What is Scrum? A quick look

Scrum is an iterative process through which you work on small chunks of your work for set periods of time. These timeboxes, called sprints, should result in a functioning piece of software, no matter how small it is. The team estimates how much it can take on in the next sprint, and then once the sprint begins, they aren't allowed to add any new requirements. Scrum teams follow an inspect-and-adapt approach. This means they improve continuously, taking lessons from their previous sprints.

Roles in Scrum

There are three roles in a Scrum team. A Scrum Master, Product Owner, and the development team. A Scrum Master acts as the agile coach for the team and also bridges the gap between the development team and the Product Owner. They are responsible of getting rid of any impediments the team may face. The Product Owner is a key stakeholder who has a vision for the product. They must have a sound understanding of the market, the end user, and the business. The development team is made up of all the developers who work on the product.

The Scrum process

It all starts with the "backlog," a list of specifications from the client or end users. Using input from all the stakeholders (anyone who has an interest in the results of your project), all the requirements are entered into the backlog as user stories. Each story is then broken down into tasks required to achieve the goal. These tasks are then prioritized and their required efforts estimated to gauge how much can be taken on in the next sprint—a time period of two to four weeks. At the end of the sprint, you should have a working component. Whether it's a feature, an enhancement, or a UI revamp, it should be an independently functioning component.

Scrum places a lot of emphasis on face-to-face communication, so meetings are a vital part of the process. With team roles, meetings, and some rules, Scrum is a methodical process which promises frequent delivery and shorter time spent from production to the market.

If you're looking to dive deeper into Scrum, take a look at our pages and Scrum software.

Pros and cons of Scrum

The Scrum framework is a widely used agile framework for project management, and has its share of benefits and drawbacks. Let's examine some key pros and cons associated with using this framework.

Scrum promotes transparency by making the entire Scrum process, the team's progress, and priorities visible to the entire team and stakeholders.The framework highly depends on experienced and skilled Scrum team members.
The iterative nature of Scrum allows flexibility and adaptability to changes in requirements.The flexibility of Scrum can lead to scope creep due to its inherent adaptability.
Frequent iterations and regular feedback from stakeholders ensure the product aligns with customer expectations.Adopting Scrum for large projects can pose challenges.
The framework encourages continuous improvement through retrospectives, enabling the team to identify areas for enhancement and make adjustments in the next sprint.The time-boxed nature of sprints can lead to a focus on meeting deadlines rather than ensuring the highest quality.

What is Kanban? A quick look

Kanban is a system of visualizing work to be done and limiting the work in progress to achieve higher levels of productivity. It is based on the Japanese philosophy of Kaizen, the idea that small continual changes result in a substantial improvement over time. Kanban's work-in-progress principle ensures teams don't get overburdened and focus is retained on the quality of the work.

A typical Kanban board consists of three columns, "To do," "Doing," and "Done." A Kanban card contains all the essential details of a work item like the title, description, and assignee. Each column on the board has a work-in-progress limit, depending on the team's capacity and the nature of their work.

Kanban teams believe in continual delivery. Since they don't work with time-boxes, the metric they use to monitor their rate of progress is the total time a work item takes to go from "To do" to "Done." This flow-based method works primarily to prevent capacity overload and to ensure quality.

If you find Kanban interesting, you can learn more about it on our page on the Kanban process.

Pros and cons of Kanban

A Kanban framework is great for handling continuous projects, offering visual agility. However, like any method, it comes with both advantages and disadvantages. Here's a quick overview of its key pros and cons.

A Kanban board is ideal for a stable work environment where there are no sudden changes or additions to an existing requirement.Timelines don't apply in a Kanban framework so time-boxed work items cannot be exactly measured using this system.
It is easy to set up and implement anywhere.Without effective work in progress (WIP) limits, there is a risk of inefficiency and congestion in the workflow.
Kanban frameworks can be used in different industries.A lack of formalized roles, like Scrum master and product manager, can impact planning and decision-making.
The use of visual boards provides a clear and real-time representation of work, making it easy for teams to understand and manage their tasks.The Kanban framework may not be suitable for teams that deliver work in defined iterations or phases.

How are Kanban and Scrum similar?

Both Kanban and Scrum are essentially agile frameworks. Though they have different practices, you'll find they revolve around the same principles, such as adapting to change, constantly improving, and optimizing the process. Both of these frameworks also emphasize transparency within the team.

Scrum Vs. Kanban: What are the differences?

While both frameworks are based on agile principles and have similarities, they also have very distinct differences. With ceremonies, artifacts, and time boxes, Scrum is a lot more prescriptive than Kanban.

  •   Scrum Kanban
  • Scheduling Teams work in timeboxes of 2-4 weeks called sprints. Teams don't have time restrictions. They take on work as and when they come, depending on their capacity.
  • Planning User stories are estimated and divided into smaller tasks at the start of the sprint. Just-in-time planning, instead of planning for a bigger time period.
  • Work Board The Scrum board is reset after each sprint. The number of tasks is decided before the start of the sprint. The team is not allowed to take on new items during the sprint. The Kanban board is one continuous board. Each status column on the Kanban board has a work-in-progress limit. The maximum number of work items in these columns cannot exceed this number.
  • Commitment Commitments are made based on previous sprints. Commitment is based on capacity. They only take up new work items if it's within their WIP limit.
  • Meetings Teams hold several types of mandatory meetings: sprint planningsdaily tand-ups, sprint reviews, and sprint retrospectives. No mandatory meetings
  • Roles Teams require three roles: Scrum master, Product Owner and the development team Recommended but not mandatory roles: Service Delivery Manager & Service Request Manager
  • Cadence Scrum provides a more structured framework that operates in fixed-length iterations called sprints, typically two to four weeks long. Kanban operates on a continuous flow basis without fixed iterations.
  • Metric Velocity is the key metric for the Scrum framework. WIP, lead time, and cycle time are the key metrics for the Kanban framework.
  • Change philosophy A Scrum team is not allowed to make any changes during an active sprint. Kanban allows teams to make changes at any time; tasks can be deprioritized or put on hold based on the requirement.

Which one should you choose, Scrum or Kanban?

Scrum and Kanban, both agile frameworks, offer effective solutions for managing projects within your team. It is crucial to understand which method or framework aligns best with your organization's philosophy and goals when selecting the most suitable one.

If your team prioritizes higher productivity and faster delivery in iterations, the Scrum framework is your optimal choice. This framework allows for greater flexibility to accommodate feedback and changing product requirements.

Kanban is a well-suited option for teams emphasizing continuous delivery over fixed-time delivery. It becomes particularly advantageous when handling smaller projects or overseeing ongoing projects with frequent, smaller tasks, such as bug fixes or enhancement requests.

Which one should you choose, Scrum or Kanban

When should you choose Scrum over Kanban?

When deciding between Scrum and Kanban, opt for the Scrum framework if:

  • The projects require systematic breakdown into manageable iterations.
  • Teams are engaged in tasks with fixed timeframes.
  • Constant feedback from stakeholders and ongoing improvements is crucial.
  • Your projects are prone to changes in scope over time.
  • Your team is seeking a structured framework with clearly defined roles and ceremonies.
  • The working environment requires transparency and visibility into project progress through artifacts such as the Product Backlog and Sprint Backlog.

When should you choose Kanban over Scrum?

When determining whether to opt for Kanban or Scrum, choose Kanban if:

  • Your team deals with a continuous flow of incoming tasks.
  • Fixed timeframes for tasks or iterations are not a prerequisite.
  • Your team requires a visual representation of work on a board, facilitating progress tracking and bottleneck identification.
  • Your team is flexible to accommodate shifting priorities and evolving requirements.

Looking for something in the middle? Scrumban could work for you

Each team is different in its own way. There are many factors which could decide the way a team works best: the nature of their work, their organizational culture, and the people they have in their team. While both these frameworks have proven to be effective in their own ways, there are several teams who wouldn't prefer either.

If neither Scrum nor Kanban is working for your team, Scrumban—which combines the structure of Scrum and the flexibility of Kanban—could be the right choice for you.

Something to keep in mind: it's an exercise in itself to figure out if a particular framework is working out for your team. If you're trying something out, make sure you stick with it for a few sprints or maybe a month, track your progress, and talk to your team members to learn about their experiences. It often takes time before you start to see the effect of some new practices or for your team to transition to a new way of working completely.

The framework you choose decides your team's practices, and those directly contribute to your team's productivity. Make sure you choose the right one.