Agile Frameworks for Small and Large Research Teams

Kevan Chew

Kevan Chew

Remesher

Kevan has an aggressive love of writing, coffee, and bagels. He's a member of the marketing team.

Almost 20 years have passed since the original Agile Manifesto was drafted at the now legendary meeting in Snowbird, Utah in early 2001. Today, as organizations seek to rapidly innovate, test new ideas, and uncover insights straight from the consumer, agile methodologies are more relevant than ever before. 

While agile principles can be adopted by any organization and team, the types of frameworks that customer insights teams adopt can be wildly different depending on individual objectives, needs, and deterrents. 

So, let’s take a closer look!


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What are Agile Frameworks?

Agile frameworks are specific approaches toward research in product development based on agile principles. While every insights team can benefit from adopting agile frameworks, methodologies like Scrum and Kanban are more suitable for small teams, while LeSS and SAFe are better utilized for large and complex projects.

While all of these frameworks are built upon the general philosophy of agile, each of them have their own unique approach in helping teams adhere to agile principles.

(Download our eBook on adopting agile tools like AI in your market research.)

 

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Choosing the Correct Agile Framework

With so many different agile methodologies in action, why does it matter which one an insights team chooses?

According to the Annual Agile Survey, while most firms see organizational agility as a top tier priority, only 25% of respondents believe that their individual teams are truly agile. That stat suggests a discord in team research methodologies, which means that a framework with clear goals is in order!

Truly adopting agile processes requires discipline and may be difficult for organizations to follow through on. It’s therefore especially important for you to adopt an agile framework that truly aligns to your team’s needs, and is something they can follow through with - in the long run, and at scale.



Best Agile Frameworks for Small Teams

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Scrum

Scrum is an iterative approach to product development with small teams working in a series of short sprints to accomplish a focused set of project objectives. With more than half of all agile organizations adopting this methodology, according to Annual Agile Survey, Scrum is by far the most popular agile framework adopted by small teams. 

 

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What Teams Should Use Scrum?

With these pros and cons in mind, Scrum is often most suited for teams that:

  • Work closely together 
  • Team members with experience lead
  • Balance between conflicting team and stakeholder requirements 

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Scrum Framework Steps

The first step of Scrum begins by creating a backlog, or a list of prioritized campaigns or projects that are known to be required. Before each sprint, the team selects a limited number of items from the backlog to complete, and works solely on that list of items for the duration of the sprint (typically 2-4 weeks).

The second step is the sprint. During the sprint, the team conducts daily scrums at the start of each day to assess their progress and make any necessary adjustments. 

The third step is at the end of the sprint. Here, the team conducts a sprint review with key stakeholders to go through what has been achieved during the sprint, and repeats the entire process in preparation for the next sprint.

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Pros of Scrum Frameworks

  • Transparency. Daily scrums between the team and key stakeholders help to keep every team member accountable to their assignments, while also maintaining transparency with clients.

  • Easily respond to changing requirements. Working in short sprints allows for teams to quickly adjust their priorities based on new requirements or changes.

  • Increased motivation. Having team members complete small, measurable amounts of work helps keep them focused and motivated.

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Cons of Scrum Frameworks

  • Chance for project delay. Scrum sprints are planned around the time taken to complete individual tasks rather than the overall project timeline. As such, projects can easily be delayed if sprint planning is not managed well.

  • Need for experience. Since Scrum requires team members who can complete tasks within a very narrow time window, the framework is better suited for individuals with prior experience in their assigned roles.

 

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Kanban

Kanban is a visual workflow management tool that helps teams achieve continuous delivery of new product features. Originally developed by Toyota in the 1940s to optimize factory operations, today project teams across all industries use Kanban.
Kanban Board

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What Teams Should Use Kanban?

Kanban is best suited for teams that:

  • Favor a continuous delivery of services over sprint-based development

  • Are able to sustain a continuous workflow with limited supervision

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Kanban Framework Steps

The Kanban method is built around a Kanban board, a visual layout that uses vertical columns to categorize tasks based on where they lie in the team’s workflow. When tasks are laid out in such a visual manner, teams quickly take stock of performance, and identify potential bottlenecks. 

The first step of Kanban begins with creating a backlog of tasks and items that need to be done, much like Scrum. 

Next, the team starts on a task and the task is moved to the “doing” column. 

Finally, the task is moved to the “done” column when it is completed. Easy! But not quite.

Throughout this process, the Kanban method offers a continuous workflow. Unlike Scrum, which runs on short, successive sprints, the Kanban method emphasizes creating a smooth and continuous flow of work. Kanban also limits the amount of work in progress. 

To ensure a smooth workflow, a core tenet of Kanban is limiting the number of active items in progress at one time. Teams are to set hard limits on the number of items per stage, and can only “pull” tasks from one stage to another when there is available capacity.

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Pros of Kanban Frameworks

  • Easy to understand and adopt. Since the Kanban methodology doesn’t require any specialized roles to administer, teams without any prior experience in Kanban can implement it easily.

  • Everyone is on the same page. Since Kanban visualizes every piece of work on a shared board, every team member can immediately understand the status of every project or task.

 

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Cons of Kanban Frameworks

  • Lack of timeframe. Since Kanban doesn’t attach a time frame for each item on the board, it can be difficult for teams to estimate how long it takes for a project to be completed.

  • Risk of outdated Kanban boards. Since Kanban revolves entirely around the Kanban board, unnecessary delays can happen easily if teams are not diligent about maintaining the Kanban board.



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Best Agile Frameworks for Large Teams

 

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Large-Scale Scrum (LeSS)

Large-Scale Scrum (LeSS) is a scaled-up framework that helps organizations coordinate large projects, while still preserving the agility found in small-scale Scrum teams. 

Just like Scrum, the LeSS process begins with the development of a backlog, consisting of all the key research objectives in the project. 

 

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What Teams Should Use LeSS?

LeSS is best suited for teams that:

  • Have previously adopted the Scrum framework and have found it effective

  • Have key individuals that have experience with Scrum and are able to coordinate the efforts of multiple small teams

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LeSS Framework Steps

First, these objective or task breakdowns are assigned to individual small teams and tackled using the Scrum methodology.

At the same time, these individual teams also continue to collaborate closely with one another on any related objectives. While this may seem like a simple design, the application of LeSS in large market research teams is invaluable. LeSS team sizes can reach up to eight teams of eight people each, and LeSS Huge teams (an even larger framework) reach up to 2,000 people.

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Pros of LeSS Framework

  • Easy transition from Scrum. Since LeSS is essentially a scaled up version of Scrum, it’s relatively straightforward for teams already familiar with Scrum to transition towards LeSS.

  • Preserving agility. Under LeSS, individual small teams are still able to function with a great deal of autonomy, allowing the organization as a whole to remain Agile. 

 

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Cons of LeSS Framework

  • Requires a firm understanding of Scrum. Because LeSS teams involve the coordination of multiple Scrum teams, LeSS team leaders and members need to be intimately familiar with Scrum to function effectively.

 

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Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe)

The Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe) is a comprehensive knowledge base that incorporates a series of best practices to help organizations apply existing agile frameworks such as Lean, Kanban, and Scrum at different levels of the organization.

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What Teams Should Use SAFe?

SAFe is best suited for teams that:

  • Want to implement a framework at an organizational level

  • Would like to transition from a traditional to an Agile environment


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SAFe Framework Steps

Some of the Scaled Agile Framework best practices include an economic view, building incrementally with fast-integrated learning cycles, and visualizing and limiting work-in-progress.

SAFe is comprised of processes at the team, organizational, and executive level of a consultancy, agency, or corporation. 

At the team level, individual agile teams operate under different frameworks such as Scrum and Kanban. 

At the organizational level, SAFe proposes the use of an Agile Release Train to help business owners coordinate the work of multiple agile teams, and build a continuous pipeline of product increments. 

The Agile Release Train (or ART) is the self-organized structure of individual teams (ranging from 5 to 12 teams altogether) that plan and execute projects in tandem. The teams in an Agile Release Train are bound by a common backlog and roadmap. These ARTs are usually led by one person (aka the Chief Scrum Master) response for scheduling major events in the project and ensuring stakeholders participation.

Finally, at the executive level, senior management coordinates the sequential release of different projects, ensuring that these plans are aligned with strategic organizational goals and budgets.

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Pros of SAFe Framework

  • Built for scale. SAFe focuses heavily on supporting enormous teams, and is therefore suitable for companies to implement at an organizational level.

  • Balances between structure and agility. SAFe is designed to empower individual teams to remain Agile, while maintaining top-down decision making at an organizational level. 

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Cons of SAFe Framework

  • Highly structured. With every single process in SAFe being clearly codified, teams may find the approach too structured and lacking in flexibility.

  • Need for training. The SAFe methodology requires key executives and managers within the organization to be trained in SAFe and various Agile principles, which can increase the time taken to implement the framework.


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Moving Forward With Agile Frameworks

Every team dreams of becoming truly agile, but choosing the correct agile framework can make or break your organization’s agile transformation efforts. Choose wisely.



Want your team or organization to adopt an agile framework? Check out our eBook, including tips on investing in agile tools like AI.
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