How to Create a Better Agile Marketing Workflow

As Agile marketers, we should always be looking for ways to improve. Continuous improvement is a core Agile value and rests at the heart of what makes Agile so effective. But workflow optimization is incredibly difficult to get right.

No matter how well-optimized everything else is, bad Agile workflows generate endless frustration, process breakdowns, and poor efficiency. Fortunately, there’s plenty you can do to optimize your team’s workflow to ensure your marketing team is more productive and less stressed. We’ve compiled our 8 favorite techniques for you to follow.

Start with Work In Progress Limits (WIP)

Start with Work In Progress Limits (WIP)

If you’re mired in an inefficient and poorly performing workflow, the best ROI you’re going to find is by implementing WIP limits. This is when you limit the number of in-progress cards you can have in a single column of your Scrum or Kanban board.

Why put such a limit in place?

WIP limits force you to finish work that’s already in progress before starting something new. This helps ensure you’re creating value for stakeholders at a regular pace instead of a lot of “almost done” work. These limits also help shape an Agile culture that prioritizes completing work and delivering that value.

Finally, WIP limits are a great way to ensure that bottlenecks and blockages are visible and swiftly addressed. In practice, this can mean that instead of beginning to work on a new blog article, team members know they should put their efforts into completing those in progress. This gets content out there faster.

But there are plenty of other things Agile marketing teams can do to improve visibility.

Find Ways to Improve Visibility

First, we’re assuming you’re already tracking your work on a board. If not, then that should be your first step. Whether you’re using Scrum, Kanban, or a hybrid approach, boards are key to facilitating a good workflow.

If you’re unsure or looking for inspiration, you can check out some marketing Kanban board examples to get a few ideas. But for those of you already using a board, improving your Agile marketing workflow can start with something as simple as including more tags, subtasks, colors, etc. Each of these enables better tracking of work and makes it easier to see the status of a task at a glance.

Automate What You Can

For all the benefits boards bring, managing them can also bring an immense amount of admin. That’s why for teams who use software, automation can help so much. By eliminating the need for regular manual interventions and maintenance, you can ensure your boards run more smoothly.

But what can you automate?

It will always depend on the functionalities of the platform you’re using. However, most offer ways to automate the creation of cards for recurring tasks or reminders and templates, which can add a lot of value.

For example, depending on what tool you use to operate your board, you can create card templates containing subtasks and other important information for tasks you repeat often. You can also create personal boards for team members and have work assigned to them on the main team board automatically copied onto their personal boards.

That said, these are just examples. Be sure you research the automation options your tool of choice offers and start looking for ways to reduce the admin work that’s slowing you down.

Build a Backlog

Build a Backlog

Our years of experience as Agile marketers have taught us that building a content or social media backlog takes a ton of stress out of your process, ensuring that small delays don’t lead to crises. You want to limit WIP, but in cases when, for example, a team member gets sick, other team members can reach into the backlog to ensure marketing continues.

A technique we’ve developed to gradually build up this kind of backlog is doing a little more than what we need in each sprint. This gradually builds a backlog without burdening the team too much at any one time. Done well, it can ensure that vacations, sicknesses, and other unexpected events don’t affect your team’s output.

Collect Feedback Early and Often

Most Scrum or Kanban board tools offer ways to collect lots of data on how your marketing team is performing. If you’re doing estimation right, you should be able to consistently measure your team’s throughput and performance. This enables you to test ideas for improving Agile workflow.

Of course, getting the estimation right is far from easy. Fortunately, you can use tools like Planning Poker to gamify the process and make it far more reliable. These tests and feedback should give you visibility into what’s working and what isn’t.

Then there’s the importance of getting feedback early in the lifespan of individual tasks. You want that visibility and a culture built around giving such feedback to enable you to quickly get input from your team on work that’s in progress. This helps avoid the problem of people doing large amounts of work only to learn later that the task was flawed or inappropriate in some way. 

Don’t Forget to Hold Retrospectives

As much as we’d like to think all our Agile marketing experience makes us real experts, nobody is going to have more insights into how you can improve than your own teammates. Whether you’re working in sprints or not, holding regular retrospectives is essential for gathering feedback from your team members and identifying areas to improve.

That said, the other part of retros that marketers often neglect is tracking those improvements to ensure all the team’s great ideas don’t get forgotten and abandoned. Be sure to ask your team about the workflow, as their perspective on it may differ from your own. For example, you may think your team is in a great rhythm, while in reality they are feeling overworked and stressed.

Convince Other Functions to Try Agile

Convince Other Functions to Try Agile

The latest State of Agile Marketing Report found that 74% of marketers thought it would be easier to work with other departments/functions if they were also Agile. This points to the reality that getting an Agile marketing team to work with non-Agile teams can be frustrating. 

The non-Agile team often expects marketing to function in a traditional Waterfall way and so they don’t understand why the Agile marketers push back on some requests. If you’re already achieving great things with Agile in marketing, it might be a good time to make a case for other departments to transition. If you think you have the support, you may even consider a full Agile transformation of your organization.

Regardless, working with more Agile teams will help ensure the vital inputs of your Agile workflow themselves are consistent.

Better Agile Workflows Begin with Training and Coaching

Another key finding of the 2022 State of Agile Marketing Report was that the single biggest hurdle faced by Agile marketers is backsliding. When you’re struggling to handle Agile workflow challenges, it’s easy to slip back into the old way of doing things.

The best way to prevent this is to ensure your team is prepared with robust Agile training and coaching. A solid foundation in Agile marketing methodologies will help your team adapt and find ways to improve its processes.

Whether you want to improve your knowledge as a team leader or equip a new hire with a solid foundation in Agile fundamentals, The Ropes offers an array of courses to ensure you and your team perform at their best.

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