Agile. Scrum. Kanban. Waterfall. What do these words mean? If you’re confused, you’re not alone. Let’s review these project management terms and see how the Agile and Scrum puzzle pieces fit together.

Companies are faced with rapidly changing support issues, customer demands, and project requirements. They are often unable to utilize traditional business processes, which are not fast enough to deal with ever-changing requirements. Given these responsiveness needs and challenges, there has been a rise in the transition of project management, product management and software development teams from traditional Waterfall methodologies to Agile ones.

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Agile can be executed at scale by synchronizing planning and coordinating work across teams.
Agile can be executed at scale by synchronizing planning and coordinating work across teams.

Agile is a software development process often used to describe a method of managing projects. Scrum is generally referred to in terms of software development practices.

People who are unfamiliar with Agile are also usually unaware of popular frameworks like Kanban that are used to implement Agile software development. Kanban provides full transparency of work along with real-time communication. Visual representation of items on a Kanban board allow team members to acknowledge the state of every piece of work.

Scrum is also an Agile framework for completing complex projects. The Scrum Master is a facilitator of an Agile team, managing the whole process for how information is exchanged. Many organizations take Certified Scrum Master (CSM) training to validate their skills in practicing Scrum.

What Is Agile?

Agile can be implemented differently depending on the company, the organizational processes and the industry. In general, Agile is an incremental, iterative approach to software development.

Agile methodologies are open to changing requirements based on feedback from end users. As opposed to Waterfall, with Agile very little in-depth planning is done at the beginning of a project. Agile was created to be more responsive to change and changing requirements, rolling out functionality as needed.

Agile teams are cross-functional and work on iterations of a product for a time; all the performed tasks are organized into a backlog. The priority of the work iterations is set depending on its value to the customer and business. The end goal of each iteration is the working product.

Leadership in Agile methodologies encourages:

  • Collaborative culture
  • Face-to-face communication
  • Accountability

The alignment of a product with customer needs and company goals requires business stakeholders and developers to work together.

There are several different methodologies used to implement Agile, each slightly different from the others. These include:

Extreme programming

A type of software development that intends to improve quality and responsiveness to changing requirements.

Scrum

An iterative software model that follows a set of roles, responsibilities, and meetings that do not change with time.

Kanban

A visual framework to implement Agile. Its implementation promotes small and continuous changes to the pertinent system. Principles include:

  • Visualization of the workflow
  • Limiting work-in-progress
  • Managing and enhancing the flow
  • Making explicit policies
  • Continuous improvement

Feature-driven development (FDD)

Being iterative, this methodology blends all industry best practices into one approach.

Adaptive software development (ASD)

A project should always be in a state of “continuous adaptation.” ASD is made up of three steps:

  • Speculate: Initiate and Planning
  • Collaborate: Concurrent Feature Development
  • Learn: Quality Review

Dynamic systems development method (DSDM)

Used for developing non-IT solutions and software, it solves common IT problems, like exceeding the budget and missing deadlines.

Lean software development (LSD)

It has seven principles:

  • Removal of waste
  • More learning
  • Decide as late as possible
  • Faster delivery
  • Team empowerment
  • Build integrity in
  • See the whole
Implementing Lean-Agile practices across different teams increases delivery speed.
Implementing Lean-Agile practices across different teams increases delivery speed.

Crystal clear

Part of the Crystal family of methodologies, it focuses on the people, not processes or artifacts, and can be used with teams of six to eight developers.

When Is Agile Project Management the Right Path to Take?

In Agile project management, development teams can focus on important customer needs faster. The project team and stakeholders prioritize the right requirements with continuous feedback and frequent face-to-face interactions.

The line becomes a little blurry when it comes to using Agile versus use of Scrum. They have a lot in common because Scrum is one of the frameworks in the Agile process. Implementing Scrum successfully requires an understanding of Agile.

Agile project management is recommended if:

  • The final version of the product is not defined
  • The stakeholders need to change the scope
  • Implementation of changes is essential during the whole process
  • The team is adaptable and can work independently
  • The team seeks rapid deployment to optimize

Agile’s Key Advantages

Agile is the result of different lightweight software approaches and is a response to rigid, linear Waterfall methodology, which had become difficult to follow in project management.

Agile offers flexibility, speed, and continuous improvement.
  • Embrace the change. It becomes easy to accommodate changes at any time throughout the process with shorter planning cycles. Agile allows you to refine and reprioritize the backlog so your team will be able to introduce project changes in two weeks.
  • Unknown end-goal. If your project’s end goal is not defined, Agile will work for you. Goals will come to light with the progress of a project due to easier adaptability of development to evolving requirements.
  • Faster delivery. Agile breaks down the project into iterations, or manageable units, that allow focusing on high-quality development, collaboration, and testing. It involves robust testing during each iteration that identifies bugs and solves problems quickly.

On to Scrum

One of the most effective frameworks for implementing Agile is Scrum, a subset of Agile. It manages complex software and product development as it is an iterative software development model.

Teams can ship software on a regular cadence by fixed-length iterations called sprints that last for one to two weeks. Stakeholders and team members meet at the end of each sprint to plan next steps. Scrum is characterized by a set of roles, responsibilities, and meetings that do not change.

Traditional methodologies, like Waterfall, are not “agile” enough to provide organizations with a framework for fast-paced projects with constantly changing requirements. Agile project management with a Scrum implementation offers companies the opportunity to quickly and effectively meet the needs of customers and stakeholders.