If you had to summarize all the major IT and marketing trends of 2013 into just six words, you could simply say, "There were a lot of changes." And the five-word prediction for 2014? "There will be even more."
"Change is the only constant" may sound like a fortune cookie -- with apologies to Heraclitus -- but it accurately describes the state of digital business today. And in a study by Forrester Research earlier this year, 96 percent of marketing leaders agreed that the pace of change in technology and marketing will only continue to accelerate.
This is why one of the most interesting trends from 2013 -- and one that is poised to grow explosively in 2014 -- is the adoption of agile management in the marketing department.
Everyone agrees that marketing needs to be agile today, at least in the sense of the adjective: nimble, able to move quickly and easily. But agile marketing isn't an aspiration. It's actually a relatively well-defined management methodology that began in software development circles back in the 1990s and has recently been adapted to serve the needs of marketers.
Principles of Agile Management
The essence of agile management is straightforward and rests on three main ideas:
First, instead of defining rigid and detailed quarterly or yearly plans, agile handles planning in a more iterative and adaptive manner. Agile breaks down work into bite-sized "sprints" that last for one to four weeks each. At the start of each sprint, there's an opportunity for management to adjust priorities based on results from the previous sprints and external changes in the market. There can still be an overarching yearly plan -- really, more of a vision -- but how that plan is achieved can be determined in a more emergent fashion.
The agile marketing cycle
Second, agile enables transparency. Everyone can see what is planned for the current sprint, what's complete, what's in progress and who's working on it, as well as the backlog of priorities -- what is queued up to be tackled in subsequent sprints. "Everyone" can mean everyone on the team, everyone in the marketing department, or in many cases, everyone in the company who is interested in marketing's initiatives. Among other benefits, this transparency gives people visibility into the trade-offs of incorporating new requests into marketing's to-do list.