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Various project methodologies have been developed to help teams manage their projects efficiently. Two popular project management methodologies, Scrum and Kanban, are typically used to manage software development projects.

However, there is another methodology that takes the best of both and combines them into one hybrid methodology: Scrumban.

Here's what Scrumban is, how it works, and why it's become a popular methodology for managing projects.

What Is Scrumban?

Scrumban is an agile project management methodology that combines the principles of Scrum and Kanban into one.

Originally used to help teams swap from Scrum to Kanban, Scrumban has been maintained by teams who appreciate its flexible, adaptable approach to product development.

It utilizes elements from Scrum, such as week-long sprints and daily stand-up meetings, then combines them with the highly-visual pull system of Kanban (aka driven by demand, not supply) to create a more streamlined process.

Scrum vs Scrumban

In case you aren't overly familiar with the Scrum and Kanban agile methodologies, here's a brief overview of each and their key differences.

Scrum Methodology

  • Framework: Scrum is a structured framework that divides projects into short work cycles known as sprints, typically lasting 2-4 weeks.
  • Roles and Rituals: It involves defined roles (Scrum Master, Product Owner, and Team Members) and ceremonies (Sprint Planning, Daily Standup, Sprint Review, and Sprint Retrospective).
  • Adaptability: While Scrum is adaptable within the sprint, changes are generally discouraged until the next sprint.
  • Focus on Time: Scrum emphasizes time-boxed iterations and a set list of deliverables to be completed in each sprint.
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Kanban Methodology

  • Visualization and Flow: Kanban focuses on visualizing the workflow and maintaining a continuous flow of work in progress, using a Kanban board with columns representing different stages of work (ie To Do, In Progress, Done).
  • Flexibility: Work items can be added or adjusted anytime, as long as there's capacity available.
  • No Set Roles or Time Frames: Kanban doesn’t require specific roles or time-boxed iterations.
  • Emphasis on Efficiency: Kanban emphasizes reducing the time it takes for a work item to move through the entire workflow.

Key Differences Between Them

  1. Structure vs. Flexibility: Scrum provides a more structured approach with defined roles and time-boxed iterations, whereas Kanban is more flexible and ongoing, with no set roles or sprints.
  2. Change Management: In Scrum, changes are more controlled and usually incorporated in the next sprint, while Kanban allows for more continuous change and adaptation.
  3. Visualization: Kanban strongly emphasizes visualization of all work items and their stages, which is less formal in Scrum.

How Does Scrumban Work?

The Scrumban methodology follows a few core steps:

  1. Start by creating the Scrumban board (typically easiest with agile project management software).
  2. Identify the sprints. This step is known as the sprint planning meeting in Scrum, helping you identify the iterative cycles that build up the functionality of the product. Determine the:
    • Length of each sprint
    • Tasks that need to be accomplished in each cycle
    • Proper metrics to measure
  3. The development team starts working on the first sprint.
  4. You and your Scrumban team meet regularly to review progress and identify any issues, with a focus on continuous improvement.
  5. As the team works through the sprint, the board should be updated regularly to reflect progress, clear the backlog, and identify blockers.
  6. At the end of each sprint, the Scrumban team performs a sprint review to understand what they have accomplished and to identify areas for improvement. Then they will have another planning meeting and start the next sprint.

When to Use Scrumban 

Scrumban is a hybrid methodology that can be useful in a variety of situations where teams want to adopt agile tools but do not want to commit to the strict structure of Scrum or the more relaxed structure of Kanban.

Scrumban is a lean, on-demand structure that can keep things sorted without setting them in stone.

Here are a few examples of situations where Scrumban would be a great choice:

1. Developing New Features for Live Apps

Let's say you're part of a team responsible for developing new features for a popular mobile app. The app is already in the market, and users expect regular updates with new features.

You need to ensure the app is stable and bug-free without disrupting what's being done to maintain the product.

Solution? Scrumban. It allows teams to continuously deliver a new flow of work, with a clear plan, while keeping the product live.

2. Adapting to Changing Targets

Scrumban is great when a team encounters difficulty meeting goals and deadlines (or when there is a change in priorities).

For instance, imagine your Scrum team is responsible for developing a new software product; however, midway through the project, your priorities change and your team needs to focus on a different set of features.

Rather than throwing out the plan and starting fresh, Scrumban allows you to adapt to the new situation. This flexibility makes your life easier and ensures you're not doing double the work when plans change.

Other Scenarios

Scrumban is a flexible methodology that can work well for teams that have a predictable flow of work to be continuously delivered, with constant adjustments and refinements along the way.

5 Benefits of Scrumban

Scrumban has several benefits, including:

  • Flexible methodology that can be adapted to the specific needs of the team.
  • Provides a visual representation of the work being done.
  • Allows for continuous improvement and optimization of the development process.
  • Encourages collaboration and communication within the team.
  • Can be less rigid than other methodologies like Scrum, which can help when deadlines are tight or complexity is high.

4 Drawbacks of Scrumban

While Scrumban can be useful, some drawbacks should be considered, such as:

  • A lack of structure might not work for some teams, leading to confusion and lack of productivity.
  • Some teams might need more guidance and structure in terms of their roles, responsibilities, and processes.
  • Unclear prioritization of tasks can lead to confusion about what should be done first.
  • Continuous changes can impact the predictability of delivery timelines, leading to issues with meeting deadlines.

See What Other PMs Are Using

I think scrumban is great, when used correctly; it provides teams with the structure of Scrum while retaining the flexibility of Kanban.

This flexible methodology can be adapted to the specific needs of the project, but it also requires a high degree of collaboration and communication among team members.

If that isn't your jam, there's always others (like the 'sandwich' hybrid model). But, why decide alone? Connect with other DPMs in our active digital community to hear about their use cases and see what else they're loving.

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