Agile Marketing: Common Questions Answered for Creatives

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More and more marketing organizations are adopting Agile workflows to get more work done efficiently.
According to the State of Agile Marketing 2018 by Agile Sherpas, 37% of marketers report using some form of Agile today, while 61% plan to implement Agile in the next year.
While there’s a deluge of information on Agile for product, IT, and even marketing teams, there isn’t a whole lot of guidance for creative teams. This leaves many to wonder, what does Agile mean for the creative department?
Creative teams do not need to be anxious about their future with Agile. My experience suggests that Agile adoption among marketing represents an opportunity for creatives.
To address some of the concerns that creative teams may have about working with an Agile marketing team, or even adopting Agile workflows themselves, I’ve identified the most common questions about Agile I hear from creatives:
1) What is Agile marketing?
An agile process facilitates a constant and manageable flow of work. This allows a team to be nimble by breaking up projects into smaller parts. In this way, teams can tackle traditionally sequential steps in a campaign simultaneously while also allowing for pivots mid-project if needed.
By contrast, the traditional “Waterfall” approach leads projects along a linear path until they are completed. If there’s a mistake, the team doesn’t see it until the end.
The nimble process of Agile is an opportunity for creatives to let marketing “see under the hood.” Agile workflows bring transparency to the creative process and help stakeholders see the real level of effort that goes into creative work.
2) Why are marketing leaders implementing Agile?

Marketing and creative teams are being asked to do more with less, a concept I call “v3” for volume, variety, and velocity. This means higher volumes of work, across a variety of new formats, to be completed at a greater velocity.
Agile processes have proven to be highly collaborative and to enable teams to do more work faster without sacrificing quality. In fact, the research noted above found, “Agile marketing teams are far more likely (81%) to be satisfied with how their department handles work than traditional (44%) or ad hoc (27%) teams.

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3) How is marketing work organized under Agile?
There are multiple Agile methodologies, but “Scrum” tends to be the most popular among marketers. Scrumbreaks projects down into individual tasks and organizes them into two-week “sprints” that drive towards project completion. This holistic view aligns closely with how marketing teams set goals and tackle work.
Each sprint has a cadence of meetings and check-ins where team members can highlight obstacles interfering with projects, pivot if needed, and stay up-to-date on the status of tasks.
The first day of the first week is used for project planning and one-on-one meetings between team members and managers. This allows each team member to come to the sprint kickoff prepared to discuss their project ideas with the rest of the team.
This is a key point for creatives because it’s a chance to get involved in strategy far earlier in the planning process – and get feedback following campaigns. This way, rather than reacting to a deluge of requests, creatives can bring their expertise to influence projects and campaigns from the beginning. In addition, armed with feedback and measurements as to how campaigns performed, creatives will be better able to serve as an expert advisor.
4) What technology tools are involved in Agile?
Agile is a process. Agile technologies help automate and streamline that process. The typical technologies marketers chose for Agile tend to facilitate team communication, collaboration, and project management. This means messaging apps like Slack, collaboration tools such as Microsoft Office OneNote, and Dropbox for digital asset management.
Agile brings an opportunity for creatives to lobby for tools designed around their needs. For example, workflow tools that support creative project intake, collaborative review, and automated routing for approvals. This helps align creatives to the Agile marketing process, which means the creative “ask” for tools isn’t a cost, but rather an investment in a marketing initiative.
The Role of Creative in Agile
The rise of Agile marketing may well be a once-in-a lifetime opportunity for creatives. It’s a chance to advance many of the items on the creative department’s wish list.
The wish list I often hear includes:

  • a seat as a valuedpartner at the strategy table rather than an order-taker;
  • participation in planning, rather than reacting to decisions;
  • leadership and CMO visibility into what it actually takes to get creative work done;
  • better collaboration with internal clients, rather than guessing requirements; and
  • insight into the effectiveness of campaigns to fuel future creative input.

When people ask me what the role of creative is in an Agile environment, I think the answer is simple: It’s just like it was before…only better.

Written by Alex Withers

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