What Are the Differences between Agile, Lean, and DevOps?

Delivering value to customers with high-quality products and quick services is an incredibly important requirement for project teams. Methodologies like Agile, Lean, and DevOps were created to help organizations accomplish this. All three work toward this common goal, but each of them is unique. 

What are the differences and how can they be implemented together? We talked to Ademar Albertin, product owner at EXIN, about the differences and similarities between these three methodologies. 

1. What are the core values of Lean, Agile, and DevOps? What is their focus?

To answer this question, we need to look at their history and which needs were addressed with their creation. 

Before these practices were adopted, the Waterfall methodology was a good fit as it followed a structured and logical process. However, with the digital development of businesses, it was not flexible enough to respond to the changing needs of the customers. This rigidity often resulted in the loss of a lot of time, money and valuable resources. Mainly because teams only tested and adapted a product after they delivered it. Organizations and professionals needed a more efficient structure in their projects so that they could guarantee the delivery of a product or service in line with the quality requirements. 

During the 1990s, software developers started to pick up Lean practices. Lean originated in the Japanese manufacturing industry just after the second world war and focuses on improving cost, quality, and delivery time by removing waste from processes. 

Later, in 2001, a group of software development professionals felt it was time to break away from traditional approaches and put the focus on individuals, working products/services, customer collaboration, and responding to change. The result of their meeting, the Agile Manifesto, was a collaborative effort by these 17 professionals. This shift to Agile was a remarkable moment in the history of software development because of the changes it brought to the way projects were managed. 

In addition to this shift, technological improvements meant that consumers were more likely to be part of the project by providing feedback and interacting in real-time with IT teams. This change caused Lean and Agile practices to be embraced by the IT community, which in turn led to exponential growth in project management effectiveness. 

However, there was still a well-known problem in every organization: the gap between development and operational teams. DevOps emerged to fill this gap and create synergy between the teams. This methodology grew out of a combination of Lean and Agile principles. 

With this background in mind, my answer to the question makes sense:

Lean, Agile, and DevOps focus on organizational culture by creating multidisciplinary teams, reducing waste, focusing on the customer, embracing change, and continuously delivering value. These methodologies appeared at different times to fulfill different needs. 

2. What teams can apply these three methods/approaches?

Although Lean, Agile, and DevOps have their origins in Software Development teams, it’s not only these teams that can use them. Lean and Agile practices can benefit every department of an organization. Due to its characteristics, DevOps is more likely to be used in IT Departments, but there is no restriction on what type of department can adopt and use DevOps.

3 How do the three methods interact with each other? Can they all be applied in an organization?

Organizations can use each of these three practices without restrictions. Organizations must, however, take an in-depth look at the benefits they would like to take advantage of to decide on the best approach for them. As DevOps has its roots in Lean and Agile, organizations should not forget that it could be beneficial to use DevOps for small projects while they invest in organizational culture. After using it for small projects, they can move on to implementing it in more complex scenarios.

4 Why do some people confuse these methodologies or think they are virtually the same? And what are the main differences?

The confusion arises from the fact that DevOps shares its roots with Lean and Agile. Although these methodologies share many similarities, at their core, there are differences.

Lean was created for manufacturing and then adopted by the IT field. The main focus is to eliminate waste during the project process.

Agile is meant to create a culture of agility for the whole organization and is more of a mindset than a framework.

DevOps came about to help IT departments unite the development and operational teams whilst embracing Lean and Agile methodologies.

5 How does EXIN address the three methods/practices?

EXIN develops professional certifications for the three areas. These programs guarantee that professionals gain the skills necessary to use the practices beneficially for themselves and their organizations.

EXIN’s Lean IT program is created by LITA, a collaboration between training organizations and exam providers, providing an industry standard for Lean IT education.

EXIN’s Agile Scrum program combines Agile practices with the Scrum methodology so that professionals understand both the Scrum framework as well as the Agile mindset.

EXIN’s DevOps program was created with DevOps experts and includes levels that suit every career stage—there is a certificate for each professional.

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Ademar Albertin

Ademar Albertin is part of the Portfolio & Program Team at EXIN. As Product Owner at EXIN he specializes in VeriSM™, Agile Scrum, DevOps and SIAM™.

Before joining EXIN in 2016 he founded the HSI Institute in Brazil. Ademar has over 10 years of experience in IT Service Management, IT Governance and Sales Management. Aside from IT, Ademar is passionate about fitness, travel and food culture.