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Agile Marketing: Case Studies in Excellence

Awarding Excellence for Agility in Marketing

Last year’s Agile Business Awards included what we believe is the very first award opportunity for organisations embracing agility in marketing. This was an opportunity for organisations to be recognised for innovation and achievement relating to agile ways of targeting outstanding results in marketing.

Below are some snippets from the organisations selected at the 2023 Agile Business Awards. If you find these stories inspiring, consider applying for the 2024 Agile Business Awards before December 4, 2023.

Please note: as a member of the Agile Marketing Alliance, you can watch the full recordings from the 2023 Conference by claiming your 3 months free membership of the Consortium:

NatWest Group

What is Agile?

For Diane Bell, NatWest Group’s Marketing Planning and Performance Lead, adopting Agile has allowed the business to deliver value faster and earlier and to focus on outcomes rather than outputs.

She explains: “We were caught in a cycle of churning out activity. We weren’t joined up, we based everything we could do on capacity and had a really siloed planning process that took far too long.

“We were caught up in trying to achieve perfection.”

To counteract these issues, three agile coaches were brought in and the Agile Marketing Manifesto was employed.  The reason was, Diane says, that: “We wanted to be customer-centric, increase speed to market and minimise the amount of hand-offs in the process.

The business also learned to master OKRs and began to use PI planning to ensure all work was truly creating value. She explains: “The power of PI has been huge and transformational for us! We now have the autonomy to push back on what we really don’t need to be doing.”

“Humanising these planning sessions was important too, with music, themes and prizes being introduced as a way to motivate and engage people.

“One of the most important lessons learned though was to not get bogged down in the vocabulary of agile.”

Diane admits: “It’s true that sometimes the words can be a bit scary and technical. Because of this we had a lot of pushback with people saying: ‘This is just tech!’.

“But the reality of agile is really pretty straightforward – work out what’s most important, break it down into chunks, try it, do it check it, work out what you do differently next time and make it better.”

‘Being’ agile rather than simply ‘doing’ agile has also been vital. She explains: “We had to win hearts and minds before focussing on the mechanisms and the cadence of Scrum.

“We had to see agile as a mindset and not an admin task.”

So, what would Diane’s advice be to those starting out on their agile journey? She is very clear: “I’d advise them to hook people in with the common-sense principles and take out the tough agile words that people can push back on.

“Find the right framework that works for you and stay away from those that don’t.

“And lastly, don’t give up – it’s not a quick win!”

Members of the Agile Business Consortium can watch the full 20-minute talk here: NatWest Group: What IS Agile? (agilebusiness.org)

Save the Children UK

An Agile Marketing Transformation

Ruth McCarthy, Scrum Master and Coach at Save the Children UK has seen and been part of a lot of changes in the charity over the last three years.

She explains why an agile transformation was necessary: “In 2019 there was clearly a need for change. There was a strategic and operational approach that resulted in work that got bogged down in silos, bureaucracy and an overall lack of responsiveness to the external environment.

“With fundraising performance increasingly under real pressure, it was time to take some radical action.”

That action was prompted by four key goals:

  1. Delivering long-term supporter engagement
  2. Reducing friction between teams
  3. Delivering more than the sum of the charity’s parts
  4. Unlocking the full potential of the people who worked for them

Ruth clarifies: “We wanted to disrupt our culture and our structure.

“In previous eras, our marketing was organised around product teams. In the agile era, we restructured to have four cross-functional squads – we wanted clear, strategic objectives to inform prioritisation and resource allocation, to have small cross-functional integrated teams to align to business objectives.

“We wanted senior leadership to say the ‘what,’ and autonomous, self-organising, empowered teams deciding the ‘how’.”

They wanted, in short, to ‘get agile right’ and threw themselves into ‘doing’ all the agile things.

Ruth describes what happened: “We threw ourselves into the ceremonies and processes and learned all the lingo. We were really trying to do agile!

“We focussed on the rules, the processes and the structures. We were all equal in our teams and were all going to become T-shaped. There were no hierarchies anymore and we were all totally autonomous!

“Except, of course, we weren’t!”

So how did they really start to achieve these goals?

Ruth recalls: “An understanding of the agile mindset and values gradually seeped into our work. We moved towards being agile rather than doing agile. We were making agile work for us.”

The charity went on to change its approach to culture, governance, leadership and people.

Ruth notes: “Culturally, we’ve become a lot better at prioritisation – committing solely to work that clearly aligns with our KPIs and goals.

“We’ve become more inclusive – decisions around prioritisation and how to meet our goals are made collectively and with the input of those who will be delivering the work.”

A key example of this in practice was a workshop organised by the leader of the core acquisition squad responsible for bringing new supporters to the organisation.

Ruth explains: “We’d been facing a decline of regular givers.

“The core acquisition team’s urgent refocus needed to be on rebuilding that base but the squad had too much to do and no space to re-focus.

“So, the squad lead organised a workshop with the team and they identified a third of activity they were able to manage out of their workload.

“Now that team are focused and energised.”

She adds: “KPIs can be clear but how to achieve them requires multiple perspectives – this kind of exercise is transformative and what’s more, was undertaken at squad level, with decisions fed up to senior management rather than the other way round – this was a huge change for us!”

A change in the approach to governance has also reaped benefits and is now more data-driven, with the creation of forums at a department and squad level where results can be reviewed and opportunities for testing and optimisation discussed.

The number of KPIs was also reduced when it was established that 20% of them drove 80% of the charity’s income. It was reduced by defining one key effectiveness and one key efficiency KPI per squad.

Ruth adds: “We’re also supporting staff to be really comfortable analysing their data and results and creating true psychological safety, which doesn’t always mean being nice.

“Respect and trust demand we have the courage to be candid with each other if we’re to fulfil our potential.”

“We’re also working with our leadership team to ensure they role-model collaboration, vulnerability, adaptability and a focus on delivery.”

She concludes: “As we’ve grown, we’ve realised that Agile must mean more than just delivery processes – we need an ecosystem inclusive of new approaches to governance, culture, people, leadership and strategy.

“Three years on from when we started our agile transformation, it’s less like a revolution but a garden that we’re cultivating at a team, multi-team and strategic leadership level.

“Step by step I hope we’re making the changes we need to deliver a better future for children.”

You can watch the full 20-minute talk here: Save the Children UK: An Agile Marketing Transformation – the ever evolving journey (agilebusiness.org)

Saba

From ‘infrastructure’ to ‘mobility’: Making Agile Marketing work

Saba manages car parks across nine countries and around 200 cities in Europe and Latin America.

As Marketing Director, Sylvia Rausch has kick-started and driven a customer-centric, digital transformation, in which an agile way of working has been instrumental.

The company needed to evolve from a more finance-oriented ‘infrastructure’ mindset to one of sustainable urban mobility, which is very customer-centric.

The goal of marketing in this evolution was to enhance customer journey on a global scale, spot new revenue opportunities and start selling car park services online.

Sylvia recalls: “Our cool, state-of-the-art digital front end needed to meet our 20th Century back-end. We realised we couldn’t go on this journey alone as marketing but needed to get everyone in the company on board.”

There was, however, no official corporate project to become agile and no agile coach to help them. Instead, they simply began to test working in an agile way, a process which Sylvia likens to a quote from author Hermann Hesse: ‘The bird fights its way out of the egg. The egg is the world. That which wants to be born must destroy a world’.

She explains: “It’s all about getting out of your comfort zone, you’re like a newly born bird, having to learn everything for the first time.

“We sat down together and iterated our agile. I was the Scrum Master and the new head of e-commerce was the Product Owner.

“We started prioritising, writing user stories, got some agile marketing software, started using Slack and took on epics – we re-did everything!”

Making sure the team understand what the company’s goals are and running health checks with them to make sure they remain engaged and motivated has also been a key part of Saba’s agile transformation.

Sylvia explains: “For me the value of Agile Marketing is it enables us to generate consistently superior value faster and helps us create autonomous, self-driven, successful and happy teams.”

She is however upfront about the fact that an agile transformation isn’t always easy:

“Sometimes it’s really difficult but just iterate with the team and listen to them and you’ll be fine.

“Agile is like an iceberg. What the world around you sees is your ‘weird rituals’ but this is just the tipof the iceberg.

“Where we draw our power, confidence and joy from is this huge solid block of ice underneath the tip!”

You can watch the full 20-minute talk here: From “Infrastructure” to “Mobility”: making Agile Marketing work at Saba (agilebusiness.org)

Did you find these stories inspiring? Could your organisation be a candidate for the 2024 Awards? Or do you know one that could? Find out more here: Agile Business Awards and Conference | Agile Business Consortium

Please share this blog with your organisation, your associates, your colleagues and friends.

Let’s shine a light on the benefits of agility in marketing and how that contributes to business agility and business success.

Meet the Agile Business Consortium

The Agile Business Consortium has been in the agile world for over 25 years – and was part of the birth of the Agile Manifesto at Snowbird. From their origins developing DSDM, the organisation has gradually expanded through project management, business analysis, agile culture and leadership to a holistic focus on business agility. Today, as the professional body for business agility, the Consortium aims to define, unite and grow the field of business agility – and, yes, that includes Agile Marketing!

The strategic partnership between the Agile Marketing Alliance and the Consortium allows us to exchange a specialist marketing perspective for expertise across the field of business agility.

Together we can achieve great things – and we’ve already made a start!

Awarding Excellence for Agility in Marketing

Last year’s Agile Business Awards included what we believe is the very first award opportunity for organisations embracing agility in marketing.

The Agile Marketing Alliance were welcomed as strong supporters of the ‘Agility in Marketing’ awards category, and Jim Ewel and Melissa Reeve’s voices and experience were valued as part of the expert review panel that evaluated the entries.

This was an opportunity for organisations to be recognised for innovation and achievement relating to agile ways of targeting outstanding results in marketing.

And it’s happening again! Applications are now open for all categories of the 2024 Agile Business Awards.

This initiative is, in itself, an innovation and a little different from what you might expect. Here’s how it works: the application process is rigorous, evidence-based and peer assessed. ALL applicant organisations receive a feedback report worth its weight in gold – completely free-of-charge and a valuable base on which to plan future improvement!

In the marketing category, 3 organisations will be selected as being outstanding and these will be invited to speak and present their story in 20-minute TED-style sessions at the Agile Business Conference, on April 17th & 18th 2024.

Could your organisation achieve an Agility in Marketing Award?

Whether your organisation uses a specific framework, a hybrid framework, or more of an overall agile mindset approach supported by a selection of tools and techniques, the Agile Business Awards reviewers would like to hear your story!

“It’s a great opportunity to be recognised for how far you’ve come on your journey, no matter whether you’re at the start or the end….”
– Zoe Merchant, Founder & Managing Director of B2B Marketing organisation Bright