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Agile frameworks: How to choose the right one

Agile methodology took the software development world by storm in 2001 and has since been the predominant way of managing software projects. Beyond its prevalence in software development, many teams, including IT, marketing, HR, and operations, can and have benefited from agile principles. 

However, when it comes to introducing an agile methodology to any team, it’s more than just a single way of working. “Agile” can mean something different for every team, and there are many variations of applying these principles tactically. 

This article will give you an overview of the most popular agile frameworks and what types of teams (based on size, experience, product, etc.) might benefit the most from each. For this blog, we’ll focus mainly on teams developing software, but you can apply these frameworks and tips to other fields and departments in your organization. 

The 5 most popular agile frameworks 

Scrum

Let’s start with one of the most popular frameworks, the Scrum methodology. The work in this methodology involves building projects in a small team (usually up to 9 people) whose members have a variety of roles and responsibilities.

Each Scrum team consists of three roles:

  1. Scrum Master
  2. Product Owner
  3. Development Team

The role that is characteristic of this framework is the Scrum Master, whose responsibility is to ensure that each sprint runs smoothly and that the team implements Scrum effectively. 

Teams divide the work into “sprints” – development cycles that usually take two weeks (although they can last from 1 to 4 weeks). 

Communication and regular meetings play a critical role in Scrum. The Scrum team has daily meetings called daily scrums (usually at the beginning of the day), where they discuss the progress of their work and any obstacles that have arisen. 

In Scrum, the entire project team must know and understand the customer’s needs. That is why there’s a meeting after each sprint called a “sprint review” to review their progress and determine whether they have met the so-called Definition of Done (DoD) and anticipated customer needs. 

This organization of work enables the team to iterate quickly and promptly respond to project changes according to customer or market needs. For example, SE Ranking SEO management platform is an app for gaining insights into improving search engine results. Because of the constantly changing nature of internet search algorithms, the team at SE Ranking leverages Scrum to respond to algorithm changes and incoming user feedback. 

Scrum is great for a company that:

  • Works on one specific product (or a team focused on a single product)
  • Has a few members with clearly defined roles
  • Works on a product that requires timely and frequent updates
  • Can collaborate regularly and provide feedback

Scrumpros and cons:

Pros:

  • Ability to implement quick changes and fix bugs efficiently
  • Good team communication based on regular feedback
  • Clearly defined roles 
  • Focus on customer satisfaction, and meeting customer needs immediately

Cons:

  • Imposed strict work structure 
  • A lot of time spent on meetings
  • Variable budget
  • Risk of delays if one team member is out of office 

Kanban

Another agile project management framework to consider is Kanban. It resembles Scrum in many ways, although it is a lighter and less structured process. The main idea behind it is to manage projects based on Lean principles. Kanban was introduced primarily as a Lean Manufacturing System, but today it is also used in Agile procedures. It’s by far the most popular choice for non-software-development teams.

The word “Kanban” comes from Japanese and means “signboard” or “visual board.” And as its name implies, it uses visual elements to manage projects. The Kanban board is central to this methodology and is broken into several columns depicting the workflow. With this approach, each team member can see the status of the work, find out what to work on, and better prepare for their tasks. The board also helps to create boundaries for the amount of work to be done, ensuring the team’s workload is manageable. 

Kanban is a good solution for a company that:

  • Works in operational or service environments
  • Focuses more on processes than on a specific product
  • Has tasks and priorities that can change frequently
  • Does not have strictly defined roles in the team
  • Does not require or want regular internal meetings
  • Has a lot of unpredictable work (such as IT or DevOps teams)

Kanbanpros and cons:

Pros:
  • High flexibility and transparency
  • Increased throughput
  • Reduced number of backlogs
  • Ease of use and implementation
Cons:
  • No defined timeframe
  • Not suitable for dynamic environments
  • The inability for an iteration
  • Requires continuous updates

Lean Development

Lean (or Lean Manufacturing), which, as we mentioned, is what Kanban derives from, is another Agile framework your team may want to consider. Initially, Lean was a set of management principles created in Japan to bring efficiency and value to manufacturing. However, its versatility has proven it effective in other departments, such as IT, software development, and marketing.

The main idea behind the concept is to adapt to a dynamically changing market by building, measuring, and accepting uncertainty. Lean assumes that you can’t predict everything, but you can follow a few principles to make unpredictable work efficient. 

These principles include:

  • Focusing on quality
  • Continuous improvement
  • Optimization of processes
  • Value Stream Mapping (VSM)—creating a value stream map that takes into account possible waste while suggesting solutions to problems

According to Lean, teams should try eliminating all procedures that reduce efficiency and hinder work. This could include unnecessary meetings or tasks that take a disproportionate amount of time compared to the results. 

Within the Lean methodology, there are three types of waste. They are:

  • Muriwaste caused by unevenness of work,
  • Murawaste related to the overloading of machines and people,
  • Mudawaste caused by performing activities that don’t bring any value

Lean also focuses on good team relations. Everyone should know their role and trust and respect each other’s work. The Lean methodology encourages experimentation, so it assumes mistakes may happen. As a result, in Lean, no one is to blame for any failures, and if there is a problem, the team works together to find the best solution and fix it.

Lean Project Management is a solution for a company that:

  • Develops a small project
  • Has few members
  • Is looking to save time and wants to focus only on what is most efficient

Leanpros and cons:

Pros:
  • Simplify processes
  • Reduce costs 
  • Motivate employees
  • High value for customers
  • No waste
Cons:
  • Lack of a defined strategy
  • Requires a lot of commitment from team members
  • High implementation cost

Extreme Programming (XP)

The next Agile framework on our list is Extreme Programming (XP). The hallmark of this methodology is that both the team creating the product (usually software developers) and the customers are highly involved in developing the product they are building. Only cooperation on the vendor-customer line can ensure good results.

With this method, the customer determines the further development of the product, presenting the most valuable features. According to specific guidelines, the team introduces new updates. Communication is critical here, and the main principles of XP include feedback, honesty, and respect.

As in the frameworks mentioned above, making changes in XP is an unavoidable part of the development process. It is similar to Scrum but involves more thorough planning and rules. Since it is most prevalent in software development, it has a set of practices that relate directly to programming. This includes good practices like test-driven development, pair programming, gathering customer requirements, and planning individual iterations of software implementations and integrations between them.

Extreme programming will work well for a company that:

  • Works on a system that will continuously change
  • Wants to reduce project risks and avoid tight deadlines
  • Has the opportunity to work closely and regularly with the customer
  • Has the ability to test its software continuously

Extreme programmingpros and cons

Pros:
  • Simple and bug-free code
  • Excellent understanding of the client’s needs
  • Quickly visible results of work
Cons:
  • Requires a lot of customer involvement
  • Requires a lot of discipline
  • Focuses more on code and bug detection than on the final product
  • Can be problematic to implement in a team working from different locations

Crystal

At the end of our list is one of the most flexible Agile methods, which gives the employees a lot of freedom to develop their processes. Crystal focuses mainly on collaboration, teamwork, and communication rather than processes or tools.

Crystal has four different variants:

  1. Crystal Clear (up to 8 people), 
  2. Crystal Yellow (from 10 to 20 people), 
  3. Crystal Orange (from 20 to 50 people) 
  4. Crystal Red (up to 50 people). 

 

Each variant has its own framework, however, the main idea is that project management should adapt to what works for an individual team. In this case, it’s the entire team’s responsibility to decide what project management and communication styles and cadences work for them.

Aside from this, Crystal is similar to the other Agile methodologies in its focus on on-time delivery of software development, regular updates, and customer satisfaction. The Crystal method especially requires regular deliveries to identify problems at each stage of work and solve them collaboratively.  

Crystal will work well for a company that:

  • Has the ability to communicate constantly
  • Consists of experienced and independent people
  • Consists of people open to continuous communication
  • Has a single office where the whole team works 

Crystalpros and cons

Pros:
  • The ability to quickly detect problems
  • The possibility of continuous process improvement
  • High flexibility
  • Allows for more knowledge sharing within the team
Cons:
  • Lack of clearly defined rules
  • Difficulties when working in companies working from different locations or remotely
  • Requires a high degree of independence and decision-making

How to choose the best Agile methodology for your team?

As you can see, no universal type of Agile methodology fits every team. When deciding which method to choose, you should take into account the following:

  • The size of the team
  • The work style
  • Whether your team works in the same location or remotely
  • The experience and preferences of the employees
  • Customer expectations
  • Specifics of the project
  • Financial and organizational capabilities

Be open to change

All these options are great, so trust us – regardless of your choice, you’re sure to improve developer productivity. Agile is built to create more efficient teams, so most of these methods will, at the very least, help your team gain a better understanding of what work to prioritize. If you’re still unsure about which method to choose, we recommend just picking one and giving it a go for a few weeks. To gain insight into how your team performs with new frameworks, we recommend also tracking your progress in an agile reporting tool like Zenhub’s. After a few weeks of testing a new style out, if you don’t see an improvement in your team’s efficiency, try another style. Good luck!

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