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Agile Is Buzzy, But “agile” Is Better

By Kristina LaRocca-Cerrone | August 26, 2020 | 0 Comments

MarketingMarketing Organization and Operations

In Gartner’s 2020 survey on Marketing Organization and Operations, marketers revealed the essential importance of agile principles. In fact, Marketers believe agile project management approaches are as much as 25% more effective than traditional project management approaches, and that they drive better customer responsiveness, better prioritization, better message adaptation, faster delivery, and faster execution.

If you’re looking to increase marketing’s nimbleness, agile may be the answer. And while some organizational structures do lend themselves more easily to an agile approach, there are ways to introduce more “lower-case-a-agility” into nearly any model.

Marketers Are Moving to Functional and Centralized Structures

This year’s Marketing Organization and Operations survey shows that more marketers are aligned functionally, vs being organized by brand, or vertical (or some other way). 27% of marketing organizations are functionally aligned (See Figure 1). And that’s likely a result of a push to more agile ways of working.

Figure 1: Marketing Organization Alignment

n = 429 Marketing Leaders, Excluding Not Sure

Source: 2020 Gartner Marketing Operations & Organization Strategy

Functional and Centralized Structures Support Agile

Marketers in a functional model can work more like agencies, receiving, scoping, and resourcing work from across their team. Functional structures make capacity planning a little easier, tend to be more scalable, and can move quickly – all of these are desirable for marketers seeking more nimbleness in marketing operations.

Similarly, centralized models help marketing organizations make the most of resources, especially when resources may be limited (as they are for many post-pandemic brands right now). They can help introduce more consistency, and again, make it easier for resources and capabilities to be drawn from across the organization and applied to various projects. Because most marketing activities are handled by a central team, you’ll typically see less duplication of effort and more centralized learning as well – more of the team collaborating and learning from one another. So again, marketers can operate in a more scalable, responsive way.

While functional and centralized models support some of the core characteristics marketers are looking for in a more agile modern marketing organization, keep in mind that there are still drawbacks to these ways of working. Functional models can be uncoordinated and unintentionally siloed. Centralized models can make it more difficult for marketers to properly align marketing activities to customer needs and journeys, especially at a regional level. Indeed, simply being functionally aligned, or centralized, doesn’t actually mean that you’re organized around customer needs.

To avoid disjointedness, it’s important to consider not just your structure, but how work actually gets done (and recorded, and learned from) in your organization. And considering that angle can also allow you to introduce agility to nearly any model.

But Agile Can Work in Any Structure

But what if you’re not operating in a functional structure, or a centralized model? Do you need to redesign your organization to get agile results? Not necessarily. In fact, very few marketers are working in a formal, software-style agile model. It’s FAR more common for marketers to layer agile ways of working into whatever model they already have. And you can absolutely adapt agile methodologies to what works for your unique needs and structure.

Even if you’re organized by brand, or vertical, or channel – or working in a decentralized structure – you can still start to feather in agile ways of working by focusing your attention on HOW work gets scoped, resourced, and completed in your existing model.

Agile Questions to Ask

Below are a few key questions to ask yourself in order to begin introducing agile methodologies to any structure:

Are your marketers familiar with core agile principles and tools? This will make it easier for them to tailor those concepts to project and organizational needs, regardless of structure.

Do you clearly scope out marketing work, including desired outcome? Doing so helps the team iterate and innovate, and even be more consultative and strategic, without losing sight of execution goals.

How does the team calibrate marketing projects, planning, and resources? In formal agile project management, team members often participate in stand-up meetings to update the group on project progress, roadblocks, challenges. This allows the group to ensure the right resources are devoted to the project at the right time, and it drives further collaboration. You may not need a daily stand-up meeting (and your team probably won’t thank you for demanding one), but you should still consider how project updates are provided and how resourcing is adjusted to respond to project needs. Regular calibration keeps the team aligned to business objectives and allows you to assess when to stop working on a project – essential in managing resources and increasing marketing efficiency.

Can you pilot agile principles in various projects across marketing? Can you pilot an “agile-ish” approach with a lower-stakes or routine project? Experimenting with agile in this way helps the team safely learn how to apply new methods, and builds confidence. It’ll also help your team get more used to collaboration, and flexible resourcing, which will help down the road as you start applying agile practices to larger projects.

Next Steps

Learn more about how to introduce agility, nimbleness, and scale to your marketing organization by scheduling an Inquiry with me, or start with this research: 4 Steps for Building Greater Agility in Your Marketing Organization (Gartner membership may be required).

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