Given that marketing and technology are now firmly intertwined, it’s important for CMOs and CIOs to have a productive relationship. It’s also worth considering a shared modus operandi that blends outside-in (CMO) and inside-out (CIO) perspectives. This article aims to serve as a discussion generator for organisations to build out their thinking and practice of Scaled Agile Marketing – a first step towards creating shared marketing and technology values, principles, viewpoints and leadership.
Agile CMOs in the Digital Era
Technology is bringing increasing levels of complexity and uncertainty to marketing. It’s no longer viable to use sequential thinking and ways of working to create detailed annual plans, as they break down in the face of today’s reality of constant change. CMOs that aren’t agile in their thinking and ways of working are struggling. Agile-thinking CMOs understand the need for smarter, faster marketing and know how to create a workplace and workforce where adaptability is the norm. It’s also imperative for CMOs to understand technology and build a great collaborative relationship with their CIOs.
From Growth Hacking to Scaled Agile Marketing
Marketers at start-ups have been well versed in agility and adaptability practices for many years, and the best are known as Growth Hackers. Their skills combine marketing and software engineering with a clear focus on measurable customer and/or commercial growth. They adopt agile software operating methods and build self-defined MarTech stacks (with their CIOs) to drive customers through their data-driven marketing funnel.
CMOs of large organisations need a comparable model that can handle enterprise scale. Marketing strategies, culture, structures and processes built for command and control must be transformed to favour collaboration, agility, adaptability, metrics that matter and customer obsession. Enterprise CMOs could adopt scaled agile methods, such as the Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe). SAFe has prospered in the software world and many of its business benefits are well-aligned with CMO corporate objectives:
“Now in its fifth major revision, SAFe 4.5 is improving business outcomes for companies of all sizes across the world. It has produced dramatic increases in time to market, employee engagement, higher quality, higher customer satisfaction, and overall improved economic outcomes. It also helps create cultures that are more productive, rewarding, and fun.”
The Scaled Agile Framework: 4 Levels to Implementing Scaled Agile Marketing
Portfolio-level activities focus on customer obsession, strategy, brand experiences, investments, strategic insights, enterprise MarTech architecture and strategic innovation. These activities would design and deliver the strategic themes and marketing transformation backlog that optimise enterprise outcomes. Strategic themes would be defined as appropriate to the organisation, however they should have clear differentiated customer and business value.
The marketing transformation backlog will have a prioritised list of customer and business outcomes to achieve with an agreed agile operating rhythm. Marketers assigned to these activities must be able to lead and inspire senior stakeholders (and their teams) and apply SAFe principles to drive the desired organisational culture change. Given that SAFe doesn’t prescribe an organisational hierarchy, resources applied to this team should have the expertise and voice of the customer to define a deliverable strategy. It’s unlikely that an isolated team of strategists reporting to the CEO or CMO would be successful in this role.
2) Large Solution
Large solution-level activities focus on capturing complex cross-functional solution requirements for the MarTech architecture (e.g. data and analytics, API integrations, marketing automation, CRM or CMS), return on marketing investment, compliance, and structuring the multiple release trains for realising the customer product/service intent. This level ensures that customer needs are clearly defined and designed with appropriate technologies, automation and organisational resources to deliver the desired agility with scalability.
Program-level activities focus on shaping the delivery of programs, from customer-led design through to live product. Program resources must be able to inspire cross-functional team cohesion, delivery velocity and learning, often led (not managed) by a Product Manager. They are accountable for delivering marketing transformation and always-on agendas that meet customer needs by applying right-fit practices, tools and techniques at the right time.
Team-level activities focus on accelerating marketing delivery through measured live product / service increments. Teams are comprised of fully-empowered and motivated cross-functional individuals, often led (not managed) by a Product Owner. Team members have the ability and authority to define, build and test solutions of customer value within the specified iteration criteria. This brings agility to marketing.
A Scrum Master will drive agile project management at the team level, ensuring that product delivery flow is facilitated in and across teams to always enhance delivery velocity and continuous product/service improvements. At the team level, you are likely to find expert (or even rockstar) resources that can deliver the anticipated features, e.g. customer insight, contextual and personalised communications, performance marketing, customer experience, social, channel innovations, customer research public relations, marketing operations and so on.
As you can see, this is a completely new approach for marketers. Following a scaled agile framework would transform the structure of many marketing practices to something much more flexible. It’s a fundamental change.
Practicing ‘Continuous Everything’ and ‘Always-On’ Philosophies
Scaled agile marketing creates an environment where marketers can more easily collaborate with cross-functional colleagues, apply sense-and-respond marketing tests and then scale what works and fix what doesn’t work. By default, it creates customer-centricity, a measurable commercial focus, ‘always-on’ marketing and an innovation culture, all while ensuring that day-to-day tasks are swiftly accomplished. Marketers are empowered to continuously uncover customer-centred value based on constant customer-centred dialogue. This is akin to the concept of ‘continuous everything,’ that is: continuous collaboration, continuous production, continuous integration, continuous delivery, continuous deployment, continuous testing, continuous measurement, continuous feedback and continuous learning.
CMOs who effectively establish the culture and practices of scaled agile marketing, ‘continuous everything’ and ‘always on’ will then drive customer obsession across their organisation and deliver brand experiences that truly differentiate.