A Report on the State of Agile Marketing in 2016

It’s been predicted more than once that 2016 will be the year of the agile marketer, and recent survey results from Wrike’s How Marketers Get Things Done: The State of Agile Marketing in 2016 seem to bear this out.

According to these insights from 803 US-based marketers, a whopping 63.4% are using at least some aspects of Agile methods.

And this was just one in a series of fascinating revelations in this data.

Others included a surprisingly limited use of Scrum, the challenges agile teams face in finding good training, and the two marketing roles that are lagging in their agile adoption.

It’s Hard Out There For a Marketer

When asked about their biggest challenges, the largest subset (37.2%) reported, “Developing creative, innovative campaigns that stand out in the market” as their single biggest hurdle. Coming in second (25.9%) was the difficulty of keeping up with market changes and competitors.

As our audiences become increasingly sophisticated, they expect marketing campaigns that are personalized, relevant, and in sync with their changing priorities. Combine this with an ever-increasing deluge of content and it’s no surprise that marketers have a hard time standing out.

Agile teams, however, get projects into the market faster. This allows them to learn what really resonates with their audience, iterate, and then rapidly deliver something even better.

This type of build-measure-learn feedback loop puts them in tighter sync with their readers and customers, giving them a distinct advantage in the race for attention.

Marketing departments that march with the regular cadence of agile releases are also going to find it less daunting to stay on top of changing market conditions or emerging competition. When campaigns span weeks or months instead of quarters or years, it’s much easier to adapt.

The Rise of the Agile Marketing Team

As someone who’s been extolling the virtues of agility for quite a while, I cannot overstate how happy this next result made me:

63.4% of marketers have embraced at least some aspects of Agile methods.

That, my friends, is very exciting.

I’m already itching to see the 2017 results to see how these numbers move. My hope is that as agile teams continue to support one another and share our own lessons we’ll see even more teams get to full adoption.


Challenges for Social Media and Content Marketing

What shocked me about this section, however, was the low adoption rates for social media (15%) and content marketing (11%) roles.

Every other article that you read these days seems to reference the Oreo Super Bowl tweet as the ultimate example of agile marketing (although I would argue that it’s not a good example at all).

Similarly, the unique challenges posed by running a powerful content marketing program in the long term make agility a natural fit for these marketers.

Yet content marketers have adopted agile methods nearly half as much as those in marketing operations (11% versus 21%).

My suspicion is that the ongoing nature of both these marketing tactics creates dissonance with the timeboxes that most teams use to manage their agile releases. But this definitely not a deal breaker that should keep these roles from getting the benefits of agility.

So, social media and content practitioners: let’s make it work. Don’t let the power of agile marketing pass you by just because your projects don’t begin and end in two weeks.

Mixed Agile Marketing Methodologies

Scrum is often assumed to be the default approach for new agile practitioners, but Wrike’s results turned that expectation on its head.

Lean was the clear leader in agile methods currently in use with 29.7%, followed by Kanban (24.5%) and Scrumban (14.5%).

Scrum was, in fact, the lowest reported methodology for agile marketers (13.8%).

Struggles With Training

Wrike also reports that the main obstacle preventing full agile adoption is a “lack of training or knowledge about Agile approaches,” which actually makes a lot of sense given the methodology results above.

Those of us who are trying to provide resources, examples, and education around agile marketing need to take these results directly to heart and stop assuming that marketing need or want to start with Scrum.

Let’s explore more around how to adapt Kanban, Scrumban, and Lean to work more effectively with marketers. Clearly, that’s what actual agile marketers want to learn more about.

Still in the Early Days of Adoption

Despite my earlier euphoria about the majority of marketers reporting some level of agility, this movement is still in its infancy according to Wrike’s survey.

It’s no wonder there’s still such a wide variety of methodologies and approaches being implemented: only 15.5% of marketing teams have been agile for over a year, and only 4.4% for over two years.

A full third of those using Agile (33.15) have only started in the last six months.

It seems that most teams are still figuring out exactly what works for them, and time and experimentation are the most effective ways to do this.

Agile Struggles Are Worth It

For those hesitant to jump head first into a full scale agile adoption, even those who have taken on only some components of agile methodologies are seeing benefits.

According to Wrike’s results, benefits like higher quality of work, better team alignment, and an increased speed of execution are distributed almost exactly the same whether a team has a high level of adoption or only uses some agile approaches.

Other outstanding benefits of agile marketing include:

  • A better division of work among marketing team members
  • The ability to identify roadblocks, problems, or schedule issues more quickly
  • Better visibility into project statuses
  • Improved teamwork and morale

“Well Enough” Isn’t Good Enough Anymore

I want to close by pointing out a very interesting stat from this report: 17.6% of respondents said they aren’t implementing an agile approach because their, “current approaches are working well enough.”

As we move firmly into the Experience Age, a challenging era of marketing populated by demanding, sophisticated audience members, the status quo just isn’t going to cut it anymore. Even if you think your current approaches seem to be working just fine, today’s “just fine” is tomorrow’s “completely unacceptable.”

Join the growing majority of marketers taking advantage of agile methodologies. Otherwise you’ll be left behind as the competition literally sprints ahead.

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