Culmination of 5 Years of Agile Marketing Data: Q & A


This year marks five consecutive years of Agile marketing growth and development, as proven by the data AgileSherpas collects annually from marketers who are eager to share the way that they work with the world.

On April 7th, 2022, Agile marketing experts Andrea Fryrear of AgileSherpas, Melissa Pickering of Adobe Workfront, and David Romney from IBM iX came together to provide their insights into the most recent 5th Annual State of Agile Marketing report.

This anniversary edition provides a close look into the current state of trends about the benefits and barriers to lasting agility for marketers that we’ve been observing for half a decade.

One hour together wasn’t enough to tackle all of the questions from an audience in the 100s during the live event. That is why, we have brought them out in a follow-up Q & A article where Andrea Fryrear and the rest of the panelists can weigh in.

We're starting the journey to use Agile with our marketing team. But some on our team didn't want to use the word "Agile" feeling that it has a lot of negative baggage. Does Agile more generally have a bad reputation outside of tech? Or is our concern unique?

Melissa: I think that’s a common problem because Agile started with software development. Some people think that it’s just that.

Some people don’t like the word Agile because it means something new or that they have to change.

If you want to change the name, change the name but ultimately it’s what you’re doing underneath it that matters. Make sure that your organization knows this is a method that has been broadly tested throughout the world through the years.

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Andrea: I think this is what you lose when you give it a rebrand – that it is a longstanding method made up of tried and true best practices that have been built up over the course of multiple decades.

You lose this connection if you reject the Agile monicker altogether.

David: This speaks to the reality of Agile becoming ubiquitous. Many organizations are using Agile as a way to force anything they want on their people and as an excuse to change their minds at the drop of a hat.

And because they’re not applying Agile in the right ways, the execution-oriented teams are getting very frustrated. 

How can finance work better together with marketing departments or even sales when business goals need to be met NOT in sprints but in quarterly results?

Melissa: Tactically, getting this group of people together on a more frequent basis and having them adopt some of the practices of being transparent about what each of their goals is, what each of these groups brings, and what their impact would be is an excellent starting point.

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How can finance work better with marketing and sales?

Start talking with them! Whichever group you’re in. 

From the data given, we have seen that there is a correlation between the sectors that are by definition fast and Agile practices. Do you think that this should be the pace for other types of businesses to follow or we can be industry-agnostic fully operational in Agile?

AgileSherpas: Actually, I would say the opposite – there is a correlation between sectors that are by definition slow and Agile practices.

We notice that Agile ways of working are being applied on the business side most frequently among highly regulated industries that can no longer afford to be slow in an increasingly competitive market.

Among them are banking, financial services, and insurance as well as health and life sciences. These industries have a lot to gain from experimenting before investing all of their resources in a certain direction as well as de-risking their approaches and adapting to changes in their environment.

If they can go Agile with their regulations, high stakes, and huge numbers of stakeholders, so can any other industry.

To David’s comment about not forcing Agile on an organization, he recommended to start with the areas of your org that are doing well today and then build from there. Can you please expand on that approach a bit more?

David: When we come into an organization looking for places to grow Agile, we look to find teams that are, what I like to call, positive deviants.

They are probably going against the organization’s common way of working right now, applying some Agile principles and practices even though they don’t know that’s exactly what they’re doing. Once we find those teams, they can become champions.

We’ve found that the change happens much better when we start building Agile champions within the organization. And if those positive deviants can become even more effective, their story becomes the story that everyone wants to follow. 

When we talk about building an Agile transformation, find those positive deviants that you can capitalize on and leverage them!

Is Agile marketing only about fast testing and learning or about tactics over strategy?

AgileSherpas: One of Agile marketing’s key pillars is indeed about adopting a test and learn approach to promotional campaigns, so that we don’t invest all of our resources, time, and money, on the wrong bet upfront.

Marketing teams effectively de-risk their ideas by proving and disproving their internal assumptions through the use of MVPs to get early customer feedback that can give them an indication whether to pivot or persevere with the campaign. 

But that doesn’t mean Agile teams favor tactics over strategy.

Each experiment or tactic should be derivative of an overarching Agile business strategy. Agile strategy is supported by objectives and key results (OKR framework), which influence the tactics teams spend their time developing. OKRs get revisited quarterly, instead of annually and make sure teams are moving towards the same goal, together.

So, in Agile, there is room for both tactics and strategy!

One of our challenges as we transform to Agile is focus and the willingness to bring in ALL work into the Sprint. Any advice on that? Also, I'd like to understand more about how teams leverage hybrid models and what "hybrid" means.

AgileSherpas: It certainly is a challenge to get past the Agile for projects mindset and use Agile as it was meant to be used – to manage all of the work the team is doing.

It’s important to be consistent here and discuss the benefits of bringing all of our work into the Agile process, which doesn’t necessarily always mean bringing it into a sprint (if you’re not a Scrum team, you may not have strict sprint timeboxes).

Visualizing all of the work the team is doing has a ton of benefits!

It makes it easier to plan, determine capacity, spot process bottlenecks, identify non-value-adding work items, track dependencies, and more. Because of these benefits and more, it’s well worth it to bring all your work into the Agile process. 

Part of the hesitation some teams have in bringing all of their work items into the process is that they feel they cannot fit all of the different types of work they do into the sprint timebox.

Alternatively, the work the team is doing may not lend itself to getting batched into sprints. Exploring a hybrid framework that allows the team to get the best of both Agile frameworks; Scrum and Kanban might be a great solution to mixing and matching practices from both.

For example, making use of WIP limits in Kanban, instead of sprints, but keeping the cadence of the Agile ceremonies from Scrum. 

Do we have a sense of how many marketing teams are speaking directly to customers on a regular basis to influence decision-making and drive real customer value?

AgileSherpas: All marketing teams that labeled themselves as Agile in the State of Agile Marketing survey should be leveraging customer conversations and insights in their decision-making around campaigns.

If they’re not doing that, then they’re not truly Agile!

However, it's likely that traditional teams are also speaking directly to their internal or external customers to understand what is valuable from their customer’s perspective, but they might be doing this too rarely or haphazardly.

This may result in missed opportunities to sync with customers as their demands and environments are constantly changing. 

Consider the common example of the Windows updates that used to come out every two years or so.
They were built with customers in mind. But the customers that would use this Windows update in two years have very different expectations than the customers that were queried about what features they want to see in the future update two years ago. 

It’s about frequency and keeping your finger on the pulse of your customers’ changing attitudes.

What do you believe will be the most interesting finding in the 6th State of Agile Marketing?

Melissa: I’m not sure what the results will be, but I will certainly be interested to see how business agility is moving along.

Andrea: I’m going to predict a good chunk of increase in the percentage of marketing organizations that are completely Agile. It was 31% this year, I’ll call a 10% increase year-over-year.

David: I do think the question of where Agile is going, especially among marketing groups, will drastically increase. I think what we’re also going to see is more organizations spending more on Agile coaching and training. I think more organizations will build out internal teams with Agile capabilities, who will lead their organizations forward.

There’s likely to be a culmination of many patterns built up over the years and a couple of curveballs that we didn’t see coming in the data next year. But, for now, we’re enjoying watching the Agile marketing community mature and recommend Agile to their partners in the rest of the business.

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