Kanban vs Scrum – find out what are the differences between them
Two predominants often come to the fore in the quest to streamline software development processes: Kanban and Scrum. Both methods target enhancing efficiency and productivity, but they employ distinct strategies and frameworks. Grasping these nuances is crucial when choosing the best approach for your projects. This article will explore the fundamental differences between Kanban and Scrum in technical and practical aspects. By delving into their core principles, we'll guide you in making a choice that best aligns with your team's requirements. Let's unpack these methods to determine the right fit for you.
Agile is a cornerstone in project management and product development, representing values and principles that prioritise adaptability, customer satisfaction, and iterative progress. It is not a rigid methodology but rather an approach and an attitude that embraces flexibility and responsiveness to change. Within the Agile methods, Scrum and Kanban emerge as two distinctive frameworks, each with unique strategies and practices to manage and execute tasks and projects. Scrum provides a structured environment that divides work into time-boxed iterations called Sprints, focusing on delivering increments of valuable product. In contrast, Kanban, rooted in Lean principles, focuses on visualising work, limiting work in progress, and ensuring a smooth and continuous workflow. These frameworks are components of the broader Agile spectrum, embodying the Agile as well as Lean values and principles in their distinct ways, aiming to enhance productivity and the quality of delivery.
Scrum is a distinctive framework within Agile, operating on core values and principles that prioritise Commitment, Focus, Openness, Respect, and Courage. It is structured around fixed-length iterations known as Sprints, typically lasting two weeks, during which a potentially releasable product increment is developed. Within a Scrum team, defined roles (understood as set of accountabilities rather than positions) of the Scrum Master, Product Owner, and Developers play pivotal parts in ensuring the successful execution of product delivery. The Scrum Master fosters an environment conducive to productivity and resolving impediments, the Product Owner is accountable for maximising the value by managing the Product Backlog and clarifying the Scrum Team’s priorities, while the Developers focus on delivering high-quality work.
The Sprint in Scrum is regular and predictable, marked by events (formerly known as ceremonies) like Sprint Planning, Daily Scrum, Sprint Review, and Sprint Retrospective. These practices together with additional Agile techniques often used with Scrum, like velocity and burndown charts, ensure continuous improvement and adaptability.
Kanban originates in Lean Manufacturing, an approach aiming at minimising waste without sacrificing productivity, primarily developed in the Japanese automotive industry. Kanban is a Lean workflow management method for defining, managing, and improving services that deliver knowledge work. It helps to visualise work, maximise efficiency, and continuously improve. Teams are able to represent each piece of work on a Kanban board, allowing for a clear overview of work status, from to-do to done. Unlike Scrum, which operates in fixed iterations or Sprints, Kanban embraces a different cadence, emphasising continuous flow and flexibility, allowing teams to address work items as they come and swiftly adapt to changes.
The concept of continuous flow in Kanban means work moves through the system as smoothly as possible, with the team managing and limiting work in progress to avoid overcommitment and ensure optimal focus and efficiency. Kanban emphasises ongoing tasks and workflow, reflecting the real-time state of work items.
This understanding of Kanban offers a continuous flow of work and its visualisation. It enables organisations and individuals to decide judiciously between Scrum and Kanban based on their needs and work environment.
Direct Comparison: Scrum vs. Kanban
When dissecting the difference between Scrum and Kanban, it’s crucial to assess various elements, including their origins, principles, cadence, practices, roles, and metrics, to understand each uniqueness comprehensively.
- Scrum – Emerged from the software development industry, focusing on adaptability and iterative progress.
- Kanban – Rooted in Lean Manufacturing, primarily in the Japanese automotive industry, focusing on visualisation and waste reduction.
- Scrum – Advocates for structured, time-boxed iterations and fixed roles for quick inspection and adaptation.
- Kanban – Emphasises visualisation, continuous flow, and flexibility, allowing teams to manage work in real-time.
- Scrum – Operates in fixed-length Sprints of no more than one calendar month, with a predefined goal.
- Kanban – Advocates for a flexible approach with a continuous, uninterrupted flow of work.
- Scrum - Consists of the Scrum Team, Scrum Events, Scrum Artefacts, and the rules that bind them together. Includes many practices, and only allows to derive entirely from Scrum when implementing them. All of them can be found in the Scrum Guide.
- Kanban - There are six General Practices in the Kanban method and they focus on visualisation, limiting work in progress, managing flow, making policies explicit, implementing feedback loops, improving collaboratively, and evolving experimentally.
Scrum – Each Sprint consists of 4 mandatory meetings:
- Sprint Planning,
- Daily Scrum,
- Sprint Review,
- Sprint Retrospective.
Kanban – no meetings are prescribed, but there’s a bunch of suggested meeting that you could implement depending on needs and maturity of organisation:
- Kanban Meeting
- Replenishment Meeting
- Delivery Planning Meeting
- Service Delivery Review
- Operations Review
- Risk Review
- Strategy Review
- Scrum – Has defined roles of Scrum Master, Product Owner, and Developers.
- Kanban – Does not prescribe specific roles, offering more flexibility in team structure. Two optional roles exist: Service Delivery Manager and Service Request Manager.
- Scrum – There are no metrics prescribed in the framework. However, many teams decide to use some based on their needs. The most popular are velocity and burndown charts to track progress and productivity.
- Kanban – Employs statistical approach to managing workflow. A variety of different metrics and charts is in use with lead and cycle time metrics as the most important ones.
Understanding the nuanced difference between Kanban and Scrum in these aspects provides insight into their unique approaches. It helps make informed choices suited to varying project requirements and organisational cultures.
Adopting hybrid approaches that amalgamate Scrum and Kanban principles can be highly beneficial in the quest for optimal project management, product development, and service delivery. This fusion allows teams to leverage the structured environment and defined roles from Scrum while enjoying the flexibility and continuous flow intrinsic to Kanban. Thus, teams can draw from both methods’ strengths, customising their approach to align seamlessly with their unique needs, project demands, and organisational culture.
By visualising work and managing flow, while maintaining a regular, time-boxed cadence for reviews and adaptability, teams can ensure a balanced amalgamation of control, flexibility, and responsiveness. Hybrid models allow to traverse fluidly between frameworks, making incremental adjustments to harmonise workflow and productivity. This approach empowers organisations and individuals to cultivate a dynamic and structured environment, fostering innovation and efficiency.
However, as everything, blending Scrum and Kanban can be done wrong. Especially, if Kanban is limited to a simple task board without principles and practices that the method consists. Optimal usage of Scrum with Kanban is applying the latter on the level of the Product Backlog in Scrum.
When selecting a suitable framework, teams must assess whether Scrum, Kanban or a hybrid approach aligns best with their project requirements and operational structure. Here is a user-friendly breakdown to help decide the optimal fit:
Consider Your Team's Needs
- Nature of work
- Project complexity i.e. uncertainty or risks related to what and how to deliver
- Desired level of flexibility within structures
Opt for Scrum When
- You work in a complex environment, you solve a complex problem
- You seek for a quick possibility to evaluate the delivered product or its features
- You can define clear vision, but the expectations, scope, and deliverables change over time
- You aim to pursue Scrum Master certification or Scrum Product Owner certification
A Scrum is ideal for projects with a certain level of uncertainty, such as changing requirements, market competition, or difficult technology.
Choose Kanban When
- Your work requires continuous delivery and real-time management
- What you do is service delivery rather than product development
- Flexibility is a critical factor for you, especially for ongoing, evolving tasks with fluctuating priorities
- Kanban certification aligns with your professional development goals
Kanban is optimal for tasks requiring continual adjustment and adaptability.
Explore a Hybrid Approach When
- You’ve already achieved an advanced or expert level of usage of one of the methods, and want to make it even better by adding another one
- Drawing from the structured cadence of Scrum and the continuous, flexible flow of Kanban is beneficial
- You desire a balanced framework to navigate diverse project landscapes
A hybrid approach is ideal for those who value both structure and flexibility in their projects.
Tools for Implementation
To actualise the principles and practices of Scrum and Kanban effectively, employing adept software tools is crucial. We are far away from recommending any tools as we are sure there is no one ideal application. But there is a few of tools worth mentioning.
Jira emerges as a versatile tool that caters exceptionally to both these frameworks, enabling teams to manage and visualise their work precisely and clearly. It provides a comprehensive platform where tasks can be created, assigned, tracked, and resolved, ensuring a seamless flow and transparent oversight of project progress.
Moreover, tools like Jira or Businessmap (formerly Kanbanize) are not just facilitators; they are integral components that shape and are shaped by the methodologies they serve, reflecting the values and practices inherent in them. They play a pivotal role in implementing the chosen framework or method effectively, be it Scrum, Kanban, or a hybrid approach, by offering customisable features and interfaces tailored to specific needs and preferences. Selecting the right tool is paramount in reinforcing the principles and ensuring the smooth execution of tasks or work, contributing significantly to the project’s success.
In concluding the exploration of ‘Kanban vs. Scrum’, it’s pivotal to acknowledge that both frameworks, emanating from the Agile spectrum, offer unique approaches to product development. Scrum is more structured, iterating through time-boxed Sprints with defined roles, fostering regularity and adaptability, ideal for projects with clear objectives and deliverables. Conversely, Kanban offers a continuous and flexible flow, visualising work and optimising efficiency, ideal for ongoing tasks with variable priorities.
While Scrum and Kanban have distinct approaches, principles and practices, they aim to enhance product/work delivery quality and align development processes with customer needs and organisational goals. Incorporating tools can significantly streamline the implementation of these frameworks or methods, allowing for customisation and efficient management of work or value.
The Kanban method seems to be simpler and easier to implement at first glance, but that’s very misleading. Indeed, Kanban prescribes less than Scrum, but because of that it requires way more discipline and self-awareness of the team.
Experimentation and reflection are vital in choosing the suitable framework, Scrum, Kanban, or a hybrid approach. Thus, organisations and individuals are encouraged to explore, adapt, and find the best fit that aligns with their unique needs, preferences, and work environments.