Agile for dummies

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What’s the difference between Scrum and Agile? What’s lean? And what is that Spotify-model, exactly? The former are examples of questions we get at the start of our training course.

In this article we’ll explain what these different themes mean.

What is Agile?

Agile is the name for the method Scrum, Kanban, eXtreme Programming, Nexus, Scaled Agile Framwork (SAFe), the Spotify-model, DevOps, Lare Scaled Scrum (LeSS), DSDM Agile Projectmanagement, PRINCE2 Agile and Lean Startup are part of.

The base of the Agile-approach are self-sufficient teams that create value by working with Scrum, Kanban or a combination of the two. The agility is in the results that are delivered – they originate from experimentation and learning from your mistakes.

We continue by explaining you the most common terms in the Agile-methodology.

Scrum

In the Agile-methodology you can work with different methods. One of these methods, and perhaps the most familiar, is Scrum. Scrum is an Agile-framework in which a team develops (software) products using a detailed and prioritized list of functionalities. This list is also known as the Product Backlog. Decisions on the functionality and priority of items on the Product Backlog are taken by the Product Owner who confederates with the business.  Finally there is the Scrum Master, who leads the Scrum team.

When using Scrum, team work is key. It’s very important to decide who does what and to not stray away from these roles. Teams work together in Sprints . In these short sessions planning, performance, review and retrospective lead to a certain result.

Want to read more? Download the Scrum Guide here.

Kanban

The agreements when working with Kanban are less set in stone than the agreements made when working with Scrum. In working with Kanban, clarity on the status of the work is key. The work is made visual on boards, just like one would do when working with Scrum but the roles aren’t as set in stone as they are when using Kanban.

Kanban is ideal when working in a line organization where the focus is on less activities at the same time. Make sure to pay attention to time when using Kanban, otherwise a bottleneck or a blockage will arise.

eXtreme programming

eXtreme programming (XP) is a software developing method that works with short releases. Techniques like Pair Programming, Test Driven Development, Automated Testing and Continuous Integration are examples of this method, that’s used in system development in an Agile-environment. XP is often used in a combination with Scrum.

Scrum, Kanban and XP are explained from the perspective of Product Owner in this video.

Scrum-of-Scrums

The Scrum-of-Scrums is used to find common ground when different teams work together in one organization. Every Scrum-team sends a representative to the Scrum-of-Scrums stand-up to negotiate. Sometimes, the different Product Owners have their own Scrum-of-Scrums.

Traditional (line) organization

If you work in a traditional (also known as line organization) and mainly adjust and maintain products, Agile is the way to go. You can choose from SAFe, DevOps or the Spotify-model. When working on a team level within these methods you can either use Scrum of Kanban.

Scaled Agile Framework

The Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe) describes the organization surrounding the Agile-delivery in releases with either a Scrum or a Kanban-team.

These releases have be integrated properly in the different teams and fit the existing operational organization at the same time. This system of continuous delivery and integration is what we call DevOps. DevOps is short for Development and Operations.

The highest level in the organization is the Portfolio level. This level focusses – in combination with Lean Leadership – on the value streams and facilitates the underlying levels in Agile. SAFe works best in large organizations.

You  can find more information about SAFe here.

The Spotify-model

The Spotify-model (you know, the guys behind the Spotify music streaming service) is accessible for smaller organizations. Within this model teams are called Squads and they collaborate within a Tribe.

These different roles negotiate in a Chapter about their methodology. An organization can contain a chapter for software-testers in which testers from different Squads work together in a Tribe,

But organizations working with the Spotify-model can also decide to work together in Guilds. Guilds are group with a shared interest and formed from Squads and Chapters. A shared interest would be a new tooling for example.

In the Spotify-model there’s no Scrum Master. The Agile-proces is monitored by Agile-coaches. The motto in the Spotify approach is: ‘You build it, you run it’. Because of this motto, there is not much to transfer between the different roles.

Curious? This video explains it all.

DevOps

We’ve mentioned DevOps before (the combination of Development and Operations. DevOps is up and coming. It’s used to make sure Agile changes, adjustments and renewal transfer to the line organization without any problems. DevOps can be part of SAFe but it can also be a stand-alone part of the Spotify approach for example.

Projects

When working on small scale products you can pick either Scrum or Kanban. But when you’re working on a bigger project with multiple teams, the complete approach with (PRINCE2) Agile Project Management is easier to control.

The overall planning and the risks are cared for by the Projectmanager. He makes sure the project is successful. In Agile Project Management projects have an end – as opposed to projects in a line organization.

It’s a good idea to work with Agile-Projects when activities overstep the chain and must be organized. Or another example: when you have to temporarily work together with other organizations.

Agile Project Management

Agile Project Management (DSDM) is a complete method for managing Agile projects. When using Agile Project Management one decides what the borders are, which risks are present and which business cases have to be identified.

The important decisions are made on project level by a steering committee. The committee consists of the Business Sponsor, the Business Visionary, the Technical Coordinator and the Project Manager (which is something else when working with PRINCE2).

The project manager plans which teams make which parts of the end product. A self-sufficient team with a Business Analyst, a Business Ambassdor, Solution Developers and Testers can decide to work with Scrum Sprints.

A more detailed description of this approach can be found here.

PRINCE2 Agile

Invested a lot in PRINCE2? It’s possible to combine PRINCE2 with Agile by working with Scrum.

Be careful in using this combination though – at the start the combination PRINCE2 and Agile might be too specific. Because of this, the agility of Agile/Scrum disappears. It’s a good idea to hold onto the PRINCE2 Agile-manual, this is a very extensive summary of this combination.

Agile Project Management uses it’s own vocabulary but PRINCE2 Agile uses familiar terms from Prince2, Scrum, Kanban and Lean.

Want to learn more?

We hope we’ve clarified the Agile methodology a little with this article. Want to start working with Agile yourself?

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