The Observatory International, London
With more and more established businesses and brands being challenged by small, nimble, disruptive market entrants, and with digital powering the speed of social and conversational trends there is no doubt that larger businesses and their marketing departments are finding it hard to keep up and stay relevant.
In response to this “agile” is being used more frequently as part of business vocabulary.
Agile (blue) vs Digital Marketing (red) search terms as an index.
Source: Google Trends, June 2017
One might say that the correlation in search term growth between Agile and Digital Marketing is a coincidence, but surprisingly this same correlation does not exist when mapping “agile” with “digital transformation” or “software development”.
This need for agility goes beyond faster social trends; it’s also down to brands trying to manage more channels, more platforms and more data that has all led to complex non-linear consumer journeys that continually evolve.
If we look back further then we can see that the curve for text mentions of “agile” in books became exponential from the late 1990s very much like the graphs we’ve all seen for the evolution of technology. Moreover the growth largely comes from “Agile” with a capital ‘A’.
Source: Google Books Ngram Viewer, June 2017
There are, of course, two types of agile, there is agile (lowercase ‘a’), able to move quick and easily, and Agile (uppercase ‘A’) the project management methodology, created in 2001 (see our Fact Box below).
This often leads to misunderstanding with clients wanting to be more agile and agencies implementing Agile project management principles and process, but actually if this confusion is managed and co-ordinated in the right way then it can lead to powerful ways of working between client and agency organisations.
A number of large established businesses are looking to the likes of Google, Facebook and Amazon as well as newer tech start-ups to learn, understand and apply how they struture and operate their business to move fast. However these relatively new and very successful businesses are different in two major ways; they started from a blank sheet of paper within the last 10 to 20 years and their product is technology, not a physical product that sits on a shelf or a service that is heavily legislated and regulated.
Yes, large established organisations and brands are restructuring and reorganising themselves to become more agile. They are connecting technology platforms and data to help enable faster paced insight, decision and action. They are changing internal culture to ensure that individuals and teams are empowered.
Most are looking beyond their business at their agency partners to not only ensure that they have the same built-in pace, but also look to them for support in implementing Agile (cap ‘A’) values and principles across both teams.
But of course it doesn’t just stop at that.
In order to work at greater pace with your agency partners they truly need to be a part of the team. This can be challenging particularly as more and more client / agency relationships are becoming project based and transactional. Collaboration and co-location is a key principle within Agile and this has to be backed with the correct remuneration model between clients and agencies, all underpinned with robust measureable KPIs and a shared goal. And purist Agile methodologies can be the antithesis of traditional procurement if not managed well, as documentation and contract negotation tend to be very lightweight.
So whilst the latest “must have” for any business is “agile”, it’s important to think beyond the internal organisation to ensure that your partners have the capability to operate at this new pace in a collaborative and seamless way.
After all we are not only “as strong as our weakest link” but we are also “only as fast as our slowest cog”.
Agile was invented here
Agile project management, the facts:
- “Invented” in Feb 2001 by 17 software developers that met in at a ski lodge in Utah
- Initially applied to software development
- Values and principles can be applied beyond software
- 4 values sit at the heart
- Individuals and interactions over processes and tools
- Working products over comprehensive documentation
- Customer collaboration over contract negotiation
- Responding to change over following a plan
- 12 Agile principles that are guiding concepts that support the project team and are used to implement Agile methodologies
- Agile team roles include Product Owner (normally client side), Scrum Master (normally agency side), Development Team (can be client and agency), Stakeholders (client side)
- There are different frameworks of Agile which include Scrum, Lean and Extreme Programming
- Project requirements broken up into prioritised Product Backlog, each Backlog is then worked on in a Sprint and is tested, released and optimised in increments