In the last blog, we discussed how to start implementing or introducing Agile to small groups and prepare them for the change. Next, it comes down to choosing between Scrum, Kanban and various other frameworks which have been evolving since last one decade. There’s no simple formula; each implementation has its own benefits and challenges. Once you understand all these benefits, you can make selections for your team and perhaps form a project management style of your own. Here are few things to keep in mind about all these methodologies:
Although, there’s no strict definition for selecting a methodology based on an organization’s size, there’s statistical evidence supporting Scrum being the most prominently used Agile implementation method. Despite enterprises implementing mature Agile frameworks (SAFe, LeSS, DAD etc), teams continue to use Scrum for managing their work.
Main benefits – Scrum makes you sprint
Being constantly put under deadline, the time-boxed delivery pattern motivates teams to work towards a definite, achievable goal. Asking team members to estimate their task completion times and then report their pending work in daily standups, not only makes them accountable to their work but also keeps them updated with their team’s overall progress. The Retrospective at the end of Sprint provides opportunity to all individuals to analyze what went wrong and what should be continued or avoided in succeeding Sprints.
Groups familiar to strict waterfall-style projects, find Scrum’s rigid structure easier to follow as compared to loosely structured Kanban. At the same time, Scrum gives them more freedom over waterfall when it comes down to responding to change/improvement requirements.
Caution – Mixing Scrum Master and Product Owner Roles
Understand the vital difference between these two roles. Despite an obvious conflict of interest, in many organizations, a single person plays both the roles. In organizations where Scrum Master is given a Product Owner responsibility, it is generally seen that business priorities take a backseat while development teams remain in their comfort zone. The exact opposite happens when a Product Owner is pushing a team and leading the Scrum. For sanity, it is advisable to keep these two roles allotted to separate individuals. This will help you keep your backlog priorities stable – which is essential for Scrum to function properly.
According to Scrum Alliance, Kanban is the second most preferred Agile method. It’s common for scrum teams to use Kanban board for improved visibility into their projects.
Main benefits – it’s highly efficient
Though, there’s always a deadline – In theory, Kanban does not rely on time boxed deliveries as in Scrum. Still, it provides high efficiency by posing restrictions on items to be put under Work in Progress (WIP) list. This allows teams to have a better focus on their tasks. Using Kanban tools you can identify more valuable pieces of work and avoid time wastage in duplication, defects or lapses. On the other hand, Kanban allows timely customer feedback to make changes in requirements and priorities. It might appear counterproductive – but this is the very essence of Kanban enabling continuous development and delivery (as per client’s expectation).
Caution – Kanban won’t make your work simple
Kanban can be simple to use, it’s not an answer to all your management worries. Also, it might reduce wastage, but don’t expect it to raise your natural speed of work.
As the name suggests, this hybrid of Kanban and Scrum allows teams to retain planning, review and retrospective meetings without any requirement to make sprint time commitment. Instead, teams using Scrumban are supposed to continuously groom their backlog while ensuring that the task list in WIP column isn’t crossing the defined limit. Usually, planning meetings are triggered when WIP limit is crossed or there are very few items in the list. While removing the constant pressure of Sprint deadline, this approach shifts focus to meeting customer expectation.
Main benefits – Thinking beyond Velocity
Scrumban discards Velocity (story points completed in a Single Sprint) as teams try to meet their commitments, at times compromising quality. Also, with newer teams (new to Scrum), estimates often go wrong and this may prompt stakeholders to question a team’s efficiency. Scrumban replaces Velocity with cycle time. This metric gauges the time taken by a ticket for its completion. By accounting all tickets in a project, one can calculate the mean cycle time and standard deviation for a team. This mean cycle time can help in future project planning and time estimations.
Although, Scrumban brings in the best of both worlds; it’s not flawless. If work remains in progress for too long, you will not be able to gauge its progress. Visualizing blockages can also be an issue and this can delay your projects. Hence, Scrumban is suitable for mature agile teams working in an unpredictable environment, where plans and requirements change frequently.
The Bottom Line
Choosing the correct Agile implementation can be tricky; however as discussed in this article starting with Scrum is easier for people new to Agile principles. Also, you will get ample training, tools and resources (both online and on-premise) to support your Scrum implementation. Once things get started and teams get familiar with Agile, you can introduce them to newer processes and eventually allow them to make a choice for themselves.
It is important to note that there is always a scope for improvement and you need to accept changes for continuous improvement. Agile, promotes flexibility and adaptation. That’s why every organization has its own method of implementing Agile. You can also experiment and evolve your own hybrid approach while ensuring that all these changes are improving your overall productivity. All you need to do is take a decision and start.
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