Agile Marketing Webinar Recap: Advice from Two Pros - Part 2

April 19, 2017 Marcus Varner

In a recent webinar, Agile marketing experts David Lesue and Andrea Fryrear explain the basics of Agile marketing. What follows is the second in a three-part recap of the webinar. If you want to watch the entire webinar on demand, click here.

Andrea: So, those are a lot of different pieces of the various methodologies, but all of them have a few things in common, and we’re going to dive into each one of these one by one.

Common Elements of Various Methodologies

But, if you’re looking for some ways to take your first steps down the Agile path, starting to use some of these tools can help you do that if you’re not quite ready to adopt a full-scale methodology on your team.

  1. The first is the backlog, which I mentioned before and Dave is going to talk about, too. It’s your prioritized to-do list, which has to be regularly groomed and refined so that the team always knows that it can pull the topmost work off the backlog and that that will always be the most important work based on business value, strategy, and the current priorities of the organization.
  2. The second piece is to have a public board. This can be a physical board with sticky notes and whiteboards right over by your team, or it can be something like a Workfront board. This is a Workfront board, and Dave is going to show you how his team creates visibility with their board. The important thing is to have it public, out in the open, not just in someone’s browser because most people are not going to log in and check out what your team is doing. You have to get it out there where they can see it.
  3. The third piece is prioritization, so getting away from this idea of productivity as just checking things off, like, “we did a whole bunch of stuff,” and switching your mindset to doing the right work at the right time. That can be a really important change for marketers to do.

Finally, you can start using these Agile principles and values to guide your decision-making.

Let’s take the first one, for example.

If a project is helping you make more meaningful connections with individuals in your audience and have actual interactions and engagements with them, then that’s a project you should do over something that’s just focused on improving your own process or improving the tools that your team uses.

These are decision-making tools that you can use to start getting yourself into that Agile mindset that we talked about.

So, why are we having this webinar now? Why is Agile marketing coming into the spotlight and becoming a big topic of conversation?

There are a lot of reasons, but one of the most pressing is the growing complexity of marketing. If this is a map of marketing, if marketing is like a subway, the routes that people can take and the stops where they can get on and off are just growing all the time.

The traditional ways that marketers have dealt with all of this just don’t work anymore, so we have to change the way that we execute marketing to have any chance of keeping up with all of this.

Another reason is that Agile marketing solves a lot of the problems that marketers experience.

As far as our difficulty in proving that we can grow the bottom line of our business, Agile marketing departments report that they are three times more likely to grow market share than traditional marketing teams.

For the problem of individual marketing contributors and teams, Agile helps them improve their morale.

The vast majority of people who have undergone an Agile transformation in their marketing department say they can now pivot more effectively. They can change gears when they need to. Of course, we don’t ever need to do that, right? We get to always work on the same thing.

Agile marketing also helps us put to rest this quality-versus-quantity debate.

This is a quote from Jeff Sutherland, who is one of the originators of Scrum. He would find, when he went into development teams, that 85 percent of what people were doing was waste and that only a tiny fraction of the work they were doing was actually producing value.

If you use an Agile methodology to manage your work, you can get past this. You can do more work and do a better quality of work at the same time.

For you, as an individual marketer listening to us today, there are some great benefits for you personally.

You can become more productive by adopting this way of working, and this applies to you as an individual as well as to your team. We can better prioritize the things that matter, so we’re doing things that get results and not just things to check them off of our to-do list.

Finally, we can get things out faster. We can get our campaigns, our ideas, and our products out in front of our audience to learn what works and what doesn’t faster.

Finally, here’s a tiny word of caution. This is becoming a more and more common way of working. If you’re not doing it, one of your competitors just might be.

And now, we’ll turn it over to Dave to talk about how they’re doing this over on his team.

Dave: Thanks, Andrea. That last slide was scary. That put some fear into me. I’m glad I’m already using Agile to manage my work.

Like Andrea said, my name is David Lesué. I’m the creative director at Workfront, and I manage a team of graphic designers, video production specialists, and illustrators. We produce all the corporate marketing collateral for our company, Workfront.

I want to talk to you guys a little bit about how my team uses Agile and Scrum specifically, as Andrea mentioned, to manage our work. We’ve been doing it for the last four years, and we’ve learned quite a few things along the way.

I just want to put a caveat out there. What Andrea presented is by-the-book Scrum, Kanban, and Scrumban. What I’m going to be showing you guys is kind of our hack of Scrum, like how we’ve taken Scrum and modified it a bit for our team. So, hopefully, this will be useful for you.

First, I just wanted to introduce you to my team. This is my team. We don’t always look like this, but some days we do. Every once in a while, we get to work on fun things like zombie video shoots, and get professional makeup done, and things like that.

This is a good photo, not just of the members of my team, but also of how we felt before we adopted Agile and Scrum.

Like I said, we do a ton of work internally for different groups within Workfront, and I think this might sound familiar to a lot of you if you’re on a marketing team or a creative services team.

We are producing ebooks. We’re producing digital banner ads for PPC campaigns. We’re producing event graphics, handouts, and signage, and the corporate look and feel of our corporate website. So, there’s just a ton of work to do.

Almost always, we have more work to do than we have hours to do it, and a lot of internal stakeholders and everyone who is requesting work from my team all feel like their work is the most important thing to do.

When I first started in my role as a creative director here, this was the first problem I had to wrap my head around, that there was just more work to do than we had time to do it.

So, I had worked as a user experience designer at Adobe, and every team that I worked on used some form of Agile, but Scrum most often, to manage their work. So, when I came on board as a creative director here at Workfront, I naturally reached to Scrum to help solve some of my problems.

Hacking Components of Scrum to Work for You

First, I want to talk specifically about some of the components of Scrum that my team uses to manage our work, and I’m going to talk a little bit about some of the hacks that we have come up with to modify traditional Scrum to better suit our needs.

At the end, I’ll give you an example of a campaign that we’ve launched using Scrum principles.

The Backlog

So, first, I want to talk about the backlog. Andrea had touched on this and covered the basics for you, so you should have a pretty good idea of what a backlog is. I just want to show you what our backlog looks like and how we think about it.

Like Andrea mentioned, it’s a consolidated list of all your team’s work. It includes when things are due. It allows you to prioritize it. You can plug in time estimates and make assignments.

The big thing for me is that second bullet point. This isn’t traditional Scrum, but, for us, probably the most important part of the backlog is that we set it up to automatically collect all of our requests.

When I first started as a creative director, my biggest problem was that people would be asking my team to do things.

They’d ask individual members of my team, and then the information wouldn’t get back to me. They’d ask me in the hallway if we could work on something, and I might sometimes forget by the time I got back to my desk. We’d receive work in meetings and on phone calls.

Work was coming in in all these different ways, and, frankly, we were dropping balls. Things were slipping through the cracks, and we didn’t have a really good handle on everything that was being asked of my team.

So, setting up an automated backlog was probably the most important thing I did when I first started. Let me show you what that looks like, at least for us.

This is a screenshot of our backlog in the product Workfront. Like Andrea mentioned, this could take the form of a spreadsheet. There are many other tools that provide this functionality.

You can do it in a lot of different ways, but the main idea here is that you just have one place, one source of truth, where you know that anything and everything that’s been assigned to your team is in this one place.

As Andrea mentioned, grooming the backlog is a very important part of maintaining your backlog.

My team uses weeklong sprints, so at the beginning of each week, we have a sprint planning meeting. That’s where we go through and review the backlog, making sure that the prioritization still reflects reality, which in many cases has changed from one week to the next.

So, we prioritize it. We plug in our estimates of how long we think each story or each task will take, and then we make assignments there, and we populate and commit to the sprint.

That’s the piece at the very beginning that Andrea mentioned where we take the tasks off the top of the list, the most important tasks, we load them into our current week’s sprint, and we start working.

For us, that looks something like this. It’s a bunch of people in the room having a conversation. It seems a little boring, but it’s actually extremely helpful and useful. When we plan a sprint in our product, this is what it looks like. The tasks in green are the ones being pulled into the sprint.

I wanted to talk a little bit about capacity. Again, if we had more time, we could dig really deep into details about Scrum. We could talk about capacity, velocity, and things like that. I’m going to cover capacity really quickly.

This is one of the most helpful parts of Scrum for me. It helps me to be realistic about the amount of work that my team can actually get done within our timebox or within our sprint.

It’s pretty simple math. It’s just saying that for this particular sprint, which in our case is a week, we have a certain number of hours and I have a certain number of team members on my team, so if I do the math, I can get a pretty good estimate of the true capacity of my team, how many hours of work we can get done within a week.

Once you have that number, once you know what that is, that’s the amount of work that you’re pulling in off the top of your backlog from sprint to sprint.

Then, as Andrea mentioned, once we start sprinting, once we start the work, that work is visualized in a sprint board, and I’m going to show you a couple of examples of what a sprint board looks like. I’ll show you what we use and what some other people use.

The main idea is that you have columns that you’ve set up. You’re moving stories or tasks from left to right. At the beginning of the week, everything is in the left-hand column. At the end of the week, everything is in the right-hand column, ideally.

The number of columns, like Andrea mentioned, is up to you and your team and how you work.

For us, we have four. We try to keep it pretty basic. We have a "New" column on the left. There’s an "In Progress" column that team members drag their tasks to once they’re actually working on that particular task.

We have an "Awaiting Verification" column, meaning the requester needs to review this, or I, as creative director, need to review it and provide feedback. And then once a task is deemed complete, we drag it all the way to the right in the "Done" column.

Again, I want to reiterate this. Making it public is probably the most important part about it.

Let me show you what other people do, and then I’ll talk a little bit more about making it public.

A lot of people just use whiteboards. They have columns that they write on there with a whiteboard marker, and sticky notes to represent each story or task. This is great. Doing the analog version of this is great because it allows you to be very nimble, and you can change things quickly over time.

The problem with analog is that somebody has to manually update this thing all the time.

I personally prefer digital, so this is just a screenshot of one of my team’s sprints. You can see the columns and each task. It’s just a drag-and-drop interface. These can get pretty hefty depending on the amount of work that we have to do.

Like I mentioned before, we make this public. In our case, we put it up on a monitor. It’s just outside of our cubicles.

So, anytime any requester has a question about who’s working on this particular task, when it’s going to get done, what’s being worked on right now, or what’s on deck, those questions can be answered just by walking by our cubes and seeing this.

They can log in as well, but as Andrea mentioned, people tend not to do that. But if you get really transparent and you put it up there, you’ll find that it saves you, as a team lead, a lot of time.

To watch the "Intro To Agile Marketing" webinar on demand, featuring David Lesue and Andrea Fryrear, click here.

To see Part Three in our recap of the webinar, check out our April 26 post or subscribe to receive our newsletter.

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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