What is Scrumban? Definition, Overview, and Examples

Updated Aug 3, 2022.
scrumban

If you use project management methodologies for your project management needs, you are likely familiar with agile methodologies such as Scrum or Kanban.

If both Scrum and Kanban work for your project needs, why not combine them? Have you heard about or implemented the hybrid framework Scrumban which is a combination of two popular agile methodologies: Scrum and Kanban.

In this article, you will learn everything you need to know about Scrumban methodology including how it works, the benefits of adopting it, and when teams should use it. 

Let’s get started.

What is Scrumban?

Scrumban is a hybrid project management framework that combines the features of the Scrum and Kanban methodologies. As an agile development methodology, Scrumban implements the highly structured framework offered by the Scrum methodology with the more visual and flexible development method of Kanban.

In simpler terms, Scrumban is a framework that aims to be the most efficient of all agile methodologies. It presents teams with a carefully-structured Scrum framework for effective workflows while combining this with a Kanban methodology that gives you more control through visualized and editable workspaces.

Scrumban also serves an additional purpose. For teams wishing to switch from Scrum to Kanban or vice versa, the Scrumban framework helps facilitate this move. Rather than being completely put off by the extensively differed framework of either Scrum or Kanban, teams ease into the process through the Scrumban framework. 

Before making a complete switch, these teams get acquainted with the features and structures of the agile framework at the other end of the tunnel while maintaining the use of more familiar features.    

Agile Scrumban explained
Source: ResearchGate

How Does Scrumban Combine Scrum and Kanban?

Before diving deep into how Scrumban organized its hybrid framework, it is important to establish a good understanding of the individual frameworks that make it up. 

What Is Scrum?

Scrum is a framework that aids the agile approach to project management. Although very structured, the Scrum methodology is not rigid as it remains dedicated to the continuous adjustments of your team to changing conditions. This structured framework and methodology are defined by different elements.

Scrum Framework
Source: SSLA
  • Roles: The Scrum framework recognizes defined roles: Product owner, Scrum master, and Scrum development team members. The Product owner is the major stakeholder in the project, having full authority over how satisfactory the project is. The Scrum master is the leader within the Scrum team and is usually an individual who deeply understands the intricacies of the project and framework. The Scrum development team members are other members of the team who typically engage in effective cross-team collaboration for project success.
  • Sprints: Agile sprints are workflow cycles into which your entire project is split. They are the periods set out for your team to achieve an increment. 
  • Increments: Increments are the goals of or end products developed at the end of each sprint.
  • Backlogs: These are documents for record-keeping within your Scrum framework. You keep a product backlog (a “to-do” list of tasks) and a Sprint backlog (a list of work items, user reviews, and bugs among other elements to be dealt with during a particular sprint).
  • Sprint Planning: Sprint planning involves meetings where you establish the Sprint scope. Here, you define your sprint backlogs and increments, and you assign tasks to team members. 
  • Sprint Review: During sprint reviews, the product owner makes decisions on whether increments are accepted and the next sprint session begins.
  • Sprint Retrospective: Here, the Scrum team comes together to study previous Sprint sessions and determine where improvements are required as well as what can be done. 

The whole Scrum and sprint process is constantly discussed every day through daily meetings (daily Scrums). Some of the best Scrum tools for agile project management include Monsay.com, ClickUp, Wrike, Jira, Smartsheet, Bitrix24, and nTask. 

What Is Kanban?

Kanban, on the other hand, serves as a visual methodology in managing your project workflows. With the use of Kanban boards, your workflow is represented through columns dedicated to project progress tracking and updating. 

The status of projects or tasks within projects is easily understandable, updated by team members as there are changes, and everyone maintains visibility of all workflows throughout the project or task’s cycle. 

Some of the best Kanban software you can try include Monday.com, ClickUp, Wrike, nTask Board, and Celoxis.  

Scrum and Kanban - a comparison of Agile methodologies
Source: BMC Software

How Are These Combined?

Scrumban combines the important structural elements of the Scrum methodology with the visually intuitive management functions of Kanban. However, there are few differences in how exactly these Scrum structural elements are adopted.  

Unlike Scrum, in Scrumban, there is no specified number of team members or limited team roles. You can hold daily meetings with the option of additional emergency meetings. Work cycles are known as iterations rather than sprints and there are no excessively strict rules.

Nonetheless, the entire development process of Scrum, alongside Scrum elements, is adopted and visually represented using Kanban boards. 

Comparison of Scrum vs Kanban vs Scrumban
Source: Eyelean

Benefits of Adopting Scrumban

1. Combines Best Features of Scrum and Kanban 

Scrumban, as a hybrid framework, does not merely combine the Scrum and Kanban methodologies. It goes the extra step of adopting the best features these frameworks have to offer. Scrumban offers you structured workflows and, thanks to Kanban, you enjoy integrated flexibility in control and visualization missing within Scrum.

2. Project Visibility and Flexibility

Your teams maintain an understandable overview of your complex project workflows and elements while enjoying flexible control of this overview. 

The integrated Scrum framework acts as a background structure, giving you sufficient organizational management options and ensuring that you have a proven effective outline to work with.   

3. Standardize Your Company’s Project Management Framework

Scrumban standardizes your company’s project management infrastructure, helping you clearly define each team member’s goals, create policies, apply theories that reduce the amount of work to be done, and even manage your project economies through prioritizations. 

Integrated Kanban features ensure continuous improvements of workflows and your entire project outcome. The framework also serves as an intermediary for individuals switching between Scrum and Kanban. 

All these show that the Scrumban agile methodology exists in a sphere between rigidity and flexibility, offering an optimized framework that helps you improve productivity. You achieve the best products with less complex workflows, in less time, and sparing the most resources.

Agile Methodologies Used
Source: Net Solution

How Does Scrumban Work?

Scrumban is made up of different elements that come together and define it. It follows the structure of Scrum but adopts iterations in place of sprints, on-demand planning, consistent prioritizations, bucket size planning for long-term planning, a Scrumban board for visualizations, and a pull principle in distributing tasks. How do you create your Scrumban structure around these elements? 

1. Create a Scrumban Board

Adopted from the Kanban framework, a Scrumban board helps you visualize your workflows. You make use of columns, with the number of columns created determined by the number of phases within a workflow or iteration. 

The goal of a Scrumban board is to ensure clear visibility, so you try not to include so many columns that the board becomes difficult to view or overwhelming. For Scrumban, even though physical boards may be adopted, the use of software to create and manage your board proves more intuitive and productive. 

Example of a hybrid Scrumban board
Source: Dzone

Team members engage in more collaborative efforts in making changes to the board as progress within your iterations and the entire project grows. Scrumban boards are made up of three main sections through which different columns are moved.

a. Backlogs

Your backlog, also known as a product backlog, is a to-do list of tasks to be worked on during the iteration. These tasks are prioritized and, within the Scrumban board, are represented or defined by columns or groups of columns. Tasks stay in this section until there is availability or space for more tasks in the next phase; the Work In Progress section.     

b. Work in Progress

The second section comprises tasks and processes currently being worked on. Usually the largest of the three sections, it contains all columns as needed to visualize the full process or life cycle of each task. 

Progress is easily tracked this way, so the board and team members do not become overwhelmed by a large number of columns. This section is controlled by a WIP limit. 

c. Done

When project tasks and processes are completed, they are moved to the “Done” section. Overall, the Scrumban board visually represents the progress of your team, with the number of columns within it determined by the type and complexity of your project, and team members having complete visibility of every process within each iteration.

2. Set Work-in-Progress Limits

As mentioned earlier, the main aim of a Scrumban board is to completely visualize all workflows within your project, making it easily understandable and monitored by interested team members. 

The WIP section of a Scrumban board holds the most number of columns and, due to this, may be overwhelming where this number is large. To give the WIP section easy visibility, a WIP limit is set to control the number of columns managed within it.

The limit on the number of tasks in a WIP section depends on your team and the complexity of tasks to be managed. Having one task per team member pulled into the WIP section is a general rule to go by, but where tasks are relatively easier or are extra complex, this general rule may not be followed. 

Apart from having the WIP section within the Scrumban board easily visible, limiting your WIP columns helps ensure the productivity of your team members. Where they pull a single task at a time or tasks that are immediately worked on, they focus only on these tasks and do not switch to others until this is effectively dealt with. 

You save time this way through faster workflows and task completion and additionally ensure that your issues are easily spotted and quickly solved.   

Setting your WIP limit assures you of a constant workflow coupled with a visible Scrumban board. Keeping this much of a close tab on tasks and how much is moved between progress sections also helps you make estimations for future iterations and project workflows. 

Through continuous improvements, you know the exact amount of team members needed for similar tasks as well as the most efficient WIP limit that gives the most productivity.  

3. Order Team Priorities on the Scrumban Board

During the planning stage and through the use of backlogs, tasks are prioritized based on their importance. These tasks are added to their respective columns and given due priority within the Scrumban board. 

Prioritizing your tasks helps with the movement of columns through different sections of your Scrumban board, with this most important where a WIP limit is set.

Setting priorities on tasks means informing your team members that those tasks at the top of the list need to be dealt with first. When moving tasks from the “backlog” section to the “WIP” section, they know which tasks to pick. Where a WIP limit is set, they easily know which tasks make it into that section.

Give the tasks that are more important to the project’s completion and success the most attention, time, and resources. Through this, you are assured that the major milestones within your projects are met before the less important ones.

Prioritizing tasks is typically done by numbering them, arranging them in descending order within the backlogs, and creating a priority column within the Scrumban board. 

Having priorities represented on the Scrumban board gives every team member easy access to them, rather than needing to report back to backlogs for reference. 

4. Use Planning Poker Cards

Adopted from the Scrum framework, poker cards estimate the length of each task within a sprint. Poker cards indicate the time resources needed for a task as well as the difficulty of its completion. Within the Scrum framework, these poker cards are very useful, important, and more actionable.

The strict nature of the scrum framework, which consists of strict time limits, tasks, and projects within one sprint makes these poker cards and estimations easier to come by. However, the Scrumban framework is not designed to be this rigid, so, while poker cards are useful for making estimations for project resource management, following these estimations is not a strict requirement.

Scrumban adopts continuous development and remains dedicated to flexibility throughout iterations and entire projects. Where poker cards exist, this flexibility is somewhat put at risk. Your iterations are not time-limited, so creating these poker cards could even prove difficult. 

When created in Scrumban, poker cards help with estimations and stop at that within Scrumban. What Scrumban rather focuses on is the reprioritization of tasks as conditions change.

Poker cards may be crucial within Scrum but for Scrumban, they have only little to do. They only serve as guides in making appropriate resource allocations but do not form part of a strict framework that needs to be followed religiously. Nonetheless, using them helps. 

5. Hold Daily Meetings

Daily meetings are also part of the Scrum framework (Daily Scrums), however, within Scrumban, they have a larger effect on project management workflows. 

Scrumban, as mentioned, stands on the continuous improvement principle. Ordinarily, with the Scrum methodology, tasks are assigned to specific individuals or team members during the sprint planning stage and this remains so throughout the whole sprint. 

With the Scrumban framework, however, there is provision for constant prioritization of tasks within backlogs and boards.

Coupled with bucket list meetings (which establish long-term plans and goals for the iterations and project), daily meetings are held for these reprioritizations, short-term optimizations, and other changes to the Scrumban framework. 

Daily meetings improve the bond between your team members and ensure everyone stays on the same track at all times. Space for an additional meeting also exists within the Scrumban framework. This is on-demand planning.

On-demand planning involves meetings held as soon as the tasks in the “backlog” section go below a certain number. Through these meetings, you make plans for the next iterations. 

The threshold to trigger this planning stage is not defined as it depends on your team’s work velocity and time needed before the next iteration starts. For the principles of flexibility and continuous improvement that Scrumban stands on, holding daily meetings proves especially crucial. 

6. Team Members Pull Tasks Autonomously

Unlike in Scrum, tasks are not assigned to team members during the planning stage in Scrumban. Defined roles are also omitted and replaced with more free roles.

Scrumban, on the contrary, allows team members to choose or “pull” tasks from the product backlog or “to-do” section autonomously. They are not given tasks to do but rather select the tasks they feel comfortable taking on. What does this achieve? 

You have tasks distributed among your team in a way that speed and productivity are assured.
They take on tasks they have confidence in and, rather than having them strictly continue with tasks assigned to them, they also pull tasks based on prioritizations. 

You ensure team members have work on their hands at all times and consistent progress towards the completion of iterations and the entire project is made. 

From all these, you see that while Scrumban shows a lot of similarities with the structure of Scrum, the few modifications in the framework are designated towards more flexible workflows. 

From the on-demand meetings to continuous prioritizations to task pulling to the reduced importance of poker cards, Scrumban presents you with an optimized structure to work with. This is, of course, accompanied by the added Kanban-based visualizations and control. 

When Should Teams Use Scrumban?

Due to the number of benefits to be derived from the use of Scrumban, there really is not any requirement before teams implement the framework. Nonetheless, certain circumstances render the implementation of Scrumban, rather than Kanban or Scrum, even more beneficial.

1. Managing On-Going Projects

The Scrum and Kanban methodologies are efficient for certain defined projects. However, where an ongoing project is not guided by any of these frameworks, what becomes the best option? 

A Scrum framework that is entirely strict and may prove hard to integrate with the current project framework? Or a Kanban framework that is entirely flexible but does not possess the defined structure to bring a dying project back on track? Surely, a framework that lies in between these proves to be the best option.

Scrumban is best optimized for this, giving you both the defined structure and level of flexibility you need for an ongoing project. The continuous development workflows of Kanban allow you to optimize project workflows to fit changing conditions and the policies of Scrum allow you to stay within an effective framework while making these changes.

2. Difficulties With Scrum

Considering how the Scrum framework is structured, there are a lot of resources that go into its total implementation. For businesses that do not possess these resources, either in office space, manpower, or even time availability, Scrumban could be an option for them for more flexible workflows.

3. The Need For More Flexibility

Asides from insufficient resources, there may be a need for more flexibility within an implemented Scrum framework. Rather than going all the way to Kanban, Scrumban offers all the features that made the team implement Scrum in the first place.

Anastasia Belyh

Editor at FounderJar

Anastasia has been a professional blogger and researcher since 2014. She loves to perform in-depth software reviews to help software buyers make informed decisions when choosing project management software, CRM tools, website builders, and everything around growing a startup business.

Anastasia worked in management consulting and tech startups, so she has lots of experience in helping professionals choosing the right business software.