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Different Types of Agile Methods

Agile methods have a lot to offer businesses. They are often associated with software development can also benefit any large or complex project. Scrum is the leading choice of framework to implement Agility – but there are others. 

Implementing Agility

Agile techniques introduce a lean and adaptive way of managing any project or product development. They developed as an alternative to traditional project management, focusing on flexibility, changing requirements, and faster usable results. This can help companies increase efficiency and lower costs. 

There are several different frameworks available to implement Agile techniques. These all remain true to Agile principles and techniques, but each one can suit different types of projects. The following are some of the main methods and frameworks used today.

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Scrum –  the leading framework

Scrum is the most popular and flexible framework for implementing agile techniques and has been in use for over 25 years. Scrum is a well-defined framework with a standard approach and common terminology that are familiar to many people. Extensive online scrum training is available for those new to the framework, as well as for more experienced practitioners.

Scrum breaks a project up into a series of development cycles, known as Sprints. Each Sprint should produce a usable product or result, and there is then evaluation before beginning the next iteration. A Product Owner role ensures stakeholder communication and increased product value. Regular daily meetings, or Scrums, keep all team members engaged, and ensure problems are solved quickly. 

The framework is used across many industries, not just in software development. It is also popular in financial services, where financial product development, business or regulatory projects can all benefit from its approach. 

Image Source: Wikipedia

Kanban

The Kanban framework is another popular agile implementation. The name comes from the Japanese word for signboard and is a highly visual approach. It uses a simple but effective process with a strong focus on transparency. Projects are broken down into different increments, and a board and cards are used to track work performed in each area. 

Kanban has its origins in manufacturing processes but has been adopted in software development and elsewhere since. 

Image Source: Wikipedia

Extreme Programming

Extreme Programming is a software development framework with a strong focus on customer requirements and satisfaction. Like Scrum, it introduces an iterative approach to product development. 

From the start, results are tested and improved through customer feedback. The framework is designed to expect and allow changing customer requests, even during the late stages of development. The short development cycles and constant interaction keep the team engaged and focused, in an often high-energy development environment. 

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Dynamic Systems Development Method (DSDM)

DSDM is another flexible and popular framework, first developed in the 1990s to address the need for fast software delivery. It also uses an iterative-based approach, with the core belief that project modifications are to be expected. 

It focuses strongly on timely delivery. Timeboxing techniques are used to break a project into portions with fixed budgets and delivery dates. Requirement changes are permitted, but time, budget, and quality are the key factors. 

Crystal

Crystal is a series of related frameworks developed in the mid-1990s, with a lighter and less formal approach than other frameworks. They avoid strict and rigid processes and instead focus on team members, skills, talents, and communication. It specifies an iterative approach to development, but the specific tools and techniques used are project dependant. 

There are different Crystal frameworks for different sizes and types of teams. Each defines specific roles and methods of working and communication. Its focus on a project’s people makes it unique amongst the different frameworks and a good choice for companies wanting to emphasize team collaboration over formalized methods or reporting.

How to Select the Right Agile Method for Your Next Project?

Agile methods can transform projects and organisations and bring significant benefits. To implement Agility, though, an established framework is usually used. Several of these are available, including Scrum, Kanban, Extreme Programming, DSDM, and Crystal. To choose the best to use, organisations need to think about the type of project, the customer and the skills of the teams involved.

Many Agile Methods Bring Similar Benefits

One thing to bear in mind when selecting an Agile framework is that, although there are several available, many of the key benefits are similar. They all work in different ways to implement Agile methods. This will bring the benefits of incremental delivery and a closer focus on project requirements no matter which methods are used.

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Consider the Size and Type of Project

One of the most important considerations is the type of project to which Agile will be applied. This is especially relevant when introducing an Agile framework for the first time.

Some frameworks are better suited to certain types of projects. Extreme Programming and DSDM (Dynamic Systems Development Method), for example, are more commonly used for software development projects. Kanban has its origins in manufacturing but is used in many other industries these days. Scrum is a highly adaptable framework used across many industries and types of projects.

Team size matters too. Extreme Programming and Scrum, for example, are designed to work with smaller teams. Scrum can be enhanced (through Scaled Scrum frameworks) to work on larger projects, though. Frameworks such as Kanban and Crystal can work easily with much larger teams.

Think About Project Aims

Project aims are also important. Are results or budget and timeframe most important? All frameworks will deliver incremental results to a certain extent, with permitted changes in project requirements a key factor. This is more formalised in some frameworks, though. Scrum for example, places emphasis on the exact build-up of each iteration, with regular reviews of results with project stakeholders a key part of the approach.

However, one of the criticisms of Agile methods, in general, is the complexity of estimating timeframes and budgets. While many frameworks have some ways to deal with this, DSDM is specifically designed to focus on timely delivery. Requirement changes are permitted, but time, budget, and quality are the key factors.

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Consider Customer Involvement

One of the key Agile manifesto points is a focus on customer involvement. Agile considers customer involvement more important than customer negotiation. It requires commitment and buy-in from customers and stakeholders for project success.

Nevertheless, different frameworks require different levels of customer involvement. Structured frameworks such as Scrum or Extreme Programming require continued participation from customers, whereas lighter frameworks such as Kanban or Crystal can be adapted to work with less. You need to consider customers’ willingness to participate, their availability, and domain knowledge.

What Experience Do Teams Already Have

To get the most out of any method, experience is very important. If team members have already used or received training in a particular framework, that can drive framework selection. Teams may be more successful with a framework they have used before rather than trying a new one.

Training or retraining is an important consideration for the organisation, especially for larger projects. Frameworks such as Scrum require specific training, along with definition and understanding of vital key roles. If some people are already experienced in this, it can make a big difference. Agile consultants can help with training and embedding a framework if required.

Consider Team Build-Up and Skills

Different frameworks require different amounts of understanding and bring different levels of control. How much learning of new techniques to take on depends on the team member’s ability and willingness and organisational buy-in to training. You need to think about organisational culture and which framework will fit best.

Scrum is popular but may be too structured for some teams. It requires all team members to be well-trained in the approach, methods to select workload for each iteration, and specific key roles. They must also all follow a strict regime of reporting and meetings. This can be too much for some teams. There may not be the desire from the organisation to train everyone involved in methods, and team members may not want to learn such new approaches.

Other methods introduce less formal new methods. Crystal, for example, takes a lighter approach as one of its main characteristics. It aims to focus on team members and their current skills, talents, and communication methods. Kanban is another lightweight approach in terms of new methods to be followed.

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