Scrum vs. Kanban

What is the Difference Between Scrum and Kanban?

The Agile methodology de facto now in software development. It offers an effective means of managing projects and products. It promotes continuous iteration and fast response to changes. True to the sprint of agility however, there are many ways in which companies implement Agile. The most popular, however, are Scrum and Kanban. What do they entail and how do they differ from each other?

Scrum Overview

Scrum is an Agile framework for managing projects and building in a piecemeal fashion. It entails a set of values, practices, and principles that enable teams to develop, deliver, and sustain intricate products.

In Scrum, the work to do is broken down into smaller bits or time-boxes known as sprints. The product owner or manager describes product or project backlog items that are worth working on at the beginning. Next, the Scrum team decides the sprint goal, produces the sprint backlog, and determines what amounts to task completion.

Initially, the framework was synonymous with the software industry, but it has now also found usefulness in several other fields. The team creates a product or feature, ship, gather feedback, and use that feedback for the next sprint in an iterative process.

Kanban Overview

Kanban is a Lean method for managing workflow with a high emphasis on visualization. It helps teams to visualize and manage work as it progresses through a process. The word is Japanese for “signboard” or “visual signal.”

Like the Lean methodology, Kanban is credited to Toyota. It was specifically developed by the automaker’s industrial engineer Taiichi Ohno to promote efficiency and aid just-in-time (JIT) manufacturing process. This Agile framework enables a team to continuously improve the flow of work. It involves constant monitoring and feedback gathering to reduce delays in the workflow.

At the heart of this Lean method is the Kanban board. This is inspired by the cards that were used for tracking production in Toyota’s factory. It shows the various stages of a process. In its basic form, this board has three columns: To Do, In Progress, and Done.

How Do They Differ?

While Scrum and Kanban are Agile approaches, they are different in several respects. Let’s consider some of these.

Development cycle

Scrum and Kanban teams differ in terms of how they approach developments or cadence.

In Scrum, things are done fast using sprints with defined dates and usually lasting 1-4 weeks. Breaking work into chunks makes it easier to tackle daunting projects and enables teams to learn quickly. There are no start and end dates in Kanban. You simply work with the board showing the flow of work from one stage to another. Your work is done only when you are done with what is in hand.


As a result of working in sprints, Scrum teams must find a way to determine what’s more important to work on. The shortness of time means you need to have to make the most of it, so you order tasks. Kanban lacks such time-imposed prioritizations. Yes, it is encouraged to limit the number of tasks “In Progress,” but that’s not primarily because of time restrictions.

Release style

In Scrum, releases are usually made at the end of each sprint. A review meeting would be needed before the work is released.

Kanban doesn’t have a fixed time for releasing updates. They are made available as they become ready. There is no set schedule or due dates to keep to and no need for a review before release.


There are three roles in Scrum teams at the minimum, namely: product owner, Scrum Master, and the development team. An Agile coach may also be among the other people you may need to bring on board.

For Kanban, on the other hand, there are almost no special roles, although an Agile coach may be recruited. What is only needed is to make a decision on who “owns” the Kanban board. The entire team is the owner of the board in many cases.

Change philosophy

Scrum teams always try to limit changes to an agreed sprint. Once a sprint is on, no more changes will be allowed. Any new feedback is used for planning the next sprint.

There is no such limitation in Kanban. The workflow can be altered at any time based on new developments making that necessary. New items can be added to the backlog while cards can be removed and replaced.

Key metrics

In terms of how development progress is measured, Scrum depends greatly on velocity. This gives an idea of how many story points in a sprint are completed. The observed average velocity guides the ideal number of story points for future sprints.

Kanban relies on the lead and cycle times for assessing development work. These give an idea of how long it takes to complete tasks and projects. Another useful tool is the Cumulative Flow Diagram (CFD).

Useful Tools

Both Scrum and Kanban aims at promoting optimal resource use and boosting productivity. This article isn’t about telling you which one is better – you decide the one that works for you. Some organizations incorporate the elements of one into the other.

Regardless of which Agile approach you adopt, there are tools available to help you get the best results. For example, there’s Jira if you are going for Scrum and Trello if choosing Kanban. These integrate well into other tools for creating product roadmaps, which are still relevant for either framework.

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