It’s no secret that technology greatly influences how we work. In recent years those influences have been bleeding outside of the realm of technology and becoming general principles for project management.
Sometimes these principles are skillfully applied outside their original intended purpose but in many cases they serve as an inefficient construct. The most prevalent technology concept that has bled into digital marketing conversations is applying the Agile Methodology to digital marketing campaigns.
To apply Agile Methodology to your digital marketing you first need an explanation of what Agile Methodology is. As a high level description, Agile is a process for software and system development where developers create a piece of software, review it, get feedback, then refine it. Other pieces of the software are likely being developed for the same project and using the same process. These bursts of development are called “sprints” and allow multiple people or groups to review and provide feedback so that all the elements create a cohesive whole throughout the project.
The benefit of the agile methodology in software development is that it lets developers focus on a single element of the software, get immediate feedback, and refine it before moving further into development. It also prevents any element from being set in stone so that improvements can be made later in the project. In this way, elements of the software don’t become siloed by function and it ensures that the software is evolving into something users want, rather than what the developers think users want.
The agile methodology has been widely converted into a project management philosophy. While elements of it can be used effectively, it is also easy for trainers, consultants, and professional coaches to misapply the methodology.
The basic structure for any good digital marketing campaign is:
- Set a strategy
- Develop the content
- Launch an element of the campaign
- Review the results
- Refine the campaign using the metrics
This process can be adapted into an Agile framework:
- Project backlog (list of all projects)
- Sprint backlog (individual elements of the project)
- Burn chart (Visual tool of what is complete)
- Task board (Visual tool of what needs done)
- Sprint (Do the work)
- Sprint review (Gather feedback)
- Retrospective (Set plans for correction/improvement)
The real risk of misapplying Agile is over complicating what should be simple. Here are some common misapplications that makes Agile slow your marketing progress to a crawl:
Not really understanding the Agile Methodology – Agile is widely used as a management fad or for its buzzwords. It’s not uncommon for someone to state that they want their marketing to follow the Agile process when what they really mean is that they want rapid deployment of marketing communications.
Unnecessary meetings – SCRUMS are daily meeting to focus a software development project. That’s very useful to a large group of developers trying to build a single cohesive software offering. For a small group of people where only a few are actually executing the marketing, it’s a waste of time.
Sprints are too fast – Sprints in the Agile methodology almost never go over a month. Many digital marketing campaigns require at least a month’s data to effectively analyze it. Speeding up the analysis often means taking action on incomplete data.
Retrospective on what you already know – Software developers rely on user tests to verify what works and what doesn’t. An advantage that digital marketing has over software development is an actual data set on what was effective and what isn’t. In an effort to follow Agile some people feel compelled to survey their audience on what they like/dislike about the marketing campaign. If you diligently analyze the data then you can see what your audience prefers rather than what they think they prefer.
Using complicated software tools – There are a lot of project management tools that offer the agile methodology. For large groups this can be a valuable tool for keeping everyone on the same page. For a small group it takes a long time to do what a simple flowchart or summarized email string could accomplish.
Agile methodology was designed so that software development was flexible in what it delivered rather than developing an entire software offering only to find out its not what people really want. That flexibility and constant evolution process is what digital marketing should take from the Agile Methodology. If you’re taking more than those core principles from the methodology make sure it’s increasing your efficiency rather than hindering it.