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Getting ready for a panel I was moderating at MarkLogic’s Big Data Summit in New York last month, I was doing research on the history of Agile Development. My two guest speakers, Tim Dunnington of ICA and Richard Winslow of Zynx Health, were going to be talking “agile.” It turned out to be a great conversation on how agile development allows technology and business to converge, and the best practices for making it work within an organization.

Tim’s group cycles through 21-day sprints, while Richard’s innovation team releases continuously. They both pointed out that the duration of a sprint is an agreed-upon timeline –determined by business and development needs– and priorities are set for that period of time. Business sets the priorities, development gets it done, business reviews and verifies, and development releases. Rinse and repeat.

While Agile Development has been in the tech domain since 2001, when 17 “organizational anarchists” got together in Utah to orchestrate a better way to create software, it really is a process that should win the heart of marketers. According to the Agile Manifesto, AD promotes “adaptive planning, evolutionary development and delivery, a time-boxed iterative approach, and encourages rapid and flexible response to change.”

The first of the 12 Principles of Agile, as you’ll find on http://agilemanifesto.org/principles.html, is this: “Our highest priority is to satisfy the customer through early and continuous delivery of valuable software.”

What this means for marketers is that the development team is primed to be responsive to customers’ changing needs and market conditions. Old methods sequester the development team with a scope of work (in which every condition needed to be thought through), and finished code would emerge 12-18 months later. Without intervals of feedback, the risk of failure was great. As customers’ needs changed, it grew more difficult to be responsive. The forbearers of Agile Development wanted to liberate programmers from their cubes and move them into the business circles. With agile, development is done in smaller chunks – sprints with routine checks and balances with the business team.

The marketers of Silicon Valley have taken notice and have created an Agile manifesto of their own that is also centered on customer service, rapid response, and short duration sprints and scrums. (Further reading on Wikipedia.)

The movement of developers –and now Marketers– toward Agile is creating a blur between the two disciplines. A good marketer has to know what is possible in order to get the word out there – and a good techie needs to figure out where customers want to go.

I think I see visions of Chief Marketing Technologists or Chief Technology Marketers in the not-so-distant future.

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