Agile Methodology – it’s not just for IT

This is the first in a series of blog posts about our experiences adopting agile methodology in the context of sales and marketing. This series will talk about process, tools, and how the team has benefited.

Since joining Guidewire about a year ago, I have had the privilege of hearing from many of our customers about how agile methodology has transformed how they run IT projects. A typical customer experience goes like this:

Guidewire Professional Services introduces agile methodology to the customer during their first Guidewire implementation. Other teams are inspired by the success of the Guidewire implementation and decide to try agile on their project. This causes agile methodology to spread through the IT department like a wildfire and before you know it becomes part of the IT organization’s DNA. Sometimes, the wildfire even spreads to other departments like marketing and finance.

We (i.e., Guidewire's Sales and Marketing teams) were inspired by this and decided to experiment with using agile methodology to organize our efforts. At the outset we hoped that our work would see the following benefits typically associated with agile:

  • Better align with the evolving needs of the business
  • Gain momentum through frequent and tangible progress
  • Better learn from our experiences and continuously improve
  • Improve collaboration with our stakeholders and within our teams
  • Gain more transparency and accountability

Our excitement was tempered by a few concerns. Sales and marketing operations differ from an IT project in many ways - can you really adopt agile in this context? How can momentum be generated when there is no system to demonstrate or hard “deadline” that the team is marching towards? Will team members embrace working in an “agile” fashion?

In our experience, there were a few factors that enabled our team to successfully adopt agile. For starters, it helps to have a mentor who has lived through agile, understands agile processes well, and will be able to provide credible advice. This mentor will help adapt processes to be relevant in the context of sales and marketing. Additionally, adoption will be much easier if the team has the right tools at its disposal. Most importantly, team leadership must be firmly committed to agile and flexible enough to continuously improve processes as we gain experience.