What Are the Advantages of Scrumban?
The chances are that you are already working in an Agile project world and know quite well Scrum or Kanban. But have you heard about Scrumban!? The clue is in the name Scrum + (Kan)ban and makes a highly capable framework.
Srumban is a hybrid project management framework that combines the best attributes of two other Agile frameworks, Kanban and Scrum. Scrum provides structures and predictability, while Kanban contributes to flexibility, visualisation, and continuous workflow.
Even if you didn’t hear about Scrumban, you might have a clue where we are going with this framework. I think many Scrum teams already apply a version of Scrumban, but you might not call it that way. I am no exception. The simple question to ask is if you use Kanban boards in Scrum. Suppose you do, then you are already on the path to adopting Scrumban.
Let’s dive into Scrumban’s history, features as well as links to Scrum and Kanban. Understanding these will help us appreciate what a great Scrumban framework is. Eventually, we will compare Scrumban vs Scrum and Kanban. Therefore, you will know what Scrumban is and how the framework compares with alternative ways to run a project.
Why Does Scrumban Exist?
In 2008, Scrumban initially was created by Corey Ladas to easily transition from the Scrum framework to Kanban for those teams who wanted to migrate. Scrumban was a mid-way stop. However, it is no longer just that as it fills some crucial gaps in both frameworks.
Scrum suppose to be easy and flexible, adjusting to changing market and business needs. Yet, people often find it a bit too rigid with all prescribed ceremonies and roles. On the other hand, Kanban is very flexible to the point that you would like to have some additional structure. Some projects just do not lend themselves well to either of the framework. Hence, teams intentionally or not start looking somewhere in the middle, where you will find Scrumban.
To understand Scrumban better, we need to understand Scrum and Kanban, which we will explore next.
What is Scrum?
A Scrum is an Agile framework devised to optimise the team’s ability to deliver solutions fast without sacrificing performance and avoiding burnouts. The framework aims to address changing project requirements, technology, market conditions, and broader business needs.
Scrum teams intended to be small, cross-functional and self-organised, but with specific roles introduced as part of the framework, Scrum Master, Product Owner and the rest of the project team or Scrum team.
The team breaks the project or the workload into short, fixed-length timeframes or cycles called sprints, lasting anywhere from 1 week to 1 month.
Work is created by converting requirements into features, epics or stories and adding them to the product backlog. The Product Owner is responsible for looking after the backlog and sorting it. Every time we have the following sprint, the team comes together in a sprint planning meeting to create a sprint backlog, i.e. a list of items to be completed in the next cycle. Product Owner shares the following things to work on from the product backlog, and the team evaluates the effort it will take and assigns individuals to tasks.
During the sprint, the team has daily scrum meetings or stand-ups to ensure everything is going by the plan and there are no issues. When a sprint is completed, features or updated solution is shipped, i.e. put into production. Then we hold a sprint review to demonstrate progress to stakeholders. Eventually, we have a sprint retrospective to reflect on what was working and not. Finally, incorporate experience back into the process.
As you can see, Scrum has a very rigid structure to follow. If you like to learn more about Scrum, see my blog post: WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN SPRINT AND SCRUM?
What is Kanban?
Kanban is a visual workflow management framework or tool that has roots in Toyota’s manufacturing plants back in 1940. It is really an older, more relaxed cousin of Scrum.
Kanban board and work items
Work is shown on cards/sticky notes, which are added to a Kanban board, with named columns/lanes that represent process steps, like “To Do”, “In Progress”, or “Done”. Board is a critical visual aid to the team, allowing them to manage work collectively.
Kanban pull system
When the team start working on the work item, they pull a card from right to left, i.e. from “To Do” to “In Progress”. The pulling idea is essential, and we will touch on that in Scrumban. Now, the team visually can see that the work item is in progress.
Be careful here; you do not want to go crazy and pull all the backlog items. One of the primary principals of Kanban is to optimise workflow, and if you have a team multitasking on too many tasks, it will not be optimal. Therefore, we introduce the work in progress limit (WIP), which we apply to each column. Thus, it means you cannot exceed each column’s defined limit.
Eventually, you want to optimise workflow and remove bottlenecks. Therefore, you need measures to see how you are doing. Hence, we introduce lead time and cycle time. Lead time looks from a customer perspective how long it takes from requirement to valuable feature. Cycle time looks internally at how long it takes for the work item to go through various stages.
So, Kanban is much more flexible. It has no sprints and concentrates on continues flow of planning, working, reviewing, measuring and optimising.
If you like to learn more about Kanban, check out my post on the subject.
What Are the Benefits of Scrumban?
Great! Now, we understand on a high-level what is Sprint and Kanban. Also, we know that Scrumban was created to move from Scrum to Kanban. Thus, we will use the move notion to provide features of Scrumban.
We will start with Scrum as a base with all ceremonies and roles, and through multiple steps, we get to Scrumban.
1. Creating A Scrumban Board
The first step is something that many Scrum team already uses, which is a Kanban board. Hence, most of you are already on the path to Scrumban.
We will call this Scrumban board to distinguish it from a slightly different Kanban board, and you will see the difference later in the post. You will use the board as your primary workflow and work visualisation tool. For now, let’s just create a board that reflects how your team works currently. Suppose that will be “To Do”, “In Progress”, and “Done” columns.
Keep in mind that there could be as many columns as the team thinks will need. But for example purposes, we will have initially three.
2. Working As A Team In Scrumban
You are possibly working as part of a larger team, and work is being allocated to you during backlog refinements or sprint planning. For us to use Scrumban, we will need to assign work to the whole team rather than individuals. Scrumban is similar here to Kanban, where the team works on priority tasks as a unit, and if somebody is stuck, you will go to help them.
3. What Is Work-In-Progress (WIP) Limits In Scrumban?
In Scrum, you have a sprint, your time limit and sprint backlog, your task limit. In Scrumban, you have none of that; thus, there is a risk that you will take in too many cards at one time, and work will get stuck. To avoid such issue, we need to establish work-in-progress limits or WIP.
Having WIP enables us to introduce a continues pull system. We can see from a limit on each column if we can pull work from the right columns to the left once; for simplicity, I will introduce five cards WIP. We do not want to go overboard with limits to be able to manage work. But limits are really bespoke to your team.
4. What Is A Pull System In Scrumban?
What do we mean here? The idea behind is that we need to know when items are ready to be pulled to the next stage. In our example, if we have only “To Do”, “In Progress”, and “Done”, we do not really know when items in the “To Do” list or our backlog are ready to be work on. Maybe there is some additional analysis or refinement required.
If we stay with just three columns, then ready tasks will be pushed to “In Progress” from the “To Do” column when an analysis is done. Why should we care about the pull system? Well, it makes taking work items straightforward and visual. Plus, unlike a push system, where work may be push without regards to capacity, a pull system ensures that the team doesn’t go over WIP limits and do not overburden themselves, which means we have a more efficient workflow.
5. Why Do We Introducing Priority Items On The Board In Scrumban?
To overcome the push system, we need to introduce more columns indicating when items are completed in previous columns. So, we will introduce two more columns, “Analysis” and “Ready.” Now, anyone working on building a solution will know when Analysis for a specific “To Do” item has been completed and ready to be picked up.
6. Why There Are No Poker Cards Or Story Points In Scrumban?
Yes, you heard me, right! No more estimation, and this is where we can start to see more similarities to Kanban.
Scrum sprints have a time limit, and the team works on a specific list of task and projects. The team needs to estimate how much effort each task will take for two reasons. One, the team needs to be able to estimate when each project will be completed. Two, when you have executed a few sprints, you know how much a team can accomplish in, say, 2 weeks, which becomes your limit.
In Scrumban, we have a continuous workflow with no time limits; thus, your team will not need to estimate each task’s story points. The goal is only to work on the most critical tasks first.
Check out my blog post for more detail dive: CAN KANBAN HAVE SPRINTS? SIMPLE ANSWER
7. What Are Meetings in Scrumban?
Scrum has multiple meetings, as we have seen before. One is a regular sprint planning meeting. Well, we do not need one before every sprint now as there are no sprints. We only need planning meetings when required, i.e. when we no longer have high priority tasks in the “To Do” column, and we need to replenish our work pipeline.
Let’s say we want to have at least five tasks in our column to work on next. Thus, if it is below five, we go and do some planning.
We should also keep retrospective meetings as it helps with discussing improvements. In theory, you would continuously improve when you see an issue. However, in reality, you need dedicated time to think about it.
Also, you should keep stand-up meetings. It is an excellent way for teams to collaborate, build a relationship and discuss. Plus, project managers can understand the progress or issues that the team needs some help with.
What Are Differences Between Scrumban And Scrum?
|Iterations / Workflow||Yes, sprints||Continues workflow. Iterations are optional|
|Visualisation / Artefacts||Boards, backlogs, burndown charts||Board only|
|Meetings / Ceremonies||Daily scrum, sprint planning, sprint review, sprint retrospective||All meetings are optional. However, recommended planning & retrospective meetings on-demand and daily scrum/meeting.|
|Estimating||Yes, using story points||No, the ability of the team is clear after a period of time. However, if you need to estimate, you can track stories completed.|
|WIP||Controls are in sprint time limit and number of stories in sprint backlog. The number of stories selected is defined by size of the team||Available resources should define an arbitrary number of stories per workflow step.|
|Change||Changes can be only implemented in the next sprint||Added as needed on the board instantaneously. The change will be picked up when a resource becomes available. Yet, you may still need a planning meeting to ensure the right priority against other tasks.|
|Feature Freeze||No. But if new items are low priority the project might be closed and some backlog items not complete.||Although change is instantaneous, there could be a feature freeze at the end of the project.|
|Triage||Product Owner with Product manager evaluate such tasks.||Project manager triage or planning meeting may prioritise tasks that are critical for project success.|
|Team Role||Scrum Master, Product Owner, rest of the team.||Team and roles that the team thinks are important.|
|Product Backlog||List of prioritised and estimated stories, epics or features.||Just in time cards|
What Are Differences Between Scrumban vs Kanban?
|Team Roles||There are no prescribed roles. Yet, some may assume Service Request Manager and Service Delivery Manager “hats”.||Team and roles that the team thinks are important.|
|Meetings||No meetings||All meetings are optional. However, recommended planning & retrospective meetings on-demand and daily scrum/meeting.|
|Metrics||Lead time and cycle time||Optional to have lead time and cycle time|
Controversy with Scrumban
1. Why Might Project Manager Lose Control In Scrumban?
As the workflow is continuous and the team is self-organised, they decide when each item will need to be completed. In traditional project management, the project manager pushes work to the team and evaluates progress through various meetings.
Therefore, to address a risk, we should maintain planning (when needed), retrospectives and stand-ups to allow a project manager to track progress, maintain a high level of controls and update stakeholders.
2. Is Scrumban A Framework?
Some would argue if Scrumban is a framework given the loose concepts or lack of official guide books like we have in Scrum. In my opinion, it is a framework as even though dust is not settled on best practices, it gives enough structure to apply on any project and managed work.
Several unofficial guides are available online and one great example is the following Teamhood The ultimate SCRUMBAN guide.
3. Lack Of Best Practices In Scrumban
As suggested above, we do not have an official guide book with best practices. Therefore, it opens a Scrumban framework to interpretation, and each team may decide on their own version of the Scrumban. I agree that having best practices documented well gives a much better base to framework adoption. But to be fair, even with best practices, teams will adjust the framework to their liking, as they did with Kanban or Scrum in the past.
4. Is Scrumban Just Modified Kanban?
No. As we have seen in our discussion, it has a mixture of elements from Scrum and Kanban. I think only by using elements from both you can have a successful framework. Therefore, it would be unfair just to claim that it is a Kanban.
5. How To Do Estimations In Scrumban?
Well, we no longer do estimation on individual stories. Thus, you could argue that estimating the whole project from the bottom-up is not possible. Yet, you could still estimate how many work items you can complete. Then use cycle time and lead time from Kanban to assess how quickly you will go through all the project tasks.
6. What To Do With Blocked Items In Scrumban?
I have considered several options, like having one more column or removing the item altogether. However, the one that works for me is creating one more row that gives that additional dimension of knowing where blocked items are in the process. You can move blocked item in a blocked row, and then you have some room to pull new work items from the right side in a working row.
7. How Can You Work Without Allocating Individuals To Tasks In Scrumban?
The thing is that the product owner or project manager do not allocate individuals. Team members are self-organise, and they will just pick-up the next high important task. So, when the task is picked up, you know who is responsible for it.
I hope you have enjoyed my take on Scrumban. I think it is a powerful tool that gives some great benefits to project management. Plus, it does not have a complicated learning curve if you are already using Scrum or Kanban.
Check my next post, where I will explore some advantages and disadvantages of using Scrumban.
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