Agile DevelopmentGuest BloggerProduct Marketing

Agile Marketing and the Product Owner

The following is a guest post by Jim Ewel. He blogs about Agile Marketing over at www.agilemarketing.net.

Agile Development Process
Courtesy of Ken Schwaber, Mike Beedle: Agile Software Development with Scrum Prentice Hall PTR, 2001 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Much has been written about the role of the Product Owner and their role in working with Agile Development teams. But what about the role of the Product Owner in working with Agile Marketing teams? Does he have the same role and responsibilities?

A Primer on Agile Marketing

I’ll reveal my answer below, but first it may be helpful to get a quick primer on Agile Marketing.  Agile Marketing takes its inspiration from Agile Development – like developers, marketers face some of the same challenges (changing requirements, insufficient resources, tight deadlines). The goal is to increase the speed, predictability, transparency, and adaptability to change of marketing. If you think about it, it makes perfect sense. If you have an agile development team delivering new releases every 2-4 weeks, why would you want a marketing team executing on six month or yearly marketing plans?

Like Agile Developers, Agile Marketers have values, principles and process. Unlike Agile Developers, we don’t yet have an official, widely agreed upon Manifesto. However, a number of marketers have taken a shot at creating an Agile Marketing Manifesto (see here and here) and Agile Marketers are gathering together for the first time in San Francisco on June 11th to try to hammer out an agreed upon Manifesto.  Here are a few of the values and principles that are likely to come out of that meeting:

  • Agile Marketers value responding to change over following a plan
  • Agile Marketers deliver marketing programs frequently, from a couple of weeks to a couple of months, with a preference for the shorter timescale
  • Agile Marketers favor measurement over opinion, what works over what’s popular with the highest paid person in the room
  • Agile Marketers favor many small experiments over a few large bets
  • Agile Marketers favor solving customer problems and helping customers buy over shilling and interruption marketing

The Role of the Product Owner in Agile Marketing

To get back on topic, what is the role of the Product Owner when it comes to Agile Marketing?

  1. The Product Owner contributes to the Marketing backlog, but does not own it – In Agile Development, the product owner owns the Product backlog. He or she creates it, maintains it and prioritizes it. Not so for the marketing backlog, which is owned by someone on the marketing team, and prioritized in the Sprint Planning session, as a joint effort of senior management, sales, the product owner and marketing. The Product Owner can and should contribute to the marketing backlog. For example, the product owner may state that buyers need information about a set of new features coming out in the next iteration of the product, whether than information be delivered on the web site, through a data sheet, or perhaps through a white paper.
  2. The Product Owner represents the product concerns of the customer – Customers choose one product or service over another for many different reasons, only partly because of product features or capabilities. Perception, brand, service, relationships all play a role. These additional issues are owned by marketing, and all must be addressed in the marketing process.
  3. The Product Owner participates in Sprint Planning sessions, Sprint Reviews and (optionally) in the Daily Marketing Scrum – Product owners do not participate in the Sprint retrospective, which is typically limited to the marketing team only. By participating in these events, they can represent the product perspective, and ensure that marketing is aligned with the product team.
  4. The market, not the product owner, is the arbiter of success or failure of a marketing program – in Agile Development, the Product Owner is the final arbiter over whether work is accepted or sent back for re-work. In Agile Marketing, it is the market (the prospects and customers) that determines if a marketing program is successful.  I’m reminded of the story Sergio Zyman tells in The End of Marketing As We Know It. Sergio was called into the office of Roberto Goizetta, the then CEO of Coca-Cola, to show him the latest ads for Coke. Roberto told him bluntly, “I don’t like those ads”.  Sergio replied, “Look Roberto. If you’re willing to buy a hundred percent of the volume [of Coke] worldwide, then I’m happy to do advertising that you like. Otherwise, I’ve got to keep doing it for those damn consumers.”

What do you think? Are there other responsibilities that you think the Product Owner should have in regards to marketing? What are your experiences as a product owner in working with marketing? Have your marketing teams adopted Agile?

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