Curious about the differences between Kanban and Scrum project management?
Scrum and Kanban are used by all the badasses of the Agile software development world.
And let’s face it!
Asking a question like ‘Scrum or Kanban?’ is like asking, ‘Do you want Pepsi or Coke?’
There is no single right answer!
Millions would rather visit their dentist than drink Pepsi and the same goes for Coke! Similarly, some may prefer Scrum vs. Kanban.
But just like Pepsi and Coke, there are a few differences between Scrum and Kanban that make them unique management methods!
In this article, we’ll dive into all about Kanban and Scrum, their differences, and the best Agile project management software to manage both.
This Article Contains:
(Click on the links to jump to a specific section)
- What is Kanban?
- What is Scrum?
- What are the differences between Kanban and Scrum?
- Which Agile framework should you choose – Scrum or Kanban?
- The best project management tool for Scrum and Kanban
A quick overview of Agile project management
Before we compare Kanban vs Scrum, you need to know about the big daddy of them all: the methodology called Agile!
Just like Pepsi and Coke are both sodas, Scrum and Kanban are both Agile management methods.
In fact, there are tons of Agile methods out there – Scrum, Lean Kanban, Scrumban, XP – the list goes on!
But wait….what is Agile?
Agile is a software development methodology where you break your project down into smaller development cycles that last 2-4 weeks.
This way, you present versions of your software with every cycle and get your customer’s feedback on it. You then incorporate their feedback before moving on to the next cycle!
Through these principles, you can actively involve your customers in the development process to give them a product that actually makes them go…
Agile software developers use the Agile manifesto (a set of Agile principles) as a guide for their software development practices.
Now, let’s get started!
What is Kanban?
Kanban is a visual-first method to manage the Agile software development process.
In the Kanban method, your project tasks are visualized as sticky notes or Kanban cards on a Kanban board. You then move these cards around as your project progresses to keep up with them.
If you think about it, using the Kanban method is like using a crystal ball!
You get a glimpse of what tasks your team is working on in real-time. You can predict potential bottlenecks, and also deal with them before they cause any disruptions in the future!
How do teams use the Kanban framework?
Kanban project management is super easy to implement.
Maybe even easier than opening a bottle of Coke!
Generally, the Kanban board is divided into three columns. Each column represents the status of a task:
To do: Tasks that need to be worked upon
Work in progress (WIP): Tasks that are being worked on
Done: Tasks which have been completed and reviewed
Here’s how you can manage your tasks with Kanban:
When a task is added to the board, it starts off in the far left column titled ‘To do.’
As soon as someone works on the task, the Kanban card is moved to the ‘WIP’ column.
When the task is completed, it is shifted to the last column titled ‘Done.’
There’s one thing you should know before using Kanban methodology:
Your team can’t stuff as many tasks as they want in the ‘Work in progress’ column indefinitely. The project manager limits the number of tasks that can be in WIP at the same time.
But why is this?
It helps reduce the time taken to get an individual task from start to finish. And it also prevents your team from multitasking – which can reduce their productivity!
Benefits of using the Kanban process
Want to crank up your team’s productivity up to eleven?
Then you’ll fall in love with Kanban project management!
Here’s how Kanban can transform your team:
- Super informative: Team members know what they need to do at all times
- Increases accountability: You can see which team members are responsible for certain tasks
- Reduces bottlenecks: Teams can see what tasks are slowing down the team’s progress, and find ways to quicken the process
What is Scrum?
The term Scrum was coined by Hirotaka Takeuchi and Ikujiro Nonaka, who made an analogy comparing a high-performing team to the scrum formation used by rugby players.
But don’t worry, Scrum isn’t going to make you charge head-first into someone and wake up the next day with a nasty headache!
Scrum is a process that helps Agile software development teams streamline their product development processes. Similar to how the assembly line transformed the automobile industry, the Scrum methodology supercharged the software development process!
Before Scrum, creating software took months and even years! Long enough for you to grow this…
Now with Scrum project management, software developers can craft a piece of software in just 2-4 weeks!
It uses the same cyclical approach as Agile project management with each of these cycles known as sprints. And with every sprint, Scrum teams deliver a new version of software to their customers.
How do teams use the Scrum framework?
The Scrum framework is a bit complex, and if you want the full scoop, check out our post about Scrum project management.
But don’t worry, here’s the condensed “Diet” version of what Scrum’s all about:
In the sprint planning phase, teams agree on what product backlog items they want to work on. The product backlog is a list of tasks, bug fixes, user feedback that a team needs to work on to complete the project.
Just like adding tasks to the Kanban board, the team adds the product backlog items on a Scrum board.
Teams host Scrum meetings known as daily Scrum standups, to discuss their progress and the issues they’ve faced.
Once the sprint ends, the team showcases the product to the users at the sprint review meeting.
The Scrum team then hosts a sprint retrospective, where they discuss ways to improve their next Scrum sprint performance.
The Scrum team then starts on the next sprint until the entire development process is complete!
Benefits of using the Scrum process
Want to excite your customers with speedy product development?
Then, Scrum project management is the way!
Here are some other benefits of using Scrum:
- High customer satisfaction: As customers are actively involved in product development, the software is tailor-made for them
- Increased collaboration: As Scrum teams are so small and tightly-knit, they have to communicate effectively, and take ownership of their work
- Reduced costs: By delivering the product earlier, teams save up on time and money. Additionally, as you can make changes quickly, it reduces the need for any additional resources to cope with changing demands
- Increased ROI: The faster the product goes to market, the sooner your team earns the revenue
What are the differences between Kanban and Scrum?
You don’t need Gordon Ramsey’s taste buds to tell the difference between Pepsi and Coke.
Similarly, Kanban and Scrum might share a few similarities on the surface, but you’ll spot the differences when you dig deeper.
Let’s take a deep dive into the differences between the two:
A. Differences in methodology
Scrum is all about careful planning and organization!
During the sprint planning phase, Scrum teams decide what tasks to work on in the next sprint. They then stick to the premade sprint backlog for the duration of the sprint.
If any new tasks come up mid-sprint, Scrum teams don’t work on them immediately. Instead, they shift these tasks to the next sprint.
The Kanban method is great when you want to go with the flow.
As Kanban software development teams are not limited by sprints, software updates are released whenever they are ready.
If any new tasks are added to the product backlog, Kanban teams can work on these backlog items immediately, instead of waiting for 2-4 weeks!
B. Differences between their teams
Scrum team roles and responsibilities
In a Scrum, cross-functional teams work together to create a software product.
Wait, what’s a cross-functional team?
It’s a group of people from different departments of the company – marketing, sales, product development, etc. Think Avengers!
A team that follows the Scrum methodology is a Scrum team.
For the Scrum process to work, there are three key roles in a Scrum team:
1. Product owner
The product owner is responsible for creating a vision for the final software. The product owner not only presents the product to the customer, but they also relay their feedback back to the team.
You know, like Tony Stark.
2. Scrum master
Their role is Scrum’s version of a project manager! Like Captain America.
They ensure that the team is working together efficiently. They also ensure that the Scrum team is following the principles of Scrum development accurately. To become certified Scrum masters, developers need to take up a CSM (Certified Scrum Master) course.
3. Software development team
It’s a small group of employees with a variety of skills like Hulk and Black Widow. Ideally, the team has around 5 – 9 members, including designers, coders, and writers. They work together to complete all the tasks in the sprint backlog.
Kanban team roles and responsibilities
You don’t have to be an Agile development professional to use a Kanban board!
While the Scrum process is geared towards complex software development, Kanban project management principles can be used by everyone!
That’s why Kanban software development teams don’t have to be cross-functional.
Think of them as Jedi knights – not as diverse as the Avengers, but equally cool!
Individual departments can even use a private Kanban software to manage their own tasks.
Additionally, any experienced team member can play the role of a Kanban project manager. Their duty is to share responsibilities within the team and ensure that everyone is working on a task.
C. Differences between their work schedule
Scrum work schedule
For the Scrum team, time is money…literally!
Folks like Newman aren’t too bothered about when the mail reaches you!
But Scrum teams have to follow a tight schedule. They have to work on backlog items that need to be completed by the end of a sprint. At the end of the sprint, the Scrum team creates a working model of the software, which is then shipped to the client.
Kanban work schedule
The Kanban schedule is more flexible.
There are no sacrosanct deadlines for a team that follows the Kanban approach. Teams continually work on tasks mentioned on the Kanban cards. The engineering team continues this process until all the Kanban board tasks are completed.
D. Differences between their metrics
How do Scrum teams measure their productivity?
One word – velocity.
However, before we explain velocity, we need to understand a few key terms:
- User stories: It’s a description of a software feature that the user requires. To complete a user story, the Scrum team works on the feature until it’s developed
- Story points: It’s a measure of the amount of effort taken to complete one user story
Velocity is the number of story points completed in a sprint.
Basically, it’s the amount of work a team can handle in a sprint.
Velocity charts visualize the team’s velocity over multiple sprints.
It prevents teams from overcommitting to a project. This, in turn, prevents the team from attempting too much and falling short!
Kanban Key metrics
Jedis don’t use hammers or shields, right?
Similarly, the Kanban method requires a completely different set of metrics.
They use cycle time and lead time to measure productivity.
- Lead time is the time period between creating a user story and developing the relevant feature
- Cycle time is the exact time taken to complete a user story
And what Kanban tools are used to measure these units?
Teams use a Kanban project management tool called a Cumulative Flow Diagram (CFD).
The CFD gives teams a birds-eye view of the workflow. It helps the project manager visualize:
- The project’s progress
- Task statuses (‘to do’, ‘work in progress’, ‘done’)
- Total backlog items
- Bottlenecks that are affecting the team’s progress
E. Difference in their boards
A Scrum board is populated with tasks that need to be completed in a single sprint. As team members complete tasks, they are moved to the ‘completed’ column.
The moment the sprint ends, the board gets a total reset.
Sort of like what Coke did with “New Coke” in the 1980s – except this won’t be a disaster!
Old sprint tasks are cleared, and new sprint backlog tasks are added to the Scrum board by the Scrum master.
Like the Scrum board, Kanban board tasks are moved to their respective columns as the project progresses.
But there is one crucial difference:
Kanban boards have a limit on the number of tasks that are allowed to be in each column simultaneously.
It prevents the team from taking up too many tasks at any given time. It also prevents project managers from overloading the team by adding a lot of tasks in the ‘to-do’ column.
Another difference is that there is no need to reset the Kanban boards. The tasks will continue to flow, as the project continues.
Which Agile framework should you choose – Scrum or Kanban?
So which project management methodology is right for you?
Both Kanban and Scrum are brilliant Agile project management methods, their principles and workflows serve two different purposes.
Luckily, unlike choosing between Coke and Pepsi, there’s a clear selection criteria here.
When looking at Kanban vs Scrum frameworks, you need to think of:
- Project planning – Does the project require a lot of planning, or can it be improvised?
- Project size – Is the product backlog small or huge?
- Project costs – Is the client’s product development budget, small or large?
- Your team’s capability – Is your team experienced or new to Agile?
- Your team’s structure – Do you have cross-functional teams or regular teams?
When comparing Scrum vs Kanban, Scrum is best for…
- Projects that require a lot of planning
- Projects with a large product backlog
- Quicker projects
- Experienced Agile teams that can get the job done quickly
- Cross-functional teams with different skill sets
When comparing Kanban vs Scrum, Kanban is best for…
- Projects that are flexible and short-term
- Projects with a smaller backlog
- Projects with changing requirements and variable costs
- Agile teams who need time to adjust to the framework
The best way to manage Scrum or Kanban projects
The choice of Scrum or Kanban depends on your team and the nature of the project.
For creating Agile software from the ground up – stick with Scrum.
For small software fixes – it’s Kanban all the way.
But simply using a management method isn’t going to help you get any work done.
You need the right tool to help you carry out your tasks!
Luckily, there’s no need to buy separate Scrum and Kanban tools.
Just get a project management software like ClickUp that can handle both!
The best project management tool for Scrum and Kanban: ClickUp
ClickUp’s Board view is the perfect project management interface for you. It doesn’t matter if you’re using Scrum or Kanban – it’s going to help you manage everything!
What’s ClickUp’s Board view?
This view lets you visualize your tasks and projects as an interactive Scrum or Kanban board.
Here are the features that make the Board view a no-brainer for teams that use the Agile approach:
1. Drag and drop feature with a twist!
When you use a physical board, you pick up Scrum or Kanban cards and place them in the relevant status column. ClickUp’s board view was crafted to give you the same fun as using a physical board – but with way more punch!
Once a task is done, simply drag and drop the cards to any column. This makes it incredibly easy to update your Scrumban board.
When you shift your tasks to another column, it automatically changes the task status!
2. Craft your very own task statuses
Task statuses within the board prevent you from being that guy who’s always asking “are we there yet?”
You can change the status of a task just by dragging and dropping them into a relevant column. However, you don’t have to use the same boring status names for every project!
Based on your workflow, you can craft as many statuses as you want. You can even save these statuses as a template for future use.
3. Use Sort and Filter functions to categorize tasks in a snap
Want to look at a specific subset of tasks?
ClickUp allows you to organize your tasks based on their status, task name, priority, and more!
Here are some of the filters your software development team can use:
- Status – View only tasks within a particular status
- Due date – Identify tasks that need to be completed in the near future
- Priorities – Identify the tasks that need your team’s attention
This way, you can quickly sort and find the tasks you want in seconds! Even faster than Adrian Monk!
However, Scrum and Kanban boards are not the only thing ClickUp gives you!
You can build your own custom Dashboards to manage your projects. It’s like sitting behind the controls of your spaceship!
What are ClickUp Dashboards?
Dashboards have tons of widgets to give you insights into tasks, sprints, teams, and more!
Let’s take a quick look at some of the widgets you can add:
You can’t use the Kanban method without using a Cumulative Flow Diagram!
It’s like drinking Coke or Pepsi without the fizz!
ClickUp’s Cumulative flow diagram makes it super easy to visualize and track project’s progress over a period of time.
And the best part about this widget?
The diagram is colour-coded based on the task’s status!
Velocity charts determine the speed at which your team is completing the backlog items.
ClickUp’s velocity charts are also super easy to understand. This makes them easy to share with stakeholders to give them an idea of your team’s performance.
In ClickUp’s velocity chart, tasks are broken down into weekly and monthly intervals. You can also see the team’s average velocity at all times.
Want to motivate your Scrum or Kanban team?
Show them the burn-up chart!
It helps them see what they’ve already achieved to push them to finish the job.
ClickUp’s burn-up charts are also color-coded:
- Green line: represents number of tasks completed
- Gray line: represents total number of tasks
Burndown charts highlight the amount of work remaining in a project.
ClickUp’s burndown charts come with a project progress line.
This yellow dotted line highlights what your project’s progress would like if your team continues working at the same pace. This will help you determine if you’ll be able to finish your product backlog before the deadline.
But wait, there’s more!
ClickUp has other great Agile project management features like:
- Multiple views: to suit your project management preferences
- Gantt charts: to keep track of your project’s progress
- Sprint lists: to manage your sprints
- Comment sections: to collaborate with your team
- Docs: to create detailed resources of company and project data
Pepsi and Coke may share similar ingredients – but they’re their own thing.
Similarly, Scrum and Kanban may be based on Agile, but they’re quite different.
And just like Coke and Pepsi, you have tons of people swearing by them!
While Scrum is great for developing software in a short period of time, Kanban is suited for teams that want to streamline workflows.
However, there’s one key thing tying Scrum and Kanban together.
It doesn’t matter if you use Scrum or Kanban, you’ll still need the right Agile project management tool.
Luckily, ClickUp has all the features you need to handle both the Agile Scrum and Kanban approach, so why not try ClickUp for free today?
Erica is ClickUp’s Senior Content Manager and professional beach bum. She spends her days creating emails, blogs, landing pages, and more to help people increase their productivity so they can save one day every week to do more of what they love.