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How to get started with Scrumban?

Updated: Jun 16, 2021

Scrumban is a mixed agile project management framework that is, as you've probably guessed from the name, a hybrid of Scrum and Kanban. It tries to combine the best features of both – Scrum's structure and Kanban's flexibility, fitting well for product and development projects. But before we delve deeper into Scrumban's features, let's refresh the basics of both Scrum and Kanban.

Scrum is an agile project management framework that facilitates effective team collaboration and boosts team performance. It is primarily used by development teams. Scrum follows the values and principles of Agile but includes some specifics regarding certain software development practices. It is the framework wherein people can address complex, evolving problems. And at the same time, it allows delivering products in a very productive manner. A sprint (or iteration) is the basic development unit in Scrum. Scrum teams are meant to be small, cross-functional, and self-organizing.

Scrum consists of:

  • Specific roles: Product Owner, Scrum Master, Development Team;

  • Events/ceremonies: Sprint Planning, Sprint Retrospective, Daily Scrum, Sprint Review;

  • Three primary artifacts: Product Backlog, Sprint Backlog, Product Increment;

  • Rules that tie all of it together.

Kanban is also rooted in Agile methodology. It is a visual system for managing work as it moves through a process, and it is primarily focused on visual workflow organization. Kanban methodology implies that the project tasks are laid out on the Kanban board to visualize the progress stages, through which the tasks go towards completion. Kanban is focused on the continuous delivery of the completed work or work parts. While Scrum is more about team organization, Kanban is more about workflow management. It helps you implement a smooth and straightforward workflow that suits your team.

The basic Kanban board should have at least three columns:

  • To-do: the tasks that you haven't started work on;

  • Work in progress (WIP): the tasks that are underway;

  • Done: the tasks that you've completed.

Each column represents a step in your workflow, and each Kanban card represents a work item. The idea is simple – the corresponding card on your board is moved to another workflow step when the team member has completed the task. In this way, you track the progress visually and can spot bottlenecks in time.

So, what is Scrumban?

Scrumban is the combination of Scrum's roles, team organization principles, and requirements management with Kanban's visual flow of work.

The main features of Scrumban are:

  • Scrumban board, originally composed of at least three columns (the same as in Kanban);

  • Continuous flow/delivery;

  • Stories are being moved across the board as a unit (card);

  • WIP (Work in Progress) limits – defined at activity level (column) to control the flow of work and avoid multitasking;

  • Bucket size planning – a long-term planning approach in Scrumban;

  • Pull principle – each team member chooses which task from the To Do section they are going to complete next;

  • Feature freeze – used when the project deadline is approaching, meaning that only the features in development progress can still be worked on, and no additional features can be added;

  • Triage – happens right after feature freeze. The PM decides which of the In Progress features will be completed, and which will stay unfinished.

Why choose Scrumban?

Although Scrum is meant to be flexible, it still asks a team to keep certain ceremonies and principles, which many find restrictive. Scrumban is meant to introduce an additional level of flexibility to your development process. Many teams that struggled with Scrum, thrive with Scrumban.

Some other benefits of switching to Scrumban:

  • Keep existing Scrum meetings and roles;

  • Workflow clarity and transparency – you see the tasks that are in progress, that are done, and what comes next);

  • An approach that ensures team motivation and is based on achievements;

  • A visual workflow to identify bottlenecks;

  • Constant reprioritization based on the current situation;

  • Team members can be more motivated with greater sense of responsibility;

  • It is relatively easy to adopt for teams that are not ready or don't have time to implement new methodology.

When to implement Scrumban?

The best time to try Scrumban methodology is when:

  • You are working on a project, where unexpected changes to user stories is a regular thing;

  • You use Scrum for the development process, but you'd like to adopt pull principle instead of direct assignments;

  • Scrum hasn't been successful in your team;

  • Priorities shift constantly;

  • Your team is focused on adding features and supporting an existing product;

  • Your development team uses Scrum, but you like Kanban's elements and principles.

  • Scrum's rigidness doesn't allow your team to adapt to changes;

  • You are smoothly transitioning to Kanban, but are not ready for the major transition.

Blending Kanban into Scrum (or vice versa) is just a question of what the team is seeking to improve or change. Of course, the transition doesn't happen overnight – it takes time for teams to get used to new work principles.

When a Kanban team decides to switch to Scrumban, Scrum's ceremonies are being adopted slowly and can be slightly modified. Scrumban emphasizes key principles that significantly differ from Scrum's traditional ones, so you need to carefully discuss and plan the transition with your team.

How to adopt Scrumban approach?

These are the basic principles of getting started with Scrumban:

  • Focus on your current tasks;

  • Do not complicate the process – keep your Scrumban board relevant and simple;

  • Do not multitask – finish an ongoing task before you start the next one;

  • Prioritize your tasks – make sure the most critical tasks are completed first;

  • To avoid attempting too many items at once, plan iteration carefully, paying close attention to deadlines. They have to be realistic;

  • Keep your WIP column simple. If it gets crowded, you're facing a bottleneck;

  • Pay extra attention to the team's workload, monitoring the amount of work in progress.

What do you need to get started with Scrumban?

Apart from knowing and understanding the main Scrumban principles, you'll need a tool to visualize your workflow (remember, Kanban is a visual system). This can be either a physical whiteboard/corkboard or software that provides you with virtual Kanban boards. Luckily these days almost every task management tool offers a Kanban view.

Scrumban board presents your user stories and the team's progress visually. Each user story (feature or task) should be represented by either a sticky note on the whiteboard or the equivalent in the software. Each story is placed in the appropriate column indicating its status (Backlog, Doing, Done, etc.). Depending on your project complexity, you can add as many columns as you need.

Since you are here, we suggest trying Infolio for your first Scrumban board — Infolio is made to be easy to use, so it will be easier to start with.

1/ Drag and drop interface

When you want to change the task status, you simply pick a card that you want to move and drag-drop it to the next column. This helps you to track the progress visually and have a high-level overview of your iteration. This simple act of dragging and dropping also adds a little bit to the sense of achievement — seeing how cards move from column to column can be quite satisfying.

2/ Custom task lists and statuses

You are not limited to standard "To-do", "WIP" and "Done" statuses. In fact, it is very easy to add and rename statuses and lists in Infolio, allowing you to customize project workflow to your needs.

3/ Add subtasks

For more complex tasks, you can always add some subtasks, select due dates and assignees for each subtask. This can make your workflow a bit more detailed and structured, but don't go overboard with subtasks. Scrumban is meant to be simple — one card per one task.

4/ Filter your project tasks by Lists, Statuses and Assignees

Having a high-level overview of your project is great, but sometimes you need to narrow it down. You can select the view to see how tasks are distributed between the team members (by Assignee), to see the team's task statuses, or task lists. This helps to control the tasks that are in WIP status and take the control of the team's workload.

5/ Set priorities

Scrumban requires that you start with the most challenging and urgent tasks to succeed. Therefore, set priorities correctly. You can organize your tasks by their priority (from top to bottom), or you can add tags to highlight the most urgent ones.

6/ More Infolio features to get more things done

Multiple views: Board view, Table view, and Calendar view in case you need to look at your project from a different angle. Kanban board's great, but you are not limited to just one view.

Custom fields: You can add different custom fields to your tasks to help with marking branches, additional statuses, client information, versions and other.

File sharing: The convenience of having everything in one place saves time. In Infolio, you can attach files and tasks that are done right to your task card. Or you can collaborate and share files on our visual collaboration boards/spaces.

Visual collaboration spaces: These allow you to brainstorm, share ideas, add notes, share links, write comments, share files, etc. You can use spaces either for content collaboration, or to organize your project assets or other project-related information. Project spaces are customizable and have many educational templates, e.g., Competitive analysis, Lean Canvas, Persona profile, SWOT analysis, etc.

Project chat: You probably have a team chat already, and it's fine. But if for some reason you don't, or if you just want to keep all the project related communication in one place, you can use Infolio project chat — a dedicated channel per every project. Project chat provides a convenient way to discuss your thoughts and ideas with the team members during the work process.

This article is meant to be a quick introduction to Scrumban. Hopefully, this is a good start to help any team consider it. Scrum and Kanban do work together quite nicely. As a combination, they form a simple and effective project management methodology that is easy to adapt.

If you haven't tried it yet – give it a go. Infolio has all the features to manage your Scumban board – just don't forget about the basic principles of Scrumban, and keep your board simple and clean.

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