Many of our portfolio marketing clients have moved to an agile development process. In a world where requirements can shift overnight and speed to market is essential, agile development can provide an ability to gain feedback early, change direction quickly and make progress without waiting for long requirements documents to be written. Market launches, however, require up-front planning – as they depend on an array of cross-functional roles, sometimes internal and external, to coordinate messaging and delivery across different audiences.
Here’s the tug of war we are seeing: One group consists of the agile scrum teams, sometimes seemingly determined to avoid having any semblance of a plan. Scrum teams are doing sprint after sprint, but without following a long-term plan, so no one is sure what new capabilities are coming and what should be communicated to the market. The other group is portfolio marketing, which is trying to create impactful product launches that showcase new innovations and differentiators. This team is challenged to create a cohesive story for a launch from a series of small incremental changes.
Many portfolio marketers feel they are losing this tug of war. Here are three short-term steps they can take to avoid this situation when working with agile scrum teams:
- Understand the agile process. Start by understanding agile values and principles. The Agile Manifesto provides four foundational values and 12 supporting principles. For instance, agile doesn’t state that there should be no plan. Rather, it states that agile values responding to change over following a plan. Therefore, it allows for both a plan and the ability to deviate from it if new insights or changing market conditions indicate the new for a better direction.
- Be the experts on markets and customers. Agile development was designed to enable incremental development progress and feedback mechanisms so that offerings can be more closely aligned to customers’ needs. For portfolio marketers – the experts on markets and buyers – this is where your deep understanding of market segments, trends, requirements and buyer needs provides critical input into the agile process.
- Partner with product management. While agile scrum teams are developing product backlogs, sprint progressions, epics and user stories, the direction, planning and goals for these efforts should be coming from the portfolio marketing and product management teams. Portfolio marketers should participate in critical sprint reviews and backlog planning sessions, and product managers should be deeply involved in all these sessions. Additionally, portfolio marketers should be working closely with product managers to provide input into planning, help prioritize epics and understand the progress being made.
Agile development is a less hierarchal way of working than traditional waterfall methods. It promotes face-to-face meetings as a way of communicating and a commitment to completing specific work tasks in short time boxes – and fosters a cross-functional mode of teamwork. These benefits and the focus on customers should form a strong basis for portfolio marketers to work well with scrum teams. The trick is to find out where to become involved and how to exert influence in the agile development process.