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Our Journey to Agile Marketing: Agility is not just for development
By Cameron van Orman, SVP of Product Marketing, CA Technologies
Where are we now?
We’ve been on our agile marketing journey for over two years, applying agile methodologies to our cross-functional marketing teams at scale.
Along the way, we’ve run many experiments, not all intentional, and learned from each one. We’ve had our share of ups and downs—our own “hype cycle”—building up our expectations only to enter a period of disillusionment before eventually leveling on a road of productivity. It’s been worth it.
Today we have six BU-aligned delivery groups, each consisting of all the marketers that actively support the business activities of that BU. Within each, there are several persistent and temporal or initiative-based teams. Our agile marketing reach is now over 100 people within CA, approximately 60 of who are practicing every day as part of our core agile delivery teams. The others are engaged leaders, specialists such as communications, data scientists, and regional marketers, who support the core teams when needed, as well as active stakeholders, such as digital sales, who meet with our teams regularly to provide critical guidance and feedback.
How did we get here?
We started small, with a reasonably co-located marketing team for a single product line. When we acquired Rally software in 2015, we inherited a marketing team that was two quarters into their own agile journey. I was part of the integration team and closely watched how their marketing team worked. While it looked like a promising way to work, it couldn’t apply to us, could it?
Step two; we expanded to a full marketing delivery group supporting agile management, a multi-product BU.
If you think Agile is only for small, co-located marketing teams, I urge you to reconsider and start your journey
• more marketers with widely divergent levels of agile experience— including none,
• more products at different stages of the development life cycle,
• and fewer co-located people.
In step three, we added seven persistent cross-functional campaign teams, supporting five more BUs and in step four, we added the remainder of the marketers in delivery groups supporting those five BUs.
Four steps over two plus years gave us plenty of opportunities to learn.
Are we done?
No, this is a journey, not a destination, and we continue to learn. We learned that marketing and app development teams really are different.
Marketing teams need more vision and context to develop solid messaging and campaigns. We addressed this by investing in quarterly “big room planning” and investing more time to set the vision, align the strategy and plan initiatives. Stand-ups and weekly metrics, essential to agile, keeps us directed.
The nature of some marketing work is harder to deliver in two week sprints. We developed persistent teams to handle ongoing, demand campaigns and temporal or initiative-based teams to handle specific events, such as a product launch or CA world. We flexibly staff the temporal teams based on the need at the time, from one person to many.
The terminology is different so we use terms that resonate with marketers. For example: “features” become “initiatives”, “release train” becomes “delivery group” and “release train engineer” becomes “coach”.
We also discovered that, while our agile teams quickly grew to love it, our departmental managers had a harder adjustment. They couldn’t simply add work to an employee of “theirs” who is part of an agile team focused on a well-defined, shared deliverable. They had to shift gears from directing to coaching; they had to learn “servant leadership.” We underestimated the coaching they needed and sometimes we outright forgot to include them in the initial ceremonies.
We learned to watch for “agile theater”, groups with the jargon and paraphernalia, but who lacked cross-functional representation, empowerment, and goal alignment to drive higher velocity decision making, improved alignment across functions, and commitment to business impact.
The bottom line has been positive:
• For the teams involved: engagement, feeling appropriately involved in decisions affecting their work, and feeling valued as an employee were all materially up year-over-year as measured in our Employee Opinion Survey.
• For the company: campaign delivery times decreased, marketing sourced pipeline increased, and the win rate of marketing sourced opportunities increased.
Agile Marketing has proven to be a better way for us—and we use it at scale.
If you think Agile is only for small, co-located marketing teams, I urge you to reconsider and start your journey. But get a coach and be ready to experiment and learn. It will be bumpy—but the impact is worth it.