• Agile may seem mysterious and elusive – especially to many marketing and sales teams – but an aligned approach is best to position the organization for success
  • Often associated with software development, an agile approach can deliver benefits across an entire B2B organization 
  • Jeff Lash and Cristina De Martini revealed the secrets behind so-called agile magic during their SiriusDecisions Summit 2019 keynote

“I hate to break it to you, but there is no such thing as magic,” said Jeff Lash on the third day of SiriusDecisions Summit, potentially devastating any innocent attendees who still believed that on-stage magicians can spontaneously create rabbits to pull from hats or saw live human beings in half.

“What appears to be magic is just a carefully constructed set of illusions and special props,” Jeff continued. “Behind every magic trick is a secret, and once you know the secret, the mystery just disappears.”

Deploying and optimizing agile at B2B organizations can be approached in a similar way. As Jeff and his Summit keynote co-presenter Cristina DeMartini explained, agile often appears magical and mysterious. But with some essential knowledge and a careful focus on cross-functional alignment, product management leaders and their counterparts in marketing and sales can pull off some impressive real-life agile tricks – no sleight of hand required.  

In some cases, product management has already embraced agile, while marketing and sales continue to find it elusive and obscure, thus preventing the organization from realizing agile’s full benefits. “There are special terms to learn and special teams of people with roles and responsibilities you’ve never heard of,” noted Cristina. “But once you discover the basic concepts, you will be able to unlock the secrets.”

SiriusDecisions’ research shows that 78 percent of organizations across all industries – tech and non-tech alike – have used agile for product development. However, only 45 percent of marketing organizations and 23 percent of sales organizations have tried it. Given the importance of process alignment, agile can deliver its full contributions to growth only when deployed cross-functionally.

Even when used across the product, marketing and sales functions, agile can still fail to deliver on its promise if organizations fall victim to certain common pitfalls. Some may claim to “be agile” but only use some superficial elements of the approach – a sure recipe for disaster. Others veer too far in the other direction, becoming so focused on agile that they lose common sense and an understanding of exactly where agile should be used. They may also neglect planning, incorrectly assuming that agile means everything should no longer be planned and then struggling.

“It’s not that agile does not work,” Cristina stressed. “It’s that agile has been misunderstood, misinterpreted and misapplied.”

The new SiriusDecisions Aligned Agile Manifesto builds on the original software-focused Agile Manifesto, which dates to 2001, to correct B2B organizations’ frequent misapplications of agile and place the emphasis squarely on business results and cross-functional alignment rather than simply product development.

“We see agile not just as a software development approach but as a business approach,” Jeff said. “Forget all the buzzwords and lingo – agile is just a way of taking a big idea and collaboratively delivering value against it regularly.” 

In addition to the Aligned Agile Manifesto, Jeff and Cristina also presented a five-step process for deploying an aligned agile approach. Conveniently, the first letters of each of the steps – Articulate, Gauge, Integrate, Leverage, Establish – spell out “agile”! 

After defining what agile is and, equally importantly, is not (the Articulate step), organizations should determine the internal initiatives and situations that are best suited to agile (the Gauge step). Consider risk tolerance, the frequency of the processes or situation, availability of relevant information, and a few other factors. For example, a project that has been done before but not often or especially well can be a great candidate for agile because it is primed for experimentation.

The next steps – Integrate and Leverage – focus on how to properly combine agile with other methods and models. As Cristina and Jeff had previously warned attendees, agile is not an excuse to get out of planning. Instead, carefully integrate agile with existing planning processes. “You may even find you have to do more planning in agile – just in a different form,” Jeff warned. “Integrating planning into agile helps organizations achieve that fast execution they were looking for when they decided to adopt agile.”

Finally, in the Establish step, avoid overcomplication and ensure alignment on an agile cadence. Incorporating every agile term and process immediately may be premature. Cristina and Jeff concluded by presenting action items for sales, marketing and product teams. Each function should participate in cross-functional teams, share ongoing learnings and continue to help identify the activities best suited for an agile approach. 

“Agile may have seemed like magic 40 minutes ago,” Cristina said. “But now that we have revealed the secrets, you can unlock the mystery to putting speed and strategy to work across your entire revenue engine.”