TMW #073 | After agile, mobile payments, and Meta's EU exit

Feb 14, 2022

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Here’s the week in Martech:

  • After agile: Does Martech need a new process paradigm?
  • Who will control mobile payments? It will be a $500B industry by 2025.
  • Meta threatens EU exit: Will GDPR digitally isolate Europe?
  • Everything else: G2’s annual software rankings, the NFT cloud, the internet of ecosystems, rethinking data governance, generation alpha, the IAB state of data, ByteDance’s metaverse app, and the lost weirdness of the social internet.

✍ Commentary

After agile. Something that’s always interested me about the marketing technology industry is how companies often borrow different ways of thinking about processes. One of the most popular examples of this is the concept of agile marketing, an appropriation of the original software development process philosophy.

It’s been more than 20 years since the agile manifesto, the founding document outlining the principles and philosophy of agile, was forged in the snowy mountains of Utah. It’s also been about 10 years since a marketing version was created.

Since then the entire concept of agile has caused furious debate about the interpretation of its ideas, and how to best apply them in a business. The debates have at times become so heated that many have called agile both a religious cult and the most revolutionary way to think about managing people since the advent of digital technology.

The thing about agile is that it is really just a mental model – an open-source idea that a small group of influential people found helpful when thinking about how to ship digital products. By prioritizing things like individuals and interactions over processes and tools, and responding to change over following a plan, the ideas of agile have proliferated literally every company that uses the internet.

In similar ways to the common flu or COVID-19, the ideas of agile have mutated and spread over time. In almost every direction agile has morphed into a colorful variety of frameworks, processes, business roles, training institutes and has enabled the creation of a rather large number of process-oriented software companies.

If you’ve ever worked at an agile organization, you’ve probably heard of these concepts, some which have become office-hold names: Scrum, Kanban, SAFe, product owner/manager, scrum master, sprint, burndown charts, velocity, standups, and program increment. Learning agile is like learning a new language.

It’s these concepts that are the driving force behind participation in a digital economy, influencing how leaders form teams, relationships, job descriptions, and ultimately becoming the lens through which the economic futures of companies are viewed.  Agile as a concept is inescapable and is now the dominating organizational ideology of our times. So much so that Agile Sherpas has seen a 41% year-on-year growth of agile marketing adoption, growing to about half of all marketers surveyed.

This is why I want to understand agile and its many mutations and if there’s a future for it in the maturing world of Martech. Does agile marketing work, or is there something else that promises a better future for how we organize ourselves?

A helpful way to think about the value of agile is through a three-level framework developed by Shreyas Doshi, a product leader who’s created programs at companies like Stripe, Twitter, and Google. According to Shreyas, there are three areas that determine the fate of any kind of technologically focused project: Execution, impact, and optics. Execution correlates to the speed, quantity, and quality of things delivered, whereas impact correlates to how much those things advance business and customer goals and optics is the measure of how much the business understands the important work you're doing.

The precepts of agile are designed to deliver on all three levels at the same time. In agile you organize work in smaller teams and into measurable units of tasks. You run sprints and standups to ensure you’re delivering on schedule. Additionally, burndown and velocity reporting are focused on how much a team planned to get done versus what they actually got done.

Ideas like program increment planning, Fibonacci scales, and prioritization frameworks are designed to ensure that the most impactful types of work will be delivered. This is the stuff that keeps product managers up at night, by the way.

Optics is managed through things like showcases, demo days, and reporting to educate executives with limited thought space on how well you’re doing and why you deserve a bigger budget. Agile marketing uses tools like the scrum and kanban frameworks to organize people and resources into a supply chain to deliver on the execution, impact, and optics of digital projects.

The agile marketing mindset changes some of these ways of approaching processes. By validating learning over opinions, introducing more flexible planning, and running many small experiments instead of a few large bets, you can see that somewhere between 2001 and 2012 the precepts of agile have moved from general and conceptual to concrete and prescriptive.

The agile mindset often does not reflect the kinds of work people do in marketing technology. The original manifesto was created for people who write code and create software. Martech is often about applying existing software to marketing problems. Application is different from building in the way that implementing a marketing automation platform is different from writing code to build it in the first place.

It’s here where many of the ideas of marketing agile don’t necessarily work for the simple reality that building software from the ground up requires fewer diversity of inputs than your typical technologically enabled marketing projects.

Marketers are one of the most cross-functional people in business. They need things approved by legal, to align with accounting, and need the digital and IT teams to enable projects, all along with interfacing with a market filled with partners, suppliers, and adjacent companies.

This kind of interdependence that marketers deal with daily makes it difficult for marketing technologists to do things like estimate work in an agile environment. Does creating a new integration between apps take 20 minutes, 20 hours, or 20 weeks? Often the answer to that question is “it depends” but what if your project management tool won’t accept that kind of answer?

Part of the problem of agile is that process-oriented technology companies unofficially enforce agile principles and turn them into methodologies. JIRA set the template for what an epic > user story > task pipeline looks like. For you to use JIRA or Asana or Monday or ClickUp properly, you need to understand agile ideas and navigate things like a kanban board.

According to G2, there are now more than 400 project management software companies, of which the vast majority are built on top of the ideas of agile. What started out as a vision for better software development and a few key guiding principles has mutated in a sprawling software industry that effectively enshrines agile in code.

That’s why we have marketing cloud companies like Salesforce and Adobe acquiring process-oriented technologies. It is about entrenchment and the ability to keep enterprise businesses engaged with the technology that sits around the process. It’s also a way to hypothetically accelerate the use of core technologies. These too, are built off the back of agile ideas.

There are also more case studies coming into market showing the unsuccessful outcomes of implementing heavy-weighted agile frameworks in enterprise businesses. If you compare Skype and WhatsApp, both communication software-focused companies, you can see a significant difference in their abilities to execute. Skype went all-in on agile frameworks in 2012, while WhatsApp never bothered. Which one is worth more today?

This is why we need to think about what’s after agile. Agile mental models should be flexible enough for teams to decide what’s best for them, but when agile moves from an ideology to a methodology that is enforced technologically, that’s when rigidity and process sets in. Sometimes you need to go outside of agile concepts to truly map a process to a problem and that’s exactly what the fastest growing technology companies do, they think ground up and in a first principal way about what it takes to execute and create impact.

Survey the teams working in the fastest growing companies in the world and you’ll find something interesting: A curious absence of Scrum. Amazon, Apple, Datadog, Facebook, Google, Netflix, Shopify, Spotify, and Uber all prefer to use a simple plan > build > ship methodology over any kind of formalized agile methodology like Scrum.

Going a step forward, these teams are empowered to choose their own operating models and way of thinking about processes. Across all major technology companies, the focus is on attracting autonomous and competent people and giving them freedom and accountability to deliver value. Sometimes a clear understanding of the customer problem and business goals are enough to let high-functioning teams take care of how they work with each other.

Couple this with the rise in roles focused on marketing and revenue operations in recent years and this points to the failings of agile marketing to adequately serve the needs of the marketing process. These roles take some elements of agile methodology and combine it with a variety of other ways of thinking to create something custom-fit for their specific context and needs.

It’s also exciting to see more free-form process tools like fast-growing startup Notion build technologies that offer complete flexibility in how a team might like to create and adapt the way they work. The growth of apps like Notion is a good indicator of the demand for flexibility in process that's growing in the industry.

Whatever comes after agile will be less of an industry-defining ideology, and more of a bifurcation of the best bits that make the most sense. After years of trying and failing and learning, the ability to create your own process has been a differentiating trait for successful teams. Whatever elevates the optics of your impact because of your ability to execute will control how we think about the thing that comes after agile. Links: The curious absence of Scrum in big tech.Shreyas Doshi on 3 levels of product work. The agile marketing manifesto. Implementing heavy-weighted agile frameworks. Beyond agile. Agile Sherpas: State of agile marketing.

📈Chart Of The Week  

Who will own mobile payments? According to 2pm and eMarketer, the total transaction value for proximity mobile payments is forecasted to reach half a trillion dollars by 2025. Given that payments on mobile devices are increasingly gatekept by phone manufacturers like Google and Apple, it's clear that these companies are looking into expanding their financial services offerings. Mobile commerce is already far more centralized than the computer, and this reality is only going to persist. Link

📰 Latest Developments

Meta leaving Europe? As GDPR enforcement intensifies, there’s growing concern about where data collected on Europeans is stored. Meta’s Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp store European data on US servers, so technically they will be in violation of data protection rules. Meta initially responded by warning that they will shut down services in Europe, but then days later walked back the statement in a lengthy blog post, which makes the entire situation quite confusing (and awkward). While Meta has been in the headlines this week due to the confrontation, every other social networking that is processing data offshore of Europe will have to negotiate with the GDPR regulator, so this is probably the last we’ll hear about it. Links: Shut down threat, Meta’s walk back.

G2’s 2022 software rankings. Each year the software review company publishes its annual rankings from the community. Two out of the three top companies are focused on applying AI to the sales process. This includes Gong the #1 app of the year, which also happens to be one of the fastest-growing AI apps for sales interactions, and Chorus AI, software that applies the technology to conversational data. Link

The NFT cloud. Salesforce is reported to be building an NFT cloud, which is both interesting and not surprising at all. I’ve been wrestling with the question of how integral NFTs are to the Martech stack. This news from Salesforce pushes the technology further away from the brand marketing fads they are known for today to something the company's director of market strategy says will become more pervasive. What was that old saying… Something about pickaxes?  Link

📚 Reading

How have the players changed in digital advertising? Stratechery on the changing dynamics with the largest advertising platforms compared to five years ago. Apple and Amazon have entered the industry in a major way but are doing different things to compete with Facebook and Google. Link (Thanks to Vishal for sharing this in the TMW community).

The internet of ecosystems. Nine out of ten of the world’s largest companies created an ecosystem. There’s been a growing change in how software companies work with each other on platforms to create value and meet customer needs. McKinsey is predicting that by 2030 ecosystems will play a significant role in almost every aspect of the global economy. Link

Rethinking data governance. Some research firms are predicting that 80% of data governance initiatives in enterprise firms will fail in 2022. Given the growing importance of responding to marketing change in the realm of consumer privacy and online tracking, there’s an opportunity to think twice about how teams go about implementing and managing data governance. Link

🔢 Data & Insights

Who is generation Alpha? Long read from Shopify on marketing to the next generation of emerging adults. Prepare yourself for a lot of “brand purpose”. Link

Epic games annual report. Gamers spent $840 million on games in the Epic store, and in December they had about 62 million MAUs which could be a lot or a little depending on your perspective. Compare this with Roblox which also this week announced that creators earned over $500 million last year. The entire industry is still a fraction of all mainstream social networks. Links: Epic. Roblox

IAB state of data. The timing of this report in conjunction with last week’s EU ruling on the legality of the organization’s trust and consent framework could not be more ironic. At this stage, the IAB is advising that measurement is now a "multi-billion-dollar problem.” Link

💡 Ideas

Party island. ByteDance, the parent company to Tiktok is working on a self-described metaverse social app. The app is build for mobile and will include tiny 3D worlds and the ability to create your own avatar. It’s pitched as a way to “gain an unexpected sense of companionship and participation.” Facebook is talking about the metaverse while ByteDance is building it. Link (note the article is in Chinese and might need to be translated).

Email expiration dates? To counter unnecessary energy used to store unwanted emails, a proposal from a non-profit group is suggesting that all marketing emails have an expiration date that can be set at an individual level. This could either turn into a marketer’s worst nightmare or create new ways of creating like Snapchat’s ethereal content. Link (Thanks to Phil for sharing this in the TMW community)

The ROI index. A company dedicated to giving advertisers insights about advertising platforms like Facebook, Apple, and Tiktok. It assesses return on ad spend, volume, fraud, and reach.  Link

✨ Weird and Wonderful

The lost weirdness of the social internet. The early 2000s had significantly different online socializing patterns compared to today. Link

Why can’t we pay attention anymore?Link

Salesforce feat. Matthew McConaughey.Link


Stay Curious,

Make sense of marketing technology.

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Want to share something interesting or be featured in The Martech Weekly? Drop me a line at juan@themartechweekly.com.

Juan Mendoza

Marketing technology strategist at The Lumery, I analyse marketing, data, and technology trends for some of the most well-known Australian and global brands.

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