What is Scrumban?

What is Scrumban?

Scrumban is an Agile development methodology that is a hybrid of Scrum and Kanban.

Scrumban emerged to meet the needs of teams wanting minimize the batching of work and adopt a pull-based system. A hybrid of Scrum and Kanban gives teams the flexibility to adapt and change to stakeholder and production needs, without feeling overburdened by their project methodology. Scrumban provides the structure of Scrum with the flexibility and visualization of Kanban, making it a highly versatile approach to workflow management.

It can also be used as a stepping stone for teams looking to transition from Scrum to Kanban. For many software development teams, an immediate shift to Kanban would be too drastic. Scrumban offers teams a healthy, familiar way of learning how to practice continuous improvement in Kanban without abandoning the familiar structure of Scrum.

Keep reading to learn which elements of Scrum and Kanban are combined into a Scrumban practice.

Scrum 101

Scrum is an Agile framework that was originally designed to focus on maximizing the team's ability to deliver quickly, to respond to emerging requirements and to adapt to evolving technologies and changes in market conditions. 

The Scrum process requires the use of fixed-length development cycles called sprints, which usually last between 1-4 weeks. Scrum teams are designed to be small, cross-functional, and self-organizing. Teams split work into small, shippable product increments, and sort the work by priority and relative effort. The product owner selects all work to be done in a sprint at one time, then the team spends each sprint completing the work.

Kanban 101

Kanban is a visual workflow management that has roots in manufacturing. Work items are represented by cards on a board, with lanes that represent process steps. Boards are used by teams to manage the collective work of the team.

Whereas Scrum teams work in sprints, teams practicing Kanban use a continuous flow approach -- continuously planning, working, reviewing, and measuring the outcomes of their work. They minimize chaos and promote focus by explicitly limiting how many items are in process at any given time, using a tool called WIP (work-in-process) limits.

Teams practicing Kanban measure lead time (average time from when work is requested to when it is finished) and optimize their processes to improve lead time, with the goal of achieving a continuous, predictable flow of value to their customers.

How Scrumban = Scrum + Kanban

Scrumban combines the structure of Scrum with the flow-based methods of Kanban. Here are the elements of Scrum that are incorporated into the Scrumban method:

  • Iteration planning at regular intervals, synchronized with reviews and retrospectives
  • Decide how much work they can pull into the sprint based on the complexity of the work and the length of the sprint
  • Prioritization on demand -- provides team with the best thing to work on next -- no more or less
  • Assure necessary level of analysis before starting development (Definition of Ready)
  • Use “ready” queue (between Backlog and Doing) to organize

Kanban adds process improvement, visualization, and more value metrics to the Scrumban method. These are the elements of Kanban that are used by Scrumban teams:

  • Pull system and continuous workflow: Pull items into Doing as the team has capacity
  • WIP limits: Explicit limits on how many items are in progress at any time
  • Individual roles not clearly specified
  • Short lead times -- emphasize just-in-time analysis and planning (rather than batch-processing for iteration planning estimations)
  • Use process buffers and flow diagrams to expose process weaknesses and identify opportunities for improvement
  • Focus more on cycle time than burndown (if cycle time is predictable, burndown is predictable)
  • Use policies to make process step transitions clearer

When to Consider Using Scrumban 

Scrumban is a great solution for teams who need the structure of Scrum with the flexibility of a flow-based method, or for teams who are looking to transition from Scrum to Kanban. Many teams use Scrumban as a transition point between a less mature and more mature Agile practice.

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