the Author

Marcus Varner

Marcus is a content strategist and producer who loves helping brands craft content that improves customers' lives, builds brand credibility, and demands to be shared. For the last 10 years, Marcus has worked in every type of content—from writing to video production to design—and is currently a senior content marketing manager at Workfront, where he oversees all corporate- and awareness-level level content. When he's not producing content, he's consuming it, in the form of books, movies, and podcasts.

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