Kanban vs Scrum Board: What’s the Difference & Which Is Best?

Thursday, September 30, 2021
Michael Scheiner
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Introduction

Kanban and Scrum are two agile project management methodologies. They help teams organize themselves through smooth workflows to get things done efficiently. 

Before you understand the difference between Kanban and Scrum, you should know what agile means.

What is an agile methodology?

Agile is a system of product development that "rolls with the punches" so to speak. It allows team members to break down big goals into tasks and work on things as they are needed. 

If a problem arises or a new task needs to be made a top priority, no problem. All the moving parts are easy to shift to meet challenges as they pop up. If something isn't ready to be done, you grab the next task that is ready. Simple as that. 

Contrast the agile development process with the “waterfall” model. Waterfalls see huge goals first divided up into big stages. Before a team can move on to the next stage, every task in the current one must be completed. Totally different from the agile method, where people rarely need to sit on their hands waiting for something to do.

The agile method owes its origins to Toyota. Before Toyota, production followed the Ford method. Fordism meant big planning, big inventories, and all hands always on deck. The Toyota method emphasized lean production. Keep only what materials and staff you need on hand now, and outsource where you can. 

The important thing was to tackle one set of tasks at a time to get your results and use that feedback to plan ahead. The origins of Kanban also can be traced back to the Toyota system.

So if you've been looking up Agile Scrum Kanban to find out which is best for you, this is the right place. We hope it helps you find the best Kanban software or the right Scrum platform for your team.

Which is better Scrum board or Kanban board?

Kanban vs Scrum, what’s the verdict on the victor? Both Scrum and Kanban are agile methodologies for project management. In brief, Scrum is better when you need to deliver regular results and review them before proceeding. Kanban is better when tasks can be completed with more freedom. And when there is less need to produce frequent deliverables.

When it comes to comparing the Scrum methodology from the Kanban method, it really isn't about which one is better. The important thing is to know what your needs are, and how your team members function best.

What kind of teams use Kanban

The Kanban method is best for teams who need less structure to work. This is more normal with small teams who have good communication. But it can be larger teams too. 

Tasks on a Kanban board can often be done independently of one another. Kanban users are more self-organizing and need less guidance. Project managers get to be more hands-off with Kanban boards, though it's still great for snapshot overviews.

A Kanban team works better with more flexible timeframes and deadlines. It's a smooth fluid way of getting tasks and projects through stages of completion. Another way Kanban is better is if you make a lot of changes in projects midway. Same goes for if you often need to change the prioritization. Finally, a Kanban is best for teams who don't need to provide clients with regular deliverables.  

Any kind of team, department or company could use Kanban, from sales, marketing to customer support.

What kind of teams use Scrum

Scrum teams, on the other hand, work best under more structure. Teams that are larger or that communicate less could benefit from Scrum. But size isn't the main thing. Often when you use Scrum, a task depends on other tasks being done at the same time. And yet, within the domain of a single task, each Scrum user is often totally autonomous.

Scrum also gives project managers more vision and control over work in progress, as well as quick general pictures of the entire flow of work.

Scrum is very time-sensitive. It is meant for users to complete groups of tasks in short periods, like one or two weeks. Often these short bursts of grouped tasks are called Sprints. Sprint planning is big in Scrum, and this means it's harder for plans to change.

Scrum methods can be used by anyone although they are most common for software developers. 

Finally, when working closely with clients who expect regular deliverables, Scrum will help here more than Kanban. 

So in the end, both are great options for agile teams. It just depends on the specific agile framework to know if Kanban is better than Scrum.   

What is the difference between Scrum and Kanban?

The difference that comes up in Scrum vs Kanban is structural. Kanban is a less rigid project management system where team members have more independence in doing tasks. Scrum, on the other hand, is more focused on completing set tasks in quick time frames and requires more structure and regular communication. 

Read on to see a comparison of features and functionality in the big Scrum versus Kanban discussion.

Kanban vs Scrum board comparison

The board

A Kanban board and a Scrum board have similar functionalities. Both are both based on the idea of a project management board which is very simple. 

It's a series of columns, each representing a stage in your workflow. The far left column is often "to do" or where your backlog sits. Tasks are put onto cards. As someone completes a stage of their task, they move it to the next column. For example, a Kanban for a blog might move the task "article about agile development" from the column "write it" to "edit it."

One thing about a Kanban board is that you can also create swimlanes. These are horizontal lines cutting across the flow of work stages to show different kinds of projects, clients, or departments. It's a good tool for cross-functional teams.

The timeframes

Scrum is more specific with time frames. The groups of tasks, which are called Sprints, are normally one or two weeks. It is difficult to deviate from a Sprint plan. This is part of its iterative strategy. This consists of a feedback system for every completed Sprint for continuous improvement in the next round.

Kanban timeframes are more open and relaxed. Of course, deadlines can be used in Kanban too, and you can get notifications when a task is due. But Kanban timeframes are more flexible because they may represent different roles. A writer, for example, works at a different pace than a graphic designer.

The deliveries

Scrum is structured to have some iteration of a product, like a code, with the completion of every Sprint. This can either be delivered to a customer or be used for the next Sprint.

With Kanban, deliverables are more fluid. Because different people have different roles within a bigger project, everyone works toward some shared general deadline. But the tasks are often done at each team member's own pace.

The ceremonies

The Scrum process has many procedures, or ceremonies. For example, the main one is the daily Scrum. Also called daily stand-ups, the Scrum team gets together quickly in the morning to say what they did yesterday, what they're doing today, and if they see any problems. Other Scrum meetings include Sprint planning; a Sprint review at the end of each Sprint; Sprint retrospective meetings; and Sprint Backlog discussion meetings to discuss product backlog.

Teams that use Kanban depend much less on procedures and ceremonies. A stand-up or any sort of daily meeting can be common among Kanban teams. But it's not vital to the Kanban method.

The roles

There are different categories of roles in Scrum. The Scrum Master is the expert at the Scrum framework. The Scrum Master makes sure everyone knows their tasks in the project. The Product Owner plans the project, breaks down everything to do, and prioritizes them with deadlines. The Development Team is the third role. They are the individuals who do the tasks and complete the project. Finally, there are the Stakeholders who are not involved in the project. They are third parties who are interested in the outcome, like clients.

Kanban doesn't use roles as much as Scrum. Often project managers work with their teams to discuss the amount of work to be done and the amount of time needed. A project manager is also useful for rearranging and reprioritizing tasks if problems arise. 

The metrics

Scrum uses lots of metrics. Some of these include Sprint goals, which measure why the goal is important, how to reach it, and how to know if it was a success. There could be metrics for problems solved, which measures responses to defects or plan derailment. Then there is team velocity metrics, which look at how many Sprints were completed in a timeframe. This is often used to plan the next Sprint. 

Kanban also has its own metrics. It's useful for measuring and judging the difference between lead time and cycle time. Lead time is the time from the point of view of the customer, from making the order to receiving it. Cycle time is the time it takes to do all the work. Kanban also uses work in progress metrics (WiP). This is good for spotting bottlenecks, or WiP limits, to prevent work piling up in one stage or with one person. 

Overall agility

Scrum is very agile because the tasks are carefully divided up and planned. Because of the very short timeframes, you're always coming to the end of one Sprint and can retool for another. The only thing is, it is always hard to make any kind of changes during a Sprint.

The Kanban style of agility is less rigid. Changes can happen easily and often. Tasks can be swapped, bumped, delayed, and edited with much more ease. Kanban teams are much less locked into the tight machine of a Scrum team.

Can you combine Scrum with Kanban?

You can indeed combine Scrum with Kanban. It's called, cleverly enough, Scrumban. It's a project management methodology mostly used in software development. It uses a Kanban board to imagine stages of all the work items of a project. These are user stories that depict a feature from the end user's point of view. 

You set work in progress limits and deadlines like you would in Kanban. But you keep the iteration periods short. These are the series of Sprints within a time period, just like in Scrum. There are also to-do limits you can set. Finally, Scrumban doesn't assign roles to team members, and often they pick their own work items from the to-do list. Project managers are more hands-off this way.

Final Points

The key takeaways here are that both Kanban and Scrum workflow methodologies are great ways to manage tasks and teams. Being both based on agile techniques, they're considered an upgrade from older Fordist ways of doing things. So now the question of which is best.

For software development, where the product is code, Scrum is the more common choice. Kanban is simpler for all kinds of teams, from sales to marketing. Also, if you need to regularly deliver the goods, Scrum is more efficient. Kanban is great when there's more freedom in terms of handing in work.

Of course, there's no stopping managers from tinkering with these project management tools. Scrumban is a good example of a system with advanced features from both methods. But many Kanban and Scrum software are customizable.

From a tight indie team of hard core coders, to a long-term office-wide multi-departmental project, agile project management defines the current rules for everyone out there playing the game. To keep up, you've got to figure out, are you a Kanban or a Scrum kind of team? We hope this article will help you answer that question.    

 

FAQs

When to use Kanban vs Scrum

Kanban and Scrum both use agile methodologies for project management. It's better to use Scrum when you need to produce regular results and review them before beginning a new iteration. Kanban is more commonly used when people can complete tasks at their own pace.

Does Kanban team have Scrum Master?

Kanban teams do not have a Scrum Master. Kanban is a simpler platform than Scrum, which allows for more freedom and independence for those doing tasks. A Scrum Master is necessary to manage all the tasks, sprints, iterations, and user stories for a team using Scrum methods. 

Is Jira a Scrum or Kanban?

The Jira Kanban vs Scrum debate is always lively. Jira is primarily a Scrum software, but it has a Kanban feature too. Jira is made by Atlassian, which also makes Trello, a popular Kanban SaaS. Jira Software is geared toward issue and project tracking for software development. There is a whole range of different Jira tools from Atlassian. 

Can Kanban and Scrum work together?

Yes. Kanban and Scrum can work together. Scrumban is a system developed with characteristics of Kanban and Scrum. It combines the short timeframes for deliverables from Scrum with WiP limits from Kanban. You can also customize many Scrum and Kanban software to use elements of both.

What is the equivalent of Scrum Master in Kanban?

There is no equivalent of a Scrum Master in Kanban. People using Kanban may have some sort of daily or weekly meeting to discuss the Kanban board, and a project manager may lead this. Otherwise, teams can appoint a workflow manager to organize the board and avoid hitting WiP limits.

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