Agile Marketing Takeaways from the Business Agility Report

“For many organizations, it has been a long time since their technology functions were the constraining factor for business agility. That honor lies with the rest of the organization who, without their buy-in, will continue to constrain the business.”


- 2018 Business Agility Report

Agile marketing on its own delivers spectacular benefits, but it thrives the most inside a complete environment of business agility.

There are, however, serious hurdles standing between most organizations and a beautiful Agile future.

Fortunately for all of us, business agility is a real thing, with a real annual report to go along with it. So here we’re taking a look at the results of The 2018 Business Agility Report, compiled by The Business Agility Institute.

Most groups may just be crawling (“just getting started with business agility”), but running (“significant strides towards business agility”) and even flying (“the organization is a global business agility leader”) are within site.

Agile Marketing and Business Agility

In a perfect world, Agile marketing is one cog in a beautifully humming Agile machine. This arrangement makes us more effective, and decreases the stress on our teams, so business agility is a meaningful concept for us.

Simply put, it’s in our best interests to get our colleagues on the Agile train.

For more data-driven proof, consider these benefits of business agility:

  • Market Success
  • Better Ways of Working
  • Collaboration
  • Employee Satisfaction
  • Speed to Market
  • Customer Satisfaction
  • Agile Mindset
  • Adaptive Leadership

business agility benefits

Despite these documented benefits, business agility fluency remains quite low, coming in at 4.9 out of a possible 10 points. (This puts us squarely in the crawl/walk range.)

business agility fluency

According to this year’s Business Agility Report, there are three things standing in the way:

  1. Leadership (23%)
  2. Lack of buy in (17%)
  3. Inappropriate organization design (11%)

Let’s look at each of these individually, and see what we might be able to do about them.

business agility challenges

Agile Leadership, Inside & Outside of Marketing

“With the right mindset and associated organizational support, a leader sets the tone for the entire organization. Yet, often, the inverse is also true - in the absence of a motivating leader, the organization can stagnate.”

Can I just say, PREACH.

Leadership behavior sets the tone.

If leaders give lip service to Agile, but are all too happy to derail a team to pull them onto a pet project, you can’t expect individual contributors to believe that Agile is really valued.

Leaders can walk the talk by embracing Agile ways of working in their own day-to-day efforts.

One of my favorite stories is of a CEO whose entire C-suite meets at their own daily standup to discuss daily priorities (and are expected to have reached inbox zero before they come to the meeting).

They clearly use Agile practices to convey their commitment to Agile values, and it makes every single employee stake notice.

If that sounds a bit out of reach, you can start by establishing an Executive Action Team (EAT) to oversee your business agility transformation efforts.

Taken from the Scrum@Scale framework, this group acts as the stewards of agility for a section of the organization. They’re an Agile team in and of themselves, conducting daily standup, sharing a prioritized backlog, and making their work priorities public.

Lack of Buy-In

Buy-in to Agile ideals can stall out or take flight at the C-suite, but there are many, many other people who need to buy in to agility before it takes hold.

Things like division-specific risk aversion, fundamental misunderstandings about the Agile mindset, misaligned KPIs, and insufficient clarity around motivation for change are things most likely to impede buy-in, according to the report.

When we move outside the C-suite, the Business Agility Report recommends that we, “Introduce common ways of working and team accountabilities, especially when the work is being done by external vendors or contractors.”

For marketing teams accustomed to relying on agencies and/or freelancers, this may sound undoable.

But for most of us, an adjustment in relations with external resources is well within reach.

You don’t have to magically transform the ways all your vendors do business; you simply need to establish clear guidelines for how agility will impact these relationships.

One client of ours recently asked us to contribute to a document all about how Agile marketers could still work with non-Agile vendors.

There were no demands for transformation within these groups, simply an understanding that Agile and non-Agile teams need additional clarity around the relationship to set them both up for success.

Inappropriate Organization Design

The phrase “set up for success” takes on an entirely new meaning when we start to look at org charts and Agile.

The Business Agility Report tells us that, “Organizational complexity is a major impediment to business agility adoption…Existing structures are an impediment to adopting business agility for many organizations. Silos, handoffs and an ‘us vs them’ mentality compound to hamper each team’s ability to deliver value to their customers.”

I’ve recently written about the perils of organizing around projects inside Agile marketing departments, and this danger expands exponentially when we consider the organization as a whole.

Of course, this is only one of many potential issues.

Handoffs and bottlenecks plague marketing teams in particular. When our teams are hyper-specialized, we must hand work off among multiple teams and risk losing the rapid iterations and customer connections that are the hallmark of amazing Agile teams.

waterfall marketing

As the report puts it, “Each additional handoff inside the customer value stream exponentially increases the time and cost to create value.”

Take a look at our suggestions for designing an Agile marketing department, and then consider how these same principles can apply outside of the marketing function. It’s all about business agility, after all.

The Key to Business Agility: Just Start

“Getting started may seem complex, yet, it is the easiest part of a business agility journey.”

Such a true, and yet commonly misunderstood statement.

You simply cannot know what business agility will look like inside your organization until you give it a try.

Don’t get bogged down crafting a perfect transformation plan; just start.

Of course, be prepared to crawl before you fly.


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