I've been lucky to coach and train in both agile marketing and software development, so I have a pretty clear picture of what's different (and what's the same). Here are a few noticeable differences that I've personally witnessed between agile for marketers and software development teams.
The software industry has had the Agile Manifesto that hasn't changed in nearly two decades. The marketing community decided to create a similar, but differently worded Agile Marketing Manifesto that more closely aligns with their world.
The Agile Marketing Manifesto is more loosely written and is subject to change. You'll see this disclaimer in it:
"While we made some important decisions at SprintZero, this is a work in progress. We will apply our own process to publish this manifesto, measure the results, learn from the feedback, and adapt and iterate."
A few key revisions for marketers are:
Adaptive and iterative campaigns over Big-Bang campaigns
Many small experiments over a few large bets
The process of customer discovery over static prediction
In software development, the most widely used framework is Scrum with two week sprints. In marketing, Kanban or Scrumban (a little bit of both Scrum and Kanban) are the most popular. I have seen pure Scrum work nicely in marketing as well. A lot of marketing teams go with one week sprints due to quickly changing priorities and turnaround times. Companies that are more traditional and are used to projects taking months find Scrum with two week sprints to be their best bet. If you're wondering why there is this difference from software developers to marketers in preferred frameworks, here are a few observations:
Marketers often find Scrum to be too rigid if they are used to a very free flowing way of working. This is especially true in agencies, startups and smaller companies.
Social media and other forms of digital marketing require almost immediate customer response times, so planning a one or two week sprint isn't doable.
In software development, you typically see the Scrum roles of Product Owner and Scrum Master. In agile marketing, it's common to see these roles combined as one and called the Marketing Owner.
At first I was a bit horrified by this consolidation of roles, but in observation, it usually works out quite well. The team sizes in marketing tend to be smaller than software development (commonly five or six people), so that makes the single role more palatable. I would, however, caution agile marketers that are just starting out to have at least one person on their team who is really knowledgeable about agile, even if that isn't their full time job. If no one fits the bill, bringing in a coach to guide them for the first few months is recommended.
The main reason that marketers aren't bringing on a full time Scrum Master is budget. Marketers are already stretched really thin, work long hours and are expected to do more with less. Hiring a full time person that doesn't produce marketing is a tough sell in this field.
What's the Same
Besides the three things above, everything else is pretty much the same. Sure, they type of work being produced is different, but the heart of agile remains.
It doesn't matter what industry you're in, agile is all about collaborating to create value that your customers can quickly realize. It's about breaking up command and control management and empowering the people closest to the work to to get the job done. It's about responding to changing marketing conditions rather than working off of a five year plan. It's about innovation and fostering a culture that values new ideas more than fear of failure.
Stacey Ackerman is an experienced marketer who's passionate about agile marketing. She's a well-known speaker and blogger and has helped several companies find a better way to work. Stacey is the owner of Agilify Coaching & Training, a proud AgileDad Partner.