Agile Marketing Based on Analytical Data Insights: Improving Scrum Tactics in Brand Outreach

This post is written by Mathias Lanni (Executive VP, Marketing – Velocidi).

Agile management and scrum-style techniques have long been accepted in fields of technology development, but have been increasingly adopted outside the tech industry over the years.  Fundamentally, agile tactics are a way for organizations to more quickly adapt to quickly-changing markets and customer demands, without the slow-to-change hidebound nature of top-down hierarchical organizations impeding change.

Marketing has certainly become fast-changing!   The marketing field has become extremely volatile in the past 10-20 years, with the digital revolution bringing about huge changes in buyer behavior, brand/buyer interactions, as well as basic outreach.

Agencies were already having to deal with client demands which could change rapidly based on customer demands and/or issues with their image.  Now, on top of that, digital marketing is constantly in flux, with massive shifts in strategy consistently happening in response to changes in the search engines as well as the impossible pace of internet/electronic trends.  It’s enough to drive any marketer to reassess their workflow, which is undoubtedly why agile techniques are coming into the field.  The issue is how to introduce scrum-style strategies while also making use of “Big Data” analytics to ensure the best possible decisions are made.

In this blog, we wanted to address a few ways data analytics can be integrated into scrum-style workflows in a marketing management setting, and in particular how they can be utilized to quickly settle questions that may come up due to shifting priorities.

Improved Scrum Marketing Management through Smart Use of Data

We’ll assume readers are familiar with the basics of scrum management.  Rather than go over that, we wanted to address a few specific problem areas relating to Product Owners and Scrum Masters where data analysis can be of the greatest help.

Problem 1 – Sorting Through the Backlog

One of the perennial issues with digital marketing is that there is always more that could possibly be done than even the biggest team could ever achieve.  As an easy example, there are literally dozens of social media networks out there.  Yet even the largest of brands is going to struggle to support more than a handful properly.

So when you have a long backlog of user stories to implement, how do you prioritize?

This is exactly the sort of problem a well-maintained database and analytical system can cut through easily.  By sorting through usage data, customer feedback, focus group comments, and similar information, one can almost always get clear guidance on which user stories would likely be well-received by the target audience(s).  With sufficient data, there is no need for guesswork – you’ll have clear trends indicating the right path.

Of course, this principle also applies to selecting user stories in the first place.  A data-driven outlook will help ensure effective stories are selected, leading to a backlog full of to-do items which all have a high likelihood of paying off.

Problem 2 – Optimizing Your Points and Time Allocation

Historically, one of the biggest issues facing Scrum Masters is properly configuring your sprints.  How many points should be in the sprint, and what time allocation is best?

Don’t forget that big data can be applied to your own processes as well!  A database keeping track of the successes and failures of your own scrums will serve you well, and generally, it only requires a few months’ of data before you can start seeing clear trends.  Allocating points doesn’t have to be a matter of gut and instinct.  You’ll be able to look up exact time spent on similar user stories in the past when determining your time allocations, which in turn gives you clear guidance on point’s allocation.

Of course, this does rely on committing to recording these numbers and doing so consistently.  This small time investment will pay off in the future – and do so with increasing reliability as the months’ pass.

Problem 3 – Crafting Effective Retrospectives

It’s well known that human memory is quite fallible, particularly when under stress.  This can be a problem when it comes time for your monthly retrospective.  How well will people really remember the nitty-gritty of problems faced in the previous month?

Again, this is a problem which can be solved with good data and time tracking throughout the scrum process.  The Scrum Master might even devote some time to reviewing the data logs.  Why did a particular Team Member end up spending twice as much time implementing a User Story than was originally allocated?

They might not remember this event off the top of their head without prompting, but with the data on the table, it’ll be much easier to remember.  Then the information about the problem and its solution can be integrated into the database, and into future decision-making.

Data Can Tie Your Marketing Together

These are just a few examples of how data analytical techniques and scrum-based marketing management can go hand-in-hand.  Data can be the basis for decisions throughout the process and will make the lives of both the Product Owner and the Scrum Master vastly easier.  In most cases, a trip to the database will be able to answer most pressing questions – clearing the roadblock quickly – while the ever-increasing amount of data recorded will help you quickly optimize your scrum processes on a month-by-month basis.


About Mathias Lanni EVP, Marketing – Velocidi

Mathias Lanni has helped some of the world’s leading brands take advantage of new emerging technologies to reach and engage their audiences. Through 20+ years of brand marketing experience Mathias has helped large national advertisers incorporate paid search, display advertising, conversation analytics, social media marketing, social advertising, web & app development into their traditional marketing plans. Before Velocidi, Mathias was a founding member of Edelman Digital, the world’s first global social media agency, where he led global scaling plans for the agency. Mathias currently works with www.velocidi.com 

Technology can be a band-aid rather than a solution

I love Technology

 

I love TechnologyAt least once per day, I’m reminded of the “I love technology” song from the wedding scene at the end of Napoleon Dynamite.

You know the one.  Napoleon’s brother is getting married and sings a song to his bride. I’d link you to a video of that awesome song but none that I found seem to have audio, so I’ll just link you to the lyrics.  The lyrics don’t do the scene justice…you have to watch it if you haven’t (and watch it again if you’ve already seen it).

The part of the song that sticks with me is these lyrics:

Yes, I love technology
But not as much as you, you see
But I still love technology
Always and forever

I’m a geek. No question about it. When I first watched that scene and heard the song, I loved it.  I too love technology.  I’ve been able to do a lot in my life / career because of technology.

But…technology isn’t what we should be ‘loving’.  We should like technology, but we should love the things that technology can do for our coworkers, for our companies and for our customers (and for our lives).

You see, technology is just a means to an end.  Technology isn’t the answer…it never has been.  Many people will tell you to solve your problem(s) with technology, but the technology itself is meaningless unless your solution(s) are focused on the end-goal of maintaining revenue, customer satisfaction, employee morale, etc.

I can’t count how many times over the last few years I’ve heard someone say “just throw Hadoop at that dataset” or “just move your systems to the cloud” as if that was the answer to a problem or problems. Now, they MIGHT be the answer, but we need to make sure we understand the problem entirely before throwing technology at it.

Yes. I do love technology, but not as much as I love solving the real problem(s) that my clients have rather than just covering them up with technological band-aids.

My Plantronics Savi 740 just died…so I bought another

Plantronics Savi 740

Plantronics Savi 740I’ve written before about my love of for the Plantronics Savi 740 (see here and here).

Earlier this week, my beloved 740 died.  I’m not quite sure what happened but it just stopped working.  Mind you, it was only 4+ years old…which is something you really don’t see much of these days.

For a few minutes, I looked around at different models but Plantronics seems to have kept the 740 as their base model with only minor changes (mostly on how the earpiece is configured). I also looked at a competing product from Jabra (the Jabra 9470) but just couldn’t bring myself to move away from a device that has worked for me for 4+ years.

So…I ordered another one. It arrived today and I plugged it in, let it charge and went right back to using the best multi-device headset on the market.

If you multiple devices (desk phone, computer/skype/softphone and cell phone), check out the Plantronics Savi 740…you won’t be disappointed.

Revisting my Savi 745W headset

Plantronics Savi 740

Savi headsetIn February 2012, I posted a review of a new headset that I had just purchased. The review, titled Plantronics Savi W745 headset – a review, provided a quick overview of the 745 headset and I gave it the following recommendation:

This headset is easy to setup and is crystal clear.  Highly highly recommended. If you have multiple devices like I do, check this headset out…it is worth the money. More than worth the money.

I just wanted to do a follow-up to that review. Here we are a little over 4 years later and the Plantronics Savi W745 is still going strong without a single problem. The headset has survived a move from Dallas to Tulsa, it has been dropped many times, thrown across the room (accidentally of course), had water spilled on it (more than once) and it just keeps working.

I’ve got the headset connected to a Cisco SPA525G VOIP phone, my macbook pro via a usb cable for Skype /facetime calls and my iPhone via bluetooth. When I get a call on one device, all I have to do is hit the ‘answer’ button on the headset and I’m connected.

I couldn’t be happier with the money I spent 4 years ago….and I’m quite surprised that an electronic device purchased 4 years still works.  That’s actually the sad part isn’t it? I expected to get about a year out of this headset and was happy when I got 2…but 4 years of daily use is phenomenal in the world we live in today.

To second my review from 4 years ago…if you are looking for a headset and have multiple devices, get this Savi headset (or an updated model if they have one…but I don’t see any new versions out there).

 

The technology debate is usually the wrong debate

DebateWindows vs Mac vs Linux.  Android vs iPhone.  Nikon vs Canon vs Sony.

Spend any time online, with techie friends or with photographers and you’ll run undoubtedly come across arguments about which tech is better. You’ll have people calling others ‘fan boys/girls’ and in some areas you’ll see some downright nasty comments about whichever tech someone doesn’t agree with.  You’ll see people commenting that Android (or iPhone) sucks, Linux (or Mac or Windows) is superior and Nikon (or Canon or Sony) is the only camera a ‘real’ photographer uses.

The problem with these types of debates is that they are generally not grounded in real-world experience. For example, the guy that adamantly argues that Nikon completely destroys Canon cameras in every area of competition has never shot anything other than a Nikon. His arguments are based on reading ‘tech specs’, blogs and forum posts about how much better Nikon is than Canon.  Sure,  there are valid ‘technical’ reasons for stating that one technology is better than another (e.g., the Nikon D810 DSLR has one of the highest DxOMark ratings ever at 97, versus the 81 given to the Canon 5D Mark III), but technical data isn’t the only way to measure technology.

In my experiences, how a person (or company) USES technology is more important than what technology they use. Take the Nikon vs Canon debate…fan-boys will throw the great results of the Nikon cameras into the faces of Canon users at every chance they get, but their argument becomes worthless when a photographer uses a camera that is about 8 years old to take a photo that wins the World Press Photo of the Year for 2015.  Debating the technical merits of a technology is meaningless if you aren’t willing to step forward and actually use that technology (or any other technology) to deliver real-world results for yourself or your company.

The Android vs iPhone debate is another good example. You could spend days reading all the reviews, blogs and forum posts about how Android is better than iPhone (or vice versa). You could talk to endless friends and colleagues about which phone is ‘best’ but until you make the decision to buy one and start using it, you’ll never know how it will work for you.  Honestly, 95% of users will find both the Android and iPhone to be comparable and never really need to know the difference in the two platforms/ecosystems…the phone will just work for them and they’ll be perfectly happy.

The same is true for 95% of businesses that choose one platform over another. As long as you’ve done your due diligence and ensured the platform that you’ve chosen will meet your needs, you’ll most likely be happy with whatever technology you choose. The technology debate is usually the wrong debate to have. The right debate to have is to focus on how you will use whatever technology you have (or might acquire) to deliver something of value to yourself, your family or your company.  You can have the best technology in the world and still deliver terrible results or you can have technology that is one, two or even three generates behind the ‘modern’ tech and deliver award winning results.

Building an Agile IT Group

Building an Agile IT Group

Building an Agile IT GroupLike the data center in most organizations, IT groups have been undergoing a transformation over the last few years. IT leaders have constantly been on the lookout for new systems, technologies, people and skills to meet the ‘do more with less’ mantra while continuing to build out the capabilities required of their teams.

Thankfully, CIO’s have had the good fortune that cloud computing and virtualization were available to help transform IT operations and the data center. Combining these new technologies in innovative ways has allowed organizations to cut costs, improve flexibility and just generally ‘do more with less.’

Virtualization has allowed organizations to expand their data center capabilities without requiring enormous outlays of capital for new hardware and physical space by allowing companies to decommission underutilized servers and replace them with optimized virtualized systems.

Similarly, the cloud has given organizations access to an almost limitless amount of processing and storage power with low costs, relatively high reliability and a great deal of agility. Companies have been able to quickly and efficiently expand data center capabilities with little capital expenditure or long term commitments by turning to cloud vendors and platforms.

Both virtualization and cloud computing have completely transformed data center planning and operations. They’ve also planted the seeds of change within the IT group itself by forcing IT professionals to think more about adding business value rather than narrowly focusing on the technologies they are managing and implementing.

Many organizations have been pushing data center transformation projects while neglecting the transformation of the IT group itself. These companies have transformed (or are working to transform) their data centers from a monolithic, underutilized liability to an agile and valuable asset, but they’ve often failed to push agility as a core concept for IT professionals working within their IT groups.

In order to continue to improve and provide value, CIO’s need to be thinking about their people as well as their technology and systems. They need to think about how to include concepts like agility, business value, cross-training and laser focus on customer satisfaction into the fabric of the IT group.

While I can’t provide a ‘recipe’ for CIO’s to use to create an agile IT group, I have provided a few guidelines that have worked for me (and others) in the past. These guidelines are:

  • Focus on the User: Many times, IT is given a set of requirements and they go off to build a system to meet those requirements. Rarely do we take a step back to look at the requirements from the user’s point of view. Rarely do we spend more than a few minutes talking to the actual end users who have commissioned the work. Rarely do we see the stress and strain they are under to do their jobs. A focus on the user will help IT professionals understand the need for agility and flexibility in their jobs.
  • Rethink your Operational Delivery Model: Use the cloud and virtualization to rethink and rebuild your delivery capabilities so that your team can more easily say “yes” when asked for help from the business. If your IT staff can say “yes” easily, it will become second nature for them to continue to say ‘yes’ whenever they can. And saying “yes” is what agility is all about.
  • Invest in Skills and Training: If you want your team to change, you really need to focus on training and skill development to ensure your team has the capabilities and knowledge to perform their jobs in a fast-paced environment like an agile IT group.
  • Cultivate and Eliminate: Cultivate the skills, ethics and abilities that you want to see in your agile team while eliminating those that you don’t. This may mean hiring and firing but not everyone is cut out for an agile IT group so you shouldn’t try to force people to ‘fit.’

In order to compete in the future, CIO’s and IT professionals need to remain agile. They’ll need to continue building the agile data center but they’ll need to also focus on building an agile team to get the most use from the agile data center.

This post is brought to you by Symantec and The Transition To The Agile Data Center.