Kanban vs. Scrum: Choosing the Right Agile Framework for Your Project

Agile methodologies are commonly used in development because they allow quick strategy shifts without derailing the project flow. This flexibility is crucial in the fast-paced software development landscape, making Agile project management the preferred choice. Kanban and Scrum are two of the most popular approaches teams use to work and collaborate on projects. You’ve probably heard of these two methodologies but might be unsure about the differences between them. In this article, we’ll break down everything you need to know, making it easier to decide which framework is best for your team or project. Let’s dive in and compare Kanban to Scrum.

What Is Kanban?

Kanban is a framework that relies on a visual project management system to organize projects and establish a workflow. The Kanban board is used to create certain columns that define the stages of each project. The tasks are added in the form of cards and move from one column to the next until the task is done.

A basic Kanban board can have the following columns: To Do, In Progress, In Review, and Done. More columns can be added depending on the scope and complexity of each project.

This allows project managers and team members to have a clear view of the progress that was made and see who’s working on which task.
Here are the main benefits of Kanban, according to the State of Kanban Report 2022:

  • Improved workflow visibility. By displaying tasks visually, you gain insights that facilitate analysis and the introduction of process improvements.
  • Improved speed of delivery. This enhances efficiency by reducing wasted time and resources. Tasks are created only when there’s capacity to handle them effectively.
  • Improved predictability. By moving tasks from one column to the next and having everything visually displayed, it’s much easier to keep things running efficiently.
  • Improved alignment. Kanban can be powerful when it comes to correlating the strategic objectives of the organization with the key results and delivery of work.
 

Kanban pros

  • Enhances workflow visibility enabling teams to easily track and plan tasks in progress at any given time.
  • Prevents teams from overloading themselves, and maintaining a focus on quality.
  • Facilitates the smooth management of project flow, allowing the use of various stages of completion for tasks.
  • Establishes feedback loops to encourage continuous improvement.
  • Fosters a collaborative environment by providing transparency and visibility into each project’s progress.
  • Offers flexibility in task prioritization, allowing teams to pivot and adjust their focus based on changing priorities.
 

Kanban cons

  • Lack of clearly defined responsibilities, which may make it challenging to prioritize tasks effectively and maintain focus.
  • Potential for complexity and confusion, especially as projects evolve and tasks accumulate on the Kanban board.
  • The absence of timing parameters, which can result in challenges related to scheduling and time management.

Kanban can be easily configured in Jira Software or Jira Work Management, which are part of Atlassian’s suite of products. If you need help connecting the dots and leveraging the power of Kanban in Jira, contact us and we’ll manage the entire implementation process.

 

What Is Scrum?

Scrum operates on short development cycles called sprints, which typically last from one to four weeks. This project management approach revolves around breaking projects into small, manageable increments known as user stories. These stories facilitate iterative feedback, guiding subsequent development steps.
A Scrum team has a Scrum master, a product owner, and the development team members.
Aligned with Agile principles, Scrum adopts an iterative approach, completing projects incrementally rather than all at once. This methodology fosters adaptability to changing requirements and evolving priorities.
At its core, Scrum is built upon three pillars:

 

  • Adaptation. Embracing change, Scrum adjusts to shifting project dynamics and tactical directions.
  • Transparency. This ensures every team member understands the project status and the reason behind certain decisions.
  • Inspection. Stakeholders and team members consistently scrutinize project progress, cultivating a culture of continuous improvement.
  • Here are the main benefits of Scrum:
  • Rapid progress. Scrum’s fast-paced approach ensures quick progress with clear start and finish dates.
  • Improved learning. Short sprint durations compel teams to break down complex tasks into smaller stories, facilitating rapid learning.
  • Enhanced collaboration. Regular Scrum ceremonies, including sprint planning, review, and retrospective meetings, along with daily standup meetings, promote consistent collaboration and communication among team members.
 

Scrum pros

  • Helps with task focus. By using short sprints, team members can complete tasks within a defined timeframe.
  • Simplifies complex assignments. Tasks are divided into smaller, more manageable to-dos, enabling teams to make steady progress.
  • Drives motivation with quick wins. Through frequent sprint cycles, Scrum facilitates the achievement of quick wins, boosting team morale.
  • Ensures transparency for all stakeholders. Scrum provides clear insights into project progress and status.
  • Fosters a goal-oriented workflow. By emphasizing iterative development and regular review, it enables teams to continuously refine their approach and achieve desired outcomes.
 

Scrum cons

  • High demands on focus. It needs a significant level of concentration from team members, which can be challenging to maintain consistently.
  • Pacing issues within teams. Team members may have different speeds or skill levels, potentially leading to delays in project progression.
  • Lack of flexibility with changing priorities. Scrum’s rigid sprint structure may pose challenges for teams when priorities shift mid-sprint.
 
The Scrum functionalities are available in Jira Software. In case you don’t want to deal with the implementation, we’ll gladly set up everything for you, making sure you and your team get the most out of it.

Kanban vs. Scrum

Kanban and Scrum share common principles that define their approach:

  • Both prioritize adaptability, valuing the ability to respond to change rather than rigidly adhering to a predetermined plan.
  • They share a focus on delivering functional software, prioritizing tangible results over exhaustive documentation.
  • They emphasize iterative delivery, continuous improvement, and value delivery throughout the development process.
KanbanScrum
Organization Centers around visualizing projectsFocuses on processes 
DeliveryOngoing At the end of the sprint
RolesNo defined rolesScrum master, product owner, and development team
Planning estimationsBased on past workflow data and capacityAt the beginning of each sprint
Key metrics Lead time & cycle timeVelocity & planned capacity
Flexibility Allows for changesRequires detailed planning
PrioritizationAllows team members to add and move requests based on urgencyIf priorities change, the sprint needs to stop, and planning restarts
Meetings Optional, but recommended4 mandatory types of meetings: Sprint planning, Daily Scrum, Sprint review, and Sprint retrospective
Best forTeams working on ongoing projectsTeams working on complex projects with sensitive deadlines, where priorities may not change
You can also watch the video below to see how to set up the two types of boards in Jira.

When it comes to figuring out whether Kanban or Scrum is the better fit, it’s important to recognize that both methodologies have their strengths, and the choice depends on your team’s specific needs.


Kanban may be preferable for smaller or ongoing projects characterized by continuous, small-scale work items such as bug fixes or enhancements. It excels in visualizing projects and offers flexibility without requiring a complete overhaul of existing processes. Kanban enables teams to respond to changes in real-time.


On the other hand, Scrum is particularly effective at enhancing productivity and accelerating delivery, especially when handling complex projects. It enables you to break down large tasks into manageable increments, set clear goals and milestones, and adapt the approach iteratively based on feedback.


Whether you opt for the structured sprint cycles of Scrum or the flexible flow-based approach of Kanban, both methodologies provide valuable tools and principles to enhance collaboration, productivity, and delivery in today’s fast-paced development environments.


As an Atlassian partner, we can help you implement, configure, and align your workflows so you can use the Atlassian suite at maximum capacity. If you want to get in touch and find out more about our services, contact us here and we’ll get back to you as soon as possible.

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