Scrum is an Agile project management framework that started as a way for software teams to continuously deliver working software in short, iterative cycles called sprints. But due to its benefits such as improved team performance, continuous delivery, and customer-focused approach, Scrum quickly gained traction among non-software teams as well.
These days teams from non-profits, automotive, construction, and even the healthcare industry use Scrum to manage their projects. Marketing teams do too. In fact, more than 36% of marketing departments are already practicing Scrum in their daily operation.
In this article we cover why Scrum is a viable framework for marketing teams, give some implementation advice, and explore hidden stones that might potentially delay Scrum benefits for marketing.
Let’s dive in.
The Many Benefits of Scrum for Marketing Teams
Scrum was designed to help software teams improve their efficiency by releasing software in small working increments. Scrum teams operate within short cycles called Sprints. A typical Sprint lasts from one to four weeks and allows teams to focus all their effort on completing a set of Sprint tasks.
At the same time, Scrum consists of practices that allow teams to look deep into their performance and eliminate any barriers to their success. This approach, coupled with a few defined goals and ceremonies allows Scrum teams to continuously improve their productivity and complete goals that benefit the company and user the most in any given moment.
Teams that use Scrum to manage their work report the following benefits:
- Continuous delivery on working product increments
- Improved customer satisfaction
- Lower costs
- Reduced time to release
- Boosted employee morale
In case you use Scrum for marketing teams, here are the potential benefits that are specific to the marketing industry:
- Fast delivery of results. Sprints are designed to deliver as much value within a short timespan as possible. At the same time every task in Scrum has a well-defined criteria of done, which means that marketing teams will focus on finishing tasks instead of leaving them as half-abstract ideas and theories.
- Increased market flexibility. New tools and ways to collect consumer data rise every day, search engine algorithms get updated, users are flooding new apps, and competition continuously changes their strategy. Scrum allows marketing teams to quickly adapt their workflows and goals to thrive in a quickly changing environment.
- Improved priorities management. The common problem in marketing is that “everyone knows marketing.” Too many stakeholders and opinions prevent marketing teams from identifying what’s really important and instead force them to listen to the loudest voice in the room. Scrum helps teams to estimate and allocate their time more effectively.
- Improved priorities management. These days marketing teams are widely diverse and include specialists from SEO, SMM, PR, content, advertising, branding, and whatnot. At the heart of Scrum are self-sufficient and cohesive teams, which encourages diverse marketing ops to work together in more productive ways.
- Continuous optimization of resources. Scrum ceremonies such as retrospectives and backlog refinement encourage teams to consistently optimize their performance. At the rise of marketing automation, Scrum teams are encouraged to review their workflow every week and find new ways of completing routine or challenging tasks.
- Address complexity. Marketing projects are becoming increasingly complex and require joint input from marketing and non-marketing stakeholders. Scrum meetings help teams to communicate their tasks with each other, while Sprints allow teams to break complex marketing projects into smaller ones and complete them in sequence.
“Even though Scrum originated as a framework for software development teams, our marketing team successfully implemented it in our own workflow. As a result our goals become more clear, our processes are more transparent, and we get more work done in a shorter period of time.”
Stef Hagistefanou – SEO Manager at efood
How to Apply Scrum for Marketing
Scrum consists of three building blocks: Scrum Ceremonies, Scrum Roles, and Scrum Artifacts.
When used in marketing, these components should not be altered or omitted, but mainly adjusted to the nature of marketing.
Scrum Ceremonies In Marketing
Scrum ceremonies are essentially timeboxed meetings with established steps and goals. These meetings are the backbone of any Scrum implementation.
Here is some advice when it comes to Scrum meetings for marketing teams.
Daily Standups. Marketers do love to talk and oh, they can. But daily stand-ups are designed to be short and to the point in order to be effective, so make sure to address three daily standup questions in under 15 minutes.
Sprint Planning. One of the main side benefits of sprint planning is that it teaches the Scrum team to estimate their tasks and allocate their resources more accurately. Given that marketing tasks might often be vague, make sure your team learns how to break large tasks into smaller ones and provide a specific definition of done.
Sprint Retrospective. Even software teams sometimes skip retrospective as they struggle to make them work. But retrospectives are a unique opportunity to improve your team performance after every Sprint. Make sure to learn how to conduct retrospectives properly and use retrospective tools to achieve meeting goals.
Scrum Roles In Marketing
Scrum roles are fixed and every role has a set of clearly defined responsibilities.
Here’s some advice on defining Scrum roles in marketing teams.
Product owner. Finding a designated Product Owner exclusively for a marketing team can be difficult, especially in smaller teams. Experienced managers can be Product Owner for several teams at a time (e.g. same Product Owner for a software and marketing team) as long as there’s no conflict of interest.
Scrum master. A lot will depend on Scrum masters when it comes to the implementation of Scrum in marketing teams. Often marketers are jumping the Scrum hype train too fast to realize that poor Scrum implementation can be detrimental to a team’s performance. A Scrum Master’s goal to ensure that marketing teams stay on track with the right execution of ceremonies.
Team. More often than not a marketing team is essentially a composition of marketing professionals with unique responsibilities (e.g. SMM manager and SEO manager). Scrum brings team members closer so it’s paramount to look for friction between team members and identify new opportunities for collaboration.
Scrum Artifacts In Marketing
Finally, let’s cover how Scrum artifacts help marketing teams to become more organized.
Sprint Goal. Often marketing is plagued with goals that are too big or too abstract, such as “we need more sales” or “we need more customers”. But when it comes to implementation, marketers often tend to disagree on what specific steps should be taken to achieve those.
Even worse, such abstract goals can be interpreted in many ways and every marketer might end up doing their own things. Spring goal aligns marketing members together and encourages Scrum marketers to set specific goals for every Sprint, keeping their progress in check.
Product Backlog. The number of marketing tasks can be overwhelming even within a single Scrum Sprint.
To not overwhelm themselves, team members should be actively looking for opportunities to optimize their product backlog either via automation, delegation, or enhanced structure.
Things To Keep An Eye Out When Implementing Scrum for Marketing Teams
Given that the Scrum framework was developed with software teams in mind, certain practices might make less sense when implemented by marketers.
Below are some of the issues you might run into when implementing Scrum in marketing:
- Estimating tasks is challenging. Even software teams struggle with estimating how much time Spring tasks require to be finished, and we’re talking about highly-defined software tasks with little to no room for interpretation.
But when it comes to marketing, the number of moving parts can be so overwhelming that teams drop estimations altogether. While evaluating marketing tasks can be challenging, make sure to stick to this. With time your team will get better at setting and estimating tasks, which in turn will fuel Scrum benefits such as continuous improvement and delivery.
- User stories are not cutting it. One of the key Agile and Scrum aspects is that software developers aim to deliver software that directly benefits end users. It gets a bit more difficult for marketers: sometimes the end-user benefit is tangible, and sometimes it’s completely circumstantial.
For example, a marketing team decides to boost their organic search traffic and launch a series of guest posts on a few reputable platforms. While this initiative won’t benefit end users directly, it will help marketers to attract more visitors to their platform and, in turn, boost the overall number of subscriptions. In this case, user stories can be written as “business stories” or “marketing stories” where the main receiver of benefits will be your company.
- Performance optimization. At the beginning stages of Scrum implementation, the framework typically reveals plenty of areas for improvement. As an example, a marketing team might have too many repeatable routine tasks they are forced to add to every new Sprint.
That’s why optimizing the workflow becomes even more crucial in marketing teams and Scrum retrospectives should be used to discuss ways of automating or delegating routine tasks and dependencies.
Frequently asked questions
How Agile Is Used In Marketing?
Main agile principles can be used by marketing teams to facilitate early delivery of results and quickly adapt to regularly changing marketing trends and strategies. Other principles of the Agile Manifesto allow marketers to better satisfy the end-user needs, optimize and measure progress, and encourage deep collaboration within marketing teams.
What’s The Difference Between Agile and Scrum?
The difference between Agile and Scrum is that Agile is a general approach that describes values and principles that can help teams to effectively deliver more value to end-users, whereas Scrum is a framework that allows for the implementation of Agile principles through clearly defined workflows and ceremonies.
What Are the 5 Scrum Ceremonies?
The five main Scrum Ceremonies are Daily Standup Meetings, Sprint Planning Meeting, Sprint Review, Backlog Refinement, and Sprint Retrospective Meeting. All five ceremonies have defined time boxes and a list of participants that should be involved.