Sun Tzu - the 'Art of War' is a long read but does give an insight into the concept that not a lot has changed in human nature over thousands of years. If business is therefore a battle made up of a continuous number of small wars then this blog could provide a useful insight into a way of working that really is quite effective, but really not new. The way of working I am going to discuss is called AGILE marketing. The idea of agile was coined in the programming world where complex development work continued to become problematic when working towards a big bang solution. It was realised, and new tech helped, that splitting a project up into a number of smaller pieces, designing, programming and testing each one before bringing the whole together was more efficient, focused the team, was easier to manage and ultimately reduced wasted time and failure as at each step a review and test would be carried out. This way of working probably started in the mid 1990's when Bill Gates was developing a new business server solution called Windows NT. He set up a number of small teams to build parts of the product and every two weeks the programs would be compiled. Each team had to have working software ready at the allotted day so all new code could come together and be tested over each weekend before works started again on the Monday morning. (Computers were slower then!). This type of working led to the myth that Microsoft programmers slept under their desks as there was so much pressure for a team to have code ready. It was a few years later that this way of working,which actually seems totally logical to me, became known as Agile Software Programming.
The Manifesto for Agile Software Development is based on twelve principles:
Customer satisfaction by early and continuous delivery of valuable software.
Welcome changing requirements, even in late development.
Deliver working software frequently (weeks rather than months)
Close, daily cooperation between business people and developers
Projects are built around motivated individuals, who should be trusted
Face-to-face conversation is the best form of communication (co-location)
Working software is the primary measure of progress
Sustainable development, able to maintain a constant pace
Continuous attention to technical excellence and good design
Simplicity—the art of maximizing the amount of work not done—is essential
Best architectures, requirements, and designs emerge from self-organizing teams
Regularly, the team reflects on how to become more effective, and adjusts accordingly
A whole vocabulary around this methodology grew with the process being managed from a Control Tower, planned in a War Room, managed by a Scrum Master and activated in Sprints. Its a good language and creates a sense of urgency, inclusiveness and demands results and feedback.
So if it works for programming why has it become a new buzz in marketing and could it work for your business? I think it is a very worthy approach and fits the marcomms world very well. The friction in marketing that existed in the old monolithic and silo approach when a campaign was run yearly on TV or on the launch of a new product or catalogue are now completely forgotten. Many younger digital natives have no idea how slow the creative and production cycles used to be and how often months if not years of work failed because the fundamental creative idea was flawed or the market had been changed by a competitor launching a better, faster, cheaper alternative. Technology has also reduced the size of teams and the skill sets of the the Martecheter is so much wider that compact groups can work in individual war rooms in parallel with other teams each able to brain storm, create, build and test in sprints. As Jeff Bezos said - 'the best war room is now a 2 pizza team' - (small enough that only requires 2 pizzas to keep them fed!).
A recent report from IBM Watson Marketing made the following overview of the importance of Agile
© 2018 IBM Corporation 2019 Marketing Trends
"As digital transformations accelerate and demand for exceptional customer experiences grows, marketers and CX professionals are faced with the new realities of thinking, working and collaboration to support their businesses. More and more marketing teams are adopting agile frameworks as part of their transformations. They must prioritize their work by understanding which problems they’re looking to solve and why, while they define which outcomes need to be achieved and measured within a given sprint. Scott Brinker writes in his book Hacking Marketing, “Agile marketing, at its heart, is about giving individual marketers and small marketing teams greater ownership of their work and significant latitude in how they achieve their goal. It operates on trust and transparency, more than command and control.” This aligned with AgileSherpas’ first annual state of agile marketing report, claiming that approximately 36.7 percent of marketing teams are practicing agile Trend 6 – marketing to allow them to quickly pivot marketing priorities, deliver higher quality work and increase productivity to accelerate delivery to market. Other studies illustrate the same trends in which marketers are looking to implement agile marketing within their team in the next 12 months and even blend hybrid approaches to their business dynamics and environment. Take a look at IBM’s own marketing transformation. In the end, it’s all about the benefits, and these are some core reasons why agile marketing adoption will continue to accelerate into 2019 and beyond:
1. Greater ability to shift gears and manage changing priorities
2. Tighter business alignment and objectives
3. Increased delivery speed and time to market
4. Improved team morale and team productivity
5. Higher output in the quality of work
Organizations driven by culture change and agile mindsets have a first-mover advantage, especially where AI-powered marketing technology is enabling the right sets of tools to align and measure the proper objectives and metrics. Moreover, with the right mix of agile marketing approaches and the proper Martech platforms, marketers have the power to push and pull the right levers to determine failure or success and how they need to adjust course to propel their business with a common purpose. As they say, iterate and iterate — practice makes perfect to do your best work fast. "
So the take away and my approach with clients who are challenged by change is definitely to look at this method of decision making and action. Digital transformation can paralyze organisations until the idea of linking all relevant silos such as sales, marketing, IT, Finance and production together into a small team with one aim at a time to be actioned by a scrum and sprint cycle . Big bang decisions are sometimes required but its much better to fight a few small battles to ensure the war is won.