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Go Agile or Go Home!

Here on we’ve talked at length about the agile business – offering up loads of tips and tricks helping you get the most out of your business. This said, I don’t think we’ve really ever covered how to take the agile methodology and apply to other departments outside engineering. Today, I’m going to do just that.

What is Agile?

Before I go into explaining how you make agile applicable for your department, let’s start off with defining agile. I realize that you may already have a definition of agile in mind, however when trying to implement agile outside engineering it’s important for everyone to be on the same page. Wikipedia defines agile as a set of “development methodologies based on iterative and incremental development where requirements and solutions evolve through collaboration between self-organizing, cross-functional teams”. Right, seems strait forward enough, however you never really know until you actually try to practice them (some reasons why agile fails).

Benefits of Agile Marketing

So, now that we have the same understanding of agile, I know that some of you are thinking why try it? What are the benefits? Everyone talks about how your organization should be agile, however I bet there are some skeptics out there who are unsure why they should switch. Luckily for those, I’ve dug up several compelling benefits of agile courtesy of the inbound marketing company, Hubspot.

Focus – One of the basic elements of agile is creating success metrics. When you create success metrics, you’ve given yourself a check system. If the success metric doesn’t move the needle, then you may have to rethink taking on that project.

Transparency – Not a lot of companies understand what goes on in marketing. I can understand that. This is particularly true if the marketing department only develops 6-12 month marketing plans and execution cycles. Agile forces departments to issue month long sprints. When you’re forced to outline goals and objectives monthly transparency naturally increases.

Predictability – Sharing task status and potential blockers during daily standup meetings means there’s rarely a big surprise.  If a team member has an issue or problem, it’s usually made aware a day or so a head of time. This gives the team time to decide if it makes sense to divert resources to help out or if it is better to influence another team to help remove the blocker. Rarely do you get to the end of the month and find that things aren’t accomplished.  The personal ownership and team accountability that scrums foster can’t be replaced by a boss telling a team what to do – this is hugely important in today’s flatter organizations.

Prioritization – No one likes to say “No” and agile helps with this. Agile forces teams to create a public task list. Essentially this is a list of things that teams are currently working on. With agile anyone on a team can then reply, “well if I take on your task then I will have to forgo one of these that we’re currently slotted to work on”. Prioritization then becomes a productive exercise instead of a tug-a-war.

How to Become Agile

Making the shift to agile isn’t easy or simple – there are tons of books written on this subject every year – but the following tips may help you get an idea of what an agile department may look like.

Instead of planning out a 6 month or yearly strategy, agile teams plan out shorter sprints (usually one month long). In these sprints teams outline their objectives, and tasks associated with their goals. Then teams try to assign a level of difficulty to those tasks (without assigning the number of estimated hours to complete) to help in prioritization. Once this is completed, teams set out to accomplish these tasks. Each day they hold stand up meetings to discuss what was accomplished the previous day, what they are trying to accomplish today and what/if any the issues may be associated with accomplishing the tasks are.

Now, admittedly there’s a lot more to it than this however I couldn’t possibly fit it all in one post. Hopefully this taste I’ve provided, has inspired you to make the change and give agile a try. It’s time to “Go Agile or Go Home”!

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