Agile and Scrum are terms that are most often used in software development, but recently there’s been some interest in applying these concepts in the marketing world. What can we learn from agile and Scrum, and what value do they have in marketing?
What are Agile and Scrum?
Agile software development
Agile is a method of project management that developed in the 1990s, and was further refined in 2001 at a somewhat unusual place: The Lodge, a ski resort in Utah in the USA. Here, 17 people—all involved in either software development or agile project management—met to discuss software development, and came up with what’s now referred to as the Agile Manifesto.
The agile software manifesto as originally conceived had 12 core principles, including the following:
- Customer satisfaction is the highest priority, with early and continuous delivery of valuable software the main means of satisfying customers.
- Change should be welcomed and used to advantage, even when it occurs late in a development cycle.
- Ongoing collaboration between developers and business-oriented colleagues.
- Make motivated individuals the core of development projects.
- Prioritize face-to-face interaction to convey information.
- Self-organizing teams produce the best results.
- The most effective teams are those that self-evaluate regularly.
- The main measure of progress is how well the software is working.
Essentially, the Agile Manifesto was intended to describe a better method of developing software, and to help other teams develop software more efficiently and effectively. As noted by the 17 collaborators, agile methods value “individuals and interactions over processes and tools; working software over comprehensive documentation; customer collaboration over contract negotiation; and responding to change over following a plan.”
Scrum in software development
Scrum is a particular kind of agile methodology used in software development. Where agile is the set of core principles that guides software development, Scrum is a more detailed framework that development teams can use to work on a project.
One of the main defining features of Scrum is that the development team doesn’t have a detailed set of guidelines they must follow when they’re working on a project. Instead, the bulk of decision-making is left up to the team itself—because the team and its members are the ones who best know how to do the work, solve the problems, and complete the project. In a Scrum team there’s traditionally no team leader; instead, issues such as who completes various tasks and sub-tasks are decided by the whole team. While a Scrum team doesn’t have a leader, it does have a ScrumMaster, who acts as a kind of coach to help people work to their highest potential.
Another important feature of the Scrum method is “sprints”. These are discrete periods of time, typically two to four weeks, in which progress is made on a particular project. At the start of each sprint, the team meets to plan what work will be completed in the sprint, and who will work on each task. During the sprint, the team works on a defined set of software features, and takes them from core idea, through to coding, testing, and full functionality. At the end of the sprint, those features are integrated into the software product, and finally the team reviews their progress to prepare for the next sprint.
What do Agile and Scrum have to offer to Marketing?
The idea of applying agile and Scrum concepts to marketing and marketing teams may still be in its infancy, but it’s a concept that is gaining traction over time. One reason for this is that marketing is increasingly data-driven, both in terms of practice and results, and because of this, agile and Scrum principles are more easily applied.
Then there’s the simple fact that agile methods promote concepts that are important in marketing: adaptive planning, continuous improvement, and a flexible and rapid response to change. By adopting a Scrum-focused agile approach, a marketing team can more easily focus on important tasks, eliminate those that are unnecessary, and quickly ascertain what initiatives are working and which aren’t.
Perhaps the most important features of the agile approach are that it’s iterative and continuous—just like marketing itself, where continual A/B testing over the course of a long campaign is employed to ensure that campaign is as effective as possible. The concept of continual change and improvement is part of the core framework of the Scrum approach, as is the ability for teams to apply what they learn in one sprint or project to new ones.
Agile and Scrum can bring significant benefits to a marketing team. An agile team is typically one with a more flexible approach, a more streamlined workflow, better communication and teamwork, and higher customer satisfaction. In marketing terms, that means one simple thing: more effective campaigns, with better results.