Business leaders know that pursuing staff augmentation is a lightweight way to increase bandwidth and achieve a faster product launch. But another benefit that may be less obvious during these engagements is the teaching opportunity this tactic presents to the host organization.
Quality external teams bring in valuable experience gained from working with various companies.
As the incoming staff shares its knowledge of best practices for software management with the host organization, the lessons learned can be positive and long lasting. After learning the processes, techniques, tools, and needs of the new client, these outsiders can recommend better ways to leverage a tool or apply methodologies like Kanban and Scrum within the Agile framework.
Going Beyond Agile: Kanban and Scrum
When it comes to organizing software development strategies, disciplines abound. But Agile has replaced Waterfall as the ideal framework for product owners who need to adapt to new information quickly while delivering working software faster.
Within the Agile framework is a variety of methodologies that can orient teams — especially those that have recently added remote counterparts to their ranks — to deliver software on time while fulfilling client requirements. Each methodology shapes how teams accomplish work over the course of the software development life cycle.
Combining aspects of different methodologies within Agile like Kanban and Scrum helps order individual responsibilities and collective actions in a way that allows teams to meet immediate needs and long term goals.
However these tools are implemented, they are meant to allow for flexibility during software development.
Agile Methodologies to Know: Scrum
The beauty of the Scrum framework is that it can be used in so many different ways. Its aims to split responsibilities and organize tasks to optimize processes and guarantee positive results.
Contractors working at various companies who have witnessed successful and failed implementations can take those lessons and apply their knowledge to guide projects with teams whose existing internal processes could be under serving them.
When Do Agile Teams Leverage Scrum?
The work of development teams using Scrum hinges on completing the minimum viable product (MVP). Building new software demands a hierarchy of tasks to make sure that essential features are included in an MVP and deliver value to users from day one.
In Scrum, the product owner prioritizes tickets in the backlog and reviews them with the developers during sprint planning meetings. But it’s up to the developers to take on the appropriate amount of work for each sprint and to determine the number of sprints the project requires.
While the product owner provides the broad goal the developers must work toward, developers choose the tasks that are necessary to accomplish next in order to optimize progress. To maintain balance and clarity, the product owner can’t add new tickets until a sprint is over.
Two different companies can implement Scrum in very different ways and both get excellent results. Many companies believe there is one best way to implement it, so business leaders are often shocked to find out how much it varies across companies
Agile Methodologies to Know: Kanban
Kanban offers a visual management system that helps teams to complete features quickly. It limits the amount of tasks that are categorized as “in progress,” allowing individuals to focus on the most important features in a concerted way.
Kanban refers to the cards sent in Japanese car manufacturing plants in the early 1970s. It reduced waste in manufacturing environments by limiting the storage of extra materials and reordering them only as needed.
American companies saw a 50% reduction in their labor costs in the five years following adaptation of this methodology in their plants.
Since Scrum lends itself to adapting to the needs of different teams, Kanban and Scrum can be paired for use across an organization. For example, designers and system administrators can use a Kanban board while developers use Scrum for their current sprint.
4 Key Principles of Kanban
- Limited work in progress allocates resources to high priority tasks
- Visualizing workflows increases communication and collaboration
- Analyze process and collect data to predict future issues
- Refine process as it is implemented
Kanban vs. Scrum
- Roles: undefined (depend on project type)
- Timeframe: depends on nature of task(s) undertaken by team members
- Task Assignment: team members take on new tasks when they are able
- Prioritization: optional; teams may choose to maintain a backlog if tickets have dependencies
- Lead time: informs project planning and revision
- Product owner can take a more active roles in the development process
- Roles: Product Owner, Scrum Master, and Team
- Timeframe: Tasks divided to be completed within one sprint
- Task Assignment: tasks are never added in the middle of a sprint; added to the backlog
- Prioritization: The backlog organizes tickets for a smooth process that delivers functional software components
- Momentum: maintaining specified delivery cadence allows teams to build MVP on time
- Less involvement needed from product owner, but should still participate at important junctures
When Do Agile Teams Leverage Kanban?
In pure Kanban where the team lacks a formal backlog, the product owner plays a major role in interpreting the importance of tasks and delineating responsibilities accordingly.
When an issue arises or a strategic adjustment must take place, the burden falls on the product owner to determine the next steps that maintain project momentum.
Agile teams in the thick of development — refining a legacy solution, or conducting last minute QA rounds before product launch — benefit most from the Kanban methodology.
Requirements that change frequently and thus demand higher involvement from the product owner may be better served by Kanban. For example, in an ecommerce business where products rotate frequently, the product owner may assign new tasks and deprioritize others as customer demand fluctuates, product offerings shift, and software functionalities must evolve accordingly.
When Do Agile Teams Blend Kanban and Scrum?
Often. Each project poses its unique challenges, and these principles are meant to flex according to the needs of all involved stakeholders.
For example, a team of developers may be in the middle of its latest project, hard at work on the tickets listed in the current sprint.
The project manager knows that an important meeting involving the product owner and other client-side stakeholders is several weeks away, but fast-approaching. Showing some screens from the software under construction can visualize the value the product owner and the intended end users can expect at the end of development.
How to Optimize Resources With Kanban and Scrum
By blending Kanban and Scrum, the project manager can ensure both development and design deliverables are available in time to share with the product owner.
As development continues, the project manager meets with a designer, who has a small amount of time outside of her normal workload to devote to one-off asks.
Together, the designer and project manager can use Kanban, prioritizing the building out of design elements so that the striking visual assets are ready to show to the client by the time the meeting starts.
Beyond kanban and scrum, many other methodologies can be combined in infinite ways. Individuals and teams can combine them to their liking in ways that complement the working habits and personalities of the people and organizations involved.
Beyond Kanban and Scrum: Make Agile Methodologies Work For Your Team
The rigid guidelines of waterfall software development limit risk, some argue, and therefore set teams up for more successful outcomes. Why not mitigate risk by choosing one development path, and then stick to it?
But this can make teams more likely to fall into complacent stagnancy in their approach to development.
How do you achieve balance between a solid, functional process and the free-range development offered by Agile methodologies?
However teams choose to proceed, setting aside time for retrospective meetings allows them to review how the software build is progressing.
During sprint retrospectives, Scrum masters ask:
- What went well during the sprint cycle?
- What didn’t go well during the sprint cycle?
- What can be done to improve outcomes in the next sprint cycle?
- Creating time for a discussion that is dedicated to working toward constant improvement helps teams routinely identify achievable action items.
A good scrum master can help a client company consider how to take advantage of best practices or a technique from Kanban and Scrum — or another methodology altogether. It’s beneficial to hear how another company facing similar challenges applied one framework or methodology in a very different way and achieved strong results.
Staff augmentation teams witness how some excellent companies very quickly and effectively implement software, as well as how other companies struggle to implement similar projects in their own environments.
Over time, the takeaways of these retrospectives add up.
Different methodologies can and should be adapted to unique business settings and goals. Weighing issues and implementing different strategies like Kanban and Scrum keeps teams moving forward and improving their capacity to generate better software.
Image Source: Unsplash, Matt Artz