Agile Marketing and the role of the PMO

Most PMOs I meet with nowadays seem to be working with teams who are using Agile frameworks to deliver rapidly. This is not surprising – uptake of Agile in the Software Industry has grown steadily since Scrum was created back in 1990. Agile organizations successfully complete more of their strategic initiatives than less Agile organizations [source], and Agile organizations reportedly grow revenue 37% faster and generate 30% higher profits than non-agile companies [source].  But if Agile is so good, there is an obvious question that needs asking:

If Agile is so good, why do we constrain it to software projects?

When we talk about Agile, we tend to think about software projects. Indeed, the oft-referenced Agile Manifesto is not actually a manifesto for all Agilists – its full and correct title is “The Manifesto for Agile Software Development”.

Not the Agile Manifesto - but the
Not the Agile Manifesto – but the “Manifesto for Agile Software Development”

In this year’s State of Agile report, 87% of those who contributed to the report survey said they believed the top benefit of using Agile was ability to manage changing priorities. 85% said it increased team productivity, while 84% said it improved project visibility. Surely we should be sharing these benefits with other areas of the business?

Strategic and Enterprise PMOs are well positioned to help other areas of the business embrace Agile working. As well as providing training and coaching in Agile techniques, the PMO can help other parts of the business avoid mistakes and pitfalls that your organisation may have uncovered whilst using Agile within IT. Yet many PMOs are reluctant to start encouraging other areas to adopt Agile, fearing resistance or outright refusal.

In reality nothing could be further from the truth. As businesses face the increasing challenges of keeping pace with a faster moving world, they are looking for new ways of working, just as software engineers were towards the end of the last century. And in the same way that software tool the principles of Agile from the manufacturing industry, now the rest of the business are looking to adopt the principles from our software teams.

I explored this topic at PMI’s PMO Symposium in 2016. You can view the deck here:

If agile is so great, why do we constrain it to software projects from John McIntyre

So in this particular article though, I am focused on one particular area of the business that is starting to recognize the advantages an agile approach can have in a fast-moving world. Welcome to the world of Agile Marketing!

Agile Marketing

Marketing and Agile are a match made in heaven. The rise of social media has changed the landscape for marketeers and marketing departments are scrambling to find ways of working that allow them to be fast (yet predictable), transparent (yet adaptable). Agile Marketeers have even gone to the effort of creating their own variation of the Manifesto, declaring that they value:

Responding to change over following a plan
Rapid iterations over Big-Bang campaigns
Testing and data over opinions and conventions
Many small experiments over a few large bets
Individuals and interactions over one size fits all
Collaboration over silos and hierarchy

Historically, marketing followed a traditional funnel model. There would be time to analyze data and plan out awareness campaigns. Time would be spent crafting engagements and schemes would be put in place to ensure customers stayed loyal to the brand. In this digital age, the traditional approach is less useful. Potential customers come from all angles and fewer enter the funnel at the top than we would care to acknowledge. Elements such as exposure and the customer relationship come to the foreground like never before.

A Typical Marketing Funnel
                                                                                             A Typical Marketing Funnel


More than ever, Marketing teams need to be able to respond rapidly to the outside environment and change direction at the drop of a hat. If they cannot respond quickly, they can miss valuable opportunities to gain exposure and build brand loyalty. Consider this example from Oreo back in 2013: During the third quarter of Super Bowl XLVII, there was a power cut that lasted for over half an hour. Moments later, Oreo responded with a tweet that was retweeted fifteen thousand times. Whilst others were paying eye-watering fees to advertise during the Superbowl, Oreo got incredible exposure for free. 

How did they achieve it? According to Sarah Hofstetter, President of the Agency behind the tweet (i360), they achieved it by having a colocated team from the agency and Oreo working together. In this article, Hofstetter notes that having the executives in the room was key as it allowed them to pull the trigger rapidly and get the image on to social media fast enough to capture the moment. 

The site advocates using scrum within Marketing teams. By forming empowered scrum teams who can make decisions and reprioritize the backlog to deal with changing situations, Marketing teams can ensure the work that would fit in the traditional marketing funnel still gets done, while being able to respond rapidly to change. 

One of the concerns that PMO teams often have is that they won’t be listened to by other areas of the business. “Why would a marketing executive listen to me?” is a common question. Rather than answering that directly, I’d like to share this quite from David Quinn, Senior Director of Corporate Marketing at EMC. Because while I could point out to you that your experience and expertise is exactly what modern marketing teams need, I think the message comes across much louder and clearer when it is delivered by an actual Marketeer:

“The Us vs. Them mentality is an inherent and inherited trait that today prevents our growth as human beings.”


For PMOs to be effective in the Enterprise space, it is important that they draw broadly from a range of operational and project delivery techniques, rise above the Waterfall vs Agile debate and stamp out Tribal Biases. In a blog post ‘Tribal Mentality in the 21st Century‘, Brauer Training note that the “us” vs. “them” mentality is an “inherent” and “inherited” trait that today prevents our growth as human beings. It feels good to be part of a tribe, but the best PMOs will recognise that growth will come not from a single perspective, but from a homogeneous position, where knowledge is derived from a range of sources and perspectives. The lesson here is clear: read broadly, listen to different perspecives and experiement to see what ideas work best in your environment. The best PMOs are the ones who rise above the waterfall vs agile debate and focus on helping organizations deliver the right things faster – regardless of which framework, method or religion the idea originally came from.

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