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Do you NEED to Scale Agile Marketing? (Scaled Agile Marketing Series – Part 3)


In earlier posts in our Scaled Agile Marketing, we looked at whether you even need Agile Marketing and then what typically triggers a serious discussion about Agile Marketing. In this post, we move to the next step – figuring out if you need Scaled Agile Marketing.

So – Do you need Scaled Agile Marketing? 

Scaling isn’t just a function of the number of people in the marketing organization. It’s more a function of how many marketers need to work together as part of one customer journey/experience.

Let’s look at an example. In the diagram below you can see a typical marketing organization that would possibly have a need for some scaling approach. They have agile teams that cross-cut the different marketing functions – focusing on delivering marketing value/impact for a specific product/customer journey rather than focusing on a specific marketing function/task.

Map it to your organization. If your teams are truly autonomous and work on separate backlogs and activities with minimal dependency then you might not need a full-fledged scaling approach.

If on the other hand, they ARE working on one bigger customer journey, have some dependencies across teams and some floating specialists that need to be involved in multiple teams or are considering synergies and adjacency campaigns (e.g. If you’re using an agile ALM tool you can probably benefit from our Continuous Integration or Portfolio-level tools), a scaling approach would benefit you.

In this context, SAFe’s Agile Marketing Train (A name coined in the field for the Agile Release Train in the context of Marketing) with its Program Increment Planning, Single Program Backlog, and System Demos provide useful guidance.

Working with Agencies

In many cases, marketing organizations work with external marketing/advertising agencies to deliver some of their campaigns or some of the materials for their campaigns. In most cases, the way these relationships work doesn’t map well to “everybody working on one agile team” and some sort of scaling solution is required.

A rising trend is the “Internal Agency” model (see in which an internal agency is created as a shared service that supports the various lines of business in the organization. While getting rid of the dependency on an external vendor, this “shared service” presents its own scaling challenges.

SAFe provides a couple of options for how to deal with internal/external “suppliers” – for example, they can become separate “supplier” Agile Marketing Train on a bigger Solution Train or a “supplier” team that is a “component”/”specialized” team inside an Agile Marketing Train. In any case, SAFe provides guidance for how to involve them in a planning and execution cadence and how to create realistic plans considering their capabilities and availability without forcing them to be members of agile teams (although that is certainly an option and will be recommended in some cases).

Longer-term activities such as events, strategic campaigns

Most agile marketing organizations run a mix of high-tempo testing that is a great fit for agile iterations/flow with frequent planning but also some longer-horizon activities such as conferences, webinars, and big product launches, that require more predictability and visibility beyond the “next 2 weeks” that classic team-level agile provides.

SAFe’s combination of high-tempo team-level agility with the Program level with its Program Increment Planning, Roadmap, and visibility to Features helps deal with this mix of demands from the marketing organization.

There’s a preference for SAFe in the enterprise

In many organizations Marketing is following the product development/management organization into Agile. If a product development/management organization chose SAFe as its agile approach, you will benefit from using it as your approach as well.

The same framework means using the same language. Even after adjusting SAFe to a marketing vernacular, it is still SAFe and marketers will be able to understand developers and vice versa.

The same framework means the ability to share expertise, knowledge, and training. While Agile Marketing isn’t exactly Agile Development a good agile coach or SAFe Program Consultant (SPC) can learn the marketing nuances over time.

Using the same framework means you’re better prepared for the day you will actually bring product development and marketing into the same customer experience value stream. While the typical starting point is for marketing to create “Agile Marketing Trains” focused on the marketing/customer journey value stream, many organizations are executing a “Digital Transformation” which means an emphasis on the digital experience that combines both marketing/sales and usage touchpoints. (See Oracle’s Customer Experience Lifecycle for an example)

With this one bigger customer life-cycle in mind, more and more organizations have a vision of creating “Agile Customer Experience (CX) Trains” combining development, marketing, sales, and others. These trains are needed in order to iterate and learn at the speed needed to compete in the digital age. Starting from the same or similar framework will ease the transition to these sorts of trains – reducing the babel tower effect that might happen otherwise.

If you see a need for agile marketing AND your context fits at least some of these descriptions/environments, you probably need some scaled agile marketing patterns, which will be the topic of our next blog in the series.

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