Kanban vs Scrum: What is best methodology for your projects?


7 min read

Kanban vs Scrum: What is best methodology for your projects?

Falsely lumping together Kanban and Scrum is a common issue. Though there are similarities for sure, there are significant differences too. Both are Agile project management strategies in the same way that Rugby and American football are both ball sports. Whilst Rugby and American football both use a ball and to an untrained eye can appear almost the same, it doesn’t take much more detailed analysis to realize that actually they are significantly different.

Our opening title would suggest that there is something of a competition between the two, which again is a little unfair. Whilst some businesses prefer Kanban, others prefer Scrum – the key is to understand which methodology works best for what kind of project and for your particular team and specialties. And it’s not even as if the two are completely mutually incompatible or unsuited, many businesses successfully combine elements of both strategies.

1. The Essential Differences

The essential difference between the two agile methodologies is how large complicated projects are broken down and managed. In Kanban projects are broken down into small tasks which are then completed along a continuous flow line, Scrum breaks the project into smaller planned stages (Sprints) that a team works on together all at one time and when it’s completed they move on to the next stage, together.

Scrum is much more structured than Kanban, with detailed planning needed, well-defined roles, and lots of meetings. Kanban has more flexibility and requires fewer formal meetings.

2. The Essential Similarities

The breakdown of large-scale, complicated projects into smaller more manageable chunks and tasks is the most striking similarity between these two systems. There are other similarities if we delve a little deeper. Both systems rely heavily on communication. Information and involvement for all members of the team. This means a highly visual workflow. With Kanban on accessible Kanban boards recording information and progress. With Scrum in daily meetings, etc.  Both are iterative and aim for a high level of efficiency, and both look for continual improvements in the workflow systems in place.

3. Kanban Pros and Cons

3.1. Kanban Pros

  • Continual improvement –  Kanban works well with constant upgrades even during the project for things like productivity, efficiency, cycle time, and quality.
  • Customizable – Kanban is excellent for integrating into the work systems that you are already using.
  • Flexible – Kanban allows for changes to be made during the project, quickly and easily.
  • Combinations – Kanabn can easily be used alongside other agile methodologies including Scrum with excellent results.
  • Transparency – Kanban is highly visual and all team members can clearly see the progress being made throughout the whole workflow.
  • Prevents Problems Overload – Kanban system of limiting work tasks should prevent overload and additional stress. You can clearly see problems or bottlenecks occurring in the process and do something about them.
  • Responsibility and freedom – Kanban is suited to teams that can work independently and take on responsibility. Meetings, whilst recommended are optional and used only when needed.
  • Collaborative – There are no fixed roles apart from the Project manager, so the collaboration of team members is encouraged.

3.2. Kanban Cons

  • Deadlines and timelines – a tendency for timelines and consequently deadline to be extended.
  • Too visual – the very basic visual board system can become the focus of the whole system and take away from the theory behind it.
  • Results-based – Kanban is totally based on results, not people.

4. Scrum Pros and Cons

4.1. Scrum Pros

  • Prescriptive and highly structured – well-defined roles, ceremonies, and artifacts mean that the Scrum system is very structured and controlled at all times.
  • Clear expectation and time limits – expectation and time limits are set for each Sprint and agreed upon by the whole team.
  • Team Commitment – Involving the team in the planning of the sprints means they fully commit to the process.
  • Constant Assessment and Evaluation -Scrum evaluates and assesses the value of each separate Sprint.
  • Repeated process and action – Scrum is very organized and it is almost impossible to lose control of the project

4.2. Scrum Cons

  • Limits freedom and responsibilities – because Scrum is so prescriptive and has definite fixed roles it can limit the freedom and independence of the team
  • Inflexible – Scrum finds it difficult to respond quickly to changes during a Sprint as everything a preplanned in detail.
  • Relies on accurate estimates – Scrum relies on the commitment and time estimates for each Sprint, if something goes wrong during this time it can cause a serious failure.
  • Delays – Any delay in a certain area can delay the whole project.
  • Needs team commitment – Scrum requires all the team members to be working under a common culture
  • Numerous meetings – Scrum involves regular, obligatory meetings

5. What Is Best For Your Project?

Of course, it completely depends on the type of project you are embarking on and also the team you have to do the work. Both Kanban and Scrum have proven to be highly successful strategies in Project Management as indeed has a mixture of both. You have to consider the focus or the essential features of the project. the control and structure of Scrum mean that if time accuracy and predictability is the most important factor it is probably a better option. However, if there are likely to be ongoing changes to the work or priorities then it is likely that Kanban will be more favorable.

Scrum works better for large-scale or medium-scale projects with cross-functional teams, with a high level of preplanning and certainty about the project. There is plenty of time for planning and organizing and you don’t expect many changes.

Many people prefer Kanban for smaller teams working in a more free, flexible but direct way. It suits working at speed and can work around new requests and changes and adapt quickly to differing priorities.

5.1. Typical Scrum Projects

  • Brand development – long-term strategy
  • Marketing campaigns
  • New software development
  • Product enhancements and improvements

5.2. Typical Kanban Projects

  • Web design
  • UX/UI design
  • Art design
  • Product support
  • Patches

6. Latest Movements

Both Scrum and Kanban are well known and well used and it looks like this isn’t going to change. In fact, it looks like more and more businesses will be using them. One of the most important factors in this rise is the necessary change to remote working for many businesses. More and more, bigger and better online tools for both Scrum and Kanban mean that these methodologies are ideal for remote work. They allow workers to work independently but know what is happening in the group.  They allow for collaboration and the latest tools are providing managers with more control. Control over analysis, information, and meetings from anywhere in the world at any time of day or night.

There is likely to be more combination of the agile systems to suit the purpose of the project, rather than complete reliance on one over the other.  The latest figures show that whilst 81% of users use a combination of Scrum and Kanban, only 16% use Scrum exclusively.

In Summary

Kanban and Scrum both allow project managers to work with a proven system. Today there are more and more possibilities within this area. More and better tools are giving greater control and analysis and adapting to the increasingly popular world of remote work. These methodologies work incredibly well in the field of technology and software development, looking like they are here to stay.

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