Kanban vs Scrum: the Essential Guide

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Whether you’re an expert Agile practitioner or just arrived in this field of work, you’ve probably heard the Kanban vs Scrum discussion. It’s also very likely you’ve made that question yourself (no need to be ashamed, though, it’s a lot more common than you think).

That’s why we created this complete guide about these two methodologies. Here you’ll understand the concepts of each one, similarities and differences between them, how to combine and, hope so, decide which one is better for you.

What is Scrum?

Scrum is a very popular customizable framework that improves efficiency and results by defining all the work that needs to be done and creating a ‘sprint‘ out of it.

It’s an iterative method which means that every time the sprint’s result is achieved (aka a new product/feature is released), you go right back to the beginning to start a new sprint.

One of the most defining characteristics Scrum has is strictly limiting work in progress and establishing that a new sprint can’t begin until the previous has been finished. These points can be considered restricting by some teams. 

After implementing the Scrum methodology, teams have to start working with things like iterations as well as ensure that teams can work across various platforms. A Scrum Master also has to be appointed for every project, as well as a Product Owner.

Daily updates through fast staff meetings and regular, defined reviews have to be put in place to ensure that things can progress as they are supposed to. It might look difficult and painful, however, the benefits of Scrum are quite clear: less product handover and a lot more specification and planning is put into every single task that is undertaken;

What is Kanban?

Rather than trying to change everything at once and expecting to see fast results in the short-term, Kanban allows things to be incrementally changed on the go and as the changes make themselves needed.

Kanban limits the work on each stage/phase of the process and, as work progresses, more can be added, creating a steady flow of work.

Another point of Kanban is that it focuses on improving team collaboration in order to ensure work is flowing through the system at a steady pace. Scrum is a lot more restrictive and it requires the definition of stories as well as daily meetings where everyone reports on the status of their work.

While using Kanban doesn’t make these requirements mandatory, teams are free to adopt these or other practices that may help their workflow. 

Kanban vs Scrum: the Differences

As mentioned before, Scrum restrains the workflow according to time periods (sprints). Each project (a new feature to be released, for example) is strictly planned and work in progress is limited to ensure the team will deliver what’s expected at the end of the sprint.

Kanban defines the workflow based on every single item, allowing teams to add other items as it becomes necessary (as long as these new items can be absorbed by the team’s work capacity and won’t cause bottlenecks or slow the progress of the work).

The flexibility offered by Kanban can be seen as a strength or a weakness – while it makes it a lot easier to add/remove work according to the demands, it can also easily be abused by the need to move development faster. To make sure each team’s work capacity is respected, work needs to be closely monitored.

How to combine Scrum and Kanban to be more effective

If you want to maximize your agility, you may want to seriously consider combining the two frameworks to create what developers refer to as ScrumBan (yes, it is a combination of the names – and methodologies – of Scrum and Kanban). 

Doing so could put you in a position that saves time and increases the framework’s overall efficiency. As a matter of fact, you could look at it as a way to upgrade your scrum. To do so, you might follow two simple steps to implement 

Specify

The first stage associated with the combination of scrum and kanban is the specification. First, start off by setting work-in-progress (WIP) limits, defining workflow and making a plan. Once you have clearly set up the specifications, you will then be ready to execute them without disrupting the workflow.

Execute

Now that you have defined where it is you’re going, it’s time to execute your plan accordingly. If you choose to add a new column as a buffer, you could also increase the WIP limit by a small amount. As soon as you execute the ScrumBan, you will then be able to fill in all the gaps and determine areas that need tweaking.

Next steps to have an efficient Kanban and Scrum management

The overall lesson we get from this Kanban vs Scrum comparison is that it’s not a matter of “this or that” – both approaches can be adopted simultaneously in order to ensure the best of both worlds and ensure your team achieves the best results possible.

Combining Scrum and Kanban to form ScrumBan is a good idea to improve the effectiveness of the network. This combo method is typically recommended for distributed teams.

But starting with Kanban and then moving forward for a more complex methodology like Scrum can a good way to start improving the way to manage your daily work, too. And when it involves more people, collaboration, standardization and even automation are important. Then, you might consider using tools and platforms to be more productive. 

If that’s your case, you can count on Pipefy to support you

Written by
Isabelle Wuilleumier Salemme
Head of Customer Support @Pipefy. She uses her extensive Pipefy knowledge to help users make the best of Pipefy via support and writing informative content pieces. Besides being in charge of support, she's an avid reader, a coffee lover, and a professional photographer.