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Difference between Scrum and Kanban


In a world that is getting way competitive and cut-throat, organizations understand the importance of adopting Agile practices. Kanban and Scrum are two separate frameworks that Agile organizations use. Talking about Kanban vs Scrum it is essential to mention that both the practices have the same goal-to help software developer's deliver business value with reduced wastes. 

Kanban was developed as a visual management tool that helps teams to prioritize tasks so that these can be completed first thereby limiting work-in-progress. The emphasis is to get the work done fast and with maximized efficiency. It is the Kanban board that is at the center of giving project teams that extra element of visibility to their project.

Scrum, is a work method that is iterative and incremental. The work consists of short Sprints which are no longer than a month, at the most. Within each Sprint, there are processes, events, roles, and artifacts to deliver working software that is aligned with customer feedback.

Using these terms interchangeably though is incorrect because even if essentially both the Agile practices help in breaking down complex tasks for optimizing work and processes, there are key differences between Scrum and Kanban, on the philosophy as well as the practical applicability of both practices.

Kanban vs Scrum
  • Visual or pictorial representation of the work in progress is the bottom line.
  • Iterative and incremental
  • The model works on - visualizing the workflow, Limiting WIP, and Continuous Improvement.
  • This model focuses more on the identification of issues and resolving the same.
  • Changes are always welcomed during the ongoing development phase.
  • The estimation has no role.
  • Works on forecasts and time-boxing,
  • Use of process dashboard
  • Good for projects with fixed priorities.
  • Good for small-sized teams 
  • Timeboxing is the bottom line. Every aspect works within a predetermined time frame.
  • Iterative and incremental
  • Work is divided into bits of a set period called Sprints. It is based on predefined criteria.
  • With back-to-back Sprints, there is continuity in delivery.
  • Consists of a Daily Scrum, Sprint Planning, Sprint Review and Sprint Retrospective.
  • Focuses on the speed of delivery-within 2 to 4 weeks a Sprint is released.
  • Does not favor requests for changes during an ongoing Sprint.
  • Estimation plays an important role.
  • Works on forecasts and Sprint Goals.
  • The focus is on the Sprint Backlog.
  • Good for projects with variable priorities.
  • Suits large projects as work is broken down into small Sprints.
Roles & Responsibilities
  • Complete flexibility for team members, as there are no set of roles.
  • Led by the Project Manager
  • Individual commitment is not essential.
  • Involves only a specialized team
  • Every team member is motivated to work as a leader.
  • If a team member leaves, the project is likely to suffer.
  • Pre-defined roles for every individual.
  • Product Owner sets the goals; Scrum Master sets the timeline, and the Developer works on the same.
  • Commitment from each team member is compulsory.
  • Cross-functional teams are part of the Product Development process.
  • The Scrum Master is the leader.
  • If a team member leaves, the project does not suffer.
Scrum Board vs Kanban Board  
  • Visual representation of the goals, work in progress, priorities.
  • Flexible and fluid; one that is adaptable with greater ease.
  • The Kanban board is shared by multiple teams.
  • Columns show the workflow and the maximum stories permitted in each column.
  • Are meant to provide visibility to the team to track workflow.
  • Rigid and specific
  • Backlogs are owned by the Product Owner or a single team.
  • Columns on the board depict periods of a workflow.
Key MetricsMeasurement is done based on cycle time which is the time taken to complete a projectMeasurement of productivity is based on the velocity or speed of Sprints.
  • Continued improvement
  • Improved efficiency
  • Enhanced productivity
  • Steady output
  • Saving time with a focus on fast results.
  • Saving money with cost estimations.
  • The variable output determined by customer feedback.

Knowing the differences between Scrum and Kanban is important to decide which framework should go ahead with and get trained on. Both frameworks have proven results that cannot be denied, and both of these practices are productive.

However, when it comes to choosing between the two, you need to understand that it has to do with your current role, the eligibility criteria of getting trained on these practices, and finally, what your career choice is for the future. For organizations, the decision needs to be based on whether they want quicker results or enhance the overall work process. 

To summarize:
  • Scrum should be used when timeboxing, continuous feedback, providing early business value etc are of the essence; Kanban should be adopted to enhance the overall production process;
  • Scrum should be used for feature-based work that has bigger goals. 
  • Kanban should be used for small enhancements or work related to fixing bugs and defects.

Having said that, today many Agile organizations use hybrid models, using both Scrum and Kanban; taking the best parts of both the models- the visual board of Kanban with Scrum Agile principles. Organizations today are more flexible when it comes to allowing their software teams to choose between Scrum, Kanban, and/or hybrid.


  1. https://www.planview.com/resources/guide/introduction-to-kanban/kanban-vs-scrum/
  2. https://www.cmswire.com/information-management/agile-vs-scrum-vs-kanban-weighing-the-differences/
  3. https://www.guru99.com/scrum-vs-kanban.html
  4. https://www.atlassian.com/agile/kanban/kanban-vs-scrum

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Is a passionate learner and blogger on Agile, Scrum and Scaling areas. She has been following and practicing these areas for several years and now converting those experiences into useful articles for your continuous learning.