Scrum Vs 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.

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.

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. 

Scrum Cadence

Scrum moves quickly, with sprints that typically run one to four weeks and have set beginning and ending dates. Complex jobs must be broken down into smaller stories due to the tight time frame, which helps your employees pick up new skills rapidly. Is it possible for your team to deliver usable code that quickly?

Daily scrum (standup) meetings, sprint planning, review, and retrospective sessions are interspersed throughout sprints. These continuous, lightweight scrum ceremonies take place at regular intervals.

Scrum Roles

Three responsibilities in Scrum are precisely specified.

  • The product owner helps the development team prioritize their work, controls the product backlog, and speaks out for the client's interests.
  • The scrum master aids the team in maintaining its commitment to the scrum principles.
  • The development team makes the decisions regarding the work to be completed, produces increments, and exhibits group accountability.

Who is the scrum team's manager? I guess no one. Scrum teams self-organize, and despite members having various roles, everyone is treated equally. The team's shared objective is to deliver value to consumers.

Common Metrics

Teams in Scrum track their progress using velocity, or the sum of all story points finished in a sprint. Teams can only commit to taking on as much product backlog as they feel they can manage during a sprint by using reference narrative points rather than deadlines based on dates and hours. A backlog of 50 points would be difficult for a team with a 35-point velocity to handle.

Change Philosophy

Teams try to gauge how much they can do within the constraints of a sprint. They make a sprint-based commitment to deliver it. To give the maximum value to the customer, scrum teams may get feedback from customers that motivate them to shift course and alter the sprint. Scrum teams should talk about how to restrict future change during the sprint retrospective since changes put the potentially shippable increment at risk. A team that regularly modifies its scope in the middle of a sprint may have chosen work that isn't fully understood. It could also imply that the team is impeded by operational or unplanned work. Scrum is built on three pillars:

  • Adaptation: Scrum is adaptable, which means it welcomes change. Scrum makes it simple to adapt to a project's shifting tactical trajectories. 
  • Transparency: Transparency guarantees that everyone on the team is aware of what is happening and why. 
  • Inspection: Projects are regularly inspected by team members and stakeholders. This promotes an improvement-oriented culture.

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

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How Does Scrum Work?


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. 

Kanban Cadence

A continuous workflow framework on which Kanban is based keeps teams flexible and prepared to adjust to shifting priorities. Work items are arranged on a kanban board as cards, moving from one column (stage) of the process to the next. To Do, In Progress, In Review, Blocked, and Done are typical workflow stages. 

Release Methodology

Without a regular timetable or set due dates, updates are delivered in kanban whenever they are prepared. Kanban, in theory, does not impose a set deadline for task completion. Without waiting for a release milestone like a sprint review, the job can be delivered as needed if it is finished earlier (or later).

Kanban Roles

The Kanban board belongs to the entire crew. While some teams use an agile coach, unlike scrum, there isn't a single "kanban master" that oversees the seamless operation of the team. The entire team is accountable for working together and completing the tasks listed on the board.

Key Metrics

Because bottlenecks are a constant worry with Kanban, which is all about a continuous, looping flow. To avoid having too many projects in the "in progress" column, the Work In Progress (WIP) limit is an essential statistic. By visualizing the process and enabling Kanban teams to keep track of each item, the Cumulative Flow Diagram (CFD) also helps to reduce bottleneck issues.

Change Philosophy

A kanban workflow is dynamic and subject to modification. According to priority, new work items can be added to the backlog, and old cards can be blocked or deleted. Additionally, the WIP limit and work items can be changed in the event that the team capacity changes. Being adaptable is the key to kanban. Key concepts in Kanban include:

  • Definition of Workflow (DoW): It establishes fundamental elements of the Kanban workflow, including what units are moving around the board, what "started" or "completed" denotes, and how long an item should take to move through each column. 
  • WIP limits: Teams can establish WIP restrictions in a column, a group of columns, or the entire board. This means that there can never be more than five cards in a column with a WIP limit of five. If there are five, all jobs in that column must be completed before additional ones can be added. 
  • Kaizen: Japanese for "improvement," kaizen promotes a way of thinking that constantly seeks to improve the procedure. This motivates everyone on the team—not just managers—to contribute their knowledge and work to make the group better.

Let’s see how Kanban works. 

How Does Kanban Work?


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. 

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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. 




The process is split into time-boxed iterations

The process is event-driven

Release Methodology



Releases take place at the end of each sprint 

Releases are continuous




No changes can be made mid-sprint

Changes can be made at any time




Velocity is used for planning and process improvement

Lead time is used for planning and process improvement




Uses cross-functional teams 

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

Adding new items



Items cannot be added in-between an iteration

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

Job Roles



Has three major job roles: 

  • Product owner
  • Scrum master
  • Scrum team

Specific job roles haven’t been set up




The Scrum board needs to be reset after each sprint

The Kanban board stays the same throughout the entire project

Project Length



Better suited for long-running projects

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

Kanban vs. Agile

Agile is a collection of project management tenets that promotes a flexible and iterative method of managing projects. It is typically utilized for projects that experience a lot of change since it places emphasis on flexibility rather than sticking to a plan.

On the other hand, Kanban is an Agile approach. This indicates that it provides the precise methods and tools needed to apply Agile. It demonstrates a number of Agile characteristics, such as the team's ability to respond to changes and transparency.

Kanban vs. Waterfall

According to the conventional waterfall method of project management, tasks are accomplished until the project is complete in a predetermined order, much like how water would flow down a series of rocks in a cascade. Waterfall is recommended for projects when few modifications are anticipated because it is not designed to absorb changes over the course of a project. Waterfall may appear incompatible with Kanban's ability to accommodate change. Project managers can visualize work in a Waterfall process using a modified Kanban board.

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

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Which Should I Choose?

Scrum and Kanban each have particular strengths. But contrasting Kanban with Scrum is a false choice; you may use both in your job to get the most out of both.

When to Use Kanban?

It has been demonstrated that kanban increases productivity, fosters a culture of continuous improvement, and improves visibility.

Scrum and other existing procedures can work with Kanban. Kanban can be a fantastic place to start if you don't want to change your entire work process but yet want to reap the benefits of an Agile methodology.

When to Use Scrum?

Scrum has been associated with increased output, accelerated delivery, reduced expenses, and improved quality. Many project managers see Scrum as an efficient way to handle complex projects or ones that may experience frequent change.

If your industry experiences frequent change or if your project needs room to adjust to feedback, Scrum might be a good choice. This might include businesses that frequently update their technology or initiatives to develop new goods.

Scrumban: Choosing Both

Scrumban is a hybrid approach that combines Scrum and Kanban. Scrumban combines Kanban visualization tools with Scrum methods. For teams who are already experienced with either Scrum or Kanban, Scrumban can be an excellent approach to integrate the other into their workflow.

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


Scrum Companies - Scrum vs Kanban


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.  


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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About the Author


Simplilearn is one of the world’s leading providers of online training for Digital Marketing, Cloud Computing, Project Management, Data Science, IT, Software Development, and many other emerging technologies.

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