How to Choose Scrum vs Kanban?

If your business is looking to help its developers work with more efficiency and reliability, you'll want to employ a tool like Scrum or Kanban. But which is right for you? In this article, we detail each and answer the question.
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Scrum and Kanban are two different tools, which are often used together to create an incredibly efficient and agile development process. Where Scrum is a framework that allows teams to address complex adaptive problems, Kanban is a workflow management method to manage and improve work across human systems.

Any project, big or small, must be well organized, otherwise, all efficiency is tossed out the window. This is especially so for more complicated projects, where you might have hundreds (if not thousands) of developers working to create a piece of software.

In fact, tools like Scrum or Kanban have become absolute necessities for project collaboration in large businesses. This is especially true when your company must remain Agile to compete with other businesses. And it doesn’t matter what programming languages your developers use. From Java, JavaScript, .NET, Ruby, Python, C, C++, C# (and everything in-between), tools like Scrum and Kanban will do wonders for your team’s productivity. 

But which of these tools should you use? Let’s take a look at both and see if we can help you make that decision. First, we’ll look at Kanban.

Kanban

What is Kanban?

Kanban originated in the early 1940s and was developed by Taiichi Ohno for Toyota Automotive. Ohno’s goal was to optimally control and manage work and inventory at every stage of production. What Ohno created was a system that can be applied to nearly every type of project and is structured into the following 4 foundational principles:

  1. Start with what you are doing now
  2. Pursue incremental, evolutionary change
  3. Respect current roles, responsibilities, and job titles
  4. Encourage leadership at all levels

These principles are then applied to the following core practices:

  1. Visualize workflow.
  2. Limit work in progress
  3. Manage the flow of work
  4. Create explicit process policies
  5. Implement feedback loops
  6. Evolve and improve via collaboration

The Kanban board results from  these principles and practices and it consists of columns such as:

  • To Be Done
  • In Progress
  • Peer Review
  • Testing
  • Done

How Kanban is used

To make use of a Kanban board for your project, you’d break the whole into constituent tasks. So Project X would have:

  • Task A
  • Task B
  • Task C
  • Task D

Each task would be assigned a developer (or team of developers). At first, each task would exist in the To Be Done column of the board. As each team begins working on their task, it would move from To Be Done to In Progress. After the task is complete, it would move into the Peer Review column. After being reviewed, the task could be moved to Testing. Once testing is done, if it’s ready to move on, the task is then shifted to Done. If the task needs to, it can then be sent back to In Progress.

Once all tasks are in the Done column, the project is finished and ready to be deployed.

Now, let’s take a look at Scrum.

Scrum

What is Scrum?

Unlike Kanban, Scrum is a framework that makes it possible for teams to create an environment in which:

  1. A product owner orders work for a complex problem and places it into a Product Backlog.
  2. A team turns a selection of the work into an increment of value during a coding sprint.
  3. Both team and stakeholders inspect the results and make adjustments before the next coding sprint.

The above 3 steps are repeated until the project is completed.

How Scrum is used

At its foundation, Scrum uses the scientific method of empiricism and replaces an algorithmic approach with a heuristic approach. The whole Scrum process goes something like this:

  1. Product backlog
  2. Sprint planning
  3. Sprint backlog
  4. Daily scrum
  5. Increment
  6. Sprint review
  7. Sprint retrospective

If after the final step in the process the task is complete, then it’s ready to move out of the Scrum. On the other hand, if the review and retrospective discover more work needs to be done, the task is placed back into the Sprint Planning phase and the process starts anew.

Primary differences between Kanban and Scrum

Let’s now take a look at the key differences between these two systems. 

Scheduling

With Scrum, scheduling is broken down into 2 – 4 week sprints. Kanban, on the other hand, does not work with a schedule. Instead, Kanban uses continuous delivery, using Kanban boards.

Roles

With Scrum a team is defined with 3 different roles:

  • Product owner
  • Scrum master
  • Development team

On the Kanban side of things, there are no defined roles beyond a project manager.

Meetings

With Scrum, there are 4 “scrum ceremonies” that are followed:

  • Sprint planning
  • Daily Scrum standup
  • Sprint review
  • Sprint retrospective

Kanban doesn’t adhere to any such meetings.

Task Progress Measurements

In Scrum, teams use reports, such as burndown and burnup charts to track progress. With Kanban, teams use a cumulative flow diagram to keep track of a task’s progress.

How to choose which tool to use?

The big delineation between Scrum and Kanban is that Scrum is much more managed and organized. Because of this, if you have teams who require constant hand-holding through a process, Scrum is the obvious choice. If, on the other hand, you have teams that work well in a more self-managed setting, Kanban might be the best choice.

Other things to consider, to help you make your selection:

  • If you want to improve planning and estimating, go with Scrum.
  • If you want to improve workflow, go with Kanban.
  • If you employ cross-functional teams, Scrum is your best bet.
  • If you use cross-functional collaboration, Kanban is the right choice.
  • If your project is best served with coding sprints, Scrum is the obvious choice.
  • If your team works with ad-hoc tasks, Kanban is best.
  • If you’re looking for continuous delivery, Kanba is perfectly suited to meet your needs.
  • If you’re looking for a system that can be implemented quickly and easily, Kanban is what you’re looking for.

Conclusion

Both of these systems are great for tracking projects and keeping developers on track for delivery. But which you choose to employ will depend on your needs, your teams, and your goals. Select wisely and your development lifecycle will flourish.

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