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Product Management

Mastering Agile Frameworks: A Comprehensive Guide to Scrum, Kanban, and Beyond

Unlock the potential of Agile methodologies with our in-depth guide. Explore Scrum, Kanban, and other frameworks to enhance your project management skills, drive customer satisfaction, and stay ahead in a dynamic market.

Dmytro LokshynDmytro Lokshyn
January 23, 2024
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Agile methodologies are approaches to project management that break one project into multiple phases, emphasizing improvement. The methodology has become increasingly popular among developers, as it offers enough flexibility while placing the focus on the customer.

Despite sharing the same values across frameworks, Agile project management comes in many forms. So, in this article, you can learn more about Agile principles and how to implement them in your product strategy. Let’s get started!

Understanding the Agile Manifesto and Its Principles

Agile frameworks come with a manifesto, which is essentially a document that encompasses four key values and 12 different principles. The authors of this Agile Manifesto believe that every software developer should use these principles as a guide for their work.

Following the software development lifecycle, this approach starts at the development cycle and continues into the monitoring stage. Including these principles in today’s software development is important because it helps you keep up with your competition. As markets are constantly saturated, these values and principles can ensure you produce something your customers find useful.

The Core Values of the Agile Manifesto

The Agile methodology features four values that promote a straightforward software development process. Its focus is on quality, where each product has to meet the expectations and needs of a customer. The Agile values included in the manifesto are presented as follows:

·      Value 1: Interactions and individuals are to be prioritized over tools and processes

·      Value 2: Working software holds more value than comprehensive documentation

·      Value 3: Customer collaboration is more important in comparison to contract negotiation

·      Value 4: Responding to changes is more efficient than following a fixed project plan

In the end, the Agile methodology is more flexible and customer-oriented compared to other types of frameworks.

The 12 Principles of Agile Frameworks

The values of the manifesto led to the creation of 12 Agile principles that software developers are recommended to follow. These are meant to create an environment where the focus is the customer’s satisfaction, responding to issues and changes as quickly as possible so that you remain relevant in the market.

1.    Clients Should Be Satisfied Through Early and Continuous Delivery

By offering rapid and continuous delivery, you have a higher chance of reducing complaints and meeting the demands of your customers. This will ultimately lead to faster ROI for your business.

2.    Deliver Value at All Times

Value should be delivered frequently, within a couple of weeks to months. The shorter the timescale, the more time you have to focus on your working projects.

3.    Changing Requirements Should Be Welcomed at All Times

In a perfect world, you would need to follow the same requirements from the beginning to the end. However, as the market is constantly evolving, you should accommodate changing requirements even if you are late in the development stage.

4.   Build Every Project Around Motivated Individuals

Motivated individuals are more likely to get the job done right. Offer them the support and work environment they need so that they can offer ultimate quality.

5.    Members Should Work Together Throughout the Project

Agile frameworks require that project members break the siloes and collaborate. The teams should be cross-functional and there must be clear communications between stakeholders.

6.   Face-to-Face Communication Is Most Effective

The Agile framework works on the basis that information is best delivered face to face. This reduces the time spent between asking questions and receiving answers.

7.    Continuous Attention to Excellence Improves Agility

For a project to be of high quality, you must employ good design and technical excellence. In turn, this can enhance agility within a project.

8.   Keep a Sustainable and Constant Pace

The Agile process wants to keep things as simple and flexible as possible, but it also has to be sustainable. By maintaining a constant pace, you can avoid overburdening your team.

9.   Simplicity Is Always Better

One more key Agile principle is that simplicity is essential. That’s because customers aren’t paying for the time you invest in the product, but for the result they get. So, there is no reason to complicate things needlessly.

10.         Measure Progress Through Working Software

With Agile, it doesn’t matter how many hours you spend working on a project. What matters is that your work is exactly the way your customer expects it to be.

11. Self-Organizing Teams Bring More Value

Agile relies on flexibility and freedom, which should be given to every team. This will eventually motivate them to offer more value to the clients.

12. Boost Effectiveness by Regularly Adjusting Your Work

Times always change, which is why the teams should adjust accordingly. Take regular intervals to evaluate your performance, looking for places that may need improvement. This helps companies survive in continuously changing markets.

Scrum Master – The Pillar of Agile Projects

In today’s fast-paced environment, you must use the right agile project management strategies and adapt to changing requirements to deliver value in the end. One method that has gained great popularity over time is the Scrum framework.

In fact, Scrum is more than a framework, as it’s actually a set of practices and principles. Its purpose is to foster adaptability and efficiency through three pillars: inspection, transparency, and adaptation. Eventually, this lays the groundwork for enhanced teamwork, streamlined processes, and progress that never ends.

To ensure that the foundational elements are followed, each project is given a scrum master. At this point, you might be wondering: what is a scrum master? To put it simply, this person will have the role of coaching the entire team, enforcing the basics of Scrum while leaving some space for flexibility. This way, there is enough space for them to improve.  

Scrum masters can have different roles depending on their project, but the most common are the following:

·      Facilitating daily stand-ups as it is required

·      Participating in meetings and giving sprint reviews

·      Planning sprints so that team members are not over-committing

·      Working as a board administrator and ensuring that every card is up to date

·      Meet with team members individually to sort out potential disagreements

·      Eliminate external blockers with the help of the team

·      Conduct regular analyses of burndown charts

A scrum master should have effective communication skills, be a good leader, and empathize with the challenges a team may come across. They should be open to change and adaptable while having a flair for problem-solving. However, the most important part is that a Scrum master has to be a mentor so that they can pass down the Agile principles to other members of their team.

Kanban –Visualizing Workflow for Efficiency

In terms of Agile methodologies, the Scrum framework is not the only option available. Many product managers also use the Kanban method to complete project tasks in smaller increments, placing a focus on continuous improvement. But while the results for these two may be similar, the processes they go through are slightly different. Let’s see why.

What Is the Kanban Method?

Kanban is a visual project management option used to track inefficiencies within a project. This involves the use of a board, be it digital or physical, where the project phases are divided into separate columns. The tasks are then written on several cards that go from one column to the next, up until a task reaches its completion.

The Kanban method is a good option for teams that tend to have projects piling up. Kanban provides a visual clarification of the tasks that need to be done, making it easier to delegate tasks, and reducing issues within a project.

How Is Kanban Different from Scrum?

Both Kanban and Scrum borrow to some extent from the Lean and Agile methodologies. They are transparent and adaptive, reducing issues within the project management process. However, while Scrum is more about assigning roles and creating delivery timelines, Kanban focuses on continuous flows and visualizing tasks.

Some project managers use one or the other to reduce inefficiencies, but that’s not entirely necessary. You can use both options to maximize your results, as they will offer timelines and visuals simultaneously.

Agile Project Management in Action

Scrum masters must adopt actions and best practices for successful Agile project management. This ensures that by the time the product development comes to an end, it is relevant for the client.

The Role of User Stories in Agile

Agile project management focuses on user experience and adaptability to the customer’s needs. This is precisely what makes user stories such an important part of implementing an Agile framework. These stories put the end client in focus, offering more context for the way a specific project should be handled.

Stories are important because they help the team involved know exactly what they are doing and what kind of value they have to produce. They are to be seen as end goals, and explanations, and not the features themselves. Their role is to concentrate on the end user, enable collaboration among team members, and brainstorm creative solutions.

While said feature has to be explained through an end user’s perspective, it doesn’t necessarily have to be an external user. It can be a colleague within your company that relies on the work of your team.

Other Agile Project Management Tools

Aside from user stories, Agile has plenty of other tools that set the grounds for the framework. For example, below are some tasks that a project manager might need to perform, often with data derived from user stories.

1.    Sprint Planning

Sprints are iterations with a timestamp on them, lasting about 2 to 4 weeks. During this time, the development team together with the scrum master will have to put together a set of tasks to be done by the end of the iteration.

2.    Product Backlogs

During the product development process, each bug or potential issue may have a certain priority level. This is where the product backlog becomes essential. This is a prioritized list of every enhancement, feature, or bug fix that must be addressed right away.

3.    Iteration Planning

Iteration plans represent a general responsibility of the scrum master and go hand in hand with sprint planning, creating a list of iterations. This step can prevent team members from over-committing to tasks and offers an average estimation of how long an iteration might take.

4.   Scrum Artifacts

Agile project management often uses scrum artifacts, such as task boards or burndown charts. This way, scrum masters can track the progress of a project in particular, making it visible to the stakeholders and the team.

Advanced Agile Practices

For some projects, you may have to go beyond the basic Scrum practices. Here are some other practices and tools that Agile project managers often employ:

·      Continuous Integration

Continuous integration is a practice where developers frequently integrate changes within a repository, testing them from the early stages. This ensures that the code remains relevant and effective, keeping potential issues at a minimum. These integrations are usually made every day, or even several times a day.

·      Retrospectives

Retrospectives are frequently referred to as “lesson learned” meetings implemented by the scrum master. Here, the team reflects on the progress of the project and whether their efforts were successful or not. By reflecting on their past work, they can decide what should be changed in the future for a better outcome.  

·      Lean Software Development

Lean software development is an Agile tool that optimizes resources and time, eliminating potential waste. This keeps the focus on what the end user needs, releasing a bare-minimum product version product on the market. This offers users the opportunity to “paint” their perfect product, telling developers what they want and don’t want. The developers will then use this feedback to craft the perfect product.

·      Extreme Programming (XP)

Extreme programming (XP) is another Agile advanced framework that aims to create high-quality software. This method can catch onto dynamically changing software requirements, redundancies within the code, and opportunities for involvement. This framework provides a consistent value “flow” that is expected to last for a long time.

Agile Frameworks at a Glance

There are plenty of options that project developers can go for in terms of Agile frameworks. Here are some examples:

·      Scrum

The Scrum framework is likely the most popular option, its flexible nature being very effective for non-technical teams. This framework breaks the projects down into multiple “sprints,” making the incremental tasks easier to manage. Each task is self-contained and with its own deadline, keeping everything organized.

·      Kanban

Similar to Scrum, Kanban also breaks tasks into increments, but the approach it takes is more on the visual side. Each task is represented by a card that passes through a column, offering team members a visual of where they are at. It also makes it easier for members to see who’s working on what.

·      Extreme Programming (XP)

Extreme programming (XP) was originally made to help prioritize the needs of the developer when demand is high. That being said, considering the frequent changes in customer requirements, XP aids developers take control of work sharing and prioritization, allowing them to self-manage complex projects. This ensures that the team remains productive while following Agile values.

·      Crystal Methodology

Unlike Agile, Kanban, or XP which focus more on the project stages and the process itself, the crystal methodology sees team communication as the most important factor. This strategy came as an alternative to other methods that lacked flexibility, prioritizing talent, and effective collaboration.

·      Dynamic Systems Development Method (DSDM)

Originally, Dynamic Systems Development Method (DSDM) was used as a software development strategy, but later placed its focus on the full lifecycle of the project. Unlike Scrum which has one person as the “scrum master,” DSDM has multiple people spread across different teams for this role.

·      Feature-Driven Development (FDD)

As the name suggests, Feature-Driven Development (FDD) places the focus on the features themselves. This is different from Scrum which concentrates on the end user. For optimum results, both frameworks are often combined within the development process.

Implementing Agile Frameworks

For an Agile framework to work effectively from the beginning to the end, each member of the team is given a specific role. This way, they will have their own Agile roles and responsibilities to deal with, including:

·      Product Owner – Responsible for the product vision, backlog prioritization, and product roadmap.

·      Developer – Responsible for building the product.

·      Scrum Master – Responsible for facilitating the Scrum framework.

·      Team Leader – Responsible for implementing the Kanban methodology.

·      Stakeholders – Providing input for product development.

·      Independent Testers – Responsible for catching bugs in the development process.

These team members often meet during daily stand-ups, where they can review the product development and refine the procedure. By measuring effectiveness and results within the process, along with potential setbacks, these stand-ups ensure synchronization. Delays are less frequent when everyone is on the same page.

Transitioning to Agile might be challenging, as it usually takes years for companies to change their mindset. For instance, keeping the team focused on the goal and defining user stories might seem difficult if the original focus was on features. This is why the appearance of the team leader and scrum master is essential during the daily stand-ups, as they can motivate the team to implement the Agile principles.

The Bottom Line

Choosing the right Agile framework is essential when developing a product, as it can help you stay relevant for a longer time. Very often, you may even have to use multiple frameworks to increase the product lifecycle. Ultimately, this will boost your ROI, helping you concentrate on what’s important: the buyer!

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