Agile Marketing Panel, Part Two

Safe Business Agility Podcast

From their origins in software development, Agile practices are expanding to business teams, including marketing. But making that happen requires a different mindset and tactics. In this second of two podcast episodes, host Tim Shisler speaks with three Agile marketing experts Jim Ewel, Cameron Van Orman and Melissa Reeve to compare and contrast the similarities and differences between Agile transformations in technology and in marketing.

Click the “Subscribe” button to subscribe to the SAFe Business Agility podcast on Apple Podcasts

Share:

Tune in to hear the group discuss topics like: 

  • Advice for CMOs and SPCs about how to scale Agile marketing
  • Why culture change is even more important than processes and tools
  • Why middle managers are critical to agile adoption
  • Where to learn more about Agile marketing

Visit these links to learn more about Agile marketing topics and resources mentioned in the podcast:

Hosted by: Tim Shisler

Tim Shisler - Agile Marketing

Tim Shisler is the director of media production at Scaled Agile, and an experienced documentary filmmaker, journalist, coach, and speaker. Tim’s deep understanding of story elements and structure, and his strong business acumen, make him a rare breed of storyteller. One who knows how to motivate audiences while staying within the confines of strategic business initiatives.

Guest: Jim Ewel

Jim Ewel - Agile Marketing

Jim is one of the authors of the Agile Marketing manifesto and has guided over 60 organizations through the process of adopting Agile in marketing. He’s also the author of The Six Disciplines of Agile Marketing, Proven Practices for More Effective Marketing and Better Business Results.

Learn more about Jim on LinkedIn

Guest: Cameron Van Orman

Cameron Van Orman - Agile marketing

Cameron is executive vice president, chief marketing officer, responsible for all aspects of Planview’s global marketing, digital demand generation, and customer marketing. Cameron has more than 20 years of enterprise leadership experience driving transformational change, business agility, and market growth.

Learn more about Cameron on LinkedIn

Guest: Melissa Reeve

Melissa Reeve - Agile marketing

Melissa Reeve is the Vice President of Marketing at Scaled Agile, Inc. In this role, Melissa guides the marketing team, helping people better understand Scaled Agile, the Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe) and its mission.

Agile Marketing Panel, Part One – SAFe for Business Agility

Safe Business Agility

From their origins in information technology and software development, Agile practices are expanding to business teams, including marketing. But making that happen requires a different mindset and tactics. In this first of two episodes, our host Tim Shisler speaks with three Agile marketing experts to compare and contrast the similarities and differences between business agility transformations in technology and in marketing.

Click the “Subscribe” button to subscribe to the SAFe Business Agility podcast on Apple Podcasts

Share:

Tune in to hear the group discuss topics like: 

  • Why language and vocabulary are important
  • Why product marketing is a good place to start introducing Agile
  • How to get buy-in from senior leaders
  • How to avoid creating an Agile marketing silo 

Visit these links to learn more about Agile marketing topics mentioned in the podcast:

Hosted by: Tim Shisler

Tim Shisler - Agile Marketing Panel,

Tim Shisler is the director of media production at Scaled Agile, and an experienced documentary filmmaker, journalist, coach, and speaker. Tim’s deep understanding of story elements and structure, and his strong business acumen, make him a rare breed of storyteller. One who knows how to motivate audiences while staying within the confines of strategic business initiatives.

Guest: Jim Ewel

Jim Ewel - Agile Marketing Panel,

Jim is one of the authors of the Agile Marketing manifesto and has guided over 60 organizations through the process of adopting Agile in marketing. He’s also the author of The Six Disciplines of Agile Marketing, Proven Practices for More Effective Marketing and Better Business Results.

Learn more about Jim on LinkedIn

Guest: Cameron Van Orman

Cameron Van Orman - Agile Marketing Panel,

Cameron is executive vice president, chief marketing officer, responsible for all aspects of Planview’s global marketing, digital demand generation, and customer marketing. Cameron has more than 20 years of enterprise leadership experience driving transformational change, business agility, and market growth.

Learn more about Cameron on LinkedIn

Guest: Melissa Reeve

Melissa Reeve - Agile Marketing Panel,

Melissa Reeve is the Vice President of Marketing at Scaled Agile, Inc. In this role, Melissa guides the marketing team, helping people better understand Scaled Agile, the Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe) and its mission.

Three Lessons I Learned in My First Year as a Product Owner

My First Year as a Product Owner

I had managed marketing teams before, but being a product owner (PO) of an Agile marketing team was a completely new concept. As a team member, I was fortunate to spend a year watching POs do the job, which gave me a leg up. But I never really appreciated the intricacy of the position until I became one. Looking back at a year in the role, here are three key lessons I’ve taken from this experience.

The Scrum Master Is a PO’s Best Friend

Stop trying to do it all by yourself. You can’t, and you don’t have to. The scrum master is your co-leader. They don’t just run retros; they’re your sounding board and partner.  

Consider this: scrum masters spend their entire day thinking about how to support the team. Not the customer, not the executives—the team. So, listen to them. When they give you constructive criticism, listen. If they give you advice, listen. Scrum masters are often the ones at the back of the room watching everyone’s body language and unspoken communication while you’re busy thinking about the stories and features. They can catch things you don’t, so listen to them.

Planning Is Hard but Don’t Give Up

A year ago, you would find me crying after each iteration planning. Somehow we would start with 270 percent of capacity and be lucky if we got down to 170 percent—almost twice as much work planned than we could ever physically complete. If our planned capacity was ridiculous, our predictability was nonexistent. One iteration, we’d complete 120 percent, the next 50 percent—who knew what you were going to get from us.  

But we stuck with it.

We invested in iteration planning and backlog refinement. We went back to basics, agreeing on the definition of a “1” so we could do relative sizing. We started planning poker, where everyone on the team had a say in how to size stories, even if they personally were not doing the work.  And we started getting more serious and explicit about what we could and couldn’t accomplish inside two weeks.

iteration planning

A year later, I beam with pride. We’re a predictable and high-performing team. When we tell another team we can deliver something within an iteration; it’s the truth. Not a gut check, and employees don’t have to work insane hours to make it happen.

Pro Tip: If you’re struggling with iteration planning, I strongly recommend downloading the Iteration Planning Facilitator Checklist on the SAFe Community Platform. There’s also a good instructional video on the Team Events page.

PI Planning Is Not A Drill

I usually start thinking about PI Planning in iteration four. I don’t have features, I don’t know what the pivots will be, but I’m already thinking about what conversations I have to have to get my team ready. I’ve already got my finger in the air to sense the direction of the proverbial wind. My scrum master and I spend a lot of time thinking about preparing the team for PI Planning, creating space for exploration, and making sure we discuss every possible dependency, so there aren’t surprises later.

Virtual PI Planning offers another level of complexity. It’s absolutely critical that I have everything organized for my team and me, documented, and ready to go before we log in. The team knows where to find information, what the marketing objectives are, and what teams we need to sync with to plan our work.

Are you a PO? What lessons have you learned? What do you wish you knew when you started? Join the conversation in the SAFe Product Owners/Managers Forum on the SAFe Community Platform.

About Hannah Bink

Hannah Bink heads the Marketing Success team at Scaled Agile

Hannah Bink heads the Marketing Success team at Scaled Agile. She has nearly 15 years of B2B marketing experience and studied business at Pennsylvania State University. Prior to Scaled Agile, Hannah spent the majority of her career in telecommunications and healthcare sectors, running global marketing divisions. She is also author of the “Musings of a Marketeer” blog, and lives in Denver, Colorado.

View all posts by Hannah Bink

Share:

Back to: All Blog Posts

Next: How Vendors Can Apply Customer Centricity When Organizing Around Value

How We Turned Business as Usual into Value Delivery Using Agile Marketing

Agile Marketing

There are few sentences more toxic to a workplace than, “That’s the way we’ve always done it.”  A marketing team is often tasked with ongoing maintenance work that must be done. Updating a webpage, a piece of collateral, or a social feed can often feel like everyday, run-of-the-mill work that rarely gets seen or appreciated. It just sort of runs in the background and quietly eats away at the work day. As a result, this unappreciated, untracked work usually gets thrown into an ever-expanding pile of just-get-it-done tasks that mandate no thought and no context. Before you know it, someone’s asking why we do it at all, and that toxic answer resurfaces: “That’s the way we’ve always done it.”

To me, this answer is a symptom of the larger problem. Born out of years of repetitive tasks that never see the organizational light of day. We always do it that way because we’ve never had the time to closely examine our process. Or, it’s been so long that literally no one can remember why those decisions were made in the first place.

Agile marketing provides multiple tools to marketing leaders to help focus their teams’ efforts. Our goal is to never just eliminate business as usual (BAU) work; just make sure it’s the right one. This was the challenge I faced when I recently took over an agile marketing team. How could I leverage the Scaled Agile Framework® (SAFe®) to make sure we’re doing the right work to keep the ART on track, rather than just busywork? Luckily, agile marketing gave me a few tools I never had before in previous marketing leadership roles. I have visibility into and clarity around the work that had never existed before, and my team has reaped the benefits.

Data: It’s not just for open rates anymore

Agile preaches that all work should be visible. But as previously stated, BAU work rarely is. Being an agile team that leverages a Kanban board to visualize the flow of work getting done, we made a small tweak. We tagged every user story that fit the description of BAU. Voilà! I could now pull clean reports on exactly what type of BAU we were working on, what percent of our time we were dedicating to it, and who on the team it affected the most.

We found that we were spending a staggering 31 percent of our time on BAU! And as we examined more closely, we found many people had no idea why we were working on these things at all. It was just the way we had always done it.

Most importantly, the ART and the team had no idea just how much time all this work was taking. No one had ever calculated it. By taking a data-driven approach to the issue of BAU, we did something crazy: We timeboxed it.

Capacity allocations

Agile Marketing

There are only so many hours in a day and any good leader wants to make sure their team is getting the top-priority things across the line. Our goal is not to eliminate BAU work, but to ensure it’s the right work. By following agile marketing practices we can calculate exactly how much we can accomplish in a two-week iteration. Leveraging ‘capacity allocation’ helps marketing leaders limit BAU’s ability to derail the priorities.

And that’s exactly what we did. Our team allocates 20 percent of our available time to deal with BAU work like website maintenance, monthly newsletters, and updates to graphics. This creates a forcing function in evaluating BAU. Is this BAU user story more important than another one? To answer that question, team members have to fully understand the work and the product owner (PO) has to understand the customer’s needs. If no one understands why they’re working on something, they shouldn’t be working on it.

Hypothesis-driven development

Marketers love a good A/B test. It’s short and simple. But harder, more in-depth questions like “Does this webpage provide value to the reader?” take more effort and thought. When evaluating BAU, we found we needed to develop some muscle memory around answering these harder questions. And we wanted something more defensible than our personal opinions.

To do this, we’ve introduced an agile marketing concept called hypothesis-driven design. Essentially, it means you develop a testable hypothesis and the experiment to validate or falsify it. In other words, you leverage the scientific method to evaluate your work. 

After the team took the Agile Marketing with SAFe® course, we began to apply hypothesis-driven design to our website and our underperforming monthly newsletters. This won’t come as much of a surprise to marketing professionals, but we found we’re pretty good at designing tests; not so great at writing hypotheses that can be tested. Introducing hypothesis-driven design was a meaningful step toward building more intention into our BAU work.

So what happened?

Since adopting these practices, our team has seen a 42 percent decrease in capacity spent on BAU. This work is being turned into productive, value-delivering efforts that support the ART’s overall go-to-market strategy.

By leveraging agile marketing we’re no longer just busy: We’re busy delivering value.

About Hannah Bink

Hannah Bink -Agile Marketing

Hannah Bink heads the Marketing Success team at Scaled Agile. She has nearly 15 years of B2B marketing experience and studied business at Pennsylvania State University. Prior to Scaled Agile, Hannah spent the majority of her career in telecommunications and healthcare sectors, running global marketing divisions. She is also author of the “Musings of a Marketeer” blog, and lives in Denver, Colorado.

View all posts by Hannah Bink

Share:

Back to: All Blog Posts

Next: What is SAFe? Eight Facts About the Scaled Agile Framework That You Should Know.

Aligning Global Teams Through Agile Program Management: A Case Study

Agile Program Management

Like many organizations, Planview operates globally, with headquarters in Austin, Texas, and offices in Stockholm and Bangalore. About two years ago, we launched a company-wide initiative to rewire our organization and embrace Agile ways of working—not just in product and R&D, but across every department and team, starting with marketing. We developed three go-to-market (GTM) teams, whose goals and objectives centered around building marketing campaigns to create a pipeline for sales. Each team aligned to a different buyer group, with members from the product, marketing, and sales.

The challenge: integrating international teams in our Agile transformation

Like many organizations, we struggled to align and execute our marketing programs across our international teams, defaulting to “North-America-first efforts” that other regions were then left to replicate. As we built out these new groups, we considered how to best include our five-person team of regionally aligned field and demand marketers in Europe, the Middle East, and Africa (EMEA).

At the beginning of our Agile transformation, the EMEA marketers were often misaligned and disconnected from big-picture plans. The EMEA teams were running different campaigns from those in North America. Before forming cross-functional GTM teams, the EMEA team had to individually meet with the different functions in marketing, product marketing, and other departments. The extra complications of time zones and cultures also made it difficult to get things done and stay on strategy.

With team members feeling disconnected, at Planview we suffered lower-impact campaigns and less-than-ideal demand generation. To succeed in our Agile transformation journey, it was critical to properly align the international team through an integrated Agile program management strategy.

The approach: forming and integrating the EMEA team into Agile program management

While the three GTM teams had dedicated cross-functional members representing demand generation, content strategy, and product marketing, it was clear that assigning an EMEA team member to each of these teams wouldn’t solve the problem. Each EMEA marketer is organized by region and language, not by GTM Agile Release Train (ART), so we needed to develop our own EMEA Agile program that would meet the challenges and achieve the needed international alignment.

Agile Program Management

Working with our Chief Marketing Officer and other stakeholders, we determined that we would continue to align our EMEA team by region/language. Now that the GTM teams were formed (with each team having all the necessary people to deliver end-to-end value), the EMEA team could meet with each team in the context of the prioritized strategic initiatives. Drawing on our local expertise, we could weigh the campaigns from the three GTM teams against each other to determine which would drive the most pipeline and impact in each region. This structure enabled EMEA marketers to opt into GTM campaigns that were regionally impactful, instead of creating standalone campaigns. This approach has been a success. At our last PI planning event, EMEA progressed from just replicating campaigns into co-planning and co-creating the campaigns that were of local interest and fit.

By including the distributed teams in Agile program management, we achieved better alignment as a global marketing team; gave our EMEA marketers the opportunity to leverage fully supported, regionally impactful campaigns; and ultimately, achieved better results for our demand generation campaigns.

Learning 1: When starting the process of shifting to an Agile approach, there is an advantage in letting the GTM team form, storm, and norm before involving the EMEA team. That delay allows for the EMEA team to finish up previously committed (sales-agreed-upon) deliverables. It gives the team and the sales stakeholders time to observe and see the benefits of Agile GTM teams without feeling that they are not getting the support they were expecting.

The practice: virtual, inclusive PI planning

Our model continues to evolve in a positive way. We’ve now been through five PI planning events and have transitioned from a “one EMEA representative” approach to including our full marketing team in a truly global planning event.

What does a global planning event look like in practice?

When our EMEA team started to participate in PI planning, we had one representative join to understand the process and feed the critical milestones into the team’s plans. We then matured to the full team joining remotely, which meant that we needed to create a system that would enable inclusive planning across continents.

We created a process of “continuous planning.” First, our global team would plan “together,” from Austin and virtually via web conferencing for EMEA. Our EMEA teams would log off during the evenings in their time zones, and the US team would continue to plan with recorded readouts. The next morning, while the US teams were offline, the EMEA teams would listen to the readouts, adapt plans accordingly, and provide their own readouts on changes made once the team was back together during mutual business hours. While tricky at first, this process ensured that everyone was engaged and that all teams’ contributions were heard and considered. Most recently, we’ve conducted fully virtual planning in mutual time zones.

Learning 2: The gradual inclusion in PI planning meant the GTM teams were already well-established and well-versed in the process. The maturity of the teams and the process helped a lot in the inclusion of the international team.

The results: greater alignment, faster time-to-market, better campaigns

Agile Program Management

The impact of our EMEA Agile program can be broken down into three main categories: alignment, time, and utilization.

The collaboration between the EMEA and GTM teams has created significantly stronger connection and alignment, evidenced by both the improvement in campaign quality and our working practices. Our teams have increased visibility into shared and separate work and developed a better understanding of how decisions impact overarching shared goals.

Our Agile ceremonies, combined with the use of Planview LeanKit, have served as a catalyst and a framework to bring us closer together. Communication is easier, more frequent, and more productive, as everyone is aligned to the same goals and plans and has visibility into each other’s progress, needs, and capacity. The greater team can now make conscious trade-offs based on mutual priorities, which enables the EMEA team to focus on the right things and deemphasize asks that are not aligned to the goals. EMEA marketers feel more involved and have an important seat at the table. That is both motivating and effective.

Learning 3: Ceremonies and visual planning tools are absolutely necessary, but only really benefit teams with the right enablement and coaching. To this day we still meet weekly with our Agile coach to refine our LeanKit board and discuss WIP limits, sizing, retros, etc.

From a time-to-market perspective, we’ve seen substantial improvements. Before aligning EMEA to the GTM teams, there were delays in deploying campaigns because EMEA would “find out” about campaigns rather than being part of them from the beginning. Now, the team can give early input and feedback on how a campaign could be adapted to provide the most impact for EMEA, then roll it out more quickly. As a concrete example, we have reduced the time for campaign tactics to go live from three months to three weeks.

The volume and quality of campaigns and campaign materials has increased significantly as well. In the past, the EMEA team often made do with the materials (especially translated materials) that were available, not the assets that were ideal. There were campaign ideas that we could not realize due to a lack of localized material. Without dedicated resources for EMEA, the team had to share creative and translation services with North American providers, who often needed to prioritize programs led by corporate/North America.

Now that EMEA has full visibility into the North American programs, they know what kind of material is in development.

Scaled Agile

They give input on what is needed to execute campaigns in global markets and when delivery will happen. That means EMEA campaigns can begin at almost the same time as the North American ones, and their marketers can prepare for when translated assets and other materials will be available.

Overall, by transforming our EMEA Agile program, the region went from running one or two campaigns each PI to running five campaigns per PI. EMEA marketing went from approximately four to six new localized assets/materials per year to 18 – 20. We added three translated, campaign-specific landing pages per language. And, most importantly, we’re beginning to see direct indication of pipeline improvements.

Agile program management can be challenging with international, distributed teams. By integrating our global team members into our planning processes from the beginning of our Agile transformation, we’ve been able to achieve measurable benefits across the marketing organization.

About Verena Bergfors

Verena is the Marketing Director for Planview’s EMEA markets

Verena is the Marketing Director for Planview’s EMEA markets. She’s from Germany but moved to Sweden around 10 years ago and has been with Planview for over four years. Prior to living in Sweden, she worked in Shanghai for seven years where she held positions in marketing and sales. Verena’s true passion is languages and she enjoys working on diverse international teams.

View all posts by Verena Bergfors

Share:

Back to: All Blog Posts

Next: Use WSJF to Inspire a Successful SAFe Adoption

Global Summit 2019: Part 4 – Applying the Principles of SAFe to Marketing

Safe Business Agility

In this podcast episode learn the why and the how of applying the principles of SAFe to a marketing organization. Melissa Reeve, SPC and Dwayne Stroman, SPCT discuss the role modifications and correlations needed as well as the success and anti-patterns of SAFe and Marketing.

Click the “Subscribe” button to subscribe to the SAFe Business Agility podcast on Apple Podcasts

Share:

Melissa Reeve and Dwayne Stroman discuss approaches to bringing marketing teams into SAFe environments for effective business agility, the rationale for doing so, some of the benefits of doing so and pitfalls to avoid.

Hosted by: Melissa Reeve

Melissa Reeve is the Vice President of Marketing at Scaled Agile

Melissa Reeve is the Vice President of Marketing at Scaled Agile, Inc. In this role, Melissa guides the marketing team, helping people better understand Scaled Agile, the Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe) and its mission.

Guest: Dwayne Stroman

Dwayne Stroman

Dwayne is a recovering Software Engineer with over 20 years in the software crafting trenches. Introduced to Agile in 2004, he realized that he had always know there was a better way to deliver solutions than the tried and true Waterfall approach. The following years lead to the discovery of Lean principles, and their relationship to the Agile mindset. He is an author, speaker, and contributor to the Lean/Agile and SAFe community, but his first passion is helping leadership at all levels discover the benefits of Lean Agile Leadership.
While not pursuing the Lean Agile dream, Dwayne can be found riding, racing or instructing on motorcycles.