Heavy versus light approaches to Agile – top marketers weigh in

What opportunity does Agile present for marketers today? Angeline Yip, Brendon Capes and Michael Valos explain what Agile means for marketing departments and how to investigate its application.

Agile represents a great opportunity for marketers when speed and flexibility are key sources of competitive advantage, but definitions of ‘Agile’ and ‘Scrum’ must first be classified, as the terms are often misused. ‘Agile’ refers to a workplace philosophy that emphasises individuals and interactions over processes and tools; working software over comprehensive documentation; customer collaboration over contract negotiation and responding to change over following a plan.

According to Justin Kabbani, managing director of Hardhat, “In today’s marketing department, marketers are constantly being squeezed to do more with less. Organisations need to adopt radically new ways of doing things in order to achieve radically different results.”

‘Scrum’ is a subset of Agile and designed to guide teams in the iterative and incremental delivery of a product. Often referred to as ‘an agile project management framework’, Scrum fixes time and cost in an effort to control requirements. This is done using time boxes, collaborative ceremonies, a prioritised product backlog and frequent feedback cycles.

The benefits of Agile, as well as understanding there is no one-size-fits-all approach, is outlined by Trisca Scott-Branagan, head of marketing institutional at ANZ. “Agile is helpful in rethinking about how people organise themselves and get their work done. However, each marketing department has its own needs and challenges. Given this, understanding the full Agile toolkit is helpful to determine what works best for your team in your particular situation.”

How an Agile team engages

As explained by general manager of product and innovation at Computershare, Andrew McClintock, “Different people offer different skill sets in all organisations, and stand ups, as a result of Agile, allow these skills to be presented before the broader segment of the organisation. This could be instrumental in spotting any misalignments without having extensive processes put in place over longer periods of time.”

Agile teams differ from the traditional top-down teams of an organisation in structure, team dynamics, roles and outputs among many more factors. For these reasons, the interaction between the different team types is successful only when an understanding of the Agile process is communicated to all employees in contact with Agile teams. Leaders must educate employees as to the benefits of Agile for successful cross-team implementation.  

Kabbani explains his experience with the positive impact Agile can have on other parts of the organisation, “Agile is infectious and attractive. It looks and feels so different that it ignites the curiosity of those not yet doing it. If your team is using Agile and they are engaging with other parts of the business that aren’t, they will find working with your team not just effective, but thoroughly enjoyable.”

A ‘light’ versus ‘heavy’ Agile approach  

Kabbani also highlights some key issues in making this decision, “Whether it’s light, medium or heavy, Agile will depend on the level of cultural change that the organisation is crying out for and the willingness to adopt new ways. But it can also be dictated by the level of interdependence – how much team members rely on each other to get their work done.” 

One overriding determinant of which approach to take is interdependency; as discussed by Scott-Branagan, “The extent to which Agile ways of working will be helpful depends on the level of interdependence between team members. Where there’s high interdependency between staff, teams will get much more out of leveraging Agile ways of working. Low interdependency may not get the same benefits from applying the full Agile toolkit.”

Once organisations see Agile as a solution to the need for faster responses, many choose between a heavy or light approach. Heavy Agile approaches are process oriented whereas light Agile processes are people-oriented. Light Agile processes enable Agile development through tacit knowledge and interactive delivery. Thereby, proving to be a much more feasible and effective way of managing projects.

The essential points you’ll need to consider when selecting an approach are, according to Tech Republic, budget, team size, project criticality, technology used, documentation, training best practices and lessons learned, tools and techniques, existing processes and software.

Final words

Agile can provide many benefits to organisations but there are a number of considerations.

Scott-Branagan concludes, “Introducing an Agile way of working requires investment of time and willingness of the team to test and learn new things. So it’s important to remember the fundamental elements of change management – that is, change doesn’t happen through new processes and technology. In fact, change mostly happens when you focus on culture, the language you use as a team and how you organise yourselves.

“Key to getting started is to find people in the team who can be your ‘Agile Angels’ – early adopters who also help determine priorities for what elements to introduce and who can call out when things are or aren’t working well.”

Angeline Yip is financial system administrator at Deakin University, Faculty of Business and Law

Brendon Capes is junior strategist at Hardhat and a Deakin University research assistant

Michael Valos is senior lecturer at Deakin University, Department of Marketing

 

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Image credit: Bruno Nascimento