Home  › Marketing › Strategies

What's the Big Deal About Agile?

  |  February 17, 2011   |  Comments

A movement, which sprang from software development practices, has found a foothold in digital marketing. First in a three-part series.

Ten years ago, "agile" took the software development world by storm. This model has expanded beyond software development into various industries, including digital marketing. Many of us in marketing have taken note of agile's benefits, and a steady stream of agencies are integrating an agile model into their marketing projects. But if you've never experienced an agile project, you may wonder how a movement, which sprang from software development practices can have any application in a digital marketing environment.

A Brief History of Agile

If you've heard the term agile before, you probably equate it with software development. Rightly so, since agile's heritage grew from the persistent problems developers faced working in the waterfall model of software development. Interestingly, since there was no software development methodology years ago, the waterfall model was borrowed and modified from the manufacturing and construction sectors. This model operated under a very structured, heavily documented approach to development. This tight structure was thought to make software projects more stable and predictable, which management loved, but developers working within this model found lacking, so the search was on for a new approach to the process.

Most of the ideas developers came up with weren't new, but were definitely more lightweight and moved away from the bureaucracy of engineering and other waterfall methodologies. The focus was to try to achieve a balance between too much process and no process. In an effort to make development more adaptive and iterative, agile was born.

The real difference in agile was not the fact that the practices were less document-oriented. Many lightweight practices that agile espouses were around long before agile was conceived. The biggest contribution that agile made to the software industry is that it gave the industry an individual set of values. These values arose from the need for a better way of making decisions and achieving success.

Aligning Business Values With Customer Values

Online marketing, like software, has borrowed processes and ideas from various industries for years. While our basic purpose as marketers is to convert prospects to buying our product or service because they see it as the only logical choice, sometimes our methods are haphazard. We may take whatever we can from wherever we see complementary practices - offline direct marketing, book publishing, Six Sigma, the stock market, more tools, fewer tools, etc. Industry-wide, our strategies can vacillate between focus on persuading a well-defined persona group to focusing on tools.

What can agile do to keep us focused on the right things?

In the software development industry, agile's greatest contribution are the values it uncovered. This value system is industry-specific and doesn't borrow from other industries. This is the key to agile's success in software. Inherent in agile is the idea that you can borrow practices and principles from any industry, but only if they're in line with your own industry's particular values. Having this freedom, they were able to clearly define their values in the Agile Manifesto.

According to "The World Book Dictionary": "Value is an established ideal...that the members of a given society regard as desirable." A set of values for our industry would give us a yardstick on which to measure how well we make the right marketing and management decisions for our industry and for consumers. Many of the management practices within agile are perfectly suited to managing online projects, as the nature of conversion-driven online marketing is iterative.

Start Small

Agile emphasizes face-to-face communication in order to facilitate breaking tasks into small increments with minimal planning. These increments are called "sprints" and generally involve working through a complete project cycle when a working product, or "walking skeleton" is demonstrated to stakeholders. This minimizes risk and allows the campaign to adapt to changes quickly. The goal is to have small teams working in an environment. This facilitates open communication and team collaboration. In an agile team, short, daily "stand-ups" keep communication open and iteration active, uncover any bottlenecks in the project before they become serious roadblocks, and keep the project on track.

My next column will explore good project candidates for agile marketing and take you through a basic scenario of how your marketing team might implement an agile process. In the meantime, as marketers, we need to ask ourselves, what might an agile manifesto for online marketing look like? What are our collective industry values? For some inspiration, please check out the Declaration of Interdependence.

ClickZ Live Toronto On the heels of a fantastic event in New York City, ClickZ Live is taking the fun and learning to Toronto, June 23-25. With over 15 years' experience delivering industry-leading events, ClickZ Live offers an action-packed, educationally-focused agenda covering all aspects of digital marketing. Register today!

ClickZ Live San Francisco Want to learn more? Join us at ClickZ Live San Francisco, Aug 10-12!
Educating marketers for over 15 years, ClickZ Live brings together industry thought leaders from the largest brands and agencies to deliver the most advanced, educational digital marketing agenda. Register today and save $500!


Ghennipher Weeks

Ghennipher Weeks has spent the past 13 years as a marketer working closely with IT teams to increase cross-functional collaboration, and helps teams excel in delivering great results quickly.

With deep expertise in creating conversion-driven and insightful search engine marketing and social media strategies for national and regional brands since the late 1990s, Ms. Weeks has increased online revenue for Philips, Wells Fargo, The Women's Information Network, The Allegis Group, TotalGym, Overstock.com, TigerDirect, LeoSchachter Diamonds, and others. She excels in formulating SEO, conversion, social marketing, and value-creation strategies. Ms. Weeks says, "Integrated marketing strategies are more effective, but much more difficult. Agility in execution requires measurement, accountability, and an unwavering customer focus to deliver value that makes both customers and business stakeholders happy. This raises customer, as well as shareholder value, or in relevant corporate terms: increases profits."

She actively contributes her expertise and thoughts through presentations, industry appearances, articles, and her upcoming book on integrated digital marketing.

Ms. Weeks has spoken at SES, Webmaster World's PubCon, EVO, WITI, Blissdom, Social Media Club, Agile Roots, Blogilicious, and other conferences. Notably, she is also certified in Agile methodologies as a CSM and CSPO. You can find Ms. Weeks online on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, or on her blog, and a myriad of other social media sites.

COMMENTSCommenting policy

comments powered by Disqus

Get the ClickZ Marketing newsletter delivered to you. Subscribe today!



Featured White Papers

Gartner Magic Quadrant for Digital Commerce

Gartner Magic Quadrant for Digital Commerce
This Magic Quadrant examines leading digital commerce platforms that enable organizations to build digital commerce sites. These commerce platforms facilitate purchasing transactions over the Web, and support the creation and continuing development of an online relationship with a consumer.

Paid Search in the Mobile Era

Paid Search in the Mobile Era
Google reports that paid search ads are currently driving 40+ million calls per month. Cost per click is increasing, paid search budgets are growing, and mobile continues to dominate. It's time to revamp old search strategies, reimagine stale best practices, and add new layers data to your analytics.




    • GREAT Campaign Project Coordinator
      GREAT Campaign Project Coordinator (British Consulate-General, New York) - New YorkThe GREAT Britain Campaign is seeking an energetic and creative...
    • Paid Search Senior Account Manager
      Paid Search Senior Account Manager (Hanapin Marketing) - BloomingtonHanapin Marketing is hiring a strategic Paid Search Senior Account Manager...
    • Paid Search Account Manager
      Paid Search Account Manager (Hanapin Marketing) - BloomingtonHanapin Marketing is hiring an experienced Paid Search Account Manager to...