Rolling out Scrum on your Marketing Team: Part 2 with Andrea Fryrear

March 16, 2017 Andrea Fryrear
Note from the Editor: This year, our special guest star on all things agile marketing, Andrea Fryrear, will be providing agile marketing newbies with a monthly step-by-step guide to their first year as an agile marketer. This post is the third in the series. Enjoy!

What follows is the second of the two-part chapter about Scrum. You can see the first part here.

Scrum Ceremonies

Now that we know a little more about the people on a Scrum team, it’s time to talk about what they do to manage their work more effectively.

Each ceremony that we’re going to talk about has a special role in helping Scrum work, so do your best to keep them all in place, at least until you have enough historical data to show whether they’re helping your team or not.

Refer to our post, Project Planning Best Practicesfor some great tips you can use in your Scrum ceremonies.

Sprint Planning

During the start of each Sprint, the entire team gets together to decide how much they can achieve. They take a look at the backlog, a constantly prioritized list of work that the PO and external stakeholders have agreed the team should tackle, and pull items from the top of the list.

To determine exactly how much work they can handle, the team estimates the size of each task or project.

The simplest form of estimation is to label things using t-shirt sizes (Extra Small, Small, Medium, Large, and Extra Large), and keep track of how many projects of each size the team completes. You can also size things based on the Fibonacci sequence (1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21), and track the total number of points the team completes each Sprint.

Once the team has chosen its workload for the next couple of weeks, projects are broken down into tasks, and each task is assigned to a team member.

As you might imagine, Sprint Planning can take a while. Plan to devote at least an hour for each week of your Sprint, meaning a two-week Sprint requires a two-hour Planning meeting.

Once this meeting is over, your entire team should know exactly what’s expected of them for the duration of the Sprint. Ideally this will be articulated in a clearly defined Sprint Goal for the team, but at the very least project goals and deadlines should have been identified.

Daily Standup

During the Sprint, team members need to regularly check in with one another so progress, or lack thereof, becomes clear as early as possible. After all, if you’re trying to complete multiple projects in just a week or two, you can’t wait three days to find out someone has gone completely off track or been delayed by external factors.

We keep the lines of communication open with a meeting called Daily Standup. The team stands to facilitate speed, and each team member shares only three things:

  1. What they did yesterday.
  2. What they plan to do today.
  3. Any blocks that are in their way.

Standup is a very brief ceremony; you should be in and out in 15 minutes or less. Scrum Masters, or their equivalents, may need to keep chatty team members on track.

This is one of the main reasons that Scrum is challenging on large teams: it takes way longer than 15 minutes for a team of 20 to give their updates.

(Scrum works best on teams of five to nine, but you can make it fit smaller or larger teams with some fiddling.)

Sprint Review

Once the Sprint is over, it’s time for some showing off. Known as the Sprint Review, this is the time when you show stakeholders, and any other interested parties, all the cool stuff you accomplished during the Sprint.

Developers demonstrate the working software or features they’ve completed; marketers may demo content, social media, email campaigns, or anything else they’ve released. If something goes out early in the Sprint, you may even have preliminary success data to share.

Be prepared for constructive feedback in this meeting, which you may need to incorporate into the backlog on the spot, but it’s not a time for Q&A or approval.

Finished work should have been reviewed, approved, and released before Sprint Review. This meeting is an opportunity for more people to get insight into what marketing actually does, which will (hopefully) expand the impact of your work across the organization.


While anyone who’s interested can attend a Sprint Review, the Retrospective is for the Scrum team only. The Scrum Master typically attends, but the PO comes only if he or she is involved in the day-to-day work of the team.

Retrospectives are moments of introspection for the team. Here they reflect on what went well and what went wrong during the Sprint, with an eye to improving their team and process for the next Sprint.

Young Scrum teams sometimes turn Retrospectives into hour-long blame games, so you may want to post the Retrospective Prime Directive in the room to remind them of the meeting’s purpose:

Retrospective Prime Directive:

Regardless of what we discover, we understand and truly believe that everyone did the best job they could, given what they knew at the time, their skills and abilities, the resources available, and the situation at hand.

Be sure to document what comes up at your Retrospective and ask for volunteers to put action items into practice. There’s nothing more frustrating than talking about the same problems at every Retrospective because continuous process improvement has fallen by the wayside.

3 Rollout Options

If you’re feeling totally overwhelmed by all of this information, you’re not alone. Tackling a Scrum implementation can be daunting (which is why so many people bring in coaches and consultants to help).

But a full-scale transformation is just one way to put Scrum to work on a marketing team. You can also try some pilot programs to get your feet wet and prove that this approach works before committing to a massive, department-wide roll out.

Scrum Pilot Projects

One option is to use Scrum on a single project within your department. Campaigns that are naturally iterative, meaning you already release them in small pieces over time, will be your best candidates.

Common choices include:

  • Content marketing
  • Email campaigns
  • Social media

Projects in each of these categories lend themselves to having their own backlog, can yield major gains in a short period of time after a Scrum adoption, and don’t usually require the whole team.

Scrum Pilot Teams

Pilot projects may naturally come with pilot teams, but that’s not always the case.

If you have a few excited marketers who want to take responsibility for an Agile rollout, let them!

Form an Agile team within your existing department, and make sure they have a nice robust backlog to work from. Allow them to report back to the rest of the team regularly and share their lessons.

Pilot teams can be a powerful yet lightweight way to test how Scrum will (or won’t) work in your particular organization. (Note: if Scrum doesn’t work, stay tuned! We’ll be covering other Agile approaches you can try.)

Full Scrum Transformation

Of course the final option is to jump into the deep end and adopt Scrum for an entire marketing department at once. If you choose this option, I strongly recommend having an expert of one form or another to help you.

You can send one or two team members to formal Scrum training, and they can act as Scrum Masters and subject matter experts for the team. Or you can retain a professional Agile coach or trainer to guide you.

Having these dedicated resources will smooth your path to adoption, and, particularly if you go with a trainer, will help you avoid common missteps.

Don’t Fear the Scrum Police

Ok, I realize there’s a lot of information in this article, and believe it or not we’ve only scratched the surface of Scrum’s intricacies.

People who have practiced Scrum for years still find ways to improve and adjust, so don’t stress about knowing everything before you get started.

Don’t worry that the Scrum police are going to come and take you away if you miss a step or botch a ceremony. Take the first step, and do your best to make the second one a little bit better.

And, just in case those Scrum police start harassing you, here’s a get out of jail free card.

Tune in to our on-demand webinar, Marketing Project Management 201, for tips on honing your project management skills.


About the Author

Andrea Fryrear

Andrea is the Chief Content Officer for Fox Content, where she uses agile content marketing principles to power content strategy and implementation for her clients. She's also the Editor in Chief of The Agile Marketer, a community of marketers on the front lines of the agile marketing transformation. She geeks out on all things agile and content on LinkedIn and @andreafryrear on Twitter.

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