How Mural's marketing team uses agile + design thinking methods to craft solutions and drive growth
November 22, 2017
Things are moving fast nowadays. Traditional ways of working are being disrupted.
There’s an urgency for organizations to be flexible and adaptable to quick-shifting market and social trends. Creating business value and solving customer needs must be done in the most efficient and cost-effective ways.
At Mural, our marketing team works on the move. We’re following new trends, evaluating metrics and working with our customers to deliver the most relevant content and best possible experiences. Agile gives us the framework to work as productive and cost-effective as possible. Design thinking supports our customer-centric approach and ensures we are solving the right problems. Combining these values allows us to have the biggest impact on our company’s long-term success while creating the most value for our community.
Let’s take a closer look at why and how we’re doing this.
Teams throughout Mural find success through an agile mindset.
Although generally associated with software development, agile is more and more being implemented throughout all departments of companies looking to infuse their culture with the most effective, innovative and cost-saving workflows.
Our marketing team has cultivated numerous benefits since adopting an agile mindset:
Lower Risk: Working in weekly sprints allows us to evaluate and adjust after just one week, rather than waiting until the entire project is completed to make corrections.
Higher Efficiency: Our team is able to work more effectively without working more - while working on the things that matter most.
Organizational Alignment: Sprints are planned based on sub-goals of company-wide objectives, contributions and results are transparent, communication between departments is promoted/commonplace and builds cohesiveness.
Measurement & Accountability: By running small tests and measuring the results, we’re able to invest more of our time in the most effective campaigns.
Continuous Improvement: Agile methods allows for continuous improvement on the individual level, campaign level and the organizational level.
Empowered Team: With leadership buy-in early on, our team works autonomously, moves fast with ideas and experiments and tests freely, without the bottleneck of waiting for approval.
Agile is all about improving and adapting the methodology itself.
So it’s appropriate for us at MURAL to experiment and come up with variations that work best for our distributed teams and support remote/digital collaboration.
War Room = Digital Project Workspace
The idea of a war room is a single place (typically an office meeting room) to collect all of the vital information and brainstorm with all necessary stakeholders working on the project. We avoid the traditional war room by creating a digital project workspace which gives us the freedom to continuously transform and iterate on our working style.
MURAL supports overall project management and agile methods, providing a space for design thinking activities and sprint planning/reviews. Retrospectives are done using the framework taken from the MURAL framework library. The workspace is accessible to the entire company and additional stakeholders on-demand.
Kanban is facilitated through GitHub using the ZenHub extension. We’re able to create issues straight from our planning sessions in MURAL and send them directly to GitHub via the Mural + GitHub integration.
Hubspot’s automated dashboard showcases key metrics, providing transparency and relieving our team of more frequent reporting and check-ins with leadership.
Typical Scrum vs Modified Scrum
With our team spread throughout four cities, from California to Argentina, we augment the typical scrum framework with digital solutions to accommodate for time and geographical differences.
Modified Scrum Team
Scrum teams are generally small teams of individuals possessing skills across multiple functions who can work together at speed in a war room style setting. To coexist with war rooms going through a digital transformation, team structures are no longer dependent on colocation and adapt styles to afford maximum efficiency.
The Digital Project Workspace Team is made of nine distinct roles typical of a scrum team. In our model they are color coded into four sections (each color represents one team member) to model the multiple jobs a single team member may take on during any given sprint. Depending on the sprint tasks, work is shifted between team members and leaders emerge. For example, if tasks are more weighted towards analytics, perhaps our developer will step into more of a management role for that sprint. The Extended Team shows other groups throughout Mural who we keep a speedy and clear line of communication with.
Design thinking helps us understand constraints, see opportunities, and explore possibilities.
At Mural, we use design thinking to help us determine the true problems to solve for our customers and to understand which problems each company-wide business function should approach. Design thinking is more than just frameworks and techniques - it's a mindset that helps us navigate any problem, domain or process.
Design Thinking Meets Agile
Breaking down design thinking into its traditional five components (empathize, define, ideate, prototype, test), we can identify where this process overlaps with our agile process. Typically we frontload the design thinking exercises early on, to understand the core problems we'll be working to solve and which solutions make the most sense. We can then enter our sprint with a clear understanding of the big picture and can narrow in on specific tasks to build towards our overall goal.
Approach For Success
Different teams facilitate and execute design thinking in different ways to accommodate their unique situation and needs - there is no single or perfect way. But whatever approach you take, and especially for teams who are not colocated, follow these tips to create a workspace that will set your team up for success.
Your workspace should:
Promote full team participation
Offer an open space for visual thinking
Support repetition and iterations
Be accessible to key stakeholders when needed
Allow movement between project phases
Our marketing team's tendency of wide divergence in brainstorming sessions generally sees us expanding to 2x or 3x size murals so we have ample room to liberally dump ideas without fighting for open space, then cluster and narrow concepts all in the same mural.
Cliff Notes - How We Do It:
Digital First: MURAL replaces the traditional war room, acting as a digital project workspace supporting creative sessions and team management activities, integrated with GitHub (ZenHub) for Kanban.
Modified Scrum: Merged/overlapped team roles, daily stand-up via Slack (Geekbot), bi-weekly stand-up via Zoom, flexible sprints.
Customer-Centric: Design thinking is utilized early when problem/solution framing and conceiving long-term marketing strategy/goals, focused on customers and stakeholder specific engagements.
In large, complex projects, agile’s success rate jumps to six times that of conventional methods.
Incorporating design thinking tools with the agile process ensures you’ll be developing the right solutions for the right people.
When the proper toolkits and mindset are applied, these methods are systematic, repeatable, and scalable. They offer a holistic methodology that companies with distributed teams can learn and put to work - which will enable those companies to develop and implement new ideas, not just come up with them.
If you’d like to learn more about adopting a digital-first agile approach or incorporating design thinking within your organization, let’s chat. We're always excited for new conversations and collaborations.
About the authors
About the authors
Creative Lead at MURAL // Moving beyond the pixels to connect intuition, reason, and opportunity.