What Is Scrumban?

Scrumban is a project management framework that combines important features of two popular agile methodologies: Scrum and Kanban. The Scrumban framework merges the structure and predictable routines of Scrum with Kanban’s flexibility to make teams more agile, efficient, and productive.

For companies that implement Scrumban, the approach can help their teams focus on the correct strategic tasks while at the same time improving their processes.

How Does Scrumban Combine Scrum and Kanban?

To understand how Scrumban merges Scrum and Kanban, we first need to understand each of these frameworks.

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The Basics of Scrum

A scrum is an agile approach used in software development. With Scrum, a team organizes itself into specific roles, including a Scrum master, product owner, and the rest of the Scrum team. The team breaks its workload into short timeframes called sprints. Each sprint lasts two weeks or one month.

During a sprint, the developers work only on the tasks the team agreed to during the sprint meeting. Before the next sprint, the team holds another sprint meeting and decides which items to work on next. Scrum teams also meet each morning for short standups to discuss the day’s tasks.

The Basics of Kanban

Kanban is a visual approach to managing a team’s workload. With this methodology, a team creates a Kanban board to visually display its workflow in columns—such as “Ready to Start,” “In Progress,” “Under Review,” and Completed.”

As developers begin working on an item, they move a card (or sticky note) with the item’s name from the Ready-to-Start column to In-Progress. If an item needs to move backward, from Under Review back to In-Progress—the team can move that card back to the In-Progress column. The Kanban board makes it easy for everyone to view and update the status of each project quickly.

The Basics of Scrumban

Scrumban merges the structure and predictability of Scrum with Kanban’s flexibility and continuous workflow. When implemented correctly, Scrumban can help a team benefit from both the prescriptive nature of Scrum and the freedom of Kanban to improve their processes.

How Does Scrumban Work? (A Step-by-Step Guide)

Scrumban involves applying Kanban principles—visualization of workflow, and flexible processes—to a team’s Scrum framework. But, Scrumban removed some of the more rigid aspects of Scrum and left each team to create a custom approach to development.

Here is a step-by-step guide to developing a Scrumban framework for your team.

Step 1: Develop a Scrumban board

A Scrumban board is similar to a Kanban board. Because you will be using it as your primary workflow tool, add as many columns to your Scrumban board as your team needs to mark each discrete phase of progress. But be careful not to create so many columns that the board becomes cluttered and difficult to view.

Step 2: Set your work-in-progress limits

Remember, Scrum sets both time and task limits for every sprint. Kanban, by contrast, focuses on continuous workflow. You will need to establish a limit on how much work your team can take on at any one point. For Scrumban, that limit will be the number of total cards on the board at any time. Set a realistic limit to keep your team from becoming overwhelmed and frustrated.

Step 3: Order the team’s priorities on the board

This step illustrates another major difference between Scrum and Kanban (and Scrumban). With Scrum, you’ll assign tasks to specific individuals within your dev group for each sprint. Under Scrumban, on the other hand, your focus will be establishing the priority order of all projects on the board. Your team will decide which person will tackle which tasks.

Step 4: Throw out your planning-poker cards

Because each sprint has a strict time limit, and the team can work on only a pre-defined set of projects during any one sprint, a Scrum team needs to estimate how long each development task will take. So they’ve devised methods such as planning poker to estimate the number of story points (indicating time and difficulty) for each task. With Scrumban, work is continuous and not time-limited, so your team won’t estimate story points. You’ll focus only on prioritizing the most important projects.

Step 5: Set your daily meetings

Although you won’t have most of the meetings typical of the Scrum framework—sprint planning, sprint review, retrospective—Scrumban meetings can include short standups for the team to discuss their plans and challenges for the upcoming day. These short meetings are also a good way to encourage team bonding and cohesion because your developers will spend a lot of time working individually on their tasks and might not have much time for interaction otherwise.

When Should a Team Use Scrumban?

A team can benefit from the Scrumban approach under several circumstances. For example:

1. For maintenance of ongoing projects.

These could include projects in which, unlike a new product launch, there is no definitive completion date for the work.

2. For a team having trouble with Scrum.

It can happen for several reasons. For example, the company doesn’t have enough resources to support a Scrum environment, or the team finds Scrum’s requirements too rigid.

3. When a company wants to give its team more flexibility in how it works.

With Scrum, the team often assigns specific tasks to individuals for each sprint. But Scrumban only sets a broad list of projects and lets the team itself determine how best to leverage its resources. It enhances teamwork and enables individuals in the company to find the projects best suited to their skills and interests.

Related Terms: Scrum agile framework / Kanban board / Kanban roadmap / Scrum master / LeSS (Large Scale Scrum)

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