Use Scrum Methodology to Become an Agile Marketer
by Hanna Huffman
If you work in or with a marketing team– either on the corporate or agency side — you’re very familiar with how hard it can be to complete work with the timing and quality you expect. If you think about it, you can probably boil this issue down to one problem: a difficulty prioritizing and focusing on work.
Since the late 1990’s, software development teams have used the Scrum methodology to organize their tasks into a framework that creates a predictable, efficient and manageable machine.The Scrum framework is built on self-organized, cross-functional teams that prioritize work based on a Backlog (Sprint Planning), complete prioritized work within time-bound projects (Sprints), then review operational efficiency and work completed once all tasks are done (Sprint Reviews and Sprint Retrospectives).
These four standard Scrum events follow a certain agenda and are time-bound. This encourages efficiency with time and discourages/eliminates non-Scrum meetings.
Scrum Teams are comprised of:
- A person who maintains the Backlog, keeps the team informed of what’s on it, and chooses what the team should work on next (Product Owner)
- Someone who manages the team and runs interference when additional items are added into the queue in the middle of a sprint by notifying the requester of the impact of this ad-hoc request and help eliminate disruptions (Scrum Master)
- A team of Developers or, in marketing, SMEs (subject matter experts)
An important part of scrum is that these teams are self-organizing and choose how best to accomplish their work, versus being directed from outside their team. A scrum team is cross-functional and should have within it all competencies needed to complete the work without depending on others not part of the team. It’s designed this way in order to optimize flexibility, creativity and productivity. It also reduces SME overloading.
By utilizing this system, team members are able to maintain a culture of transparency, inspection and adaptation while producing consistently great work and eliminating waste.
If you feel like your team is constantly disorganized, overwhelmed, and pumping out a lower quality product than you want, consider applying some of the core Scrum principles to make your marketing team more agile.
Organize Your Teams
Because marketers are already self-organizing and in a habit of prioritizing their work and days, transitioning to Scrum should be easy; however, special attention should be paid to correctly structuring teams for efficiency.
- Teams are normally 3 to 9 people and groups larger than that should be broken up. However, the Scrum Master and Product Owner don’t count towards that team size unless they’re also working on Backlog items.
- Every team should have all cross-functional pieces necessary to complete the work in the Sprint.
- Each team should have a Product Owner and a Scrum Master. In marketing applications, you may be able to consolidate this responsibility into a person who both manages, communicates, and prioritizes the Backlog, as well as runs interference with new requests to eliminate distractions. Think PROJECT MANAGER.
A good example of how to effectively organize marketing teams for Scrum is Mike Lieberman’s approach at his agency, Square 2 Marketing. He organizes his staff into “hives” that service sets of clients, containing all SMEs necessary to complete that client’s work in one hive.
Create a Clean Backlog
It’s essential to not only create Backlog, but to keep it prioritized, clean, and publicly visible for team members to become familiar with it’s contents. Most marketing teams have some sort of Backlog already, whether it’s an Excel sheet, Basecamp, or project management system. Focus on designating that one person on each team (this may be one person if your agency/team is small enough to structure into one Scrum team) that owns this role.
Use Sprints and Stay Focused
Sprints are specific sets of work necessary to achieve a particular objective or finish a certain project. They are typically less than a month long, with an ideal length of about two weeks.
Organizing large objectives into Sprints makes executing giant projects happily, effectively, and efficiently a little easier by breaking it into small bites. Additionally, by tackling only 2 to 4 weeks of work at a time, then pausing for reflection, you either get a small win or an opportunity to alter course before you have too much invested in the work.
Sprints are planned in Sprint Planning meetings where the marketing team breaks a prioritized list of next tasks (typically built by the Marketing VP/CMO) into short bursts of work, then as discusses how they will get each Sprint done.
Start by looking at your to-do list from a “goals” perspective. According to the Scrum Guide, a Sprint Goal “can be any other coherence that causes the Development Team to work together rather than on separate initiatives.” For example, sometimes you’ll identify a large-scale goal, like refreshing the on-page SEO of your website, that you can complete in one sprint. More often, however, you’ll all be working towards the same goal in a given Sprint, albeit on different fronts.
This is where a Trello board or whiteboard comes in handy, where you can make sure all the projects in your queue are getting equal amounts of TLC, event if they’re not in the current sprint. You can also consider using a Kanban board to visually show where projects are in the process. These boards are used in the Kanban and Scrumban methodology, but can be helpful tools to your teams:
Tried Scrum unsuccessfully or felt like it wasn’t the right fit for you? There are other methods like Scrumban or Kanban that might work for you.
Do you structure your process and teams this way? How is it working for you? We’d love to hear how you’re making your department more agile using any or all of these principles. Leave a comment below!