Why Agile Tools Can Actually Make The Agile Marketing Process Harder

To give your marketing team the best chance at a successful agile transition, it’s important to stick with either very simple software or old fashioned physical agile tools for your first few sprints.

If you start with complex software you’re going to be trying to learn both the agile process AND some brand new tool at the same.

It stands to reason that one effort is going to suffer.

You can learn the agile methodology or you can learn a complex agile tool, but probably not both simultaneously.

Double Learning Curve: Agile Tool AND Agile Process

Whether it’s Scrum, Kanban, or a combination of the two, your team will be spending a lot of its early sprints figuring out agile terminology and processes. They need to focus on learning to estimate task sizes, run rates, and work in progress limits.

Demanding that they embrace a revolutionary way of marketing while simultaneously figuring out how this new agile tool calculates burndown is a tough ask.

You’re basically adding a software learning curve onto the already steep one that every new agile marketing team will face.

If you have to choose between your team embracing an agile mindset, starting on the road toward cross functionality, and becoming more self managing or learning a new software, choose the latter.

Agile Marketing Demands Process Improvement, Not Tool Improvement

New agile teams need to iterate on their process as well as their marketing projects, and this is made easier when their process is as straightforward as possible.

You want teams who can come up with better ways to estimate the size of their user stories every single sprint, not teams who figured out how to make a pie chart with the latest version of their agile tool.

My recommendation is that you keep things very simple for five or six sprints/iterations so flaws in your process can bring themselves to the surface and be addressed. If you’re simultaneously rolling out a new agile tool it will be harder to determine if the issue is with the tool or your team.

Additionally, creating the agile habit of getting a minimum viable product out the door and then iteratively producing improvements is a step in the right agile direction on its own.

Practice the agility that you’re preaching by adopting the simplest solution and then adding agile tools to meet the team’s needs as they emerge.

Agile Process is More Intimidating With Software

“No more quarterly projects. You need to finish everything in two weeks. Also, here’s your login for some completely new software you should be familiar with in two days.”

That’s how it can sound when marketing teams are told that they’ll be “going agile” through the adoption of some shiny new software. Throwing a whole new process at your team and then hiding it behind complex dashboards makes the whole thing seem exponentially more intimidating.

The tone and style of your agile transformation are important components to its success that are nonetheless easy to overlook.

It’s much friendlier to hear, “All our marketing objectives are going to be broken down into tasks, which are on these sticky notes. We’ll move them across this whiteboard as we complete them each sprint.”

Focus on empowering your team and letting them find their way organically to the agile tools that will make them the most effective. That may be the fanciest software out there, or it might be a whiteboard. 

There are no right or wrong agile tools, just the ones that work for your team.

Some Agile Tools Meet Needs You Don’t Have

A related problem is that a lot of the agile software out there was designed for developers and/or project managers, and even those that were created for marketers weren’t made with your team in mind.

It’s quite possible that these “agile tools” are meeting needs you don’t currently have, and may never develop. There’s no way to know where the shortcomings of your team and process will be until you start actually running down the agile path.

If you wait to buy software until you’ve been truly agile for a few weeks (or longer) you’ll end up with a more robust collection of tools that are actually going to help your team meets its goals and become more productive.

Agile Tools Add Expenses to New Agile Marketing Teams

Finally, agile tools in the form of fancy software create an added expense for new agile marketing teams that can serve as an unnecessary barrier to adoption.

Part of the benefit of practicing agile marketing is that even if an entire sprint objective fails, the company is only out a couple of weeks worth of work. The risks of agility are typically low and easily mitigated.

But when you throw in software that costs thousands (or tens of thousands!) of dollars, the discussion about trying agile marketing becomes a much more intense risk/benefit analysis.

To give your team a better chance of getting the green light for trying out this modern marketing miracle, you need to eliminate potential pitfalls. Pricey software that purports to be an all purpose agile tool sounds cool, but it’s going to delay, or possibly even derail, your agile adoption process.

Weigh in With Your Experiences: Do Your Agile Tools Help?

So, who out there has found the perfect agile tool? How is it making your agile marketing team better? And, if you’re willing to share, what’s the price point?

We want to hear from you!

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Andrea Fryrear
About the Author:

Andrea Fryrear

Andrea loves to dissect marketing buzzwords and fads looking for the pearls of wisdom at their cores. Her favorite topic is agile marketing, which she believes holds the key to a more fulfilling (and less stressful) marketing career for individuals and a more powerful marketing department for business. When not scrutinizing the latest agile methodologies, Andrea can be found on the volleyball court, at the park with her two delightful kids, or baking “calorie-free” cookies. Connect with her on Twitter @AndreaFryrear, or on LinkedIn.




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