Agile Marketing Survey: 5 Findings that Took Us By Surprise

July 18, 2016 Marcus Varner

Workfront's newest report finds that marketers are clearly interested getting the benefits of structured work management methodologies, like Agile. So what's holding them back?

Agile marketing. Everybody is talking about it.

But despite all the claims and questions around Agile, so much of how marketers are using work management methodologies has remained shrouded in mystery. Earlier this year, for instance, we knew that many of our customers were using Agile—or at least, elements of it—to successfully organize and execute their work and get campaigns out faster. But we wanted to know more, like:

  • Exactly how many marketers use Agile to manage their work?
  • What other methodologies are marketers using to manage work?
  • What makes some marketing teams pass on Agile while others embrace it?

To get the answers to these questions, we partnered with MarketingProfs and surveyed over 200 marketers. While some of the survey results were just what we expected, other results surprised us, like:

1. Marketers are desperate for better transparency and feedback

agile marketing survey Marketers haven’t always been the project management type. That’s historically been the domain of engineers and IT folks. So what has marketers all stirred up about project management methodologies in general?

In our survey, we asked marketers, “What is your #1 goal in adding a work or project management process to your marketing organization?”

The top responses revealed some clear motivations. At the top spot, 41% of marketers said they sought out work management processes to “continuously get feedback so that the end product meets stakeholder expectations.”

In other words, as marketing teams compete in increasingly more crowded markets and take on more channels, they can’t afford for their final products to not match what their stakeholders expect. Constant feedback—open collaboration with stakeholders—is the only way to avoid this.

The second highest response echoes this idea: 30% were looking for “a clear set of tasks that get the team from idea to delivery on a project.” Transparency, it seems, is not only lacking in stakeholder collaboration, but also just in the basics of who’s doing what, when, and in what order.

2. Most marketers think their work planning processes suck

When we asked marketers to tell us how well their work planning processes, well, work, 57% gave a pretty dismal picture, ranging from “somedays are good, some are bad” to “running around with our heads cut off.”

Some marketers will shrug and say, “Yeah, welcome to my world.” Unfortunately, no matter how acclimated you might be to chaos in your marketing department, it takes a real toll on your ability to compete and connect with customers.

Commenting on this stat, Agile marketing enthusiast Andrea Fryrear observed:

“Ultimately, that’s not great for our audiences. They’re not getting relevant marketing messages from us—personalized, specific, useful content. If we’re always trying to take in the next most urgent thing, we can’t focus on establishing that connection with our audiences.”

3. Mixed methodologies is Marketing’s work management approach du jour

agile marketing survey It’s clear that marketers are curious about work management methodologies, but our survey responses gave us an unprecedented view into what that really looks like. And among all the different paths marketers might choose, mixing methodologies definitely rose to the top.

At 40%, the most prominent work management approach for marketers is one of mixed methodologies, whether that’s combining elements of Agile with waterfall or other methodologies. But why go from the mess of having no process to trying to meld together pieces of multiple methodologies? Why not adopt one wholesale, fully formed?

“Combining multiple methodologies is popular because it’s an easy way to put your toe in the water and test out a new way of doing things without abandoning what you know and what is comfortable,” Fryrear says. “You can also get a feel for whether it’s going to be valuable or not.”

Clearly, despite all of their interest around methodologies and Agile in particular, many marketers are more comfortable dabbling to see what works best for them.

4. Going Agile is easier when you’re not the pioneer

So how many marketers are actually using Agile? Thanks to our survey, we can now say with certainty that a healthy 30% of marketers have gone Agile. Interesting enough, we have also stumbled upon one factor that might separate the Agile wannabes from the Agile adopters.

agile marketing survey

While 30% said they use Agile to manage their marketing work, an amazingly close 32% said that other departments within their companies use Agile to manage work. Yes, this could a coincidence, but anecdotal information seems to support this assumption.

“I think of this as the ripple effect,” says Agile expert and Associate Partner at CMG, Barre Hardy, “It’s not uncommon for Marketing to feel the impact of other teams transitioning to Agile. When product has more frequent releases, it often has an impact on the volume of support required from the marketing organization, and a general need for them to re-evaluate how they can best prioritize and get the work accomplished. This often causes them to look at Agile themselves.”

It makes sense. When IT, for instance, has already worked out the kinks and proven the benefits that can come from Agile, management is a lot more likely to give it a chance in Marketing. Risk is suddenly much lower.

And that’s not the only crucial factor for would-be Agile adopters…

5. Agile marketers should find a guide

agile marketing survey Our survey found that 41% of marketers are either already using Agile to manage their work or plan to implement it within the next four years—a sign that Agile is going mainstream in Marketing. But what has the other 59% keeping their distance?

We asked marketers this question: “When considering Agile, what barriers or challenges do you encounter within your department?” These were their top responses:

  • My team doesn’t know what Agile is or how it works (43%)
  • We don’t have an internal expert to train and implement on Agile (29%)
  • Getting over the learning curve (19%)

Having the desire and even management support to adopt Agile is great but not enough. These Agile-averse marketers seem to understand that, if they’re going to successfully make Agile a reality in their department, they’re going to need the guiding hand, expertise, and moral support of someone who’s been there before.

Fryrear points out, however, that this doesn’t mean you need to hire an Agile consultant. “You really need an internal advocate or educator on your team to kick things off, even if they aren’t certified or a huge subject matter expert,” she explains. “At the very least, they should be someone who is engaged with the topic and willing to push the team forward, a person who can set up the first backlog and arrange the first meeting.”

Get the Details

What else stands in the way of marketers and their work management ambitions? You can view the full infographic and the full report to find out:

Agile Marketing Report

Agile Marketing Infographic


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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