Scrum in marketing: making enterprises adaptive

Andrew Filev , Tuesday, November 27, 2007
Every year and even every month, new technologies, markets and competitors spring up, and today’s businesses have to be agile to be able to face the impending challenges. In such an unstable environment, traditional principles of managing product development may lead companies to failure. If the product requirements change drastically from the time the product is designed to the moment when it is released, it can result in the delivery of outdated products. Otherwise, ineffective change management processes may destroy product development, and the product will never be delivered.
New methods in project management

Nowadays to be successful, a company has to be fast to adapt. Driven by business priorities, managers use progressive methods of product development aimed to cure the mistakes of traditional approaches. Some of these methods acquired the name of agile project management. These methods originated in R&D departments and now are introduced in marketing as well. Markets change quickly, forcing you to reposition your product. When you introduce an innovative product, it’s not clear how you should promote it and what the customers really need. Very often when innovative products are born, manufacturers and customers may not know how or why the products will be used, so it’s not evident what specific features of a product will or will not be valued. Playing in such markets entails a process of mutual discovery by customers and vendors – and this just takes time. According Clayton M. Christensen’s book “The Innovator’s Dilemma,” research has shown that the vast majority of successful new companies abandoned their original business strategies after trying to implement their initial plans and learning what would and would not work in the market. This shows how important it is for a company to quickly evolve its strategy and tactics.

Scrum as a marketing project management methodology


Marketing is often executed in project-based manner. That is why a lot of generic project management principles perfectly apply to marketing and why marketing should also be optimized, similar to project management techniques. Agile approaches to marketing may help to overcome problems experienced by marketing executives. One of these approaches is Scrum, which has originally been developed as an agile software development method for project management. Now Scrum is successfully employed by hundreds of different companies, such as Yahoo.com, Wildcard Systems, H&M, and John Deere, in many different fields, with outstanding results.

Scrum adopts an empirical approach, accepting that the problem cannot be fully understood or successfully defined in a predictable and planned manner. The focus of Scrum is on maximizing the team's ability to deliver quickly and respond to emerging requirements. This method is praised for making the team more productive, reducing risks and maximizing the business value of a developed product and minimizing the period of the development time. Scrum is based on defining sprints - time periods (usually 2 to 4 weeks) during which the prioritized work (sprint backlog) should be done. During a sprint, the team gets together for daily meetings where team members discuss what they have already done, what they are going to do till the next meeting and what prevents them of doing something that they planned to do. In other words, Scrum meetings are supposed to keep teams on track and help members get their work done. At the end of each sprint, there is a brief sprint retrospective at which all team members reflect about the past sprint. According to Ken Schwaber, co-creator of the Scrum meeting method (along with Jeff Sutherland), the purpose of a daily Scrum is to keep teams focused "on their objectives and to help them avoid being thrown off track by less important concerns." Now Scrum is often viewed as an iterative, incremental process for developing any product or managing any work. Indeed, short and regular meetings can be as important for small marketing teams as they are for production teams. Members of a marketing group may be working on a variety of projects, but they're all working toward the same goal – marketing the company and its products or services. Therefore, every member of a team has to know what the others are working on and what direction the whole team is moving in.

Collaborative project management software for Scrum in marketing

The Scrum approach to marketing becomes even more efficient when empowered by Enterprise 2.0 technologies. New- generation software, especially tools meant for project management, bring collaboration to marketing and can make it more productive. These applications (I will call them Project Management 2.0 software) let team members easily share information on the projects and tasks they are involved in and help every team member see the whole picture of the company’s marketing strategy. Project management 2.0 software makes collaboration and management more transparent, letting everyone know who is accountable for what and by when.

Scrum in marketing makes the possible problems visible at early stages and allows coping with them quicker and with minimal losses. One of the major Scrum principles is “no problems are swept under the carpet.” Every team member is encouraged to describe the difficulties he is experiencing, as this might influence the work of the whole group.

Discussing problems early also helps to reduce financial risk. With the beginning of every sprint period, the business owner can change any of the marketing project parameters without penalty, including increasing investments to enlarge consumers’ quantity, reducing investments until unknowns are mitigated, or financing other initiatives.

A new approach to marketing requires flexible planning, which is possible with the help of collaboration software. In the ever-changing business environment, short-term marketing plans based on sprints can be much more effective. Marketing managers get an opportunity to switch from one promotion method to another, if the first one proved to be unsuccessful during the sprint period. It also becomes easier to clarify due dates of every small, but important task, to each member of a team. For example if a team is getting ready for a fair, it should be clear about who is responsible for preparing handouts, who will make a presentation about a product and who will design the company showcase. With Project Management 2.0 software, like Wrike for example, it becomes possible for everyone on the team to contribute to the plans, edit and update them. New-generation software brings stakeholders and partners into the collaboration process. Their input and feedback will help shape the marketing agenda along the way.

The clients can be involved, too. In fact, the principal aim of every marketing team is understanding customers’ needs and helping clients achieve their goals. In today’s enterprises, achieving the heightened customer loyalty – what brand marketers refer to as “emotional lock-in” – is especially challenging when an organization is dealing with tens of thousands or even millions of customers. Empowered by the new-generation software, Scrum lets you involve your clients in the marketing process and take advantage of the wisdom of the crowds. Collective intelligence helps to improve the quality of products and services and make them fully satisfy the consumer’s needs. Scrum lets you promote your product not for a client, but together with your client. Customers can be involved in various ways. For example, they can literally participate in the development process by sending their feedback and contributing to the plans.

So, as we can see, innovative management methods brought to marketing make a company more agile and let it respond quicker to the needs of the emerging markets. It makes a company even more successful when empowered with Enterprise 2.0 tools that bring collaboration into organizations. They help improve communication and turn it from one-way (from a company to its customers) to two-way (from a company to its customers and back), helping to improve products and services. Scrum helps a company make its marketing policy nimble and lets it promote its products with lower costs, avoiding unnecessary money and resource spending and helping to reveal possible mistakes in the initial planning. The result is maximization a company’s benefit.


Comments (5)

  • jonathan, Saturday, 28 February, 2009
    what does Scrum stand for? I think the speedy approach and openness of honest communication is refreshing. do you know what tools they use for this?
  • ..., Thursday, 12 March, 2009
    "Scrum" is not an acronym, some companies implementing the process have been known to adhere to an all capital letter expression of the word, i.e. SCRUM. This may be due to one of Ken Schwaber's early papers capitalizing SCRUM in the title.[1]
  • Colin, Saturday, 27 June, 2009
    Scrum is a term borrowed from rugby, roughly corresponding to the part of American football where teams line up facing each other on the line of scrimmage.
  • Andreas Dangl, Wednesday, 03 March, 2010
    Although scrum originally targets software development project, we for example use it to manage our marketing projects with our advertising agency.
  • Yan, Tuesday, 21 August, 2012
    We've been using scrum for over a year now in a marketing department. My experience with scrum is positive. However, a few months ago we decided to add some elements of Kanban method to improve our productivity.
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Andrew Filev

Andrew Filev is an experienced project manager and a successful entrepreneur. He has been managing software teams since 2001 with the help of new-generation collaboration and management applications. The Project Management 2.0 blog reflects his views on changes going on in contemporary project management, thanks to the influence of collaborative web-based technologies. More >>

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