Saturday, June 6, 2015

AGILE development means AGILE marketing

IBM has been applying AGILE development theories and Design Thinking to its product development for some time. In the age of Cloud (the "API economy") and Big Data & Analytics (the ability to glean insights at scale), it's only natural. And it's paying dividends, with the release of cool new products like IBM Verse (for which I'm leading the marketing), IBM Watson Analytics, IBM Journey Designer (which a friend of mine is working on).

What I'm finding interesting is that this renewed emphasis on the complete digital experience a customer has with our (any) Brand has pretty much broken down all the old silos. Customers don't care -- if they ever did -- who is responsible for a particular element of their experience. They care about the experience, period. The traditional lines between product management, development, design, marketing, sales, support are blurring. One bad touchpoint impacts the entire brand, so how can Marketing NOT be involved in the entire customer lifecycle?

But if Design and Product Management and Development are being transformed through AGILE, then by extension Marketing has to also be impacted. I've been thinking about this a lot: how can traditional marketing keep up in a world of continuous delivery? Short answer: it can't.

That's why I'm trying to learn more about how to apply AGILE techniques to the Marketing function. There's been quite a bit written about the concept already, from the Agile Marketing Roundup, Agile Marketing Manifesto, or the thousands of search results.

There are significant challenges we as a marketing profession need to address if we're to be more responsive to customer needs and market shifts:


  • traditional annual (or even quarterly) marketing planning cycles are rigid but well-established. There's significant psychic pain in moving away from that well-rehearsed model, especially for executives who made their bones on that structure
  • foregoing Big Bang campaigns for rapid iterations and small experiments means a permanent state of discomfort, but also means giving up ego.  Your portfolio is now about the many small successes, and not the Coca Cola ad.
  • data-driven marketing takes precedence over (but doesn't replace) gut feel. That means most marketing professionals will have to develop their left brain quantitative faculties, no easy task for a predominantly creative profession (I think people who actually have STEM backgrounds but show artistic passion will wind up being the winners here). More importantly, most company's marketing systems (let alone data systems) can't handle or are so NOT ready for data-driven marketing. This is not just marketing automation, but collection, analysis and synthesis of massive quantities of customer and market data coming from every possible direction.
  • true 1-to-1 marketing (whether B2C or B2B, those distinctions start to disappear) with customized experiences based on omni-channel interactions
  • collaboration replaces traditional hierarchies as more Millenials enter the workplace, but older marketing professionals are used to chain of command and formal structures, which is a major change management challenge
I covered some of these topics in a recent talk I gave at the Business Marketing Association's Southern California Chapter in a panel session with an amazing marketing director from Qualcomm.

I'm only just starting this AGILE marketing journey. I know I have a LOT to learn. I'm looking forward to the journey :-)


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