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Introduction to Crystal Methodology

In the dynamic world of software development, various methodologies have emerged to guide teams in delivering successful projects. One such methodology that has gained recognition for its flexibility and transparency is the Crystal Methodology. In this blog post, my curiosity leads me to delve into alternative Agile Methodologies that can be customized to align with the unique requirements of clients within Mindset Consulting.

The Birth of Crystal Methodology:

Crystal Methodology, created by Alistair Cockburn, first surfaced in the 1990s as a response to the perceived limitations of traditional, one-size-fits-all development methodologies. Cockburn, an influential figure in software development, introduced the idea that different projects require different methodologies. One size doesn’t fit all, and the methodology should be tailored to the unique characteristics of each project.

Crystal Methodology is Categorized by color, according to the Team Size & Criticality of the project.

(See Below)

In the above chart, the Vertical factors include Comfort(C), Discretionary Money(D) (i.e., Available Funding), Essential Money(E) (Base Funding), & Life(L) (i.e., Project Life), while the horizontal factor is Team Size. 

Thus, Alistair asserts that all these factors should be taken into account before determining the appropriate approach to adopt.

For instance, in a 40-person project, prior to setting a release date, developers would evaluate the following considerations:

  • Appropriate working conditions (C) – Comfort
  • Available project funds (D) – Discretionary Money
  • Required project budget (E) – Essential Money
  • If any of these criteria are not met, adjustments can be made to the team size and project duration (L) – Life
  • Subsequently, the most viable methodology can be selected.

Alternatively, based on team size, developers can forecast project completion time (L) by considering the provided budget (E), accessible funding (D), and resource comfort level (C).

As the Project Criticality and team size increase, more team members are involved with specific project roles, and deliverables are added accordingly. 



Crystal Clear (Team Size 1-6)

Team Roles & Responsibilities:

  • Developer: Develops code, Peer Reviews, Unit Tests, & Deploys 
  • Customer: Specifies Requirement & Provides Feedback on completed Features/Functionality/Product Increment
  • Manager: Facilitates team communication & removes impediments for the team
  • Executive Sponsor: Provides Overall direction & support 

Deliverables: Functional Code, Feedback on requirements, Clear Communication Channels(Email, Collaboration tools Like Jira, Confluence, Teams, Slack), Project Direction.


Crystal Yellow (Team Size 7-20)

Team Roles & Responsibilities:

  • Team Leader: Coordinates activities based on modules & ensures progress on deliverables
  • Architect: Designs system architecture & provides technical solutions
  • Tester: Tests the E2E system (SIT, Automation, Regression, Performance, Accessibility, Exploratory & Security) and ensure product quality
  • Business Analyst: Gathers & Clarifies all the requirements & supports during UAT testing phase

Deliverables: Detailed System Architecture, comprehensive testing report, & Refined Functional Requirement Specification.

Crystal Orange (Team Size 21-40)

Team Roles & Responsibilities:

  • Product Owner: Represents Customer, provides overall product vision & prioritizes the backlog based on the business need
  • Scrum Master: Facilitates the ceremonies and resolves the impediments for the team
  • Technical Lead: Oversees technical aspects & mentors the team members
  • Project Manager: Manages resources, schedules, & budget

Deliverables: Prioritized product backlog, efficient agile processes, cohesive technical direction, optimized resources allocation & management


Crystal Red & Maroon (Team Size 41+)

Team Roles & Responsibilities:

  • Product Management Team: Manages Product Vision & Roadmap
  • Release Train Engineer (RTE): Coordinates & Monitors Multiple Agile Release Trains
  • Solution Architect: Designs large scale system architecture
  • Program Manager: Oversees Program execution & alignment 

Deliverables: Aligned Product roadmap, coordinated release planning, scalable system architecture, program wide visibility & alignment with Program vision.

Note: Each team size category has specific roles responsible for different aspects of the project, ensuring effective coordination and delivery of project goals.


Key Principles of Crystal Methodology:

  • Flexibility and Tailorability:
    • Crystal Methodology is not a one-size-fits-all solution. It acknowledges that each project has unique characteristics, and therefore, the methodology should be tailored to fit the project’s specific needs. This flexibility allows development teams to adapt their processes to the project’s size, criticality, and other factors.
  • Human-Centric Approach:
    • A central tenet of Crystal is its emphasis on people over processes. Acknowledging that human factors play a crucial role in project success, Crystal promotes effective communication, collaboration, and a positive team culture. It recognizes that skilled individuals working together are the primary drivers of successful software development.
  • Frequent Delivery:
    • Crystal encourages incremental and iterative development, promoting the delivery of small, usable product increments at regular intervals. This approach allows for quick adaptation to changing requirements and provides stakeholders with tangible results throughout the development process.
  • Close Communication:
    • Communication is a cornerstone of Crystal Methodology. It emphasizes the importance of open, honest, and frequent communication among team members, stakeholders, and customers. This helps to ensure that everyone involved has a clear understanding of project goals and progress.
  • Reflective Improvement:
    • Crystal encourages teams to regularly reflect on their processes and make adjustments as needed. Continuous improvement is a core principle, and teams are empowered to adapt their practices based on lessons learned and changing project dynamics.
  • Risk Mitigation:
    • Crystal Methodology acknowledges that each project carries inherent risks. By identifying and addressing risks early in the development process, teams can proactively manage potential challenges and uncertainties, reducing the likelihood of project setbacks.


Differences between Crystal & Scrum:

Crystal Scrum
Crystal is characterized by a higher level of permissiveness, allowing for changes to be accommodated based on the specific needs of the project and the size of the team. Scrum is more disciplined and avoids Scope creep once the sprint is started.
Crystal Delivers based on the Criticality of the project Scrum Delivers based on the Priority of the backlog items ranked based on Priority by the Product Owner
Due to the flexibility, the requirement for documentation becomes vital at each stage Due to Poor documentation, Scrum is often criticized 
Crystal methods vary based on the number of people that are working in the team Ideal Scrum team is 6-9, and scrum teams can be split into several teams working on different components
Crystal focuses on communication & collaboration; often, a team has flexibility in adapting practices according to the team’s needs Scrum prescribes Ceremonies

Daily Standup, Sprint Planning, Product Backlog Refinement, Sprint Review, & Sprint Retrospectives

Crystal has the following Roles

  • Architect & Solution Architect
  • Sponsor
  • Designer
  • Developer
  • Business Analyst
  • Project Manager/Program Manager 
  • Tester
  • Technical Writer etc.
Scrum has specific roles

  • Scrum Master
  • Product Owner
  • Scrum Team (Cross Functional team of Developers, Tester, Basis, DevOps, Security, etc.,)



By embracing fundamental principles such as flexibility, human-centricity, and continuous improvement, development teams can effectively navigate the intricacies of software development, maintaining a clear emphasis on delivering value to stakeholders. The enduring relevance and influence of the Crystal Methodology persist, shaping the manner in which teams undertake software development projects.


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Sunil has 16 years of experience in BI, DWH, DB, UI testing and project delivery across Healthcare, Insurance, Banking, & Telecom industries. Currently Working with Mindset as a Project Delivery Lead, Sunil likes to learn new technologies, and follow current trends. He enjoys going on long drives, trekking, playing badminton, & listening to music.

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