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How Agile Project Management Saved My Marketing Team

by Adria Saracino  |  
October 2, 2012

In this article you'll find...

  • A case study of how agile project management improved a marketing team
  • An introductory lesson on agile methodology
  • A way to setup an agile workflow for a marketing team

In 2011, I found myself managing a brand-new team of marketers at an agency. And I quickly found myself flailing. My team members managed their workflow independently, which might seem like a dream scenario, but to me it was a nightmare: Overseeing their projects was extremely difficult for me. If a project failed, I had to reverse-engineer it to figure out what went wrong and when—and sometimes I never could identify what had gone wrong.

Perplexed, I started discussing ideas with my supervisor on how I could rectify the situation. He asked, "Have you ever heard of agile PM?" I hadn't, but after he described it, I was immediately hooked: This was the answer to overcoming my project management roadblocks!

I knew that one of our clients had been using the agile approach for the past 10 years for a range of projects, everything from their agile application development platform, to project delivery and marketing. So I got in touch with some of my contacts there and used them as a sounding board.

Based on my research and on what they told me about the agile methodology, I quickly devised a plan for managing my team. The result? A more efficient team that identifies problems before they become big problems and does a better job at time management, preventing projects from falling behind.

The agile methodology has helped us because it...

  1. Implements a workflow that enables us to work more cohesively as a team, rather than working on projects independently.
  2. Improves internal and external communication.
  3. Quickly identifies our strengths and weaknesses.
  4. Increases accountability, in turn resulting in more wins.

So how exactly did we do this? Let me take you on a quick crash course of the agile methodology and how I, as a marketer, applied it to managing my team. I hope to help you identify where you can improve your project management style.

Agile Project Management: What Is It

Let me direct you to this article from Wikipedia that describes agile software development from a programmer's perspective. If you read it and went "WTF?" let me try to break it down for you in marketers' terms.

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Adria Saracino is a marketer and blogger. When not consulting on business strategy, she's writing about style on her fashion blog, The Emerald Closet.

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  • by Pamela Tue Oct 2, 2012 via web

    Your article intrigued me - I've never heard of Agile PM either. However, all of the research I've done on the topic reveals that plans and software offered are only for IT and/or software development. So here's your next writing assignment: create an in-depth guide for Agile PM that refers to marketing/creative PM!! Wonder how it would sell on Amazon?! :-)

  • by Brian Tue Oct 2, 2012 via web

    Probably quite well! Hope you can do it.

  • by Adria Saracino Tue Oct 2, 2012 via web

    Ha! That would be worth a read huh? Since devs created the agile method, no wonder you only find that kind of information. I'd recommend searching for things like "agile marketing", as it's slowly becoming a bit of a buzzword.

    However, I like your suggestion and just had an idea. My company has an online training course called DistilledU in which we create training modules to teach brands how to win in online marketing. I can see there being a strong argument for a project management module, so I'm going to propose it for inclusion. Thanks for the idea and I will keep you updated on our progress.

    Here it is if you're interested:

    And here's a public roadmap on Trello (one of the tools I recommended in my post :) with what modules are coming up next:

  • by Pamela Tue Oct 2, 2012 via web

    Awesome! I'll check those out!

  • by Brian Tue Oct 2, 2012 via web

    Same here. Thanks, and do keep us posted.

  • by Pat Gilmour Tue Oct 2, 2012 via web

    Do you think Agile PM could be used in small teams spread across timezones? Or is proximity of players a key element in Agile? i.e are the beanbag meet ups mandatory?

    Working across the Atlantic, we often find keeping projects focussed and progressing can be tough. We are a team of only a few players with a lot of projects.

    Any opinions?

  • by Adria Saracino Tue Oct 2, 2012 via web

    Actually, that's funny you ask. While my team is fortunate to be based all in one office, we have offices in 3 time zones that I travel to frequently. Since I'm the scrum master, I do my best to be at these meetings. So I do have experience with this. I'd say you can still do it, but timing will be of the essence. We always have our daily scrums at 10 am, if one of us is in a different time zone, the scrum might be at an inconvenient time. However, we stick it out and just do a G+ hang out. We also do this if any of us are WFH. And since we use a Trello board, there should be no reason that you can't physically view your daily plan across time zones, so while it's not ideal (hey, sometimes technology craps out), it's definitely possible. Best of luck!

  • by Mercy Musau Wed Oct 3, 2012 via web

    Thanks Adria for this informative and useful piece. I am quite passionate on adoption of technology in improvement of projects in our organization. Keep us posted on new developments.

  • by Anita Rothgiesser Wed Oct 3, 2012 via web

    We are also a small team spread over several time zones and many projects on the go. We developed our own software Tracky which is both a social collaboration and project management tool as we did not find anything on the market at the time that suited our needs. is unique in that your account is yours for life and you never lose those important contacts.

  • by David Pavlicko Wed Oct 10, 2012 via web

    I switched from Basecamp to Trello back in March and never looked back. Our entire marketing dept (and web development team) uses it and I find it extremely helpful for overseeing all the current projects.

    I still create a project timeline overview through a dedicated tool like MS Project (I use OpenProj) for burndown, but for daily activity it's Trello all the way. just do it.

  • by Pat Gilmour Wed Oct 10, 2012 via web

    Has anyone any experience comparing Trello to TeamBox apart from the obvious price difference? (@david pavlicko?)

    Teambox offers the same list type layout on a per-project basis and seems to have better tools for storing notes and files related to a project, but I haven't worked extensively enough with either yet to know the pitfalls. Any thoughts?

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