Kanban vs Scrum: What is the better option?

Kanban vs Scrum: What is the better option?

Both are popular project management frameworks many teams and organisations use to address specific challenges around organising work. Kanban focuses on limiting work in progress, which is more suitable for teams that must work on multiple small tasks and manage several projects simultaneously. On the other hand, Scrum is more suitable for teams that must work on multiple small tasks and manage several projects simultaneously. It is better suited for teams that must complete larger projects with more defined deadlines.

Both Scrum and Kanban frameworks enable projects to be flexible, promote team member participation, have quick development cycles, and boost transparency. It is only sometimes essential to choose between them. To maximise the advantages of each, you can combine the two. Ultimately, the choice of framework depends on the specific needs of the team and organisation. You will learn more about the two project management frameworks in this article.

How do you select the best option for you?

Let us compare the frameworks based on several attributes to clarify the kinds of projects that can benefit from each methodology. Based on each attribute, it summarises the two frameworks’ qualities. It identifies the types of projects that can benefit from their use. You should be aware of them to choose the best one for you, as they will be covered in this section. It will support your decision about what to use and when. 

1. Work cycle

Regarding the work cycle, Scrum uses an iterative approach to completing projects. Teams finish and deliver tasks in phases instead of completing a project simultaneously. It has sprints that usually last between one and four weeks and clear start and finish dates. The team will be following the plan-do-check-act (PCDA) cycle. So, you are dealing with a complex, iterative project or projects that might see frequent change, like a new product or feature development. In that case, Scrum will be the best option for you.

The main goals of Kanban are to limit work-in-progress, visualise your work, and maximise efficiency. The teams concentrate on shortening the duration of a project from beginning to end. Their workflow is continuously improved, and they use a Kanban board to achieve this. When using the Kanban work cycle, the team moves on to the next task as soon as it is completed. Kanban is preferable for projects with a constant flow, such as support and services.

2. Roles in the frameworks

Unlike Kanban, Scrum has three clearly defined roles, which include the product owner, the Scrum master and the development team. Their major responsibilities are the following.

  • Managing the product backlog, advocating on behalf of the customer, and assisting with the development process are all functions of the product owner.
  • The scrum master assists the team in adhering to the scrum tenets. 
  • The development team shows collective accountability, selects the work to be done, and delivers increments.

Use scrum if your teams require people to be laser-focused on these tasks. Hence, despite having distinct roles, Scrum teams are self-organising, and everyone is treated equally. Delivering shipping value to customers is the team’s common goal. 

On the other hand, the team as a whole owns the Kanban board. While some teams hire an agile coach, there is not a single “Kanban master” who oversees everything like Scrum does. The team as a whole is accountable for working together to complete the tasks listed on the board. So, if you want a team that is simply a group of individuals with some expertise, use Kanban.

3. Work in progress

In the case of Scrum, the team sets a work-in-progress (WIP) limit for every sprint. And that limit is completed before picking up new work. The advantage of using this framework is that the teams will get a sense of accomplishment from completing each sprint. So, if your team wants that, opting for it is better. And if you want your team to keep working on one task after another, use Kanban.

4. Transparency

Scrum offers transparency for requirements, implementation, and deliverables through its artefacts, which include the product backlog, sprint backlog, and increment. Use it if you would like to track your requirements independently of the work in progress. In the case of Kanban, there are no specific artifacts for transparency. 

As you know, it visualises the entire project on boards, which results in transparency and collaboration between team members. It makes it possible for project managers to effectively oversee and monitor their work. Scrum product backlogs are frequently used by teams in conjunction with kanban boards. If you want only your implementation to be tracked, use Kanban.

5. Project Planning

Scrum schedules project-specific activities for each day and each sprint using daily Scrum and sprint planning. It also uses burndown charts, which help the team track the progress of their sprints. Additionally, Scrum teams use sprint review meetings to assess the project’s success and identify areas for improvement. So use it if you want disciplined planning for your project at regular intervals.

In Kanban, there is no provision for planning the work. Kanban teams instead rely on visual boards to track the progress of tasks. The visual boards provide the team with an accurate representation of the project and make it easier to identify areas for improvement. Each team develops its own rhythm and method of planning. Planning in Kanban is usually done periodically or only when necessary.

6. Customer involvement

Active customer and stakeholder participation is a feature of Scrum, with at least one sprint review event per sprint. Use it when working on new, creative, or inventive projects that call for input from stakeholders and customers. Engaging customers or stakeholders is not possible with Kanban. The “sprint review” method is used by many teams once a month. Use Kanban if the work consists primarily of daily tasks and does not necessitate frequent stakeholder engagement.

So, we discussed some important attributes that can help you decide what you want. It’s essential to consider the type of project you’re working on and whether it will benefit from Scrum or Kanban. Both approaches have strengths and weaknesses, so it’s important to weigh them carefully before deciding. As said earlier, choosing one is only sometimes necessary; hundreds of teams use hybrid models influenced by both Scrum and Kanban. So make an informed decision according to your project requirements.

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Pictures: Canva

The author: Sascha Thattil works at Software-Developer-India.com which is a part of the YUHIRO Group. YUHIRO is a German-Indian enterprise which provides programmers to IT companies, agencies and IT departments.

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