If you're just starting out on your Agile journey and coming up against terminology that seems unfamiliar - look no further! Our team put together this Agile marketing glossary for Agile newbies that need to learn the language of agility quickly as well as mature Agilists that want a handy reference guide by their side as they explore new facets of the methodology with their teams.
Our comprehensive list includes some of the most popular terms grouped into four categories:
General Agile Terms
Agile consists of several frameworks that can be applied in combination or separately. As a result, there are general Agile terms that refer to common practices from the overarching methodology, instead of being specific to the framework of Agile implementation. They are as follows:
Adaptability is the ability of a marketing team to pivot or adjust to changes in the market, feedback from their customers, the competitive landscape, and data from their own campaigns. The goal of adaptability is to avoid being trapped in a pre-established marketing plan even when it becomes clear that changes need to be made. A primary benefit of agile methodologies.
The Agile coach is responsible for implementing the Agile principles and practices with a team or a company. Unlike a Scrum Master, they tend to be more framework agnostic and encourage the use of Agile practices in a more customized way. They will also measure and report the results of the Agile transition.
The Backlog is a prioritized list of user stories or projects that have not yet been worked on. See also “Sprint backlog” and “Product backlog.”
This is the reason that prevents a task from reaching completion. Some examples of common blockers are: waiting on a third party, approval needed, missing information, insufficient budget.
Chickens vs Pigs
Chickens vs Pigs is term of the Agile marketing glossary based on the joke that if a pig and a chicken were to open a restaurant together the pig would be committed, but the chicken would only be involved, this distinction refers to people who are directly responsible for completing stories within a sprint as opposed to those who observe but don’t contribute directly.
Columns on the Scrum or Kanban board represent the phases that each task needs to pass through before completion. Usually, the simplest boards contain the three main stages – To Do, In Progress, Done. More complex processes require additional columns like “Research”, “Ready for Review”, “Waiting on Development/Design” or other variations.
Cost of delay
As the name suggests, this term defines a practice that determines the loss of resources that generates due to a delay. It can mean a loss of money, benefit, value, opportunity, or competitive advantage.
A short (15-minutes max) status meeting that keeps all Agile team members up to date on how work is progressing. Formats can vary depending on your framework of choice, but typical updates include answers to the questions “What did you do yesterday? What do you plan to do today? Is there anything blocking your work?”
The team and product owner must determine what criteria need to be met in order for each project to be accepted as complete. When talking about “Done” in Scrum, these criteria are likely to change from sprint to sprint and project to project, but must be made explicit for all team members and stakeholders. Stories that don’t hit all these requirements won’t be considered “done” at the end of a sprint. In a Kanban process, “Done” is a consistent state (around which the team has consensus) that represents the point at which finished work can be delivered to the customer.
The estimate is the average completion time (size) of tasks of the same type. It’s important for planning larger projects because the sum of all task estimates gives us the relative scope of the project.
The idea that failure isn’t a negative outcome, it simply reveals a course of action that wasn’t optimal. Because most Agile teams can roll out an experiment, evaluate the results, and react almost immediately, a “failure” acts as a lesson.
A possible source for a sprint task/objective, this is something your team wants to test and evaluate. E.g. By moving our introductory video so that it’s adjacent to our call to action, we can improve both video views and action completion rates.
A repeating instance or occurrence. For example, sprints are considered iterative because they are repeated over and over with new tasks/goals/objectives, but taking into account what has been discovered/completed before. Waterfall marketing plans are not iterative because they are linear.
A prioritized list of high-level requirements for the product.
A hybrid of the Scrum and Kanban frameworks, Scrumban is appealing to marketers because it is more flexible than either of the two methods alone. It can also be a better option for teams who are remote. It relies on a visible, shared board to track tasks, Work In Progress (WIP) limits, and the Kaizen review process.
It refers to situations where initial requirements change after the project has been started or there is an unexpected growth of the project scope. This might be due to poor planning, documentation, or management.
Self-organizing teams are one of the key principles in the Agile manifesto and the term implies that these are the teams that don’t wait for a manager to assign work. On the contrary, they find work themselves implementing a pull mechanism and manage responsibilities as time frames autonomously.
(Service Level Agreement) SLA
This is the agreement between two parties (business and its customers) on the deliverables that should be provided. In Agile marketing, an example could be that the SLA for a new blog article creation is three business days.
Criteria used to determine if a task is complete. Typically evaluated by a product owner. See also “Done.”
A Theme in Agile is a group of user stories sharing the same attribute. For example, there might be three different tasks for blog articles and they could be under the Content theme.
A small group of stakeholders that has ultimate responsibility for the value delivered by a sprint. Their primary role is in sprint planning and review to help with prioritization.
In Agile, “cadence” refers to the number of days or weeks in a sprint or a release. For example, in development teams, if they release product updates on a monthly basis, the cadence will be one month. If a content marketing team publishes an article each week, the cadence is one week.
An extremely large user story, goal or objective that needs to be tackled over multiple sprints and/or broken down into smaller, more manageable increments.
Other employees that, while not players in the sprint, may have projects that are impacted by sprint objectives. They typically observe and do not participate in sprint planning or review. Sometimes referred to as “chickens.”
In the Fibonacci sequence each number is the sum of the previous two (0, 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21… and so on). In Agile, it’s a popular way of scoring story points while estimating – the higher the score, the more effort the task requires. This scale allows for larger jumps in a consistent way.
The Marketing owner is the person with the long-term marketing vision of the product, the one who sets priorities and allocates resources. The Marketing owner manages the process and often serves as a scrum master also in an Agile marketing team context.
Those taking part in a sprint by owning particular tasks. Also known as “Pigs.”
Product backlog refinement (grooming)
A meeting where the team and stakeholders go through all the tasks in the backlog and decide which should move to the ready to start phase for the next sprint. An opportunity to update the list of priorities for the team.
In Scrum, the person in charge of managing the product backlog by ensuring it’s accurately prioritized, reviewing the team members’ work, and otherwise working closely with the Scrum team to make sure the product is being best served by their efforts. The product owner can set tasks to be done, but the team chooses how best to accomplish those tasks.
Scrum is a framework aimed at improving product development and delivery process by helping the teams to work together. It is by far the most popular way of applying Agile.
A tool that helps Scrum teams visualize their work in a sprint better. Scrum boards can be physical or virtual and track how tasks move from the backlog to completion.
The person responsible for running all sprint plannings, sprint reviews, sprint retrospectives and daily scrum meetings. Basically ensures that things stay on task during these meetings. Also responsible for helping remove impediments to progress brought up during daily scrum/stand ups.
An period of active work or the length of time allotted for achieving particular marketing goals. Software development sprints tend to run about 2 weeks; marketing sprints may need to be longer if statistically relevant data on current objectives will take longer to gather. Feel free to adjust the length of your marketing sprints based on what you’re trying to test/achieve for that particular sprint, but don’t go any longer than six weeks.
A prioritized list of tasks to be accomplished during the sprint.
Sprint planning meeting
A meeting held at the beginning of a sprint. Attended by players, business owners, scrum master and fans. During this meeting you should determine what you want to achieve during the sprint using the product backlog and dialog with the entire team to determine the time that work will take. This will form the sprint backlog.
Sprint poker or planning poker
How the team estimates the relative effort required for addressing user stories in the backlog. It’s called “poker” because the team often uses playing cards to carry it out. As each story/task comes up, players put cards face down in front of them to indicate their “vote” for how long it will take. Then everyone turns their cards over and comes to a consensus based on the results.
A meeting that happens at the end of a sprint or iteration to evaluate not whether tasks were completed, but how the sprint as a whole went. Basically sets out to determine what went well and what could bear improvement for the next round of work as it pertains to the process of the team. Typically attended by only the players and scrum master, though business owners may sometimes join.
Business owners, players, scrum master and fans re-assemble just as in the sprint planning meeting, this time to see what goals were completed and which ones were not. Players get to show off what they have completed and/or learned, such as new email campaigns, blog posts, or metrics. Incomplete goals may move into the product backlog for consideration in future sprints.
A predetermined amount of time during which a set number of tasks will be completed. This can refer to the time allotted for a full sprint (typically measured in weeks) or for a meeting (hopefully measured in minutes).
A sentence that states in plain language what a customer or consumer may want or need from your product. They are used to drive what goals and tasks are addressed during a sprint based on their priorities. Example: As a digital marketer, I want to download a daily schedule so I can more effectively prioritize my tasks. To address this user story we might create a daily digital marketing schedule template and then place it, with appropriate calls to action, around our website and other channels (and then track results of course).
One of the six core practices in Kanban. It means that once the processes are established and the team has agreed on certain policies and criteria, they should be well-communicated and visible to everyone (e.g. displayed on the board).
They are one of the driving factors in Agile and are a part of all Agile frameworks, including Scrum and Kanban. Feedback loops are the tools to align the team in a timely manner. Some examples are: Daily Stand-Ups, Retrospectives, Agile Boards, Reports, Client Surveys, and many more.
Flow in Agile refers to the process flow. This is the movement of the customer value throughout the internal production system.The team can optimize this metric by increasing the overall effectiveness, efficiency and predictability.
Kanban is a Lean method of managing and improving processes. It’s less prescriptive than Scrum but also relies on visualization, analysis, and iteration to drive improvement.
The Kanban board is a physical or digital board where all the team's work is visualised through tickets. There are three main columns (stages): “To Do”, “In Progress”, and “Done”. It aims to align team members and display workload, progress, and blockers in order to outline areas of improvement.
Most commonly used in Kanban or Scrumban, a Kaizen can take place at a predetermined interval (e.g. after so many blog posts) and/or when a team member feels the need to examine some part of the agile process. It essentially translates to “continuous improvement,” or “change for the better.”
It’s a way of optimizing work processes, effort, and people in an organization in order to generate more value for the customer. Lean is based on two main principles: continuous improvement and respect for people. The main focus is the removal of non-value-adding activities.
Push-based vs Pull-based Systems
In a pull-based system, team members will grab items from a prioritized backlog instead of having work pushed on them whenever external requests come in. This gives the team more control over the “how” of their internal process.
When tasks reach their WIP limit, a sprint is in danger of failing, or some other high-priority situation arises, Agile team members may swarm on a user story or task to get it done as quickly as possible. This typically works best in highly cross-functional teams that have similar skill sets and can rally around different types of work to help each other move forward.
The horizontal categorization of tasks on the board. The “rows” allow us to better track workflows and serve to divide the different kinds of tasks or priorities.
Value streams are the series of steps that an organization needs to implement in order to provide continuous flow of value for its customers.
Work in Progress (WIP) Limits
Typically used only in Kanban or Scrumban, WIP limits refer to a fixed number of cards/tasks that may be in a certain stage at any one time. Your team may only be able to handle having four tasks in your “doing” column; before you can add another, one of those must be moved into the “completed” column. When a WIP limit is exceeded a team may swarm a card to get it moved to the next point in the process and make room for the next one.
A visual chart showing daily progress of tasks during a sprint. This chart restarts at the end of every sprint and the team uses it to measure team velocity.
Cumulative flow diagram
An analytics tool used in Agile to show the progress of work items over the course of a team’s entire lifecycle. The chart shows the amount of work at any stage within any given time frame: the count of Backlog items, Work in Progress, and Done items. A steady accumulation of tasks in the Done column, without the presence of plateaus at any given stage of the process, means healthy flow. Plateaus and sharp edges that do not accumulate gradually indicate that you have started more items than you can complete in a predictable way.
The average time it takes a task to reach completion. This only includes the time you have spent actively working on the task, so basically, the time it spends in the “In Progress” column.
Efficiency (Flow efficiency)
Efficiency is the ratio of the actual working time spent on tasks against the total wait time from the customer’s perspective.
Short for objectives and key results. OKRs are a great way to set goals and measurable results across the organization. Objectives should be clear and simple (e.g. increase revenue by 20%). They are set per quarter, half year, or a year. Key results should be a few specific and measurable outcomes (e.g. reduce costs with 10%).
This metric is the number of work items completed in a certain timeframe. You can measure daily, weekly or monthly throughput.
Story points are the estimation metric in Agile. Each story point is assigned a value to indicate the effort that a certain task requires. For example, one story point can be equal to one hour or one day, depending on what the team has agreed on.
In Agile, velocity is a metric that predicts how much work can be successfully completed by the team within one sprint.
Don’t be daunted by the colorful and varied terminology of Agile! As you mature in your Agile implementation, you’ll be using the terms in this Agile marketing glossary with your team with confidence and reciting them in your sleep. Until then, bookmark this page and come back whenever you need a reminder.