Scrumban is an Agile management methodology describing hybrids of Scrum and Kanban and was originally designed as a way to transition from Scrum to Kanban.
Before going into definitions of Scrum, then Kanban, and ultimately Scrumban itself, first we should consider the Agile movement behind them.
What is Agile?
Agile is not a methodology; it is a philosophy. Although ideas coming from Agile project management are being used in more and more industries, its origin is the software industry. As mentioned earlier, APM is not specific to this industry though. However, it is important to understand the context and origin behind the Agile approach.
Because it is not a methodology, you cannot learn “Agile” and apply it to your daily job. Agile is a philosophy described in a very short Agile Manifesto. In it, the group believes self-organizing teams are the best solution to achieve agility. It also believes in technical excellence and continuous improvements for the team, learning and improving its own processes.
Agility also means the ability to sustain a constant pace of production indefinitely. And of course, almost above all, Agile is about satisfying customers, including welcoming changing requirements even late in the process -in order to satisfy and give customers a competitive advantage.
This philosophy is in sharp contrast to how projects were managed before. In the past, a deep hierarchy would organize projects, with several levels of managers. You would study requirements, possibly for months or years. Once started, projects would have little flexibility in scope or delivery time.
What is Scrum?
A framework within which people can address complex adaptive problems, while productively and creatively delivering products of the highest possible value.
The Scrum framework consists of Scrum Teams and their associated roles, events, artifacts, and rules. Each component within the framework serves a specific purpose and is essential to Scrum’s success and usage.
The rules of Scrum bind together the roles, events, and artifacts, governing the relationships and interaction between them. The rules of Scrum are described throughout the body of this document.
What is Kanban?
Kanban is a visual production management system. It helps deliver orders on a continuous basis with the most efficient use of resources (time, people, money). It uses typically simple white boards and paper cards or post-it notes. Nowadays it is possible to use Kanban on virtual boards, with software on PCs and tablets.
Kanban (看板) (signboard or billboard in Japanese) is a scheduling system for lean production and just-in-time production [JIT]. Taiichi Ohno, an industrial engineer at Toyota, developed kanban to improve manufacturing efficiency.
This system, among others, helped Toyota become the largest auto manufacturer in the world.
In the early 2000s, after the start of the Agile movement, some started to use the Kanban methodology for knowledge workers. Specifically, a variation of Kanban started to rise with the use of Scrum.
Kanban’s goal is to enable a continuous flow of work, while Scrum focuses on predefined fixed length sprints (e.g. 2 weeks).
Kanban is a continuous delivery system; it delivers outputs any day, as they become ready. Scrum, instead delivers only at the end of each sprint.
Kanban has no required roles within the team; everyone is equally responsible. Scrum has product owners, scrum masters, and comes with many ceremonies and meetings.
With Kanban, change can happen at any time. In Scrum nothing should change once a sprint starts.
In summary, these are the reasons why it is more appropriate and effective to use Kanban for projects in marketing, professional services and other knowledge work beside IT.
Kanban vs Scrum
Scrum is really a software engineering management methodology. When it comes to Agile and its principles, the vast majority of followers use Scrum. Unfortunately, because of Scrum’s prevalence in IT, most modern businesses will try to implement it, even outside the IT industry.
This is unfortunate because Scrum is far from perfect and very difficult to implement successfully –in IT or any other industry. The authors themselves acknowledge how difficult it is to master Scrum. You could find dozens of horror stories with failed implementations and disasters for companies and startups using Scrum.
From these challenge rose several alternatives. One of them is Scrumban.
Scrumban is really an hybrid of Scrum and Kanban. As mentioned earlier, Scrumban is sometimes a way to move a Scrum team to Kanban only.
This is why a good way to understand Scrumban is to look at it as Kanban with a few Scrum processes added.
In Scrumban you plan iteration at regular intervals, just like Scrum’s sprints.
Also, while planning, you make sure to analyze what to include in the iteration. This is your ready queue, an in between step between backlog and doing. You should analyze this as a team using your planning meetings.
This is in sharp contrast to Kanban, where you would simply pull work based on priorities and your work in progress limit (WIP). In Kanban, pulling work happens on a continuous basis, as part of normal flow. In Scrumban you still pull work, of course, but from a pre-filtered list of tasks. It is a small and useful difference. There is a chance for the team to make sure they prioritize tasks with the big picture in mind, which would not happen by itself when using Kanban alone.
The WIP limit is also very important, as they are in plain Kanban. By limiting work, you focus the team. This increases efficiency by reducing task switching, potential bottlenecks and tasks interdependence.
Within Scrumban, the team can visualize its entire workflow thanks to Kanban boards. The focus is on the cycle time, moving tasks within the workflow. Even though there is a concept of iteration in Scrumban, the idea is to get away from sprints entirely. You only use iteration planning to decide what tasks are ready to work on, regardless of a specific named sprint with a fixed duration. The methodology expects continuous work, and continuous delivery of products.
Scrumban is really a great combination. It transforms Kanban into a real project management methodology, which it is not otherwise.
With a focus on flow and a lot less ceremony than Scrum, fewer artifacts and meetings, Scrumban is a lot more time efficient. For many industries, it is very worthwhile to consider Scrumban instead of Scrum. It is a lot easier to implement thanks to its visual interface.
Another alternative is SAM9000’s Agile Productivity Management framework (APM). It uses multiple Kanban boards to manage projects and workflow, with a simple set of rules. APM is really a variant of Scrumban where the team is made of equals. You may have a project advocate responsible to liaise between the team and a particular external stakeholder. Otherwise, all team members are equal and manage the flow together.
Most meetings are simply gone in favor of online collaboration with software tools showing the current state at any given time for all to see.