Rolling out agile marketing at Deakin

We chat with the agency helping train Deakin's marketers to embrace a new way of working, as well as look at the distinct differences between software and marketing driven agility


The approach at Deakin

AgencyAgile principal, Steve Wages, has been training the Deakin marketing and digital teams in marketing-oriented agile. With nearly 80 people in-house, an early challenge has been ensuring employees don’t miss out or derail efforts by not understanding the what and why, he said.

“We usually train 25-30 people at a time,” he commented. "But if you only train some, others will see change happening and work occurring in different ways but feel left out. That potentially derails what other people have learned.

“So we did a foundational concepts session first as a half-day workshop. It’s all about being more productive, not by working harder and putting in more hours, but by working more productively.”  

Wages claimed the agency can find up to 25 per cent more productivity in just two hours. “There are fantastic insights to be found in how people work together, in how noise impacts productivity, and in how managers impact productivity,” he said.

The first level of training is predominantly communications-based and focuses on how to scope work. This includes understanding what quantity of effort is actually required. And it’s always a communications problem, Wages said.

“The Deakin team told us they didn’t know the importance of the work they were doing in terms of alignment and priority," he explained. "Like every marketing organisation, success comes down to pathology.”  

What's also key is understanding how change happens in your organisation. “People usually start making changes at the bottom, such as introducing new technology or process. But technology only accounts for 10 per cent of the improvement,” Wages said.

“Effective change starts when you adjust behaviours and culture. It’s how people work with each other and how roles interact, and what responsibilities roles should have and shouldn’t have. That behaviour piece accounts for about 40 per cent of successful change; how roles interact is about 30 per cent. Twenty per cent is process and 10 per cent is the tools [technology]. Too often, organisations are trying to use a tool to force a cultural shift. But it may not be the right culture, behaviours or roles for that organisation.”

It’s subtle behavioural change AgencyAgile focuses on first. “We start by teaching the actual delivery people doing the work first,” Wages continued. “Managers are still in the room but we focus on the workers. We find management is the slowest to move.

“It’s not until after the initial training session that we start substantially changing internal structures, and how teams communicate.”  

It then falls back to leadership to reinforce the new way of doing things, Wages said.

“The key is to constantly talk about success – how is the organisation going to change in the future and why is it going to be better for everyone. We focus on leadership so they can create really successful engagement moving forward."

The results

At Deakin, all marketing staff have now been skilled up in agile marketing methodology, and it's being directly applied to daily tasks as well as project work, Scott-Branagan said. The team has also embedded a common day structure incorporating check-ins, along with a consistent approach to roadmapping, and weekly Kanban scrums.

“This has improved productivity through empowering staff to make decisions, reducing meetings/emails, and greater real-time communication flow,” she said.

“Agility needs to be grounded in a solid strategy. A key focus for us has been embedding a common understanding of the marketing division’s purpose and responsibilities to unify disparate skillsets and build trust and empathy.”

However, agile marketing is not a magic tool to be installed, Wages warned, it’s a commitment. The more you practice it, the better you will do.

“Companies with stronger leadership do see better returns, which delivers a clearer vision for where they want to go and clearer metrics for success,” he added. “Not only can these organisations measure the success of the business, they can also measure the success of any initiative.

“It’s about fostering a culture of constant iteration.”

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