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Scrum vs Kanban: What is the Difference?

Scrum and Kanban are the most popular frameworks included in the Agile project management methodology. These frameworks are often mixed together unknowingly as people become confused as to what the process is for each frameworks. That is why it is important to understand the difference between Scrum vs Kanban.

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What is Scrum?

In Scrum, the traditional Project Manager role is split into two separate roles. The Scrum Master is responsible for the overall process and they are tasked with removing any impediments that are facing the team, facilitating meetings, and planning product sprints and releases. The Product Owner is responsible for the prioritization of the requirements and procurement of resources and projects. The Development Team consists of everyone who is involved in the planning, development, and testing of a project.

What is a Sprint?

The Sprint is the heart of a Scrum project. It is a short increment of work that will produce a functional product. Sprints can be planned in increments as short as one week to one month. They are not generally longer than one month to ensure that progress is being made at a very fast pace. Each task within a Sprint contains a User Story that describes the functionality needed from an end-user perspective. The User Story should describe who the user is, what they want or need from the feature and why.

What are Story Points?

Story Points are the unit of measure for the completion of each User Story. Estimates are put together keeping in mind the amount of work needed, risk, and complexity of the task at hand. Velocity is a key metric in Scrum and it is used to measure the amount of work that a team can cover per Sprint. It’s calculated by totaling the Story Points for all completed User Stories at the end of every Sprint. The Backlog is the full list of everything that is needed for the project. The list is flexible, always changing, and is thought to be never fully complete.

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What is Kanban?

Kanban shares the same concepts as Scrum but the approach is different. In Japanese, the word Kanban literally means “visual signal”. Therefore, when practicing Kanban, you will use boards, charts, and graphs to allow the entire team to view the entire project and its status at any given time. Kanban Boards and Cards are used to organize all of the tasks for a project similar to Sprint Boards in Scrum.

What is the Purpose of a Kanban Board?

A major difference between Kanban and Scrum is the way that Sprints are scheduled. In Kanban, Sprints are scheduled in a continuous flow and not a fixed time period. Work in Progress (WIP) Limits are limits that are assigned to a specific status or column on the Kanban Board. They signify how many tasks can be in progress for a status (such as Code Review) at any given time. Just-in-Time is a process to reduce costs by providing products and materials only when they are needed and not before. This helps to reduce costs by ensuring that the right products and materials are in place for any specific task right when the task is about to start. This avoids unnecessary purchases if the requirements change leading up to the beginning of the production cycle for the task.

Comparing Scrum and Kanban

Scrum is good for highly complex development projects with frequently changing requirements. The flexible nature of the Scrum methodology allows for task prioritization and progress in short Sprints. It’s bad for projects that have a fixed scope, timeline, and budget. A good example of this would be building a bridge. It needs to be planned with iron clad requirements from the beginning. You couldn’t change the building methods halfway through.

Kanban is a good project management methodology to use for projects that require continuous delivery per week, day, or even hour. It is; however, not so great for projects that require an abundance of multitasking. In Kanban, multitasking would be inefficient based on the Work in Progress Limits and Just-in-Time delivery of products and features.

Scrum vs. Kanban – Project Management Courses on Pluralsight

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Project Management Basics for Non-project Managers – Available Now on Pluralsight!

You can learn more about comparing Scrum vs. Kanban in my Pluralsight course, Project Management Basics for Non-project Managers. This course includes animated scenario-based training and you will watch as an organization compares and contrasts the most popular project management methods including Agile, Waterfall, PMI/PMBOK, and more. By the end of this course, you will be able to choose the right project management methodology for your team and your types of projects. Click the button below to get started with a free trial today!