Applying Scrum to Agile Marketing

If you’re doing Agile Marketing, you’re probably adapting the Scrum process used by software developers to manage your marketing activities.  However, since most Scrum guides and classes only talk about software development, Agile Marketing folks frequently hit snags where it’s not clear how to do it.  This has triggered an outbreak of a dreaded disease called “Scrumbut”.

What is “Scrumbut”?  It’s very easy to diagnose:

Ask your Agile Marketing team, “Do we use Scrum?”

If the answer starts with, “Yes, we use Scrum, but we don’t do…” then you know you’ve got it.

Common variants of Scrumbut in Agile Marketing include:

  • We use Scrum, but we don’t do daily Scrum meetings aka stand-ups.
  • We use Scrum, but we don’t use User Stories.
  • We use Scrum, but we don’t use relative sizing estimates.
  • We use Scrum, but we don’t have a Scrum Master.
  • We use Scrum, but we don’t use burn-down charts.
  • Etc, etc, etc.

If any of these sound familiar, you’re not alone.  And you’re not a bad person either!  Expert Scrum practitioners and coaches will readily point out that every team has to “make it their own” – there’s a lot of flexibility built into the Scrum framework.  However, the trick is knowing if you’re adapting something to get more benefit or if you’re adapting because you’re just not familiar with how it’s supposed to work.

Let’s take that first Scrumbut symptom – we use Scrum, but we don’t do daily stand-ups.

Many marketing teams have modified this to be an every-other-day meeting and they still get good results.  It seems this often happens because it’s not practical for that particular team to break down most tasks to be do-able in a day or less.  If that’s the case, you really don’t gain anything from having a daily meeting where 2 out of every 3 days your team is giving an update like “still working on the same thing as yesterday”.

Of course, there are some caveats here:

  • Make sure you really can’t reasonably break things down to day-or-less tasks.  E.g. don’t use less-frequent stand-ups just because team members don’t like the idea of daily accountability.  Accountability is one of the key ingredients to Scrum’s success so don’t shortchange it.
  • Make sure you still have good visibility into progress, and that typically means keeping a burn-down chart.  Having these frequent and brief check-ins helps prevent situations where you only find out at the last minute that something started to go off the rails weeks ago.
  • Make sure your Scrum Master is effectively communicating with the team and removing obstacles quickly – that should be happening whether you have a daily stand-up or not.

This is the first post in an on-going thread discussing how to apply Scrum to Agile Marketing.  You can expect future installments to cover all of the Scrumbut examples above as well as issues that you contribute in the blog comments as well.

So how about it?  What “Scrumbut” symptom(s) is your team experiencing?  What experience led your team to work that way?

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