Project Management Methodologies – Kanban VS Scrum 

Kanban VS Scrum is another debate in the world of project management. While both Kanban and Scrum are Agile, they are two different project management frameworks with few distinctions to consider.

Determining which model works best for your project is not easy and requires a closer look at each of these methodologies. In this article, you will learn more about Kanban and Scrum, differences and similarities between them.

What are Scrum and Kanban methodologies?

It is best to describe Scrum and Kanban as frameworks or work methods rather than methodologies.

The Scrum Guide defines Scrum as a framework that helps teams find adaptive solutions to complex problems and generate value. Scrum limits the amount of work in sprints and aims to gather and implement feedback from the client.

Kanban limits work in progress by limiting the time required for completing the project. The team uses the Kanban board to visualize the workflow and optimize it for maximum efficiency. Because of the similarities and differences, many companies choose to use Scrum and Kanban together for more clarity and better results.

Kanban Framework

The Kanban method offers to manage a development process in a highly efficient way. It is a simple methodology that focuses on the work currently in progress. Tasks are on display to all participants, and they can easily track overall progress. A good practice is to organize the development process using a Kanban board. Each task goes through defined working stages - to do, in progress, in testing, ready for release, released. The methodology gives the team more flexible planning options, a clear focus and transparency, and faster output.

The team is concentrated only on the tasks which are currently emphasized. Once the team completes one item, it moves to the next one at the top of the backlog. The product owner is free to change, re-organize and re-prioritize the items in the backlog as any changes outside the current work won’t affect the project. The Kanban method shows tasks clearly to the team members and allows them to focus on each item.

The methodology is quite good for inexperienced and new teams and non-strict iterations where the team controls their progress and defines the release based on their commitment.

Scrum Framework

We could define Scrum as a lightweight framework of the work process of the Agile methodology used mainly for managing complex software development. This method is iterative and incremental. It follows a flexible strategy where the whole team works as a unit. Scrum significantly increases productivity and reduces time. Scrum follows a particular set of practices. It’s a simple set of roles, responsibilities, and meetings. The methodology helps the company to cope better with any changes, increase the quality of the deliverables. It provides better estimates and allows teams to spend less time. Teams have a better vision of the project schedule and current status. The work is done in series of fixed-length iterations called sprints.

A sprint is a period during which specific work should be done and ready for preview. The duration of each sprint is fixed and agreed upon in advance, usually between one and three weeks. Each of the sprints starts with a planning meeting. During the sprint, there are short daily scrum meetings at the set time. Another characteristic of this methodology is specific roles: Product Owner, Scrum Master, and development team. As the scrum teams are cross-functional, the development team includes designers and testers, alongside developers.

The product owner represents the client and is in charge of prioritizing the tasks, setting the duration of the sprints, and adding tasks to the project backlog.

The scrum master facilitates the work of the team and the product owner, ensuring the work is done as planned. The development team is self-organized and responsible for completing tasks.

Similarities between Scrum and Kanban

Scrum and Kanban methodologies share a lot of similarities. Both are Lean and Agile and aim to maximize efficiency by breaking down complex tasks into small increments. Both frameworks are very transparent. They have a visible workflow that allows team members to see the development and be informed at all times. Scrum and Kanban value and promote continual work, optimization, and improvement of the process.
Similarities between Scrum and Kanban also include the limitation of work-in-progress (WIP). Scrum does it by limiting the amount of work, and Kanban achieves the same by limiting time. Both models rely on self-organizing teams and aim to deliver releasable software early.

Kanban VS Scrum differences

There are three key differences between Kanban and Scrum: board, team roles, and timeline.

Scrum VS Kanban board

At first glance, Scrum Board and Kanban board might look alike. Indeed, they are very similar, but at the same time, they differ from each other.

On the Scrum board, you can see the columns that reflect time periods. The workflow begins with the sprint backlog and ends with the Done column. The team pre-defines "Done" and moves stories from the board to the "Done" column accordingly. At the beginning of each sprint, stories are added to the board and at the end of it, all of them should be in the final column. Otherwise, the sprint is not successful. Once the sprint finishes, the team summarizes the success (or failure) of the sprint. After that, the board is prepared for the next sprint.

Kanban board also similarly shows the workflow. So, what's the difference between Kanban and Scrum boards? On the Kanban board, they limit the number of stories you can add to one column. Due to this, there is no need to reset the board. The workflow continues until the project is completed. The new stories can be added when needed.

Scrum VS Kanban team roles

One of the main differences between Kanban and Scrum is team roles and responsibilities. Both models have self-organizing teams, however, there is still a difference between the team roles.

In the Scrum model, each member has their role. There are three main roles you can see in every team that uses the Scrum framework: Scrum master, product owner, and development team. The main responsibility of the Scrum master is to dictate timelines for the project. The product owner defines goals and objectives and the team works on the tasks.

Unlike Scrum, the Kanban model does not include specific roles. Even though there is still a project manager on almost every Kanban project (especially if the project is huge or complex) team members are meant to collaborate.

Scrum VS Kanban timelines

When working with the Kanban model, the team delivers products and processes continuously as needed. The team uses a systematic workflow "pull system." Team members can pull tasks once they complete work on the previous ones.

In Scrum Model, they determine deliverables by sprint or set period of time. Team members know which tasks to work on during each sprint. While Scrum also uses a "pull system", in this model tasks are not pulled continuously. Instead, they pull an entire batch of tasks for each iteration.

When to use Kanban VS Scrum

The question is not Kanban VS Scrum, as there cannot be an ultimate winner. While both models have benefits, for some projects, Kanban can be more appropriate, and for others, Scrum might be the best fitting.

When to use Scrum

  • You expect project requirements to change frequently
  • The project requires continuous feedback
  • The technical complexity of the project requires it to be divided into smaller deliverables.
  • You expect the project development to continue for a long period
  • There is a short delivery schedule
  • The project requires constant invention, all steps are not known in advance, and you expect the estimates to be unreliable.
  • You need to deliver working software frequently.

When to use Kanban

  • You have a new and inexperienced team.
  • You want to focus on continuous delivery
  • The project requires a shorter cycle time
  • When it is important to focus on the amount of work that is in progress at any point in time
  • You want to reduce the wasted work and time

Scrum VS Kanban or Scrumban

When talking about Scrum versus Kanban, we need to mention Scrumban as well. As you could probably gather from the name, this methodology combines the Scrum and Kanban methods. It gathers the best features from both methodologies – uses the prospective nature of Scrum and the process improvement of Kanban. Similar to Scrum and Kanban, in Scrumban, the working process is organized and structured in a prioritized tasks list. The progress is demonstrated visually and monitored using a visual board. The board usually has three columns – to do, in progress, and done. Scrumban methodology uses two types of limitations – WIP limits and To-Do limits.

WIP limit – The work in progress limit usually matches with the number of people working on the project. The idea is that every member of the team should work on one task at a time only. Thus, the team will be working effectively.

To-Do limits – the number of tasks could be limited as well as the WIP

This model works best when the team is experienced and has previously worked with Scrum and Kanban models.


Scrum and Kanban are very powerful models that will help you in project management. While as a project manager you might favor one over another, there is no clear winner here. Kanban VS Scrum differences and similarities can give you an idea of which of these frameworks can work best for your project. If you would like to get the best of both models you can choose Scrumban, but ensure that the team has enough experience for it. For the new project managers who are just adopting Agile methodologies, it is best to try both models, experiment with them, and then decide which framework is more suitable for your project and team.

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