Both belong to the family of agile project management methods. Their spiritus movens is an Agile manifesto – a kind of software development philosophy, from which the 12 principles of its creation emerged. Therefore, they are Agile implementation methods, and the most popular, according to research among organisations. There are both similarities and differences between them.
Both – Scrum and Kanban – are designed to allow for a fast, steady work pace that may adapt to customers’ changing needs. The differences are in the methods used to achieve the results. So not everyone fits every project and depends on its requirements.
The selection of the right method (also the terms structure or framework are used) is contextual and may result from specific factors, or, e.g.:
- it relates to product management or software development;
- setting a strict time horizon is important or is planning not a priority because it is subjected to the intended flexibility;
- its implementation is team-based, does each team member perform their tasks independently;
- the project’s essence is a constant pace of work and product development, or not.
When choosing a method, you can also use an empirical approach: try both to see which one is more effective, i.e. provides better transparency, allows you to streamline the process and adds business value.
Scrum is a trendy agile management method these days. It is used to build complex products, mainly software. Working with Scrum involves a series of iterations – cycles of 1–4 weeks (usually 2), called sprints, and daily “scrums” where the team reports on progress and obstacles. Such an organisation enables the team to iterate and deliver software on a regular basis, and its most crucial element is the implementation process.
The client’s vision must be thoroughly understood by the entire project team
For the company – the project contractor, it means that the entire project team must thoroughly understand the client’s vision. Then, from the level of individual work, the whole must reflect the idea. In practice, sharing a vision becomes an exercise in shaping it.
Setting work in sprints limits it in time, and disciplines it at the same time. To achieve the objective, the vision must be implemented in short steps and repeated quickly, with particular emphasis on work review.
Scrum allows you to explore new business or technological ideas, minimise the risk of experimenting with constant iterations, and create a useful product increment at the end of each of them. It works great where you need to maintain a steady pace of product development that cannot be planned in detail at the beginning.
When is Scrum used?
- its effect is a specific product;
- work can be predicted and planned;
- there is a defined vision and experimental goal of finding the right path;
- a project requires a limit of people and community to work in a team;
- it is easy to describe individual roles in a group where each person is responsible for the growth of the product;
- close cooperation and quick feedback is possible;
- it requires a work cycle divided into sprints, each of a fixed length, to set a rhythm.
Advantages of Scrum
- high predictability
- fast change and repair possible
- good cooperation on feedback
- team’s self-organisation
Disadvantages of Scrum
- imposes a strict structure
- excessive meetings
- variable budget
- generates workload
It resembles Scrum in many ways but is a lighter and more flexible process because it is less prescriptive and does not involve strict work planning. It is guided by project management focused on Lean principles. It is said to be not so much a method as a specific strategy for optimising your workflow.
The idea is to maintain a continuous flow of tasks so that each piece of work reaches the endpoint as quickly as possible by maximising team performance. At the same time, the team never gets more work than it can handle. It assumes changes in the course of operations by improving the capacity and measuring the time of implementation as well as by changing priorities.
Maintaining a continuous flow of tasks by maximizing the team’s efficiency
Through continuous improvement, it adapts better to change than other methods. It is, therefore, suitable for operational or service environments where priorities may change. Kanban’s work items are visually represented on a Kanban board so team members can see their work status at any time. In addition to building software, Kanban is well used in the world of HR, marketing, call centre or the legal department – wherever the order of work does not so much depend on the value in the product but is simply a queue of topics to be addressed.
When is Kanban used?
- is suppose to serve the processes better;
- it is not easy to identify a specific product;
- it is more difficult to predict the number of customers and what questions they will ask;
- it is not required to have a team that interacts with each other, because the work can be done individually, instead, only one person who takes care of the proper workflow;
- each team member is aware of the principles, process rules and guidelines of this method;
- it can be assumed that change can happen at any time;
- the execution of the to-do work can take place immediately after the previous one is completed.
Advantages of Kanban
- increased throughput
- improved communication
- high flexibility
- less waste
Disadvantages of Kanban
- can fall apart easily
- requires a continuous workflow
- no time limits
- you can skip a high priority job
Kanban board vs Scrum board
As you already know, planning in Scrum is about creating sprints and giving specific value to individual tasks. The team jointly sets priorities and assigns tasks to the appropriate sprints.
In Scrum, just like in Kanban, you can also create boards. They are useful when we want to plan our work in detail before it starts. They allow teams to organise tasks, manage the process, and monitor project progress on an ongoing basis. When creating a Scrum board, a backlog is also made – a list of tasks waiting to be allocated to the proper sprint.
Kanban boards are created to monitor the flow of tasks efficiently, make the project more transparent, and ensure that all colleagues have access to the necessary data. Employees do not have to waste time informing each other about changes. It looks similar to the Scrum Active Sprint table – it is built of columns representing various progress statuses.
However, Kanban does not allow you to organise tasks into sprints. The Kanban board is designed to manage all orders related to a given project, not divide them into batches. Thanks to such design, the team does not have to estimate the time of its implementation. However, it allows you to separate all work into specific tasks, e.g. the recently added order, with a time limit set for it. In this way, you can control the team’s workload at a given time and its flow.
Kanban vs Scrum
|Open to introducing changes on an ongoing basis||Focuses on detailed planning|
|No team roles assigned||Everyone has specific roles and responsibilities assigned to them|
|For projects with changing priorities||Perfect for teams with stable priorities|
|Possibility to create specialised teams||Requires multifunctional teams|
|Each iteration has a different duration||Based on time-based iterations|
|Changes can be made during the process||Changes during a sprint are typically impossible|
|Team focus on reducing the time needed to complete the process (achieving quick goals)||Team emphasis on collaboration and task execution to ensure quality development work|
|Ensures a continuous workflow||Work is determined by sprints|
|The visualisation quickly reveals bottlenecks||Bottlenecks are not always obvious|
|It does not use prioritisation, but planning based on random forecasting||Prioritisation is a must|
|Its measure is a wait time||It uses speed as the primary measure|
Kanban vs Scrum – our opinion
These are methods that we have used or are using in some of our projects. So we asked Jan Siemiński, Software Developer at WEBSENSA, about their effectiveness and use cases.
What should we know about the management method to choose the optimal one for a given project?
JS: Methodologies such as Kanban or Scrum, usually impose a rigid structure of work. One of the basic principles of Agile is that teams should be “self-organising” and “self-managing”. When something does not work as it should, there is no point in strictly sticking to the methodology’s rules. It is best for the team to find a set of techniques in which they feel comfortable and work efficiently.
How to find out which method is more effective and provides better transparency?
JS: It’s worth experimenting and looking for new ways to improve efficiency.
What is your personal experience of using these methods? In which one do you feel better and why?
JS: I have a better experience with Kanban because it gives me more freedom. In my opinion, the worst idea in Scrum is the concept of sprints and all that relates to it (planning, flashbacks, etc.). The most natural thing is to take the next task with the highest priority from the backlog after completing a task.