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 

The Data Center of Tomorrow

Data Center of TomorrowThe data center of tomorrow will look much differently than the data center of today. That particular sentence should not be that surprising to anyone who’s been in an organization that has internal data centers.

Most organizations have been working on data center transformation projects over the last few years. With these transformation projects, companies have been looking for ways to implement automation, virtualization, cloud integration and other efficient technologies to allow the data center to become much more than a just a place to store servers for an organization.

I’ve worked with a number of organizations who have kicked off data center transformation projects. These companies have started their projects with an initial plan to replace aging or under-utilized servers and systems but quickly pivoted from a ‘equipment replacement’ project to a complete rethinking of how they use their data centers.

Many of these companies realized during their initial planning phases that they could do so much more with their data center. They realized the data center could be much more than a cost center if they took the time to think about how best to transform their data centers. By using virtualization, automation, converged systems and other technologies, data centers could be transformed into so much more than they thought it could be just a few short years ago.

With the introduction of virtualization, automation, Software Defined Data Center (SDCC) technologies, converged platforms, cloud systems and other technology platforms and systems, companies can now build out a data center that can deliver any type of functionality and feature the company needs today, tomorrow or in the future.

This new type of data center goes by many names but I tend to use the term “agile data center” to describe the new data center. The agile data center helps organizations deliver the right services in the right way (to the right people) but it also helps these companies contain costs while growing the capabilities available within the data center.

The organization’s that understand the value of the agile data center have changed the thinking about what the data center is and how the organization will use it. This ‘different’ thinking has caused the data center to undergo drastic changes. Some organizations are moving the majority of their data center functionality to the cloud while others are building hybrid systems with public and private cloud systems. Still others are completely gutting their data centers and replacing the systems with converged infrastructure to build container based systems within their data centers.

A few years ago if you asked IT professionals how to build a data center, they’d most likely give fairly straightforward answers based on the ‘old tried and true’ methods. Today if you ask that same question to those same IT professionals, you’ll most likely get as many different answers as you possibly could.

The data center of tomorrow is going to look so much different than the data center of today. Gone will be the bureaucratic processes and legacy systems. The data center will be a combination of internal and external systems that combine to create an agile, efficient and effective technology delivery platform.

The data center of tomorrow will be an agile data center.

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

An Agile Business Needs an Agile IT Group

Agile EmployeesIf you ask any business leader whether they’d prefer that their organization be thought of as ‘slow moving’ or ‘agile’, most would respond with ‘agile’ as their preference.   Those that don’t respond in the affirmative toward agility are most likely running a dying business or are just out of sync with their industry and their organization.

While everyone most likely knows what agility means, let me take as second to define the term and set the stage for the discussion. One of the most common definitions of agility is “nimbleness” or “the power of moving quickly and easily.”

With that definition in mind, think about your own business. Is your business agile? Are you nimble? Does your CEO or top leadership talk about agility or push for an agile mindset in everything you do? If not, you might want to start talking to your leadership team about the importance of agility for businesses today.

I’m not going to dive into why businesses must be agile today. I’ll leave that to the likes of Forrester, McKinsey and others. I will only say that I truly believe that every organization must incorporate the idea of ‘agility’ into their culture to be successful long-term. There’s just too much disruption happening in every industry to not be willing and able to quickly and efficiently make decisions and change direction to meet these disruptive forces.

At the heart of every organization’s move to be a more agile business is the IT group. In order for the organization to be agile, the IT group must approach everything they do with agility at the front of their minds.

In order to make decisions quickly, all areas and levels of the business needs access to data and information about the business in ways that makes it easy to consume and use. For many companies, this concept requires a change in thinking from the ‘old’ way of only allowing data to be accessible via specialized IT analysts to allowing access to just about anyone in the organization.

In addition to information accessibility, an agile business needs agility within the data center, which has always been a complex and structured environment. I’ve written about the Agile Data Center previously but I’ll reiterate that building agile data center doesn’t mean a complete rebuild with new systems or new people but it does require a changing of the mindset. Processes need to be rebuilt to remove slow moving (and often bureaucratic) thinking and replace them with agile client-focused processes that help the business move quickly and effectively.

An agile business requires an IT group that is just as agile as the business. Agility hasn’t always been the forte of CIO’s and IT groups in the past but the future of the IT group depends on the ability to transform into an efficient, nimble part of the business.

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

The Right Services in the Right Way

I’ve written a bit about the agile data center lately. I’ve previously defined the agile data center as something that “allows organizations to efficiently and effectively add, remove and change services at the speed of the business, not the speed of technology.”

I still stand by that definition but I wanted to expand on it a bit. Agility does allow organizations to ‘add, remove and changes services’ quickly and easily. I recently watched a talk by Symantec’s Jeff Hausman and Drew Meyer that described the agile data center a bit better than my original definition. During Jeff and Drew’s talk, they used a slide (shown below) to help define the agile data center perfectly. They define it as “Delivering the right services…in the right way…to the right user.” (Note: The slide uses ‘resources’ instead of services…I paraphrased a bit). That’s a perfect definition (and one that I wish I had come up with).


My original definition still stands as it fits well into this new definition but I really like having a focus on the ‘user’ that this new definition brings. By expressly adding the user to the definition, it forces us in IT to keep our users and clients in mind when designing new systems or applications and/or making changes to existing platforms.

Building (and managing) an agile data center allows the IT group to do exactly what is described in this slide. An agile data center allows the IT group to deliver the right services in the right way at the right time for the right user(s) within the organization.

In addition to the definition itself, the above slide provides some excellent insight into the use of Software Defined Data Center (SDDC) technologies, Platform-As-A-Service (or Software-As-A-Service), agile / elastic infrastructure and ‘metadata’ to help organizations make this new definition a reality. In addition, each ‘sphere’ shown in the image above helps to drive agile thinking within the data center and within the IT group as a whole.

If CIO’s and IT professionals keep this new definition in mind when designing and planning their data centers (and anything else they do for the organization), they’ll quickly earn a reputation as a business solutions team rather than a technology management team.

Delivering the right services at the right time in the right way to the right user is a perfect mantra for each and every IT professional today. Now, they just need to find a way to make that mantra a reality within their organizations by building the idea into everything they do.

Additionally, with this mantra in mind, it becomes much easier to plan, build and manage the agile data center within the organization.

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


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.

The Cloud – Trend, fad, reality? Yes.

This post sponsored by the Enterprise CIO Forum and HP.

The Cloud.

We all know about it.

We are probably all tired of every blog talking about the Cloud.

Some call the Cloud a fad. Some call it the trend of the future. Others…call the Cloud reality.

So which is it… Trend, fad or reality?

All three. Yes…all three.

In a recent post titled Cloud, a trend, an opportunity or a must?HP‘s Chief Technologist Christian Verstraete writes:

…the business is looking to become more agile and responsive and this is particularly important in the current, volatile, market environment. To do that, companies should have a better understanding of their marketplace, customers, competition, partners etc. And obviously they want to do that at lower cost while freeing up as much capital as possible. So, the CIO is confronted with a need to respond faster to ever changing requirements while providing an increasingly flexible infrastructure. And that is where cloud comes in. It provides the required infrastructure at lower cost…

Great paragraph that. The last sentence is one that many people might argue with though…although I’m not one of them.

The Cloud is a trend. We are moving toward a more robust, agile, “not here” infrastructure.  The cloud gives IT & organizations the opportunity to move, grow, react and deliver. The cloud is a trend just like computers were a trend when they first hit the business world…and that trend is still being ridden.

The Cloud is a fad.  We’ve heard about things like the cloud before. Those things that are going to “change IT forever”.  I don’t know how many meetings I’ve sat through  where’s I’ve heard “this is the next big thing”. Rarely…have those ‘next big things’ really been just that.  The cloud is a fad just like the computer was a fad when the first hit the market. Fad’s often morph into reality.

The Cloud is Reality. Yes…the cloud is here to stay.  But…let’s stop talking about it being the ‘next big thing’. The Cloud is simply another option for infrastructure for an organization. The cloud is here to stay…in a few years time it will be called ‘off-premise infrastructure’ or something…but its here to stay.

As Mr. Verstraete writes:

Cloud is there to stay, it may be called differently in the future, but the fundamental concept of running services on flexible environments owned either by the company or by service providers is a given.

Well said.

This post sponsored by the Enterprise CIO Forum and HP.

If you'd like to receive updates when new posts are published, signup for my mailing list. I won't sell or share your email.