There is a lot of jargon floating around in the tech world, such as Lean, Agile, Scrum, and Kanban. It can feel overwhelming to determine which are the right product management methodologies for your company, product, or clients. We discuss what each of these frameworks is and give examples of how to choose a methodology. We will also look into what type of projects, products, and people fit different methodologies.
Different Product Management Methodologies:
1. Waterfall Methodology
The waterfall model is a sequential model that divides the software development process into multiple phases. Each phase has a defined set of tasks and objectives. The requirements are determined in the earlier stages, and the development process is carried out based on those requirements. It is a rigid framework that ignores user validation.
The waterfall model was widely used some years ago. But today, due to the continually changing needs and requirements, this methodology is not highly applicable. These days the procedures from the waterfall model can be only seen in legacy software from decades ago.
2. Lean Methodology
The lean methodology originated from the Toyota Production System (TPS), which focuses on reducing waste, improve the process, and encourage innovation. It is not a new concept but has been evolving outside the manufacturing boundaries in the business world today.
There are two main pillars of lean methodology:
a. Continuous improvement
b. Respect for people
By strongly following the two, we try to streamline the process that reduces the noise and provides value to the user while aligning the business goals. The concept of lean methodology is applied in the product development lifecycle in close relation with the agile methodology. Both these methodologies work best in projects with uncertainties.
3. Agile Methodology
An agile methodology is an adaptable approach to product development. It is an iterative model with multiple development cycles known as the sprint. This approach brings together the people aspect of product development. Today most companies, big or small, follow agile. It has become a de facto approach for software product development.
Just because you are using Kanban boards, releasing a product version once a quarter with no focus on hypothesis, process, or validation, you are not following agile. It is an iterative process that is centered around validating the user requirements throughout the development process. User validation is a serious matter when it comes to agile methodology.
Companies following agile methodology start with hypotheses about user requirements. We then validate these hypotheses against the user interview results. Based on the results, we iterate the product features and functionality. The process is repeated several times, even after releasing the product.
We incorporate the change while working in sprints. By following agile, we are making sure that the final product meets the user’s needs. There are fewer chances of any significant changes after the last release as we verify the requirements from the earlier stage.
Agile works best with projects with uncertainties as the methodology allow quick iterations as per the user validation. However, you need to keep an open mind, be adaptable to change, and assess the risk to cope with agile methodology. Only with the right mindset, we can attain the best from agile methods.
Kanban Vs. Scrum
Kanban and Scrum are the two most popular product development frameworks under agile methodology. While Kanban is fluid and does not have a time restriction, Scrum is time-bound.
Scrum and Kanban both follow their taxonomy. We talk about epics, user stories, story points, backlog, backlog grooming, stand-ups, and so much more when it comes to Scrum. But we will not be discussing them here. If you want to learn more, here is an article from Atlassian that talks in-depth about Scrum.
When to use Scrum?
Scrum is useful when there is a roadmap for a specific duration of time, say one quarter. You work in short, one to two-week cycles called sprints. So, you do not need to have a clear roadmap to what features you will work on in the 9th sprint. However, it is better to have a roadmap for the coming two sprints.
Like playing team sports, you play as a group of individuals than playing as a team in the initial stage. There are squabbles, frictions, noise. Just because you have Scrum doesn’t mean everything goes smoothly. It will get better with practice and involvement of the team. After working for a few sprints, you will even notice improvements in teamwork and the processes. It is synchronized.
When to use Kanban?
Kanban is best suited when things are very fluid. You don’t want to have too much work in progress. There are different lists like to do, doing, and done.
While following Kanban, you want to make sure there are not tasks piling up on the list. Of course, Kanban is not time-bound, but the idea is to pick up one job and start doing it from one step to another. There should not be many tasks on the list. The team can decide on the definition of “many” and a suitable number of tasks in the lists.
Can Scrum and Kanban exist in the same project?
Yes. We can implement both Scrum and Kanban.
Like in Leapfrog, we have a healthcare project where we follow both these frameworks. In a function called data operation, we use Kanban as it doesn’t directly link with a user story. It is more suitable than the Scrum as it is not related to core features but still needs to be developed. There are neither priorities nor time constraints.
Thus, Kanban is the best fit for some sections of projects, even when it also uses Scrum. It is more important is to have an agile mindset. Without that mindset, there is going to be natural friction and squabbles about the required changes. Following agile is not just about the process but the mindset itself.
How necessary are the tools in agile methodology?
The tools help to implement agile methodologies, but they do not teach the agile mindset. Jira, Trello, Asana are all perfect tools to manage your process and help achieve the agile practice. But a simple excel sheet will also work fine as these tools only exist to facilitate the process and not define them. It can help enable the process, but the tool cannot teach the mindset.
Which framework to choose?
To choose between the frameworks, the product manager needs to understand the fit, what problems are they solving, and accordingly select the methodologies. The best way is to experiment. Pick up Scrum for a sprint, try it out and see if it works for you. If not, try out Kanban. Choose what works for your team and your context. Make sure you do not just measure the effort but also the value to the user. Then you’ll have a balanced perspective.
Thus, there are different methodologies you can opt for to simplify and standardize your product management processes. However, to find the fit, you need to have an open mindset and experiment. See what works for your team and context the best and follow the framework for an efficient and user-centric product development approach.
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