\u00a0Agile marketing is hot. At the March 2016 MarTech conference in San Francisco, attendees buzzed about whether their marketing organization was \u201cagile\u201d or if it was still following the \u201cwaterfall\u2019\u201dprocess.\nIn short, agile marketing is now officially a thing. The benefits of achieving an agile marketing organization can be enormous \u2014 but the challenges in getting there can be equally big.\nHere are the top seven things you should know about agile marketing.\n1. What is agile marketing?\nAgile marketing is a process in which the marketing workflow is broken into smaller chunks and experiments, traditional silos between departments are removed, and customer and transaction data is shared across teams and disciplines.\nThe end goal is to rapidly respond to changing market conditions, new data and new forms of customer engagement with tightly focused, targeted marketing. Ultimately, agile marketing is about consistently and quickly delivering a superior customer experience across multiple channels.\n\u201cAgile marketing is about making organizations great at learning as much about their customers as quickly as possible,\u201d said Barre Hardy, associate partner, CMG, at the MarTech conference.\n[ Related: How to do data-driven marketing right ]\nOr put another way: \u201cAgile marketing is about communicating with your target audience, tailoring your marketing efforts to them, and adapting those efforts\u201d as needed, as fast as possible, said David Lesu\u00e9, creative director, Workfront, in the same MarTech session.\n2. Where does the agile marketing concept come from?\nAgile marketing is an evolution and adaptation of agile software development. The method of agile software development began nearly 60 years ago at IBM, when it was described as \u201citerative and incremental development,\u201d according to a 2003 article in the journal Computer.\nAgile differs from more traditional waterfall software development techniques. Waterfall is a sequential design process in which after one stage is completed, developers move on to the next stage. The problem is, waterfall by its nature is the opposite of agile. If something doesn\u2019t work out in, say, the second stage, you have to go back and start over.\nBy the late 1990s, agile software development practices became more widely adopted. Agile software development \u201cemphasized close collaboration between the development team and business stakeholders; frequent delivery of business value; tight, self-organizing teams; and smart ways to craft, confirm, and deliver code,\u201d according to Agile Alliance\u2019s website. Substitute code for optimum customer experiences and you have the gist of agile marketing.\n[ Related: 10 things that keep CMOs up at night ]\nIn 2001, 17 software developers collaborated on defining their ideas and approaches for agile software development. The result: the Manifesto for Agile Software Development, built upon 12 principles.\n3. When did marketers start practicing agile marketing? \nSeveral high-tech marketers began experimenting with agile techniques in the early-mid 2000s.\nOne of the first blog posts on agile marketing practices appeared in February 2006, published by Matt Blumberg, chairman and CEO of Return Path. In his post, Blumberg wrote about the challenges that faced Return Path\u2019s marketing efforts at that time: \u201cMultiple external and internal stakeholders with competing priorities. Poor communication. Needing to be nimble and agile in a process that has some inherent long lead-time items.\u201d\nTo get beyond those roadblocks, Return Path experimented with agile marketing. The results, according to Blumberg\u2019s post:\n\n\u201cWe now plan marketing in six-week \u2018releases,\u2019 each of which has 1-2 core themes and a planning session up front with our head of sales and business GMs. Each release has two, three-week \u2018iterations\u2019 where we do mid-course corrections and track our marketing team members\u2019 utilization on projects very deliberately...The marketing team has a daily stand-up (meeting) to review progress and identify roadblocks. And we still have enough slack in the system that we can handle a couple of last-minute opportunistic items\u2026which invariably come up.\u201d\n\n4. Why you need agile marketing?\n\u201cAgility is the new name of the marketing game,\u201d said Shubu Mitra, director of connection planning effectiveness and productivity for Coca-Cola, in a MarTech session on agile marketing. \u201cNew consumer touch points, like Snapchat, are appearing fast and furious. Touch point behavior morphs fast, like Instagram changing from a chronological feed to a more personalized feed.\u201d\n \nThis famous Oreo tweet during a Super Bowl power outage in 2013 is an early example of agile marketing.\n\nWith technology driving so much rapid change, marketing organizations today need to be ready to spring into action or change course at a moment\u2019s notice. \u201cPlanning is important, but it\u2019s more important to be ready to modify your plans,\u201d Mitra added.\n5. What\u2019s an example of agile marketing?\n\u201cDigital is a huge part of marketing today,\u201d added Mitra, mentioning a now-famous Oreo tweet at MarTech as a good example of agile marketing.\n[ Related: 12 questions to ask marketing automation vendors (before you buy) ]\nOn February 3, 2013, a power outage hit the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans during the Super Bowl. The digital marketing agency behind Nabisco\u2019s Oreo cookie, 360i, reportedly designed, captioned, approved and posted to Twitter and Facebook within minutes an image of an Oreo cookie illuminated with what looked like a lantern or flashlight beam. The image, posted to the @Oreo Twitter account, featured the caption: \u201cPower out? No problem. You can still dunk in the dark.\u201d\nThe tweet was retweeted more than 14,000 times and earned more than 20,000 likes on Facebook. BuzzFeed raved that the tweet was \u201cperfectly zeitgeisty\u201d and was \u201cthe most powerful bit of marketing during the advertising industry\u2019s most expensive day.\u201d\n\u201cAll the decisions were made in real-time quickly because marketers and agency members were sitting together at a \u2018mission control\u2019 center, or a social-media war room of sorts,\u201d Sarah Hofstetter, CEO of 360i, told BuzzFeed.\nOreo\u2019s famous Super Bowl touchdown \u201cwas not big in scale, but it was huge in impact,\u201d writes Scott Brinker in his book \u201cHacking Marketing: Agile Practices to Make Marketing Smarter, Faster, and More Innovative.\u201d (Brinker is also editor of the chiefmartec.com\u00a0blog and was program chair for the spring MarTech conference.)\n6. What are the benefits of agile marketing?\nAt a high level, agile marketing \u2014 when done right \u2014 enables brands to stay close to their customers and top-of-mind across multiple digital channels, whether it\u2019s via mobile, social media, Internet, email, or all of the above. Cross-departmental teams collaborate use shared (not siloed) data to achieve a common goal.\n[ Related: Meet tech's (not so) odd couple ]\nOther benefits can include increased transparency into what marketing does, thanks to cross-departmental collaboration, which can help increase support of marketing initiatives throughout an organization; better prioritization of marketing initiatives; improved productivity; the flexibility to increase speed-to-market; and ultimately, when all goes well, increased revenues and customer loyalty.\n\u201cEvery business today is wrestling with change,\u201d Brinker tells CIO. \u201cFor classic management methods, which emphasize long-cycle, top-down planning, change is your enemy, because it disrupts those plans. Managers find themselves fighting change.\n\u201cAgile management methods, in contrast, start with the assumption that change is going to happen \u2014 so let's build into our process a systematic way to detect and adapt to those changes,\u201d Brinker explained. \u201cThat's the overarching benefit of moving to shorter, iterative planning cycles that allow us to incrementally adjust our strategy based on real-world feedback. For companies who are good at this, change is their friend.\u201d\n7. What are the challenges in implementing agile marketing?\nTo become agile, marketing organizations must transition from orchestras \u2014 highly structured organizations with everyone following the same sheet music \u2014 into jazz bands, which are often looser in structure and highly improvisational, observed Pat Spenner, strategic initiatives leader, CEB, at MarTech.\nIf such a transition doesn\u2019t sound easy, it\u2019s because it isn\u2019t. Becoming an agile marketing organization is challenging in part because so many jobs and departments today are siloed, Martin Kihn, a\u00a0Gartner\u00a0research vice president, tells CIO.\n\u201cThere are too many people with distinct jobs who don\u2019t talk to each other, and there are too many VPs: VPs of customer loyalty, VPs of customer success,\u201d Kihn says. \u201cThey all report to the CMO and rarely meet.\u201d\nCompanies need to restructure roles and responsibilities and break down barriers if they want to have an agile marketing organization, Kihn addes. \u201cYou need teams that form around a project and work together on the outcome,\u201d he says. \u201cThat\u2019s how you gain traction today.\u201d\nLike any marketing structure, agile marketing requires strong measurement and analytics, in order to track the outcomes of your efforts and inform future initiatives. In the past, that data was often not shared throughout an organization.\nBut in an agile marketing structure, siloed data must be integrated, connected and shared, says Mitra. When it isn\u2019t, you can move fast, he says, but it might be in the wrong direction.\nA realignment of any organization can be difficult to achieve. But to be agile, it\u2019s essential that marketing departments get organized around martech tools and marketing projects.\u00a0\u00a0\nFor example, scrum is an often-used component of agile marketing and it differs from how some teams are used to working.\nScrum is an agile framework that begins with a prioritized to-do or wish list, according to the definition posted by the Scrum Alliance. A marketing team focuses on a small chunk at the top of the list and has a short amount of time to tackle it; that\u2019s known as a sprint. A ScrumMaster keeps the team focused. And at the end of the sprint, the process is reviewed for lessons learned; that\u2019s called retrospective.\nThe scrum technique in marketing can cause the potential problems of a marketing initiative \u201cto rise to the surface quickly,\u201d says Hardy.\nScrum teams are becoming \u201ca formal part of the management structure\u201d at many organizations, due to the growing awareness of an agile framework\u2019s benefits, said David Edelman, partner and global co-leader of McKinsey & Company\u2019s Digital and Marketing & Sales practices, at MarTech.\nSimply stated, use agile marketing to \u201cfocus on the customer experience, develop hypotheses about the customer experience and test them regularly,\u201d Hardy said.