There are many approaches used in the software development industry. Some are fresh perspectives drawn from old methods, while others have created an entirely new approach. One of the most commonly used models is Agile, which has subsets that include Lean, Scrum, Kanban, XP, and so on.
Let's look at Lean, Scrum, and Agile–how are they different from each other? While these three software development methodologies seem like synonyms, they actually have significant differences.
In this article, we will take a closer look at these concepts and find out what sets them apart.
Lean: Eliminating “Waste”
Lean focuses on relentlessly removing anything that is not adding value to the project and prioritizing what is absolutely needed at the present. Eliminating waste means not spending valuable time with useless documentation, tasks, and meetings.
In addition, Lean aims to eliminate any time spent on what might be needed in the future. Things are constantly changing so teams often end up not needing them, or reworking them to fit the situation by that time. This approach also means eliminating inefficient ways of dealing with tasks (i.e. multitasking) for faster delivery.
Lean puts a lot of emphasis on its so-called “system,” which defines how the team operates as a cohesive unit. Work should always be seen from the top level in order to be sure the team is optimizing for the system.
Here’s an example: most managers work to optimize developers individually, making sure they are producing results at 100%. The problem with that method is it’s often counterproductive. It’s not a good idea to have people coding something that is not yet fully defined just for the sake of having them code, because it creates more future work.
Lean projects have an iterative structure because it’s a subset of the Agile methodology. Another defining feature of Lean projects is that developers pay close attention to testing because their main objective is to come up with high-quality software products.
Who Uses Lean?
Lean project management traces its origins back to the manufacturing industry and it continues to be widely practiced in that sector today. But organizations in other industries have started incorporating Lean methods in their own business processes as well, including marketing, publishing, software, and engineering.
Scrum: Visualizing Workflow
Similar to Lean, Scrum is also a subset of the Agile methodology. In fact, it’s the most well-known Agile approach. After its introduction in the early 2000s, it’s now being used by software developers around the globe. Scrum adheres to three main principles: team structure, workflow visualization, and iterative projects.
One thing that separates Scrum from Lean is that it uses tools known as Scrum task boards to better visualize their workflow. A scrum task board is a table that has multiple columns showing the stages of each task performance. Then, in a Scrum iterative cycle, each Sprint has its own task board.
Additionally, the structure of a Scrum team is not like other Agile methods. Scrum teams are very small in size, and it involves only three main roles: the Scrum Master, the Product Owner, and the team itself. Although Lean teams are also small and interchangeable, each of their roles is more diverse compared to Scrum teams.
Who Uses Scrum?
Most software development teams use Scrum or a Scrum hybrid. Due to its effectiveness, the methodology has quickly spread to other business functions such as marketing and IT. These fields have projects that need to move forward despite ambiguity and complexity. Leadership teams also use Scrum–usually combining it with Kanban and Lean practices for more tailored project management.
Agile: Continuous Delivery
The Agile methodology is defined by a set of principles and values indicated in the Agile Manifesto. This guide was first created in response to complicated methodologies that, despite being popular, were hindering projects from fulfilling their main purpose: creating software that helps the customer.
In Agile, the main focus is to make the customer satisfied through continuous and early delivery of valuable output. It also welcomes changing requirements, even if the changes are laid out late in development. The Agile approach makes use of change to give customers a competitive edge.
Any kind of methodology that agrees with the 12 principles in the Agile Manifesto can be considered as “Agile.” Some of the most popular Agile subsets include Scrum, Lean, and Extreme Programming. Simply put, Agile is not just one method–it’s an umbrella term for approaches that are founded on “Agile” principles.
The stages in an Agile project include planning, requirement analysis, coding, design, testing, and deployment. However, instead of forming a line, these processes make up a cycle. This means every stage is repeatable, flexible, and can be placed in any order or in parallel.
With this structure, an Agile team can effectively obtain user feedback. It also helps them conduct regular tests against various environments and change the project scope while it’s ongoing.
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Who Uses Agile?
Agile is an approach used by many famous names in the business world to improve their practices, including AT&T, IBM, Microsoft, and Cisco. Technology evolves quickly and Agile helps these companies adapt to the fast pace. Agile is all about collaborative work, releasing the output sooner, and getting feedback right away–some of the things a large company can benefit from if it wants to stay on top.
By streamlining processes, Agile teams can respond in a fast manner when they notice that changes are happening.
Choosing the Right Agile Methodology for Your Project
Software development has taken a pivotal role in changing businesses in almost every industry. As more organizations develop, IT solutions are necessary to help them deal with the increasing competition, changing environment, and new consumer demands.
For project managers, it’s important to know the distinction between Agile, Scrum, and Lean. Being aware of their differences guarantees proper application, which results in a more efficient organization.
When it comes to finding the right Agile methodology, there is no clear route. The approach you choose depends on your purpose and the nature of the project. No matter which direction you select for your project, though, Agile can help you succeed as long as there’s a constant and clear collaboration between stakeholders.