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Scrumban: The best of two Agile methodologies

Sarah Laoyan contributor headshotSarah Laoyan
February 14th, 2024
6 min read
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Scrumban is a project management methodology that combines two common Agile strategies: Scrum and Kanban. Scrumban was developed with the intention to help teams transition from Scrum to Kanban or vice versa. Learn more about how Scrumban can help your team achieve their goals.

Dramedy. Motel. Spork. All of these things started as two separate entities that combined to create something completely new. 

This is the basic idea of the newer Agile methodology known as Scrumban. In this article, we dive into what Scrumban is and how this new Agile framework can help your team meet deadlines and hit goals. 

What is Scrumban?

Scrumban is a project management methodology that combines two common Agile strategies: Scrum and Kanban. Scrumban was initially developed to help teams transition from Scrum to Kanban, or vice versa. If teams have experience with one strategy over another, this technique can help them gradually cross over to the other methodology. 

While Scrumban was initially intended to help teams transition, some may find that this combination of the two strategies works the best for their team. Scrumban is best used by a team that already knows some facets of Scrum or Kanban. The experience they have will give them some familiarity when they start using the Scrumban methodology.

Create a Scrumban template

Scrum vs. Kanban

Scrum and Kanban are two popular Agile methodologies, however they have some differences. Scrum is an Agile framework that helps teams collaborate and get high-impact work done. Traditionally, Scrum is run in sprints that are often two weeks long. The Scrum framework provides a blueprint of values, roles, and guidelines for how to run sprints effectively. 

On the other hand, Kanban is an Agile framework that helps teams balance the work they need to do based on the available capacity of each team member. The Kanban framework is built on the philosophy of continuous improvement, where work items are "pulled" from a product backlog into a steady stream of work. The Kanban methodology most frequently comes to life through the use of Kanban boards—particularly Kanban board software.

How does Scrumban work?

Like the name suggests, the Scrumban Agile framework takes some characteristics from both the Scrum framework and also the Kanban methodology.

Scrum features in Scrumban

  • Process iteration happens at consistent intervals, typically at the end of sprints when the team holds sprint retrospectives and sprint review meetings. 

  • Work is prioritized based on the complexity of the task and product demand.

  • The entire team agrees and aligns on what “done” means, so everyone knows what it means to complete a task. This means that end results are clearly outlined and defined. 

Kanban features in Scrumban

  • Uses a clear backlog of items that need to be completed. Once a team member starts working on a task, they "pull" those tasks from the backlog into their current workload.

  • There are hard set limits for the amount of tasks that are currently in progress to prevent the team from being overworked.

  • Tasks are visually represented as cards that move through different stages of the process on a Kanban board.

Features unique to Scrumban

  • There’s no team hierarchy in Scrumban. This means that every person on the development team has the same opportunity as others to make decisions and choices. This also means that there is no clear leader for the group—rather, the team is entirely self-managed.

  • Scrumban projects don’t necessarily need to have a deadline. Sprints are often worked in two-week increments, so team members can just focus on those specific sprint tasks until it’s time to review and reiterate. This makes Scrumban a good choice for very long-term projects, or projects with an ambiguous goal. 

Read: Waterfall vs. Agile vs. Kanban vs. Scrum: What's the difference?

The Scrumban process

There are four simple steps to the Scrumban process. Since there’s no Scrum master in Scrumban, it’s important that everyone on the team knows these four essential steps. Here’s how to get started.

1. Create the Scrumban board

A Scrumban board is a Kanban board which can include a product backlog, a sprint backlog, your team’s workflow stages (like not started, in progress, and reviewing), and a clear column designated for completed tasks. The stages that appear on the Kanban board are all dictated by your team. For example, some teams choose not to have their product backlog on their Scrumban board, and instead keep just their sprint backlog on the board.

Scrumban follows the cyclical nature of sprints. If there are no more cards on the board, team members will pull cards from the product backlog. Ideally, the team reviews the cards on the board every week and adds cards from the product backlog based on that sprint’s goal.

Create a Scrumban template

2. Establish your work-in-progress limits

In Scrumban, there are no forms of "story points"—a strategy that assigns points to tasks based on the estimated time or effort each assignment will take. Instead, the Kanban board should only have a set amount of cards on the board to prevent overwork. This is commonly referred to as work-in-progress limits or WIP limits. The Scrumban team decides as a group how many cards can be in what stage at one time, so that the team isn’t overwhelmed with tasks.

One key benefit of Scrumban is the ability to plan and change your workflow at any time during the process. For example, if the team feels like there are too many cards on the board at one time, they can easily choose to pause pulling tasks in until more cards move into the "Done" category.

3. Work with your team to prioritize tasks

Scrumban is one of the most flexible Agile methodologies. There's no team hierarchy in Scrumban, which gives everyone the ability to choose what the team works on. The easiest way to prioritize tasks in Scrumban is by looking at what the product needs most. Since the prioritization process is continuous, team members can choose what they feel is most important for the product. Because there is no Scrum master or product manager, this gives individual team members the agency to decide what they think is best. 

Read: Understanding kaizen: A guide to continuous improvement in business

4. Hold daily stand-up meetings

Daily meetings help everyone on the team understand what is being worked on. Team members can decide which task they want to work on based on the cards on the board. When everyone participates in daily stand-up meetings, your development team can better prioritize each task because they know their team members' workload. Because there’s no designated leader in the Scrumban method, team members can rotate who leads daily stand-up meetings.

When to use the Scrumban method

One of the major benefits of using the Scrumban methodology is that it's an extremely flexible form of project management. Here are a few ways you can use the Scrumban method to create more efficient processes for your team.

When you need to maintain long-term projects

If your team has a long-term or ongoing project with no set deadline, Scrumban can be a good method to ensure that there's a consistent flow of work. Scrumban helps by establishing incremental check-ins. Because Scrumban works in sprints, the team is able to monitor if work is continuing to flow during review or planning periods. So even if there is no deadline on an ongoing project, using the Scrumban method can keep cards flowing on the task board. 

When Scrum is not quite working

For some development teams, the rigid structure of the Scrum platform can actually hinder the team’s workflow. If your team is struggling with the structure of Scrum, Scrumban is an Agile approach that can help ease them into the framework. Because Scrumban is a hybrid of Scrum and Kanban, the team can learn key elements of the Scrum framework while still maintaining the flexibility of the Kanban method.

Pros and cons of the Scrumban methodology

There are pros and cons of every project management methodology. Here are some facets of Scrumban to help you decide if this methodology will work for your team. 

Pros of using Scrumban

  • Can help save time: If your team isn’t using any form of project management, using the Scrumban method is a good way to start tracking the work that's being done. By using the Scrumban method, you can prevent your team from performing duplicative work or spending time on tasks that don't satisfy the goal of a specific sprint. 

  • Great for long-term or large-scale projects: Because Scrumban is an iterative Agile method, it allows for small changes over large increments of time. This makes it a great framework to use for long-term projects, because project needs will change as time goes on. As needs change, Scrumban helps you iterate and improve your processes to keep up with those changes. 

  • Individual team members have more independence: If your team is looking to have more autonomy, the Scrumban methodology might be a good place to start. The Scrumban method gives your team members the opportunity to make decisions and prioritize work as they see fit, rather than just completing work that’s assigned by a Scrum master or product owner.

Cons of using Scrumban

  • Lack of management can cause confusion: While the independence and autonomy can be motivating for one team, the lack of oversight can cause confusion and disorganization in another. Remember, what works for one team may not work for another. Finding the right project management methodology is all about discovering what works for your specific team.

  • Scrumban is a relatively new methodology: Since Scrumban is a newer methodology, there aren’t as many established processes. One Scrumban team's process may look vastly different from another team's process, and part of that reason is because there's no standardized framework like with Scrum or lean project management.

  • Project managers have less control: If you have a product manager or project manager who is very hands on, this methodology may not work as well. In Scrumban, there are no specific roles on the development team. This means that everyone has the same agency to choose what they feel is the right decision for the sprint.

Use a work management tool for Scrumban

Long-term planning for a Scrumban project works best with a work management tool. Asana's Board view allows your Scrumban team the ability to see what everyone is working on and where they are in the process. Ready to try a Scrumban board for your team? 

Create a Scrumban template

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