Library Spotlight: Agile Marketing – ABN AMRO Retail

Marketing plays an important role at ABN AMRO. Every year a multitude of marketing campaigns and customer communications are carried out. In order to be able to conduct these campaigns and communication properly, all sorts of processes and procedures have been developed over the course of time. Consequence: long lead times, a lot of alignment and a portfolio of campaigns that must always be prioritized and determined months in advance.

The Ambition

The marketing department concluded that this was no longer sustainable. Its management team wanted to become more flexible and help the marketing teams to increase the impact and effectiveness of their on- and offline campaigns. The ambition was to enable the marketing teams to develop campaigns and customer communications that are spot-on and relevant. This also meant removing a lot of impediments that hamper teams in creating meaningful content.

Way of Working

We like to think of Agile as a means to an end. In our experience especially teams working in non-IT environments can’t simply copy-paste the scrum framework. Instead we decided to use Scrum as a starting point and build from the core agile principles to discover a way of working that best suits the specific situation and challenges. We don’t see the way of working as something that is fixed in time either, it is merely a starting point that is the basis for continuous evolution.

Agile @ ABN AMRO Marketing and Communication

The starting point was one team that used scrum as a guiding methodology. After these first experiences the approach was expanded to five Marketing Delivery Teams. This new way of working brought about important changes:

  1. Truly multidisciplinary: To be truly agile, the Marketing Delivery Team had to have access to all the knowledge and information to independently develop & implement marketing campaigns and client communication end-to-end. Therefore the team consist of a variety of specialisms including Marketeers, Data Specialists, Communication Specialists, a Traffic & Production Specialist and an Agile Coach. But colleagues from other departments, such as Product Managers and Online Sales Specialists, also felt part of the team. We discovered that this is essential. Teams can only make successful choices for customers if they have an overall picture of all interests and obstacles in an organization.
  2. Self organizing: The Marketing Delivery Teams are self-organizing and therefore have no direct manager. Hierarchical management is deliberately organized around the area of expertise. Managers therefore do not interfere directly with the campaigns, but focus on coaching specialists and have a role in preventing or removing impediments. Consequently, whenever the team faces a decision they rely on each other instead of seeking hierarchical guidance. And for managers this means that their main focus lies with the proper functioning of teams instead of their own personal visibility.
  3. Flexible planning/ Rolling Calendar & Roadmap: A third development is that the teams no longer rely on a yearly planning, instead new ideas for campaigns are continuously prioritized on a product backlog and can be taken into sprint during each sprint planning. This means that the department as a whole can continuously prioritize to realize value for clients according to the vision and purpose of the department

These changes brought about a number of challenges as well. Most importantly we see that the implications of agile working (working together, working transparently, continuous learning, commitment, focus) can be quite taxing for managers and team members. Because the success of this way of working depends on everyone actively contributing, everyone’s commitment is asked. In most cases training and coaching and experiencing the effects of this new way of working helps to bring people on board.

Results

The teams have increased the velocity with which they release new campaigns, spend more time on communication activities that drive customer value and have improved cooperation among the disciplines and with stakeholders. Best of all, the people working in the teams are more motivated than ever, actively involve customers in their decision making and are sharing their best practices within ABN AMRO and with other companies. These successes have inspired marketing departments in other business lines to adopt agile marketing.

– Pascal van de Polll

Pascal van de Polll has 20 years of experience working at different top consultancy firms. Feeling the need for a more modern take on consultancy he cofounded Strategiemakers in 2012. Since then the firm, operating from Amsterdam in the Netherlands, has grown to over 18 employees. Strategiemakers focuses on helping companies renew their business strategies, help teams innovate faster and build agile organizations.

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