Beyond Software: How Scrum Helps Marketers Succeed

Just because a group of software developers popularized Scrum doesn’t mean it’s a technology framework. In fact, their inspiration actually came from a white paper called The New New Product Development Game, which had a lot more to do with business than tech.

For the past 20 years, Scrum has been a widely used framework in software development and we’ve seen great strides being made in pockets of organizations.

This next wave of agile, however, is about business agility, not software development. Business agility is about the entire enterprise aligning around agile principles & values.

With Scrum being a framework for agility, we’ve found it’s effective in many other parts of an enterprise including marketing, human resources and finance.

According to ICAgile, an accreditation organization that runs a business agility track in all of those areas, marketing was their fastest growing area in 2019.

Let’s take a look at how marketers are using Scrum and how they’re changing it up a bit from software teams.

___________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Marketing today has changed so much and whereas companies used to be able to sell, now it’s all about personalization and dialogue with customers.

___________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Different Terms, Same Concept

While the goals and purposes of Scrum don’t change in marketing, some of the terminology has been modified to make it more applicable to marketers.

The product backlog is often referred to as the ‘marketing backlog’ since marketers aren’t actually building any products.

Marketers are often using the term ‘marketing owner’ over product owner because once again, they aren’t developing products.

In software development, user stories were created to help developers understand how an end user uses a system, such as a web site. In marketing, this doesn’t make sense, so marketers refer to stories as ‘customer’ stories and focus on the ‘who’, ‘what’ and ‘why’ to better understand how a marketing deliverable benefits a prospective customer.

In software development, requirements documents are traditionally heavyweight and create a stage-gated process for getting work started. In marketing, creative briefs and customer personas are similar in that they’ve traditionally been worked on for weeks before doing any ‘real’ work.

Marketers are adapting to agile by writing ‘brief briefs’ that describe the creative strategy rather than concrete directions. And whereas personas could often take weeks, marketers are using a minimally viable persona technique to start with what they know and iterate.

Shorter Sprints in Marketing

In marketing, a lot of work has shorter cycle times than in software development, so marketers who work in digital marketing, social media, public relations and other quick-turn types of work are finding one week sprints optimal. A lot of teams have found having all Scrum meetings on one day and eliminating most other meetings throughout the week really streamlines how they manage work.

Micro-Campaigns vs. Product Increments

Scrum in software development is about product increments and getting a piece of software potentially shippable each sprint.

In marketing, most work is done as campaigns. Traditionally, marketers have used a big bang campaign approach where the entire campaign is planned upfront and then a big event happens where the pieces of the campaign get blasted out.

Just like in software development, upfront planning doesn’t allow time for adjusting plans. With agile marketing using Scrum, marketers are able to test and learn from smaller campaign elements, using data to inform them of what to do more of and what to stop.

A large bank that uses Scrum in marketing applied this test and learn approach leading up to a major television ad campaign. Before spending millions of dollars guessing their messaging was correct, they iterated on music, messaging and used small test audiences for early rapid feedback.

Benefits of Scrum in Marketing

Marketers are notoriously overworked and are constantly switching gears. Having a single prioritized backlog with a single point of contact prioritizing the work has helped marketers be more focused, less frazzled and has built better alignment and transparency to leaders about what the team will work on next.

Marketing today has changed so much and whereas companies used to be able to sell, now it’s all about personalization and dialogue with customers. By getting marketing out in a sprint with the idea that it’s meant to test and learn has allowed marketers to pivot their messaging to better resonate with people.

Marketers today need to be able to respond quickly to the marketplace and so many large companies have been plagued with siloed teams and lengthy approval processes. With Scrum, the baton hand-offs are eliminated bringing everyone needed to do the work in a single team. And if the team is really empowered, many sign-offs can happen as peer reviews, allowing for much faster delivery.

Lance Dacy is a Certified Scrum Trainer who’s passionate about applying Scrum beyond technology to all areas of business and life. If you’d like to become a certified Scrum professional, check out the upcoming class schedule.


Related Articles

Core Scrum Roles

Just like the US Government has 3 branches (Judicial, Executive, and Legislative Branches), Scrum has 3 roles. Many people compare the counter-balance of each roles in Scrum to that of the US Government. It's really about the checks and balances. But I truly believe it is even more than that...

Read More

So you want to do Scrum?

What do you truly want? I have spent a career helping organizations go from whatever process they are doing to wanting to be more agile. The request typically starts with "We would like you to come in and conduct some Scrum Training". Great, I love conducting workshops and helping people...

Read More

We can't release until the end of the sprint...

As I work with Scrum Team's, I find a common thread in teams that believe our releases are "tied" to the Sprint time-box. This is not the case. Releases are independent of the Sprint time-box. If you have something that meets the team's definition of done, the Product Owner has...

Read More

Requirements in Scrum

Let's be honest. Most teams struggle with how to get requirements into their new "agile" process. Take Scrum for instance. Scrum says you start with what is called a Product Backlog. Let's see what the Scrum Guide says about the Product Backlog: The Product Backlog is an ordered list of...

Read More

What Does it Mean to Be a Certified ScrumMaster®?

What does it mean to be a Certified ScrumMaster® (CSM) and how will it help your career goals? Can you get hired as a Scrum Master without a certification? Let’s explore the pros and cons of certification, what it means for your career and how to obtain your certification if...

Read More

The Role of a Project Manager in Scrum

We had a great turnout at DFW Scrum last TUE for "The Role of the Project Manager in Scrum". Many organizations struggle with what to do with the Project Manager when they have a Scrum Team. Chris Eberhardt and myself facilitated this fascinating conversation. The reality is, there is not...

Read More

Stop Starting and Start Finishing

Ever run in a race or participated in a track meet? No matter how far the distance, when you cross the finish line, you’re done. It’s easy to understand and you don’t have to linger around, waiting for anything else to happen. What happens when you need to get an...

Read More

Is Your Team Focused with a Sprint Goal?

One of the 5 values of Scrum is Focus. Too often, I will ask Product Owners "What is the goal of this sprint"? Their response? "To get all of these Product Backlog Items done!" (and they look at me like...duh!) My question is focused on ensuring that our Development Team...

Read More

Organizational Rhythm

Rhythm...let's define that word really quick before we move on: a strong, regular, repeated pattern of movement or sound In music, that rhythm is the foundational cadence that allows multiple musicians to play together and deliver one common, in-tune, and usually beautiful song. If they didn't have that common cadence...

Read More