Frank Days and I recorded another Marketing Agility Podcast this week, this time with Mike McKinnon. I met Mike while he was running marketing operations at ReadyTalk (fair disclosure: they are an Oracle Marketing Cloud partner) and we connected over what it takes to implement Agile in the marketing context. As it turns out, his story was so compelling and representative that I had to include it in The Agile Marketer as a case study. I’ll share an excerpt of that case study below.
The podcast follows Mike to Avaya where he continues to use the Oracle Marketing Cloud and is once again working on establishing an Agile practice. In our conversation we touch on a recent article from CMO.com entitled: Mohanbir Sawhney: Why marketers are still struggling to adopt Agile. In this piece Sawhney, the McCormick Tribune Professor of Technology at the Kellogg School of Management, talks about the unique challenges of making Agile work within the enterprise. It’s a good backdrop for this conversation because of Mike’s move from a startup to a 12,000+ person company.
Here’s our most recent podcast with Mike:
And, an excerpt from the case study in my book:
ReadyTalk started implementing Agile to address common challenges, such as poor coordination (owing to organizational silos), a lack of strategic focus (due to insufficient transparency), and a reactive posture (the result of constantly shifting priorities). Like most marketers who adopt Agile, they discover that it cannot only be interpreted for the marketing context; it must also be tailored to the organization.
As ReadyTalk has grown from 20 employees to more than 200, the company has used Agile not only to manage its marketing programs, but also to iterate on the process itself. This continuous improvement has brought ReadyTalk through more than 10 iterations of Agile methods including both Scrum and Kanban.
Like many pioneers of Agile marketing, ReadyTalk started with Scrum. Five years ago, few marketers were using Kanban, and most of the guidance from development organizations was based on Scrum. ReadyTalk discovered, however, that Scrum was too process-intensive and complex; two-week sprints were not always a good fit for their programs. So Mike led his team towards the less prescriptive end of the spectrum and tried Kanban before eventually iterating to a hybrid method known as Scrumban. This hybrid incorporates elements of Kanban, such as limits to the number of items being worked on (work-in-process), alongside elements of Scrum, such as cross-functional teams. Interestingly, after gaining experience with Kanban, Mike’s team was more able to embrace some of the more prescriptive elements of Scrum.
A big part of Mike’s success with Agile has to do with keeping the marketing Scrum aligned with the product group’s Scrum. They’ve achieved this through the physical proximity of their Scrum meetings and their Kanban boards. They’ve also embedded Scrum participants throughout the organization.