Scrum 🆚 Kanban: The Basics You Need to Know

Scrum and Kanban are popular tools used for agile process development. Both of these methods emphasize improving the process by increasing efficiency. In this article, we’ll be covering the following topics:

  1. What is Scrum?
  2. How does Scrum work?
  3. What is Kanban?
  4. How does Kanban work?
  5. How Are They Similar?
  6. Scrum vs. Kanban
  7. Which should I choose?

Before we jump into a head-to-head comparison of Scrum vs Kanban, let’s first have a look at Scrum and Kanban individually and establish what they are. We’ll tackle Scrum first.

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What is Scrum?

Scrum is a popular framework that facilitates collaboration between teams while they are working on complex projects and products. It helps teams learn from their experiences, organize themselves while handling issues, and reflect on their successes and failures, so that they can improve. 

Now, let’s have a look at how Scrum works. 

How Does Scrum Work?

scrum-working

Scrum Framework - Scrum vs. Kanban

Step 1: Product backlog

The product backlog is used to draw up a list of tasks that a team must complete to successfully achieve the stakeholders’ goals. 

Step 2: Sprint planning

Selected tasks from the product backlog are chosen for teams to focus and work on, then ultimately be delivered during the sprint.

Step 3: Sprint backlog

Tasks discussed in the previous phase are added into the sprint backlog. 

Step 4: Scrum team

A scrum team is usually a team of five to nine members that work on the tasks mentioned in the sprint backlog. 

Step 4.1: Daily scrum

The team has daily scrum meetings, 15 minute long sessions during which the team members synchronize their activities with each other, report on the bottlenecks they are facing, and plan on what they aim to achieve in the next 24 hours.

Step 5: Sprint Review

After the sprint is completed, it’s time for a sprint review. The product owner, scrum master, stakeholders, and the scrum team attend the meeting. During this stage, the team discusses what they accomplished in the previous sprint. The session also opens up opportunities to ask questions, make observations, and provide feedback and suggestions. 

Step 5.1: Sprint review - product backlog

The product owner presents the backlog’s top to the stakeholders. This lets the former receive feedback for upcoming sprints and other things related to the backlog. 

Step 5.2: Sprint review - Sprint retrospective

The sprint retrospective meeting follows the sprint review. Here, the team identifies potential mistakes and issues, as well as ways to handle them. Data from this stage is incorporated while planning the next sprint.

Step 6: Increment

The stakeholders receive a workable and usable output. 

Now, let’s have a look at Kanban. 

What is Kanban?

Kanban,’ or literally ‘signboard’ in Japanese, is a visual system used to manage work as it proceeds through the process. It’s mainly used to identify bottlenecks and then deal with them in a rapid and cost-effective manner. This process is achieved with the Kanban board, the essential core of the entire process. Work is broken up into pieces, and each piece is written on a note or card. The cards are then put on the board, which is divided into a series of columns. Each column on the board helps determine where the item is, with respect to the workflow. 

Let’s see how Kanban works. 

How Does Kanban Work?

kanban-board

Kanban Board - Scrum vs Kanban

The board consists of three major components:

To-do: These represent items that need to be completed

Ongoing: These represent items that are being currently worked on by the team

Done: These are the tasks and items that have already been completed

Although the above illustration shows a physical representation of the board, some organizations use software instead. The electronic versions replace the sticky notes with cards that can be moved from one column to another, as work progresses. 

Before we highlight the differences between Scrum and Kanban, it’s essential to become familiar with their similarities first. Let’s have a look at how these two methods are alike. 

How Are They Similar?

  1. Both Scrum and Kanban are based on the principles of lean and agile methodologies. 
  2. Both processes aim to reduce the amount of work-in-progress. 
  3. Both divide work into smaller manageable pieces.
  4. Both uses pull scheduling, meaning that products are built based on demand rather than on forecasts.
  5. Both emphasize transparency and use it to drive process improvement.
  6. Their release plans are continuously optimized.
  7. Both are designed to help deliver software often and ahead of schedule.

Now, let’s have a look at how they are different. 

Scrum vs Kanban

To best differentiate between the two approaches, we need to use a well-defined set of criteria, shown below. 

Cadence

Scrum

Kanban

The process is split into time-boxed iterations

The process is event-driven


Release Methodology

Scrum

Kanban

Releases take place at the end of each sprint 

Releases are continuous


Changes

Scrum

Kanban

No changes can be made mid-sprint

Changes can be made at any time


Metric

Scrum

Kanban

Velocity is used for planning and process improvement

Lead time is used for planning and process improvement


Teams

Scrum

Kanban

Uses cross-functional teams 

Specialist teams are often used, while cross-functional teams are optional


Adding new items

Scrum

Kanban

Items cannot be added in-between an iteration

If there’s capacity available, new items can be added


Job Roles

Scrum

Kanban

Has three major job roles: 

  • Product owner
  • Scrum master
  • Scrum team

Specific job roles haven’t been set up


Representation

Scrum

Kanban

The Scrum board needs to be reset after each sprint

The Kanban board stays the same throughout the entire project

Project Length

Scrum

Kanban

Better suited for long-running projects

Works better for projects expected to finish in a shorter period of time

Now, let’s look at how you can decide which method is best for you.

Which Should I Choose?

Here are some of the better-known organizations and businesses that use Scrum and Kanban. 

scrum-companies

Scrum Companies - Scrum vs Kanban

kanban-companies

Kanban Companies - Scrum vs Kanban

Selecting between these two methods is mainly based on your team’s requirements. If your project is expected to take a shorter period of time, you’re better off choosing Kanban. For longer projects, you should choose Scrum. Using the differences we discussed in the previous topic, you can make an informed decision.  

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Conclusion

In this article, we defined Scrum and Kanban, showing how each of them work, their similarities, and their differences. Finally, based on all of the information taken as an aggregate, we showed you how to best decide between them. 

To learn more, check out this video.

If you have any questions, let us know in the comment section of this article, and we’ll get back to you as soon as possible. We also enjoy getting general feedback.

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