Project Management

Here is Why Kanban System is the Best for Agile Marketing

If you’re familiar with the concept of agile marketing, then you’ve probably heard a thing or two about Scrum methodology.

First, because it’s by far the most popular of the agile project management methodologies.

In fact, a 2017 survey from the Content Marketing Institute found that 58% of software teams (not marketers) currently leverage Scrum as their go-to methodology for project management:

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Second, because the concepts behind Scrum often appeal on the surface to the needs of a marketing project manager — it’s fast, efficient, and evenly distributes accountability to ensure the whole team contributes.

What more could you ask for, right?

Sorry to say it, but…

Sure, Scrum might make sense for software developers.

But marketing teams have very different needs. And frankly, there’s a better agile marketing methodology out there that meets those needs: Kanban System.

What is Kanban?

Developed by Toyota in the 1940’s, Kanban is a project management methodology that actually limits the amount of work your team does in order to boost productivity.

That’s right:

Unlike Scrum where teams define a set chunk of work to complete within a designated time period, Kanban prioritizes a backlog of tasks and moves them through your team pipeline one-by-one until complete.

That means no timelines — just 100% focused teamwork on a project until it’s complete. Then, the team moves on to the next project.

As a result, marketers are able to be flexible, competitive, and aware of inefficiencies in their existing workflows.

And they do it without the incessant pressure of juggling five projects of seemingly equal importance.


Then let’s get into it.

Here’s a breakdown of how Kanban works:

Agile marketing teams using Kanban methodology live and breath by their Kanban board: a visualization tool that gives your team a holistic view of the projects currently in-progress, completed, and in the queue for completion.

Here’s a real basic example of one:

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That “to-do” column is commonly referred to as your “backlog” on agile marketing teams.

It’s your pipeline for new projects as they come in from business leaders, cross-functional partners, or in the case of creative agencies, your clients.

And because each member of your team focuses on a single task at a time, your backlog needs to be constantly prioritized to ensure the most pressing projects get the most immediate attention.

To be clear, Scrum uses a backlog as a repository of ready-to-go assignments, too. It’s not a concept that’s unique to Kanban.

What sets it apart is the the fact that Kanban teams rely on work-in-progress (WIP) limits instead of time to move work through the different stages of your project workflow.

Now, I’m sure you’re wondering:

What is a WIP limit?

Daniel Barreto over at DZone gives a nice, succinct definition of WIP limits. As he puts it:

“A WIP limit would be the maximum amount of work in progress that is allowed at a time in a team or system.”

In other words, WIP limits put a cap on the amount of projects that can move from your backlog to your active workload at any given time.

And if you’re wondering why that’s a good thing, this visual from LeanGuru does an excellent job of demonstrating:

(image source)

When teams operate without a WIP limit (like in Scrum), the whole team tackles all of the existing projects at the same time. As a result, the business sees the benefits of all three projects at once — but not until the end of the defined time period.

But, when you do have a WIP limit, the entire team focuses on the completion of one project at a time. As a result, the business sees results from your team faster.

That quick turnaround means a lot — especially for a marketing team that often needs to quickly take action on a new trend or turn out a time-sensitive campaign.

And that’s not the only way Kanban gives an advantage to marketing teams:

How Kanban Builds More Efficiency into Agile Marketing Teams

One of the reasons for Scrum’s popularity among developers comes from the common skill set shared by most members of a development team.

Of course every developer has their own strengths and weaknesses. But on a Scrum team of seven, the general assumption is that most members of the team can chip in on the work at any stage. And that’s what makes “sprinting” more effective for development teams: the whole team is equipped to pick up the slack at any point in the work window.

As I’m sure you know, marketing teams aren’t built that way.

The modern marketing team has little room for generalists. Instead, your team members’ skills are highly specific and generally focused on one specific component of your marketing strategy.

PPC marketers often don’t know a thing about content marketing. Your email marketer might have zero experience working on display ads.

And as a result, it’s ineffective to throw a bunch of projects at your team and have everyone hack away at it. As a marketing leader, you need a methodology that maximizes the output of each specialist. And you need a good platform to help manage it, too.

That’s where Zapty can help.

How Zapty Supports Agile Marketing Teams Using Kanban

For teams brand new to Scrum, the transition can be a bit jolting.

After all, it’s a completely new process and often a total overhaul to the way the team previously operated.

But, Kanban is different.

Kanban is a methodology intended to support and improve your existing workflow.

Which is exactly what we strive to do here at Zapty every day.

Our platform is fully adaptable to your current project workflow.

That’s huge for agile marketing teams using Kanban because it means you can take the physical boards and cards into a fully-customizable digital environment.

Let’s say, for example, you’ve established these five workflow stages for your Kanban board:

  • Backlog
  • Research
  • Copy
  • Graphics/Visuals
  • Publication
  • Promotion
  • Done

Here’s how that looks in Zapty:

Your team can build those stages directly into the platform and seamlessly move tasks from one stage to another.

The high-level overview of tasks at each stage helps you keep an eye on WIP limits and the ability to prioritize tasks means stakeholders can tell you where to focus your time.

It’s a platform made for teams who need flexibility, but want structure.

Zapty changes as your team and your process evolves.

Which leads to the final bit of advice on using Kanban for agile marketing:

Always Look for Opportunities to Improve

One of the great things about Kanban is that it isn’t nearly as “rigid” a process as Scrum.

The truth is, you can dive into a Kanban project flow fairly easily, test it out, then keep what works and dump the rest.

And that’s ultimately key to your success using this methodology — don’t be afraid to make changes. Andrea Fryrear explains what that looks like over on the AgileSherpas blog:

“This might include specific process changes like adjusting how your kanban board is laid out, or more team-centered adjustments like cross-training. Whatever it is, just make sure you keep pushing yourself to get a little better.”

In addition to those small improvements, Andrea also recommends looking for opportunities to create a methodology “hybrid.” Bringing together the best elements of Scrum and Kanban methodologies isn’t against the rules. Develop the right process that works for you and your team.

Feeling Inspired?

If you’re interested in giving Kanban a try for your agile marketing team, we’d love to talk.

A member of our team can walk you through our platform and get you started on a free trial to see if Zapty actually works for you (remember, test everything).

Get started today by requesting your free trial.


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