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Cycle Time: Getting Started with Agile Marketing Navigator

We recently introduced you to Agile Marketing Navigator, a flexible framework for navigating agile marketing for marketers, a new way for marketers to navigate agile marketing in articles. The Navigator has four main components: Collaborative Planning Workshop, Launch Cycle, Key Practices, and Roles. Within these categories, there are several subsections to be implemented.

In a recent article, we introduced the Collaborative Planning Workshop and Launch Cycle. Now we’ll dive into the 4th of the 6 key practices: cycle time.

Is it taking too long to reach customers?

If your team is constantly struggling with actually reaching customers, you may be working inefficiently. For example, maybe your team is very good at publishing social posts quickly, but when it comes to email, there is a huge lag in delivery time.

Cycle time measurement is all about measuring how a particular work item type (e.g. email) goes from start to finish – finding inefficiencies in the process. The team is then collectively responsible for discussing ways to improve cycle time. In a truly agile culture, leaders allow teams to make these changes. At a more traditional company, it may not be that simple, but at least knowing the status quo can really start moving mountains.

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Does the leader realize what is holding the team back?

I’ve had leaders at a lot of companies asking why they couldn’t deliver sooner – so the team worked overtime and the magic happened. Then it happened again. Then again. Vicious circles are hard to break, but no one really addresses the underlying problem.

Too often, people are trapped in a narrow vision and see only parts of themselves when delivering work, not the whole picture.

I was working with the CMO of a company and he and other leaders in the room and we found out why it was taking so long to send emails. We discussed every step of the process, from start to finish, and looked at what went wrong.

We found that many sign-offs took days, including multiple rounds of unnecessary comments. After discovery, emails went from taking more than a month to reach customers to within a week.

Read the next article: How to Empower Your Agile Marketing Team

How to measure Cycle Time

There are tools out there that measure Cycle Time for you, but I still believe the most impactful is to get people together in a room and have a conversation about it, and provide data backups if necessary. If you can involve everyone involved in the process and those who complain that the process is taking too long, you can quickly gain transparency and consistency.

Let’s demonstrate with an example using email. If you have a collaboration tool or a whiteboard, have everyone list the steps to complete the email from concept to delivery.

Know the main audience split list from database


Design Approval

Creative Review

Revision #1 Creative Editing write copy copy Review

final draft Legal Review

    sent to martech team for coding
  • deploy

Next, ask the team to list how many days each step of the process takes on average:

Understand the main audience

3 Split list from database

  • 1 design3

    Design Approval 3Creative Review2

      Revision #1 2

      Creative Editing


    write copy 2 Copy Review

    2 Final Draft 1

    Legal Review 5

    to MarTech team Encode5

    deploy 5

    Cycle days (average)


  • agile marketing workflow

    While it may not be accurate, they can quickly see that it takes an average of about 35 days to send an email. This might make some people gasp! They may not realize how unwieldy the process is until they can visualize every step of the process and realize the inefficiencies.

    Now that they have their cycle time fixed, the real magic happens when the team can discuss what is slowing them down. Here are a few examples:

    The approval time is too long. agile marketing workflow Replication and design reviews are performed sequentially. Another team needs to code and deploy email. agile marketing workflow

    After defining the problem, the next step is brainstorming. Some ideas might be:

      Can we agree to get approval within 24 hours? Can copy and design works together from start to finish? Can our legal partner agree to attend weekly meetings and sign requests?

        Can we agree on what type of content is actually required for legal review? agile marketing workflow Can we train someone on the team to code/deploy email? agile marketing workflow

        Understanding cycle time and building transparency around it are key steps to making your team run more efficiently and succeed with agile marketing.

          The views expressed in this article are those of the guest authors and not necessarily those of MarTech. The authors of the staff are listed here.

          About the author

          Stacey knows what it’s like to be a marketer, after all, she’s one of the few agile coaches and The trainer let her start there. After graduating from journalism school, she worked as a content writer, strategist, director, and adjunct marketing professor. In 2012, when she was experimenting with an ad agency client, she became passionate about agile as a better way to work. Since then, she has been a Scrum master, agile coach, and has helped teams around the world with multiple agile transformations. Stacey speaks at several agility conferences, has more names than she can remember, and enjoys practicing agility at home with her family. A lifelong Minnesotan, she recently moved to North Carolina, where she’s busy learning how to cook couscous and say “y’all.”



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