Kanban or Scrum: Which agile software development tool works best for your project?

A project management system is essential for a smooth and efficient development cycle. Which route should you take when faced with the decision of whether to use scrum or kanban? Jack Wallen has some suggestions.

Image by Getty Images/iStockphoto

You’re probably looking for ways to make your business more agile and to use different platforms and services to facilitate this change. Scrum and Kanban are two of the most widely used tools for this type of evolution. If neither of these tools are familiar to you, it might interest you to know which one is best for you. 

The answer to this question is quite simple, no matter how difficult it might seem.

First, let’s discuss what these tools are.

SEE: Google Workspace vs. Microsoft 365 – Side-by-side Analysis w/checklist TechRepublic Premium

What is kanban and how does it work?

A kanban board’s purpose is to provide a visual representation for each task in the development lifecycle. The lifecycle is broken down into columns, such as In Progress, Backlog, Testing, Deployment and Complete. Each task is assigned a representative card and you move it around the board as it moves through the lifecycle. This method allows you to quickly see where a task is in its lifecycle and what it needs to do before it can be completed. 

You can also assign tasks and notify teams of changes (depending on what kanban system you use). Kanban boards can be one of the most efficient tools for project managing. They are however very limited in their scope as they serve only one purpose.

Kanban helps you:

  • Visualize your workflow.
  • Avoid being overwhelmed.
  • You should focus on the flow of a task.
  • Emphasize continual improvement.

What is scrum?

Scrum is a framework that encourages teamwork in complex projects. Teams can deal with complex problems and unpredictability better by replacing an algorithmic programmed approach with a heuristic approach.

This methodology revolves around scrum values. These are courage, focus and commitment as well as respect and openness. These values are:

  • Team members are able to take responsibility for their actions and tackle difficult problems.
  • Team members concentrate on the work of the spring and the team’s goals.
  • The team members are personally committed to the achievement of the goals.
  • Respect each other as team members
  • Each member of the team agrees to openly discuss all work and challenges.

The sprint is an important aspect of scrum. It is a fixed-length, consistent event where a team works together to complete a set number of tasks. Sprints are where the work gets done. Each sprint may only address one task in a project, and each sprint is defined by a specific goal. It is important to follow the following guidelines during sprints:

  • There are no changes that could compromise the sprint goal.
  • The quality of the project is not reduced.
  • As needed, the product backlog will be refined.
  • You may need to clarify and re-evaluate the scope of your project.

How do you choose between scrum and kanban?

This is probably the point where you have figured out what this will end up being. This decision is something I view as such.

A kanbanboard is a good choice if your team only requires minor management. A kanban board will allow everyone to see how the project is progressing and allows them to collaborate easily. Kanban is a great solution if your project isn’t too complicated. It won’t hinder a simplified workflow.

SEE: Top keyboard shortcuts you need to know (free PDF) (TechRepublic)  

Scrum can be used if your team needs to manage a much larger project. 

If this doesn’t help, here are some important distinctions:

  • Kanban doesn’t have predefined roles. Scrum divides between scrum master, product owner, and dev team.
  • Kanban is a continuous workflow while scrum has pre-determined sprints.
  • Kanban emphasizes continuous delivery while scrum focuses on new functionality being delivered only at the end of each sprint.
  • Kanban’s primary metric is work in progress. Scrum’s metric, however, is speed and value creation.
  • Kanban allows for changes at any moment, while scrum changes can be determined and implemented in between sprints.

Kanban is great for mature teams that are adept at self-management. Scrum is brilliant for larger projects that require more management. The complexity of the project, and the ability to manage your team’s daily work, will ultimately determine which route you choose. 

Let me conclude by saying that you can’t go wrong making this decision. Even though you may find the best one for your development cycle and project management, it is a positive step to implement a good tool.

TechRepublic’s newsletter is available to subscribers YouTube Tech Tips: How to Make Technology WorkJack Wallen offers the most up-to-date tech advice for business professionals.

Also, see