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Product development life cycle

Kanban vs. Scrum: What’s the difference?

Tamara Rosin 8 min read
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As a project manager, you always strive to get your teams working faster and more productively without completely overhauling their workflows.

For many teams, the solution has been to deploy Kanban or Scrum — two effective project management frameworks that bring the agile methodology to life.

While they have different processes, both Scrum and Kanban aim to help teams achieve the same goals of more productive work, greater team collaboration, and quicker product delivery.

But with some team leaders championing Scrum and others promoting Kanban, how do you know which framework to use for your team?

In this article, we’ll cover the main differences between Kanban and Scrum, identify their similarities, and provide tips for choosing the right methodology. Plus, if you like the idea of a hybrid approach, we’ll show you how to get the best of both frameworks with

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What is Kanban?

Kanban is an agile project management framework that uses visual goals and tasks to manage workflows and maximize efficiency and output. Its continuous workflow structure and real-time communication keep teams agile and ready to adapt and improve processes.

It’s best known for its use within DevOps software development, but it’s excellent for all types of business teams with numerous incoming requests that vary in priority and size.

Read more about the Kanban methodology.

What is Scrum?

Scrum is an agile project management framework that helps teams structure and manage their work through a set of values, principles, and practices. It’s based on empirical process control, where decisions come from observation, experience, and experimentation, and has three pillars — transparency, inspection, and adaptation.

Scrum prescribes breaking work into goals for completion within time-boxed iterations — called sprints — and also involves daily stand-up meetings, or daily scrums, to assess progress. It’s widely used in software development and other industries.

Read more about the Scrum methodology.

Kanban vs. Scrum: What are the differences?

Now that we have a general understanding of both frameworks, let’s get to the big question: What are the differences between Kanban and Scrum?

Kanban vs. Scrum: Roles and responsibilities

Kanban has no predefined roles, although most teams will have a project manager. Team members collaborate and help one another to balance the workload.

On the other hand, in Scrum, there are three defined roles:

  • Product Owner: Controls the overall vision and objectives, liaises with stakeholders, and directs the team.
  • Scrum Master: Reinforces Scrum values during meetings, dictates the timelines, and keeps team members on-task.
  • Team members: Execute the agreed work from the sprint planning.

Kanban vs. Scrum: Cadence and timeline

In Kanban, work flows continuously until the project ends. It’s more flexible and does not have set beginning and finishing dates for specific activities, and there is no prescribed sprint length or fixed schedule.

On the other hand, Scrum operates with time-boxed iterations, typically lasting one to four weeks, known as sprints. Each sprint has a set start and end date, and work is delivered in blocks within these sprints, creating a more predictable environment.

Kanban vs. Scrum: Release methodology

In Kanban, deliverables get released at their own pace when ready and without a set schedule. This flexible approach means a deliverable could be released early or late without needing a review.

On the other hand, in Scrum, deliverables are typically released at the end of each sprint. This less flexible approach means the release of deliverables links more closely to the sprint schedule and sprint review.

Kanban vs. Scrum: Primary metrics

The primary metric in Kanban is cycle time, which measures how long it takes to complete one part of a project from beginning to end. It helps teams to identify potential bottlenecks.

In Scrum, the primary metric is velocity, which measures the amount of work a team completes in a sprint. It helps teams understand how much work they can achieve in a given time frame, enabling more accurate planning and forecasting.

Kanban vs. Scrum: Modifications and changes

In Kanban, teams can make changes at any time mid-project to allow for continuous improvement. It’s a more adaptable and less rigid approach to managing modifications and changes.

In Scrum, any changes and modifications during the current sprint are discouraged, and teams must address requests in the next sprint.

the differences between kanban and scrum - chart

Kanban vs. Scrum: What do they have in common?

Despite their differences, Kanban and Scrum share several commonalities.

  • Both use visual boards to track progress and manage work.
  • Both promote continuous improvement in achieving the project goal.
  • Both frameworks encourage process improvement, team collaboration, and knowledge sharing.

While they have different approaches, they share common principles and values, making them practical for managing projects and embracing the Agile methodology.

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Kanban vs. Scrum: Advantages and disadvantages

If both Scrum and Kanban help teams achieve the same goals, how can you determine which is best for your team? Let’s weigh up the pros and cons of each agile framework.

Kanban pros:

  • Enables continuous delivery and provides the flexibility to make adjustments at any time in the production cycle.
  • Focuses on visualizing workflows and optimizing processes, leading to reduced waste and increased efficiency.
  • Suits flexible, collaborative, self-organizing teams.

Kanban cons:

  • Deliverables can potentially move slower since there are no time constraints.
  • Outdated Kanban boards can derail productivity if not properly maintained.

Scrum pros:

  • Provides a structured framework for managing work through fixed sprints, leading to a predictable and transparent schedule.
  • Helps teams structure and manage their work through fixed deadlines and requirements.
  • Suits cross-functional teams with clear roles and responsibilities.

Scrum cons:

  • Requires regular meetings to review sprints and find opportunities for improvement.
  • May prove challenging for less experienced team members to manage effectively.

Ultimately, deciding which framework is best will depend on the types of projects your team works on and their willingness to adopt a new methodology.

Get the best of both worlds with a hybrid approach

Many teams choose to use Kanban alongside Scrum or combine the practices in a hybrid approach. There are two ways to operate the two frameworks together.

Adopt the scrumban framework

The first approach is to try Scrumban — a hybrid framework that combines the structure of Scrum with the flexibility and visualization of Kanban.

Scrumban uses short iterations — similar to Scrum sprints — to control and manage deliverables. Plus, visual boards — like Scrum and Kanban boards — to track the status of tasks and execute work in progress.

Scrumban is a good fit for specific use cases where Scrum or Kanban alone isn’t sufficient, such as software development projects with evolving requirements or projects encountering scope creep. It allows teams to benefit from both the prescriptive nature of Scrum and the freedom of Kanban, making it a flexible and efficient method for managing projects of any size.

Consider a digital solution that enables both

The alternative to Scrumban is to choose a software platform that allows you to use the key features from both frameworks. With this approach, you can prioritize one framework over the other while still benefiting from specific features that you find helpful.

For example, with monday dev, you get a Kanban view and a Scrum Sprint Planning Template. At the same time, the platform offers enough structure to help individuals stay on top of their tasks, communicate with colleagues, and complete their work efficiently with 150+ code-free automations.

With elements of both Scrum and Kanban, monday dev brings teams together in one digital workspace designed for collaboration, annotation, planning, and tracking work with real-time dashboards to make data-driven decisions.

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Combine Kanban and Scrum with

Choosing between Kanban and Scrum is like taking different routes to the same destination. The ride will be different, but eventually, you’ll get there. Each framework has benefits, and each helps teams work faster, boost collaboration, and deliver greater value.

In the end, deciding which one is best for your team will depend on understanding the scope and complexity of your projects, as well as the willingness of your teammates to embrace new systems of work.

Instead of picking one framework, many managers adopt a hybrid approach or choose the elements of each that best fit their needs. Either way, they need a powerful, intuitive, competent project management platform.

With monday dev, built on the robust Work OS, you get the best of both Kanban and Scrum functionality baked into one collaborative platform, including:

  • Workflow management: Streamline your entire development workflow, including roadmap, sprints, backlog, bug tracking, and retrospective elements, in one place.

Streamline your entire development workflow, including roadmap, sprints, backlog, bug tracking, and retrospective elements, in one place

  • Sprint management: Empower teams to easily manage their scrum sprints from start to finish in one place, from sprint planning and daily stand-ups to retro and sprint reviews.

Empower teams to easily manage their scrum sprints from start to finish in one place, from sprint planning and daily stand-ups to retro and sprint reviews.

  • Kanban view: Create a continuous visual workflow and gain full transparency into your team’s development tasks to maximize efficiency.

Create a continuous visual workflow and gain full transparency into your team's development tasks to maximize efficiency with a Kanban view.

  • Workload view: Visualize workloads across projects, with high-level and granular data, to see how task hours spread across team members.

Visualize workloads across projects with high-level and granular data to see how task hours spread across team members.

  • Agile reporting: Customize your own real-time reports, including a velocity chart and burnup or burndown charts.

Customize your own real-time agile reports, including a velocity chart and burnup or burndown charts.

With monday dev, your team can communicate, provide status updates, ask questions, solve problems, share information, and visualize progress with a Kanban, Scrum, or hybrid model.

Tamara's writing explores the effects of technology on organizational change, culture, and consumer behavior. When she isn't busy creating marketing content, you can find her writing short stories about life in Israel.
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