As a Product Manager, there's a 90% likelihood that you'll collaborate with Agile teams employing standard frameworks. Although Agile doesn't emphasize tools, to thrive in these settings, you must grasp the fundamentals. But this raises a pertinent question: This inevitably leads us to the question: what precisely are these foundational tools and frameworks you're likely to encounter?
Navigating the Agile landscape can be a complex journey, but numbers and statistics often provide clarity. In a recent survey, professionals from various domains were quizzed about their reasons for turning to Agile, the methodologies they prefer, the tools they lean on, and the tangible benefits they observe. This post is based on 16th Annual State of Agile Report (2023 year).
This article will give you clear statistical answers what are most common tools and frameworks that are used, so you can keep focusing your attention on what is important.
We will answer 3 questions: Who, What and How are using Agile, so we will have clear picture what tools and frameworks should be addressed first if you aspiring product manager.
Lets start from the Who question. Demographics will help us with it.
WHO: Demographics Analysis
- Geographical Distribution
From a geographical standpoint, it appears that most of our respondents hail from developed nations or metropolitan regions. This makes sense given that these places have a higher prevalence of technology companies and hubs. However, this can also indicate a bias as these areas have more tech-savvy individuals who would readily participate in surveys.
- Industry Distribution
Looking at the industry demographics, it's evident that Agile frameworks are predominantly found in the IT, Software Development, and Tech-related sectors. This aligns with the origin and historical implementation of Agile methodologies. However, it's also noteworthy that non-tech sectors like Finance, Healthcare, Insurance and Manufacturing are showing a growing trend in adopting Agile practices. This diversification underscores Agile’s versatility and applicability across various business models and environments, especially when more and more companies find ways how to use it.
- Job Roles and Positions
A majority of the respondents seem to hold positions such as Software Developers, Project Managers, Scrum Masters, and Product Owners, indicating a strong representation from those who are directly involved in Agile processes. There is, however, a noticeable presence of C-level executives and non-technical roles, suggesting that Agile's impact is resonating throughout organizations and not just within tech teams.
- Experience Levels
One would expect that a larger percentage of our respondents might have 3-5 years of experience, aligning with the timeframe wherein Agile started gaining massive traction. It would be interesting, though, to also consider the perspective of those with more than 10 years of experience – these individuals would provide insights into the transformation and adaptation of Agile over a longer timespan.
Bias ConsiderationsIt's crucial to understand that while the data provides a clear image of where Agile is thriving, it may be skewed in favor of those who are technologically inclined and willing to participate in surveys. Hence, there might be industries or regions where Agile is being implemented but are underrepresented in this dataset.
- Implications for Product Managers:
While for product managers industry knowledge is important, it is clear that there are multiple industries besides technology where product managers with industry insights are required.
Next question will be, What framework agile teams are using. Answering this question we will identify most popular (and most probable during your work) Agile frameworks.
WHAT: Framework Analysis
On the picture about we can see , some of the most prominent Agile frameworks and their usage:
- Popular Frameworks:
Scrum: The report indicates that Scrum is a dominant framework among respondents. Scrum's popularity is likely due to its structured approach that breaks down complex projects into manageable sprints, making it easier for teams to focus, prioritize, and deliver.
Kanban: Kanban's adoption can be attributed to its visual nature and emphasis on continuous delivery. The method's ability to visualize workflow and limit work-in-progress ensures a steady pace and helps identify bottlenecks.
ScrumBun: An interesting observation is the rise of ScrumBun—a hybrid approach that combines the structure of Scrum with the flow-based approach of Kanban. This is a testament to organizations' willingness to adapt and mix methodologies to suit their unique needs. ScrumBun offers the planning and role-based strengths of Scrum while incorporating the continuous delivery and visualization advantages of Kanban.
- Enterprise-Level Frameworks:
SAFe (Scaled Agile Framework): For larger enterprises, SAFe is emerging as a top choice. It provides an umbrella framework that allows organizations to scale Agile principles across large teams or departments. While its comprehensive approach is lauded, the report does highlight a potential roadblock: the cost of certification. Given the substantial financial commitment required for SAFe training and certification, new product managers, especially those in startups or SMEs, might find it challenging to adopt SAFe immediately.
Scrum of Scrums: This approach, essentially an advanced version of Scrum, allows multiple Scrum teams to synchronize their work. It’s a more straightforward method to scale Scrum without the overhead of larger frameworks like SAFe. The method's simplicity, combined with its familiar Scrum base, might be why it's a preferred choice for enterprises not opting for SAFe.
- Implications for Product Managers:
Given the prevalence of Scrum, Kanban, and ScrumBun, any product manager entering or progressing in the software development realm should be well-versed in these frameworks. Their understanding would enable smoother collaboration with development teams and better product lifecycle management. PSM, PSPO or CSM certification available, while you can prepare to certification by finishing udemy courses.
For those aiming at enterprise-level positions, a grasp of SAFe and Scrum of Scrums will be invaluable. However, the high cost of SAFe certification is a concern. Product managers might need to evaluate the return on investment of such certifications or seek organizations that sponsor such training.
Now lets go to tools that are commonly used:
HOW: Tools used by Agile product teams.
- Dominant Tools:
Jira: Unsurprisingly, Jira tops the list as the preferred project management software. Originally designed for bug tracking, Jira's versatility, customization options, and ability to integrate with other tools make it a go-to for many teams in software development. It provides a comprehensive view of project progress and aligns well with Agile methodologies, especially Scrum and Kanban. Link to website.
Miro: Miro has emerged as the "ultimate collaboration tool." As remote work and distributed teams become the norm, Miro's interactive whiteboarding capabilities allow for brainstorming, planning, and collaborative design in real-time. For product managers, a familiarity with Miro can streamline ideation and planning processes significantly. Link to website.
- Classic Tools Remain Relevant:
Excel and Google Sheets: Despite the rise of specialized project management and collaboration tools, the report indicates a sustained preference for Excel and Google Sheets among some teams. Their ubiquity, ease of use, and versatility mean they can quickly be adapted for various purposes, from tracking tasks and timelines to financial projections. For teams not heavily invested in more intricate project management tools or for smaller projects, these spreadsheet tools provide a straightforward solution.
- Implications for Product Managers:
Tool Mastery: For product managers, proficiency in Jira is becoming almost a baseline expectation, given its widespread adoption. It's vital for managing backlogs, sprints, user stories, and tasks. Meanwhile, understanding how to utilize Miro can greatly enhance collaborative sessions, from sprint retrospectives to user story mapping.
While it's essential to be proficient in the dominant tools, the continued relevance of Excel and Google Sheets underscores the importance of versatility. A product manager should be adept at utilizing various tools based on the team's needs, project scope, and available resources. This includes both the latest software and classic solutions.
From the data presented, it's evident that the role of product managers extends beyond just the tech industry. For optimal efficiency and results, product managers should be well-acquainted with the following frameworks: Scrum and Kanban. Additionally, proficiency in tools such as Jira, Miro, and Excel is essential for maximizing outcomes with minimal effort that is most important when you start your career in this field.
Amidst the myriad of tools, frameworks, and methodologies adopted by companies, trends emerge pointing towards consistent preferences. Most companies gravitate towards familiar, tried-and-tested instruments. It's evident that frameworks like Scrum and Kanban, coupled with tools such as Jira, Miro, and Excel, stand out as crucial. Product managers would do well to hone their skills and understanding in these areas. Importantly, this conclusion is data-driven, not merely speculative.