Agile originated in software development in the 90s. After 2010, it became popular among marketers once they realized the value and benefits of the methodology could be applied to their context as well.
It’s been a minute since Agile became a buzzword of choice in both contexts. Since the 90s, copious amounts of data has been collected for both Agile in software as well as in marketing.
We couldn’t help but wonder, has the way developers and marketers use Agile diverged over the years? Are both functions using Agile in the same way?
We decided to compare and contrast AgileSherpas’ 5th State of Agile Marketing Report with the 15th State of Agile Report from Digital.ai to spot the trends, identify shifts and determine whether marketing’s Agile looks any different than what software developers came up with decades ago.
Agile Adoption Continues to Grow
Both reports provide numbers that support the explosive adoption of Agile in IT and marketing in recent years, as well as the newly piqued interest in agility from functions like sales, finance, and human resources.
Indeed, this year’s findings from the 15th State of Agile indicate staggering growth in Agile adoption within software development teams, increasing from 37% in 2020 to 86% in 2021. Over the course of the pandemic, it seems that most software development teams are using Agile frameworks to stay nimble and adaptive to changing priorities.
Marketing is experiencing the same boom. In the 2021 edition of the State of Agile Marketing Report, more than half of marketers queried said they were using some semblance of Agile practices to manage their work. Like software developers, marketers too have reached a tipping point that has Agile marketers outnumbering traditional and ad hoc for the first time in history.
The 15th State of Agile shows that, aside from the pandemic, Agile adoption is being driven by the need to better manage changing priorities, accelerate software delivery, increase productivity, and improve business alignment.
Marketers are citing the need for the same benefits that Agile promises, so that they can maintain business alignment, better prioritize their work and adapt to change when there is business value.
Going Agile Presents Similar Challenges
Software and marketing departments are facing similar challenges as they introduce Agile values, principles and practices into their teams. Over the past several years, those hurdles have largely remained consistent for both functions.
The 15th State of Agile Report shows the same barriers marketers reported in the 5th State of Agile Marketing that prevent them from going fully Agile: inconsistency in processes and practices, lack of skills and experience, absence of leadership participation, and inadequate management support.
In addition, once they have gone Agile, both groups report coming up against similar barriers such as difficulties with unplanned work and a tendency to revert to old non-Agile methods.
Scaling Agile Across the Organization
According to the 5th State of Agile Marketing, now more than ever, functions like finance, sales, and HR have adopted Agile practices to improve the way they work.
The 15th State of Agile backs up this exact trend as well. It marks a steady increase in the number of organizations adopting Agile practices and processes within functions outside of IT, including finance, human resources, and sales.
In fact, 29% of the respondents of this report are using Agile in operations, followed by 17% in marketing, 16% in HR, 11% in sales, and 10% in finance.
The 5th State of Agile Marketing Report queried marketers about their colleagues as well. The data shows that the percentage of sales teams using Agile has nearly doubled in a year, climbing from 18% to 33%, followed by finance with 20% and HR with 16%.
The era of organizational agility is on the horizon and based on the data points, it seems marketers are thrilled about it. Seventy-four percent of the marketers who participated in the State of Agile Marketing report this year believe collaboration with other functions would be easier if Agile was more widely used.
Agile Practices Everyone Loves
In terms of Agile techniques and practices, marketers and developers have similar preferences, both listing their top three most beneficial practices as daily standups, retrospectives, and sprint/iteration planning.
Where they differ is in their frameworks of choice. The 15th State of Agile highlighted Scrum as the most popular Agile approach for software as in previous years, with 66% identifying it as the methodology developers follow most closely in 2022.
Scrum is not nearly as popular among marketers, many of whom start with Scrum, but end up shifting to less prescriptive frameworks like Kanban.
The State of Agile Marketing report reveals that hybrid frameworks are by far the most preferred Agile approach for marketers.
This preference has been clear throughout the years, as marketers remain committed to adjusting Agile to fit their unique needs. In fact, 61% of the respondents use a hybrid or Scrumban framework, followed by 17% who apply Scrum, 11% - Lean, and lastly 10% - pure Kanban.
Aside from the three key Agile practices mentioned above, according to the 15th State of Agile, 81% of the developers use Sprint Reviews, followed by 58% who do Planning Poker, known also as team estimation, 52% use product road mapping, and 40% story mapping.
For Agile planning, 77% of developers use Kanban boards, followed by 67% who use task boards (which likely varies only slightly from a traditional Kanban) and 66% who use spreadsheets.
The techniques and practices marketers and developers use are closely tied to their efforts to sustain agility in the long term. However, both functions understand that practices alone don’t have a significant impact if teams lack an Agile mindset. That is why both software and marketing professionals are investing in developing their Agile mindset before jumping into the practices.
Business Agility = The Next Milestone
Leading up to 2022, both reports have marked subtle shifts in the direction of agility beyond the team level and into the organization at large. For both editions, this year marked a culmination in regards to this trend.
As Agile solidifies its place as the best-in-class way of working for marketers and developers, it also expands its reach to other adjacent business functions like sales, human resources, finance, procurement, and others. As Agile spreads into the business, the organizations that are at the forefront of this trend will reap the benefits of agility at scale, while those that stick to traditional methods have a high chance of falling behind at increasingly alarming rates.
To make sure you’re on track with the latest agility as it spreads among a wider range of business functions, check out our self-paced course for non-technical teams that are ready to begin the journey to the summit of agility.