Agile Marketing Terms

A Glossary of Key Terms & Definitions

Agile Marketing can be seen as something of a 'voodoo science'.  There are a plethora of Agile Marketing terms, concepts and models that you'll come across as you start to explore and understand the discipline that is Agile Marketing. Many of these have been used for years, becoming ingrained in the lexicon of Agile Marketing practitioners. Some have arisen more recently as the movement develops. Therefore, if you're looking to adopt an Agile Marketing approach, you'd be best positioned if you take the time to familiarise yourself with some of these Agile Marketing terms to aid cognition and understanding. To this end, here's a glossary of the most used terms for your reference and support:

Agile
Approach to product development and project management under which requirements and solutions evolve through the collaborative effort of self-organising and cross-functional teams, and their customers or end users. It advocates adaptive planning, evolutionary development, early delivery, continual improvement, and a flexible response to change to provide better control and predictability.

Agile Marketing
New philosophy and culture for marketing that manifests as an operating model made up of a set of agile business practices and methodologies in which teams identify and focus their collective efforts on high value projects, complete those projects cooperatively, measure their impact and then continuously and incrementally improve the results over time.

Backlog
An evolving list of outstanding tasks and high-level requirements requested by the Marketing Owner (/Product or Business Owner) or developed by the marketing team to achieve their marketing goals, which is prioritised to that the highest-value work is addressed first.

Blocker
Factor that keeps a task or project from progressing towards completion.

Blocker Clustering
Technique to analyse blockages where different reasons for blocked work are grouped together and the cause determined to improve and avoid future disruption.

Burndown Chart
Graphical representation of work (issues / tasks) completed and the work left to do in a Scrum work cycle or Sprint versus time. The outstanding work (or Backlog) is often on the vertical axis, with time along the horizontal. It is useful for predicting when all of the work will be completed and tracking work Velocity.

Business Owner
See Product Owner.

Cadence
The set number days or weeks in a work cycle or Sprint, giving a regular, predictable development rhythm.

Capacity
How much work can be accomplished in a particular period of time by an Agile Marketing team.

Chapter
A cross-functional team that sets guiding principles for the Tribe, such as Brand Guidelines.

Cost of Delay (CoD)
Cost of Delay is a way of communicating the impact of time on the outcomes we hope to achieve. To make decisions, we need to understand not just how valuable something is, but how urgent it is. More simply, it is the answer to the question: "What would it cost us if this was delayed by 1 month?". Or, alternatively, "what would it be worth to us if we could get this 1 month earlier?" Cost of Delay has the units of $/time.

Cumulative Flow Diagram (CFD)
Chart that tracks the three Kanban metrics – throughput, cycle time and WIP, and presents the data in a visual and concise way.

Cycle Time
The time to complete one work cycle. It begins at the moment when somebody actually starts working on a task, and ends when it meets the Done definition / criteria set out.

Daily Scrum
See Stand-up.

Delivery Pipeline
Also Deployment or Build Pipeline. The sequence of tasks for how a Story from a Backlog makes its way through development, testing and deployment to production.

Done
An agreed accepted level of quality prior to starting work on a project based on a specific definition or criteria for completed.

Epic
A large effort or project that is too big to be undertaken in one work cycle or Sprint. Epics are therefore split up into multiple related Stories that can be completed within separate work cycles.

Explicit Policies
Processes and rules that govern a Kanban process and get enforced to make sure the system works efficiently. Defining these rules helps team members understand the process and what eventually makes it complete. The team makes these decisions together and makes them available as process policies as an integrated part of the Kanban Board itself. Making these policies explicit helps everyone understand what’s expected, thereby reducing confusion and leading to greater process consistency.

Feedback Loop
A circuit that feeds back some of the output to the input of a system as part of a chain of cause and effect that forms loop. Any Agile or Lean framework incorporates this concept.

Fibonacci Scale
A sequence of numbers used for estimating the relative size of Stories using a points system. The Fibonacci sequence consists of numbers that are the summation of the two preceding numbers: 0, 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21… It is easier to determine the relative complexity of a task rather than figuring out how much time it requires. Due to this, when working with agile, the Fibonacci scale is sometimes used in terms of points to estimate the work, as opposed to the traditional measurement of time.

Flow
The movement of work items from request to completion. Fast and smooth flow means that a system is creating value quickly, which is minimising risk, avoiding Cost of Delay, and doing so in a predictable fashion.

Flow Management
Assessment how work moves through a specific business process from person to person and from stage to stage, looking at how to reduce blockages and friction, and increase velocity.

Grooming
The process of cleaning and prioritising the Backlog; this entails adding new issues / tasks, removing issues / tasks that are no longer relevant or have become obsolete, and deciding what order issues / tasks need to be completed.

Guild
A community of knowledge or interest group that shares learnings and best practices across the marketing organisation, I.e. Scrum Masters from different Squads.

Impediment
See Blocker.

Iteration
See Sprint.

Just-In-Time (JIT)
Just-In-Time manufacturing/production is a methodology aimed primarily at reducing cycle times within production system. It originated in Japan, largely in the 1960s and 1970s and particularly at Toyota.

Kaizen
Kaizen is the Japanese word for “continuous improvement”. It has evolved as a business term in post-WW2 Japan, describing a business practice to improve processes and eliminate waste, most notably in Toyota.

Kanban
The word literally means ‘signboard’ or ‘visual card’. In the late 1940s, it became a term for Toyota’s inventory management system and later evolved as a process management method for improving the flow of work through a team. It is an agile methodology focused on continuous release where work is pulled from a prioritised backlog, the amount of work the team can undertake at any one time is limited, and the progress of tasks is tracked.

Kanban Board
A Kanban Board is one of the tools to implement the Kanban Method. The board is divided into minimum 3 columns – Requested, In Progress, Done, representing the stages of a process. Kanban boards can be physical or electronic. The main idea is to visualise the path of tasks from request to completion and see where the bottlenecks are.

Kanban Card
In the Kanban Method, cards visually represent work items. Each card is a task, moving through the columns on the Kanban Board. Cards contain information about the work item. They are not different in size because the idea is to break a project down to its smallest tasks and complete them quickly.

The Kanban Method
The Kanban Method for knowledge work and service work was formulated by David J. Anderson in 2005. He combined elements of the work of W Edwards Deming, Eli Goldratt, Peter Drucker, and Taiichi Ohno. It incorporates concepts such as pull systems, queuing theory, and flow.

Kanban System
The Kanban System originated as a scheduling system for lean manufacturing and just-in-time manufacturing (JIT). It was an inventory-control system used for the supply chain by Toyota’s engineer Taiichi Ohno.

Lead Time
This is the period between a new task’s appearance in your workflow and its final departure from the system.

Lean
An agile methodology that eliminates waste by focusing only on projects that deliver value to the customer. Popularised in the book, The Lean Startup by Eric Ries (which promotes the concept of iterative product design, development and launch), lean marketing focuses on launching small, trial campaigns, and learning from the results.

Marketing Owner
See Product Owner.

OKRs
Objectives and Key Results (OKRs) is a framework for defining and tracking objectives and their outcomes. It has been used by several major companies including Google, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Uber. The OKR framework aims to define company and team "Objectives" along with linked and measurable "Key Results" to provide a critical thinking framework and ongoing discipline that seeks to ensure employees work together, focusing their efforts to make measurable contributions. OKRs are typically set at the company, team and personal levels and may be shared across the organisation with the intention of providing teams with visibility of goals with the intention to align and focus effort.

Persona
A fictional character created to represent the customer / user to help Agile Marketing teams tailor their work to meet the customer / user’s needs.

Planning Poker
A consensus-based, gamified technique for estimating the effort or relative size of tasks. In Planning Poker, members of the Agile Marketing team make estimates by placing numbered cards face-down on a table, instead of speaking them aloud. The cards are revealed, and the estimates are then discussed. By hiding the figures in this way, the group can avoid cognitive bias where the first number spoken aloud sets a precedent for subsequent estimates.

Points Scale
Point system used to describe task difficulty, without assigning actual hours.

Portfolio Kanban
Portfolio Kanban is a holistic method that aims to improve an organisation's ability to deliver by applying the principles of visualisation, limiting work in progress and flow management on a system level. The main difference between the Portfolio Kanban method and the Team Kanban method is that the Kanban cards on a Portfolio Kanban board are “parents” of one or many Kanban cards that live on the Team Kanban board.

Product Owner
The representative of the customer voice at the team level who owns the Backlog and makes the call about whether to accept new work during a Sprint.

Pull Policy
A pull policy within a pull system sets the process requirements – the order in which work is to be pulled, where from and how much.

Pull System
A pull system is a lean strategy used to reduce waste in the production process. Components used in the process are only replaced once they have been consumed so companies only make enough products to meet customer demand. In management, it means that no new work is started until started items are finished. When there is capacity, a new item is pulled to ‘In Progress’.

Radical Candor
The ability to challenge others directly whilst showing that you care personally at the same time. Radical Candor really just means saying what you think while also giving a damn about the person you're saying it to.

Retrospective
Also ‘Retro’ or Sprint Retrospective. Meeting at the end of a Scrum work cycle or Sprint attended by the Scrum Master and Agile Marketing team at which the process is reviewed to see what can be improved for future Sprints.

Scrum
A framework which defines specific rules, roles and processes to develop and deliver work in predictable iterations. It comprises short, fixed-length work cycles, or Sprints, at the end of which a piece of work is delivered.

Scrum Master
The person who tracks completion, removes barriers, and keeps all parties informed about the Agile Marketing team’s progress.

Scrumban
The hybrid of Scrum and Kanban agile methodologies. It is a pull-system where the team no longer plans out work, but pulls it into a workflow from a continuously prioritised and groomed Backlog. Scrum meetings such as planning, review and retrospective can be more context-driven, but work-in-progress is limited.

Sprint
A short, defined period of time (or cycle) in which an Agile Marketing team commits to complete certain finished-work outputs; usually 1-4 weeks in length. Also called an Iteration.

Sprint Backlog
A prioritised list of tasks to be completed during the Sprint.

Sprint Planning / Commitment
Meeting at the beginning of a Scrum work cycle or Sprint where the Agile Marketing team’s goals are agreed with the Marketing Owner (/Product or Business Owner), capacity is estimated, and work is prioritised and committed.

Sprint Review
Meeting at the end of a Scrum work cycle or Sprint where the team’s goals are reviewed, completed work is demonstrated, and results are presented to the business.

Squad
The basic team unit in Agile Marketing: a stable, self-sufficient, multi-skilled marketing team that decides how and what is delivered in an agile work cycle.

Stand-up
Short, daily standing (literally) meeting where team members share what they worked on the day before, their plans for that day, and any ‘blocking’ items hindering their progress. Also called the Daily Scrum.

Story
A unit of work that can be completed in a Sprint.

Story Points
Estimated level of effort a chunk of work will take an Agile Marketing team to complete. Used to estimate capacity and measure velocity.

Success Criteria
The exit-criteria to determine if a task is complete.

Swimlane
Swimlanes are the horizontal divisions of a Kanban Board, helping to optimise the workflow. The columns represent stages, and swimlanes categorise work. Swimlanes can be used to represent teams, classes of service, priority, etc.

Task
The work that an Agile Marketing team performs in order to complete a Backlog item. Most tasks are defined to be small, representing no more than a few hours to a day or so of work. Can be defined as a sub-set of User Stories, but sometimes used interchangeably.

Team Backlog
See Backlog.

Themes
Bundles of User Stories.

Throughput
Throughput is the number of items, passing through a system or process. The throughput of your team is a key indicator showing whether your process is productive or not.

Tribe
A combination of related Squads under one manager or business sponsor.

User Story
A detailed description of a task with stakeholders in mind – this should be 1-2 sentences written from the customer’s / user’s point-of-view that describe what they need from your marketing and / or product. User stories are used to keep Agile teams focused during a Sprint.

Velocity
The rate at which Agile teams complete their work. Used to estimate capacity and calculate productivity.

Visualisation
Making things visible, things that people don't see or might have different views on. Once things are visual it becomes possible for people to discuss them, share their views, and align their thinking. This is the primary function of the Kanban Board and the best way to obtain information about a process.

Work-In-Progress (WIP)
Work-In-Progress or WIP is the amount of work start and currently being progressed, but not yet complete.

WIP Limits
In Kanban methodology, the number of jobs / tasks in each Swimlane of a Kanban Board is limited; a job / task must progress into the next column to allow the team to accept a new one. Setting limits on the work-in-progress is a strategy to avoid overworking and context switching while focusing on the important things to ensure a healthy workflow.

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