Scrumban: What It Is and How Your Team Can Use It

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Rafael Timbó
Rafael Timbó
Chief Technology Officer

Table of Contents

Learn more about Scrumban and how this popular methodology works, and how it can help strengthen your development team.
Published on
February 15, 2023
Updated on
April 11, 2024

When you need to deliver a complicated project on time, a project management methodology can help you get it done. Unfortunately, most methodologies excel in some areas and fall short in others. Scrumban combines the top elements of two well-known methodologies — Scrum and Kanban — to provide a more efficient solution than either one alone.

What Is Scrumban?

Scrumban pulls from the organized workflow structures of Scrum but adds the flexibility and visualization of the Kanban system. Some product development teams use Scrumban as an end process because they like its flexibility or want to scale their processes. Others use Scrumban as a temporary stop in the process of switching from Scrum to Kanban.

Basics of Scrum

Scrum is an agile framework that was introduced in 1995. Designed to solve complex problems in a team environment, Scrum divides work into increments that can be completed in short cycles called sprints, usually lasting for one to four weeks. Feedback loops are included in sprint planning and allow for the work to be inspected and adapted throughout the software development lifecycle for process improvement. As a result, scrum teams can drastically decrease the time to market and respond quickly to market changes and emerging requirements.

Aspects of Kanban

Kanban was originally designed in the 1940s by Toyota to control, manage, and optimize work and inventory. It's a visual workflow management process where cards represent work items placed on lanes within a board. The lanes represent stages of the workflow. The Kanban method focuses on visualizing work and maximizing efficiency with the goal of continuous improvement. With its "just in time" pull system based on customer demand rather than pushing goods to market and hoping for the best, Kanban created more value without associated increased costs.

Pros and Cons of Scrumban

Some of the features of Scrum and Kanban may seem incompatible. For instance, in Scrum, there is a clearly defined hierarchy of roles, including a project owner, Scrum master, and development team. (Scrum does not have an official term for project managers.) The work is structured and planned in advance, although it does allow for iteration and feedback. In Kanban, there are no defined roles or leaders. Work can be added to the board or shifted around as needed.

However, this stark contrast between styles is exactly what Scrumban was created to exploit. Scrumban pulls from the structure of Scrum and the flexibility of Kanban to create an agile method of development that includes the best aspects of each. This isn't to say that Scrumban is a perfect system. It may be perfect for some teams, but it may not be a good fit for others.

Advantages of Scrumban

One of Scrumban's most compelling advantages is the time savings you'll realize. You don't spend a lot of time planning sprints at every new juncture. Instead, you create plans when you need them, not at predetermined intervals.

Scrumban really shines when compartmentalizing large projects. You can break up long-term projects into shorter iterations so that you can more closely manage the features and tasks it includes.

With its focus on visualization, Scrumban shows you the slowdowns and bottlenecks in a project quickly. You can see where tasks are at any given moment and identify problems as they develop instead of after they impede your progress.

Scrumban is an intuitive system that puts everyone on the same page and allows for more independence in your teams. The transparency in Scrumban eliminates issues related to knowledge silos and knowledge hoarding. Everyone can see tasks that need to be accomplished and next steps.

Disadvantages of Scrumban

Unfortunately, like all other methodologies, Scrumban has its drawbacks. However, there are fewer drawbacks to using Scrumban than to using either Scrum or Kanban alone.

Scrumban is the new kid in town as far as agile development. It doesn't have the established history of either Kanban or Scrum, so there's less guidance for best practices and less of a track record with proven results. To succeed with Scrumban, your team will need to be comfortable developing some of their own principles and using trial and error as they go along.

Another potential disadvantage of the Scrumban method is that it makes tracking individual elements more difficult. It's harder to know what specific team members have been working on and for how long. Scrumban's success lies in providing motivated teams with a great deal of autonomy. If that's not your management style, it may not be a good fit for you.

How Software Development Teams Can Use Scrumban?

Software development teams can use Scrumban tools to enable their teams to be more productive and efficient. The Scrumban board lets you:

Manage Long-Term Projects

Scrumban tackles long-term projects through bucket-sized planning. You can focus on your company's short and long-term goals in time-based increments by dividing up your backlog into categories based on when they should be completed.

Delegate Current Tasks

Like Kanban, Scrumban works on a pull system regarding delegating tasks. Team members pull tasks from the board based on their area of expertise, allowing them to work on tasks they're enthusiastic about and qualified to perform. Shifting priorities can also affect how tasks are allocated.

Aid in the Long-Term Planning Process

The Scrumban system uses the three-bucket system to aid in long-term planning. The three buckets include:

  • 1-year bucket — ideas
  • 6-month bucket — requirements
  • 3-month bucket — tasks

This system allows you to keep track of your long-term goals while not over-focusing on them until they reach the stage where you'll begin implementing them. At that point, you can begin preparing them for the Scrumban board.

Scrumban Methodology: How To Get Started

The Scrumban process flow is organized around the lifecycle of a project. The following steps illustrate how to implement Scrumban:

Create a Visual Board

The visual board is the heart of the Scrumban process. This is where the majority of the action takes place, allowing team members to pull tasks and all stakeholders to monitor progress. The specifics will vary based on your workflow, but there are several factors to consider when you're setting up your Scrumban board.

Product Backlog

In your first Scrumban board iteration, analyze your current resources to try to predict the number of product backlogs you can complete. The scope size and your team's history of delivery will provide guidelines for this determination. Include this product backlog in one section of your Scrumban board.

Sprint Backlog

Similarly, you should determine which work items you can deliver during this sprint and include that on your Scrumban board. Since there will likely be a good bit of overlap between your product backlog and your sprint backlog, some teams forego the product backlog and just include the sprint backlog.

Workflow Stages

Your Scrumban board should also include workflow stages so you can see where every work item is currently. You'll pull items from the backlog to begin working on them and then track them through the workflow stages. Don't overcomplicate this step. Keeping the workflow stages simple will help you set work-in-progress limits. Your workflow stages will present as lanes or columns on your board, including:

  • Backlog
  • Ready
  • In progress
  • Done

Use Planning Poker to Establish Estimates

The planning-poker method is used in Scrum to determine consensus-based estimates for how long backlog items will take to complete. Each feature is discussed, and Scrumban team members use cards to privately estimate the amount of effort required to accomplish it. Estimates usually use story points as a measure, but you can also use days. Everyone reveals their estimate at the same time to avoid influencing each other.

Once the estimates are revealed, the team can use them as a starting point for discussion. If everyone has the same estimate, that's the consensus. However, if there's a tremendous variation among estimates, you'll need to discuss it further and provide clarification.

Set Work-in-Progress Limits

Whether you have a single in-progress lane or several lanes in between ready and done, you'll need to set a WIP limit. Limiting the number of in-progress tasks focuses your team's efforts and prevents them from being overwhelmed and scattered. Staying focused on a smaller number of tasks will increase your productivity and promote more rapid progress toward clearing your backlog.

Determine What Tasks Need To Be Prioritized

Tasks in the ready column need to be prioritized. Since there is no Scrum master, teams will decide what needs to be accomplished first and pull high-priority tasks first. Priorities can be discussed and adjusted in the daily meeting if necessary.

Set a Planning Trigger

Because there are no predetermined planning intervals in Scrumban, you'll need to decide what parameters will trigger an on-demand planning event. Generally, when the number of tasks in the backlog falls below a set level, you'll need to hold a planning session to begin another iteration.

Keep Track of Metrics

There are several key metrics that can help you evaluate your progress and increase your estimation accuracy for future projects:

  • WIP: The number of work items currently in progress
  • Cycle Time: The number of days a work item is counted as "in progress"
  • Throughput: The number of work items your team has completed in a specified time period
  • Service Level Expectation: Your team's historical cycle time

These metrics are easy to track and explain to stakeholders. They also provide you with actionable and accurate data for future planning.

Make Sure To Hold Daily Stand Up Meetings

Daily stand-up meetings are short check-ins that discuss three main questions:

  • What did you do yesterday?
  • What are you working on today?
  • Are there any obstacles interfering with your progress?

These meetings should not take any longer than 15 minutes, and ideally, they'll be closer to five minutes. They're meant to be quick progress updates to keep everyone on track, not deep dives. Serious problem-solving and side discussions should be done at another time.

Hybrid Methodology: Get Started With Revelo

Although there are no official best practices because Scrumban is so new, there are some guidelines that can make implementing the switch easier:

  • Keep your focus on tasks that are currently in progress without getting distracted by unrelated activities.
  • Don't overcomplicate your Scrumban board. You may need to break up your in-progress category but avoid needless complexity.
  • Avoid multitasking. Focus only on the current task you've pulled.
  • Create realistic WIP limits. As you use the system and track your metrics, you'll get better at creating more accurate estimates.
  • Keep a close watch on your Scrumban board to identify any potential trouble spots early.
  • Identify and document changes and unplanned tasks that may affect your timeline.

As a hybrid of Scrum and Kanban, Scrumban provides both flexibility and structure while reducing complexity and barriers to adoption. Scrumban is best suited for environments that are fast-paced and flexible. Companies with rigid hierarchies will find it too unstructured. Startups and teams willing to forego traditional structures and rules in favor of speed and efficiency will find Scrumban appealing.

The shorter iterations of Scrumban allow you to rapidly implement feedback and make adjustments as you go. Companies working on established software may not need this rapid iteration process, while those who are rolling out new features will benefit.

No matter which agile method you use, the most important factor in any software development process is the human element. Hiring qualified software developers who are skilled in Scrumban or other methodologies is an increasing challenge in today's competitive hiring landscape. Working with a talent development partner like Revelo can help you meet the challenge.

We provide an end-to-end remote staffing solution to handle the tedious administrative issues related to hiring remote teams so you can focus on driving your business forward. We match you with pre-vetted tech talent from U.S.-aligned Latin American time zones. You choose your ideal candidates, and we expedite the hiring and onboarding processes. Our expert team takes care of human resources, payroll, and benefits while you build your team far faster than you could with traditional recruitment methods. Reach out today to find out how we can help you grow.

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