With Marketing Automation well established across all industries and its perceived benefits and opportunities now available to the smallest of business and to the individual, it’s perhaps not surprising that the way we ‘do marketing’ is also evolving. Interestingly, one methodology gaining lots of traction over recent years was born and grew up in the same world that developed the technology that now underpins our automation platforms: Agile Marketing.

But what is that?

A common definition of Agile Marketing defines it as a ‘tactical marketing approach in which teams identify and focus their collective efforts on high value projects, complete those projects cooperatively, measure their impact, and then continuously and incrementally improve the results over time.’

Sounds nice, but is there a real life version of that?

Agile IRL
In order to find that out, AdAsia met with Isman Tanuri, founder of Elisan Partners. Isman is the first and, currently only, ICAgile authorised instructor in Asia Pacific.

Isman Tanuri

Isman draws on images of the past when he tries to put it this way: “management and organisational practices developed in steel factories 100 years ago do not meet the needs of today’s digital-enabled and knowledge-based corporate and organisational environments. And surprisingly, many people seem happy not to question this status quo.”

One obvious but often-overlooked and under-estimated aspect of marketing in today’s world is speed. Whilst so-called insights and data can be extracted and output literally instantaneously, old-style steel factory management structures that then dominate the processes and people structures responsible for acting on those insights can often mean that the resulting actions have, because of time, become irrelevant to that intended audience. Teams and structures cast in those steel factory structures come to create the resulting marketing campaign with competing objectives and different priorities whilst fighting over the same dwindling resources.

Born in the software development days of the 1990s, agile came out of a need to manage complexities and deliver better customer value quicker and with greater transparency. Today agile can be found in many forms and shapes: organisational principles; methodologies; and ways of working in HR, Operations, Finance and Marketing. As important to creating an agile environment, according to Isman, is the ‘agility mindset’ – a re-focus on customer centricity, a general adaptability and a willingness to collaborate with colleagues and other teams are all ingredients for this particular sauce.

Marketing too holds a unique position within organisations often being seen as the originator or driver of the business potential. As such, underperforming campaigns and other bad results are not only felt within the teams themselves, but quickly impact other areas of the business.

In a nutshell, Isman tells me, Agile Marketing is about helping marketers deliver great work and value both internally and externally.

Where does agile sit?
The concepts of ‘Lean’ and ‘Design Thinking’ are also bandied around in various circles to varying degrees and one doesn’t have to go far to find articles attempting to put each (along with Agile) into their respective boxes. We asked Isman how he though they fitted together:

“In my view, ‘Lean’ and ‘Design Thinking’ are both practices that fit within the bigger umbrella of Organisational Agility. Both Scrum and Kanban (Agile work methodologies) incorporate elements of ‘Lean’. ‘Design Thinking’ is pretty much about transforming organisations that are misfocused on creating benefits for internal management hierarchies towards organisations that are obsessed in creating and delivering value to the Customer.

In fact, both ‘Lean’ and ‘Design Thinking’ concepts are key to any foundational business or any organisational agility training worth its salt.”

So what does agile have to say about today’s digital and marketing automation landscape?
Whilst the technologies and platforms available to marketers today offer insights and opportunities that would have seen fanciful just a few years ago, it’s their shiny and ‘the next best thing’ allure that makes real success is often hard to find. A ‘keeping up with the Joneses’ attitude and the lingering steel factory legacy don’t help either.

Millions are being spent on often non-understood technologies. Add to that a playground riddled with ad fraud and technology that, rather than delighting customers, deeply annoys them, and it’s easy to see the need for a deep breath and a rethink. With programmatic already firmly established and new (even shinier) AI technologies rising to the top, some modicum of pause and re-assessment can’t come soon enough.

Agile provides the framework not only for that step back and taking a breath, but for a fundamental shift in approach. Agile offers opportunities for prioritisation and a role for simplification. And, whilst digital offers access to customer’s granular interactions and behaviour, it has the ironic downside of distancing marketers from really understanding their audiences. If a machine does the thinking for you, why do it yourself? Especially if that thinking is both automatic and instantaneous.

Isman sums it up as: Agile Marketing puts emphasis on truly understanding the customer through various means such as the ‘Design Thinking’ methodology, breaking down organisational silos through value chain mapping (fully understanding what colleagues in other functions are doing in creating and deliver value etc.) and to fully embrace the idea of constant reflections and iterations, especially with the availability of real-time customer data.

To conclude, Agile Marketing is about developing a heightened sense of Customer-centricity and removing the marketer’s ego in the process.

Agile and you
Developing agility in any organisation is a team effort requiring input from across all levels. Agile believes that everyone, given the opportunity to fail and learn, can develop into valuable, value-creating employees. People and teams just get better over time!

While any team in an organisation, be it Marketing, HR, Sales, Finance or IT, can organically start on an Agile transformation journey, the most ideal scenario would be for everyone, from company leaders to lowest-ranked employees to be involved in the process. For leaders to develop and flourish in an agile culture, belief and trust is needed in the power of Agile self-organising teams. Leaders also need to realise that their role is to protect these teams from organisational and other threats to the process . Employees who have been fully informed on the need to focus on the Customer and trained to embrace the shift to an agile culture are very likely to contribute to the success of an organisation’s Agile transformation journey.

In other words, Agile Marketing is not just a matter of sitting in a room together and churning out concepts and strategies till one rises to the top; it’s a process that needs to be approached seriously, and with full support from leadership.

Editor: Carl Griffith

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