Marketing sets the tone and pace for content strategy, but there’s a great deal marketers can learn from their IT counterparts.

More than a decade ago, 17 software developers gathered for a weekend to talk about development methods. One of the outcomes was the Agile Manifesto -- a document that shared the groups’ belief of a better way to develop software and their collective values:

Individuals and interactions over processes and tools
Working software over comprehensive documentation
Customer collaboration over contract negotiation
Responding to change over following a plan

That is, while there is value in the items on the right, we value the items on the left more.

In the past, IT projects followed the waterfall method; a fixed sequence of well-defined stages. Teams gathered and documented all requirements up front, then designed, implemented, tested and deployed. Like a waterfall, the process flowed from one step to another, and you didn’t go back upstream. Or if you tried to, it proved a tough swim in rough waters.

Waterfall looks great on paper; very neat and tidy. But the problem was people DO want to go back. In the real world, things change before you get far from the dock -- or even while you’re still on it. Priorities shift. Expectations morph. Scopes creep.

The 17 developers recognized this, which is what guided them as they developed the Agile Manifesto. Designed to make software development more iterative and responsive to change, the philosophy aptly applies to much of marketing and content planning.

Waterfall’s Weakness

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A lot of marketing follows the waterfall approach. We take six months to build comprehensive plans and strategies only to find out that while we squirreled away in meetings and created long-tail documentation, the world changed. Today’s environment requires quicker adaptability and responsiveness.

When we created that marketing plan, we couldn’t anticipate a social media response or customer situation that changed everything in a matter of minutes. When this happens, we’re left with two choices: abandon the time and energy we spent building a comprehensive strategy or acknowledge that we’re not equipped to handle circumstances at the speed we need to.

Calmer Waters

The Agile Manifesto focuses on collaboration with people -- including customers -- and responding to change. By bringing together cross-functional teams, Agile Marketing helps put the needs of the customer first, and breaks downs silos and hierarchy that often bog down progress.