As companies race to seek the value of Agile through radical change, an ever-widening gap is emerging between adoption and understanding. While seeking the gold mines of value that Agile promises, they forget to equip themselves with the knowledge and tools to mine the value when they get there. In our last blog post, Where Agility Begins, we talked about the Agile Manifesto and the role that Agile principles and values play in successful Agile adoption. Now that you’ve done your research and are ready to embrace the cultural change that accompanies Agile, it’s time to learn more about the various Agile frameworks. As you’re reading, take a step back and think about which framework or combination of frameworks best fits your organization.

Where to Begin

When most people talk about Agile, what they’re really talking about is Agile Scrum, which is a framework for doing Agile rather than Agile itself.  In the last blog post, we talked about Agile starting with our attitudes and values.  At its core, Agile is a philosophy and approach to developing software and has grown to encompass many other kinds of projects.  While philosophies can work well to help shape overall thinking and guide culture and values in a workplace, they say very little about how we actually do the work.  This is where an Agile framework comes in.

The Big Three: Scrum, Kanban, and XP

The reason that most people use Scrum terminology to describe Agile is because it’s arguably the most comprehensive and well-developed framework for conducting projects in an Agile way and is, by far, the most widely adopted framework. In the 13th Annual State of Agile Report, 72% of respondents reported using some variation of Scrum.  Couple this with the wide ranging support for the framework from the scrum alliance and scrum.org in the form of conferences and role certifications, and it’s easy to understand how Scrum has become synonymous with Agile. Thus, the strength of Scrum lies in its highly defined structure which mobilizes the philosophy of Agile into roles and business practices that can be easily understood, trained, and adopted in organizations.

While Scrum is the predominant Agile framework in the market today, it’s often seasoned with spices from other popular frameworks. Kanban is a framework that draws techniques from both Agile and Lean Manufacturing (hence the Japanese moniker). The main idea behind Kanban is to limit the amount of work in progress to help avoid the productivity slaying monster known as multi-tasking. Kanban also places a premium on visualizing the process flow of work from one phase of production to the next. This visualization often manifests itself in Agile frameworks (like Scrum) as a Kanban board, usually with three “bins” labeled with a variation of “to do” “in progress” and “done.”  What many don’t realize is that Kanban is in and of itself a legitimate, stand-alone Agile framework. Many teams prefer Kanban to Scrum in environments where there is a continual and more predictable stream of work like a bug resolution or testing team.

Lastly, we come to the misunderstood and most forgotten framework known simply as XP. In an attempt to make writing software sound more daring and dangerous than anybody could believe, XP stands for “Extreme Programming.” XP is less of a framework and more of a set of Agile software best practices. This framework is the birthplace of hip Agile ideas like pair programming, test-driven development, behavior-driven development, and automated testing. Unfortunately, many Agile practitioners incorporate these practices without even knowing they are part of a stand-alone framework. The lack of process definition, certification, and ongoing support for XP have limited its adoption as a singular framework, but XP in many ways defines what it means to be a true Agile software developer.

Planning for Change

There are several less popular Agile frameworks not represented above, but some combination of the above three frameworks constitutes a vast majority of the Agile market. If your company is adopting Agile, it’s important to take a step back and think about which framework or combination of frameworks best fits your organization’s values, culture, and business tempo. Once you’ve settled on the framework that’s right for you, it’s time to start thinking about implementing that new framework and preparing for the change management that should accompany such a transition.

We encourage you to continue following along in our series of blog posts and to read more about the three frameworks mentioned above. To learn more about Scrum, we recommend reading our eBook The Agile Imperative: 5 Questions to Guide You to Agile Excellence, in which we explore the scrum framework in depth, discuss tools for success, and share best practices.

Sense Corp offers a variety of consulting services across data, digital, and business transformation. Our team of skilled consultants offer insights and solutions to the most important problems facing business and government. To learn more about the services we offer, visit our website or contact us.  

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