JJ McConnachie is a passionate Agile advocate who has worked in advertising and marketing for over a decade at companies like NZME., Trade Me, Air New Zealand, and now at Salesforce. We ran a quick Q&A with her to find out what it means to be agile in the marketing world.
Q. There is a preconception that agile is something that digital IT teams do and that it doesn’t work for those of us in other roles, like marketing. What would you say to those sceptical about introducing Agile to marketing teams?
A. Well, first of all, I’d point out that agile actually began in the car manufacturing business, so it’s certainly not restricted to IT teams, although it does work well in those types of teams because both car manufacturers and digital delivery teams are both trying to produce something. And that’s key, I think. If you are a team that has a collective output – whether that is a car, a new feature on an app, or a welcome communications email journey, then Agile is something you could consider as a way to improve your productivity.
Q. Let’s back up a bit. How do you define agile?
A. Agile is simply a framework to improve productivity for teams who are delivering something of value to customers. It’s used where speed to market is important, allowing teams to optimise as they deliver, and change based on customer feedback, or change as market trends change.
Q. There’s a lot of different terms thrown around when it comes to Agile, like Scrum and Kanban – are these the same thing?
A. Agile is the broader framework while Scrum and Kanban sit under that as a methodology of how to bring that to life – things like sprints and standups are part of those methodologies.
Q. What are the benefits of agile?
A. Speed to market, which means you can start generating revenue sooner, improved customer experience as you are able to learn from customer feedback and make changes, and increased productivity as teams work more closely together.
Q. Does agile work for every organisation?
A. The better question I think is does agile work for every team because most organisations will have a team that has some sort of “output” that is generated collaboratively and those are the teams where Agile will benefit the most. The other question is “how agile” can different teams go. You don’t need to completely transform every team into an Agile delivery squad to see the benefits of Agile. You might implement stand-ups to get people communicating better both within the team and cross-team, and change up some processes to make them more flexible.
Q. Some teams have found that introducing Agile has felt less flexible – they spend more time in meetings than they did before, sprint planning and stand-ups for example, and feel like they are getting less work done. Is Agile always ‘agile’?
A. You do need to give it a chance – six weeks is a good length of time to work out if it is working. And to work it out, you do need data. You need to know how much work you were doing before, and how much extra work you had to do because of poor collaboration for example, then work out if Agile is saving you time. And if it isn’t working, change it! Not every team should be running sprints – if you are a marketing team with a lot of output and collaboration required, and you know what your work is in advance, then yes, sprints should help, but if your work is adhoc, if most work is done individually, then a 10 to 15 minute stand up every day, or every second day should be all the extra meetings required.
Q. And to wrap up, what would you recommend to teams who are considering using Agile?
A. Do your research. Don’t just implement it, but think strategically about your team goals, and implement the parts of agile that will work for your team. If your goal is cross-team collaboration, the consider cross-team stand-ups. If your goal is to improve the time spent on big team projects, the consider running sprints, even if only for the length of the project. Then measure your success, and optimise your Agile implementation accordingly!
Questions asked by the MA's Head of Marketing, Jess Scott, and answered by JJ McConnachie, Marketing Cloud Solution Engineer at Salesforce.