The Agile craze has been sweeping the marketing nation for a few years now. While some love, some also love to hate. Agile you certainly know how to split a crowd.
Despite the waves the Agile methodology has been making in the marketing industry, it’s had an even longer history outside of it.
Agile approaches originated in software development in the mid-to late-1990s. Back then, it gave developers the revolutionary way of working they had been waiting for. Before Agile, developers worked in what was known as the waterfall approach. Project managers would plan for the software from start to finish and gathered all the research in huge documents known as requirements. The requirements would simply be handed over to the developers to create.
The problem came when projects continuously took far longer to complete as the developers would uncover unknown issues throughout the project line.
According to AgileSherpas, a 1995 report found that only 16.2% of software projects were being delivered on time and on budget. So, yeah. It wasn’t ideal.
*Enter* Agile: The new and improved approach to project management where demands and solutions evolve through the collaborative effort of cross-functional teams.
In the marketing world, this often means using data and analytics to always be on the lookout for new opportunities and solutions in real time, creating tests quickly, evaluating the results and reacting at speed. In theory, a successful Agile marketing team can run multiple campaigns at once and come up with new ideas on the fly.
“It sounds great when you put it like that. Who’s hatin’?” We hear you ask...
Well, for some the concept of Agile methodology in marketing means abandoning strategy and management.
“At its worst, [Agile] just results in disorganisation and a bit too much chaos,” Rob Estreitinho, senior strategist at VCCP Kin, said.
Whereas Agile is designed to be flexible, dictated by data and change course throughout the process, a traditional marketing strategy should remain fixed with all the research done upfront.
The risk comes when the team’s focus remains fixated on juggling numerous hypotheses and tactics without a guiding vision. Essentially, having too many cooks in the kitchen and disorganisation takes over.
Although, to follow the Agile framework exactly, the ideal team needs to remain small enough for everyone to remain clearly accountable to each other. As Jeff Bezos famously referred to as “two-pizza teams” - teams that can be fed by no more than two pizzas.
While the Agile world is horizontal - where the team contributes a collaborative effort and is accountable for themselves, a traditional management system would be vertical - where there is a clear hierarchy and the boss at the top of the ladder takes all responsibility.
However, Agile suggests middle ground. A “scrum master” leads the team but does not dictate the project. They set priorities, define hypotheses, manage the backlog, identify necessary resources, and manage “sprints” (one-to-two-week cycles of work) ensuring the team remains goal-focused and the project progresses.
For some, Agile has revolutionised the way they work, while others struggle to let go of traditional structure. But whether you’re an initial lover or hater of Agile, the methodology continues to trend in marketing teams. So, you might just have to get used to it.