5 popular Agile frameworks for your next project
Finding the right project management framework is essential in today’s hybrid work environments, especially with an uncertain economic climate impacting business goals and bottom lines. As project managers look for ways to help their teams work more efficiently and effectively, keeping up with existing tasks can feel like a challenge, especially if current processes don’t adequately address the team’s needs.
Project success often comes down to the framework a team is using to move efforts forward. Companies with mature project management approaches are able to deliver projects on time 63% of the time, compared to less refined or informal processes, which have a 39% success rate.
One proven way to master project management is to implement a framework or system of workflows that helps contributors stay clear on their task responsibilities, requirements, and deadlines — with an emphasis on responsibility and transparency. The most robust frameworks are based on an iterative approach called Agile.
Let’s dive into the benefits of using an Agile framework for project management and explore a few popular options you can consider to align with your team preferences and business objectives.
- What are Agile frameworks?
- Extreme Programming (XP)
- Getting started with Agile frameworks
What are Agile frameworks?
Agile frameworks are iterative workflow stages that formalize collaboration, planning, managing, implementing, and testing work to achieve a specific project result within a set time period.
Companies with a formal project management approach tend to be more efficient when it comes to fulfilling their responsibilities and meeting team goals. In fact, 11.4% of business resources go to waste in businesses that do not have proven project management processes in place. While 89% of companies have a project management plan in place, only 48% of teams believe their project management processes are efficient.
One way to strengthen your project management approach is to adopt an Agile framework that fits the needs of all your team members when it comes to direction, deliverables, and deadlines. The Project Management Institute maps out five phases of project management to optimize, no matter what framework you use to guide your work.
- Initiating — kicking off the project with all of the requirements.
- Planning — crafting a strategy to break the project into manageable parts.
- Executing — carrying through with the work on a task-by-task basis.
- Controlling — reviewing progress and testing for accuracy along the way.
- Closing — completing the entire project according to the provided specifications.
Understanding these phases can help you choose the right framework for your unique needs. While Agile frameworks tend to be less rigid when it comes to step-by-step processes and deliverables, their strength lies in their ability to define responsibilities and roles while increasing the flow of communication between project contributors.
There are several different Agile frameworks in use today — including Scrum, Kanban, Extreme Programming (XP), and Crystal — that share some commonalities and also provide some distinct advantages. The goal is to find the right framework for your company’s specific project management needs.
Perhaps the most well-known Agile framework, Scrum originated as an approach for software development project management. However, its flexible, iterative structure can work well for non-technical teams as well, especially with its emphasis on delivering value to company stakeholders.
Following a Scrum framework, projects are broken down into multiple parts, or sprints, and then broken down again into individual and incremental tasks. Each task is as self-contained and manageable as possible, which allows individual contributors to work from a well-defined set of criteria. Each sprint is made up of a set of tasks that are spread out over a team of contributors.
While there may be enough project work to fill several sprints, only one sprint is worked on at a time. Sprints usually last between two to four weeks, making it easier for teams to provide finished work for stakeholder review at regular intervals. This also helps projects move forward efficiently while allowing the team to pivot where needed to address challenges or new information.
Scrum is considered a lightweight framework because it has a limited number of rules and requirements. This prevents project management from becoming too rigid and restricting team creativity. The framework is also easy for contributors to understand since it only requires a few different meeting types and a handful of values to implement.
In a Scrum framework, there are a few key roles required to keep projects moving with efficiency and accountability. These roles include:
- Scrum master. The single person responsible for scheduling meetings, reviewing progress, and holding the team accountable for following the Agile framework.
- Product owner. The single person responsible for sorting through and organizing tasks for sprint iterations based on stakeholder and business requirements.
- Scrum team. These are the project’s individual contributors — in a software setting, typically UX designers and engineers — responsible for completing individual tasks in each sprint.
The Scrum framework is best suited for teams looking for an approach that allows them to finish projects quickly and iteratively to respond to changing customer and market needs, driving substantial business impact.
Kanban, a project management system originally based on the Japanese automobile manufacturing system, is the process of moving a project forward using instruction cards that are passed down a line of contributors. In today’s digital world, these cards are often displayed in software programs as visual cues for a project’s status or development stage. Each card includes task requirements and the owner for that initiative so it’s clear who’s working on what.
Project tasks are represented by cards that pass through a workflow of vertical columns. The cards themselves include a variety of relevant information, including task details, statuses, due dates, notes, and assignees. Columns represent different statuses that apply to a task’s production, such as To Do, In Progress, or In Review. Items move from left to right across the board as they near completion.
This Agile framework helps everyone on a project team have a clear and visual representation of how many items are in each stage in real time, as well as where they need to streamline processes to avoid roadblocks and prepare for incoming work. This approach also allows project managers to drive project tasks and details more than the workers themselves, helping contributors focus their efforts on completing assigned tasks based on their received work orders.
The Kanban framework is a great fit for teams that need to visualize large quantities of requests and manage a constant workstream of new tasks.
Extreme Programming (XP)
Extreme Programming (XP) was originally developed to help prioritize developer needs to keep up with intense demand for frequently changing customer requirements in a dynamic workplace. This Agile framework is also iterative — but in contrast to Scrum, Agile empowers the development team to take control of prioritization and work sharing in order to complete deliverables. As a result, this approach is also less regimented, giving developers the power to self-manage their own tasks while an established tracker — usually one of the developers — helps stay on top of project metrics and progress to ensure the team stays productive.
Instead of following rigid steps or columns like in Kanban, XP relies on a set of values that help direct team actions and responsibilities. These include:
- Coding. Developers conceptualize their work through diagramming and modeling, as well as working in pairs, to tackle certain tasks.
- Testing. Developers prioritize cross-team quality assurance (QA) to ensure they produce bug-free code and prevent future technical setbacks or roadblocks.
- Listening. Product feature concepts are presented directly to developers, who then take the time to distill these down into actionable, discrete development tasks.
- Designing. Team members create a project infrastructure together to ensure efficiency and effective use of the system for the long term.
- Feedback. Customer and internal stakeholder feedback is used to shape future project work and help developers iterate on project tasks to address changing scope.
- Simplicity. Developers are encouraged to focus on current needs rather than future requirements and to create solutions that can be implemented as soon as they’re completed.
The XP framework is best for independent, seasoned software development and testing teams faced with rapidly changing workloads and priorities.
The Lean methodology is specifically designed to cut out any unnecessary steps or waste from a project to make teams as efficient as possible. This includes meetings that impede progress by taking up valuable time, inefficient processes that slow down progress, and distractions that prevent teams from getting their work done.
For Lean to work effectively, team members need to be clear on their roles and responsibilities since there is no micromanaging or granular review of their work. Because individual contributors work fairly autonomously, this framework can increase trust between peers and managers that tasks can be completed to specification with limited oversight. As a result, the Lean framework can reduce overall project costs and lead times while increasing efficiency and productivity within project teams.
The Lean framework is based on seven key principles:
- Eliminate waste. Only work on what’s required to complete the present project. Reduce time and resources spent on deliverables outside the current scope.
- Amplify learning. Encourage contributors to stretch their skillsets and embrace learning on the job to support the needs of the project or team members.
- Decide as late as possible. With uncertain project scopes, waiting until the last minute to choose a course of action can eliminate waste and allow for flexible changes.
- Deliver as fast as possible. Rapid progress prevents decision lag and provides opportunities for frequent stakeholder feedback so teams can deliver what’s needed in the present.
- Empower the team. The Lean framework allows individual contributors to schedule, define, and manage key parts of the project to keep work moving forward quickly.
- Build integrity in. Projects should only be submitted to the team when they’ve been thoroughly vetted for technical and customer needs.
- See the whole. Implement measures that reward the entire team for making progress rather than isolating individual team members to maximize performance.
Lean frameworks are best for teams tasked with producing regular results and responding quickly to evolving customer and stakeholder demands.
Unlike other Agile frameworks that emphasize process and project stages, Crystal prioritizes people and communication as key project drivers — especially depending on the size of the team and the projects they’re tackling. This framework came about in response to existing project management frameworks that rely on step-by-step methods that lack flexibility.
Using Crystal, talent is prioritized with ample time built into project schedules to allow for regular reflection and collaboration, which helps to keep projects on track and improves process efficiency. In Crystal, different frameworks apply to different team sizes. Crystal breaks down this approach as follows:
- Clear: < 7 team members
- Yellow: 7–20 team members
- Orange: 20–40 team members
- Red: 40–80 team members
- Maroon: 80–200 team members
- Diamond/Sapphire: > 200 team members
Using these team size tiers, leaders help implement seven principles to guide their team’s workflow approach:
- Frequent delivery. While a set timeframe is not specified, the Crystal framework requires iterative releases depending on a project’s scope and customer needs.
- Improvement through reflection. Crystal’s flexibility allows team members to note areas for improvement and make process changes on the fly.
- Consistent communication. Different team sizes work better with different approaches, from meetings to group work environments, but collaboration is key.
- Personal security. Contributors need to feel welcome to share their perspectives through constant communication for processes to improve over time.
- Focus. Clearly defined tasks and goals help individuals and groups within a team break down projects into actionable items and meet expectations for deliverables.
- Access to experts and users. Regular feedback and answers to questions are made easily accessible for everyone to continue moving the project forward.
- Technological tooling. Team members are encouraged to address errors and share feedback during the testing and planning stages of the project.
The Crystal framework is often implemented by teams looking for additional flexibility and close collaboration to align with fast-changing requirements.
Getting started with the right Agile frameworks
Using the right Agile framework can help your projects run smoothly and efficiently while also ensuring that deadlines, budgets, and requirements are adhered to as closely as possible. The right framework will be different for different teams as dynamics and deliverables vary.
To identify the right option to try out for your team, evaluate each available Agile framework and determine the elements that fit your project and contributor needs the best. The right solution could even be a hybrid of a few different frameworks. If you’re not sure where to start, consider how your team size, organizational structure, customer demands, and company values impact your project management needs.
When you’re ready to take the next step, implementing a project management solution can help you centralize all of the responsibilities critical to your project with collaboration and transparency in mind.
Adobe Workfront can help you manage projects using a variety of Agile frameworks. Prioritize tasks, track project progress, and keep your team aligned using Workfront’s fully-featured project management system.
Watch an overview to find out more about how Workfront can help you manage your projects.