Kanban and Scrum are two agile methodologies widely used in work management and project management. Both approaches represent the basic agile principles: iterative development, continuous improvement and prioritising the team over the individual. However, they also differ in some important elements of their methodological approach to software development.
Kanban and Scrum
Kanban was developed at Toyota in the 1940s to make the car production process more efficient. Its underlying idea is that all team members must be employed as consistently as possible, but at the same time be able to react flexibly to changes and continuously optimise work processes.
The origin of Scrum dates back to 1986, when the term was first used in an article entitled 'The New Product Development Game' by Hirotaka Takeuchi and Ikujiro Nonaka. Scrum is an empirical development method, i.e. it works according to the principle of trial and error: in small, rapid work steps ('sprints'), the team develops a partially working solution, tests it and uses the knowledge gained for the next step.
Scrum or Kanban: which is the better approach to Agile development?
This raises the question: Kanban or Scrum? Although there are subtle differences between the two methods of agile testing and development, the fundamental objectives and advantages remain the same. Both approaches have strengths and weaknesses.
1) Workflow visualisation
Visualisation in the form of a Kanban board is one of the most obvious strengths of this method because both the workflow and progress are represented visually. In addition to providing team members and stakeholders with greater transparency and visibility, this approach allows them to fully focus on what is important, thus saving the time that would be spent on finding out where other team members stand.
Based on the needs of the project, the board can be divided into different columns, a basic example of which are the 'to do', 'in progress' and 'completed' columns. Each task is represented by a tag or sticky note (a kanban) which is moved between the different columns as the project progresses.
2) Workload management
While the Scrum methodology seeks to complete a series of well-defined activities within a planned sprint, Kanban focuses on limiting work in progress and blocking additional activities before they are completed. This is WiP (Work in Progress), i.e. a system according to which it is not possible to add n activities during specific phases. Returning to the example in point 1, if the 'to-do' column has a WiP limit of 4, this means that there cannot be more than four activities to be done.
Thanks to this system, team members are required to complete the tasks they are currently doing before they can start working on new projects or activities, which also helps eliminate so-called bottlenecks by ensuring the timely completion of planned tasks.
An aspect that distinguishes Kanban from Scrum is flexibility. Whereas Scrum is based on sprints with a fixed duration and predefined iterations, Kanban has a continuous and flexible work approach with no time constraints. The continuous work approach allows changes and new needs that may arise during the execution of a project to be taken into account.
If priorities within a project change, for example, these can be altered without any problems with Kanban. The same applies to the addition or removal of requirements or tasks; simply change the order of the tasks on the board or remove them directly. This allows teams to adjust flexibly to the changing needs that a project may bring while maintaining continuous planning.
4) Team empowerment
Whereas in Scrum there are a number of pre-defined roles such as the Scrum Master or the Product Owner, in Kanban these are not present. All team members are responsible for the workflow and work together consistently, which leads to a solid collective decision-making process.
The Kanban methodology is also based on the principles of self-organising teams, regardless of whether the collaboration is physical or virtual. This builds a team that is open to feedback and change, giving the involved organisation a competitive advantage and promoting innovation.
Kanban focuses on increasing employee efficiency and productivity by optimising workflows. Cycle time and throughput are often the most important metrics within a Kanban process. Observation of these metrics shows how workflow productivity changes over time.
Cycle time is a metric that measures how long a team takes to perform a task. Throughput measures how many projects can be completed in a given period of time. By visualising workflow and optimising the process, teams can reduce waste, keep workloads low and create more value in less time.
6) Lean Principles
While Scrum is based on the Agile Manifesto, Kanban is based on Lean principles, focusing on eliminating or reducing all those activities that do not provide added value to the final product or service. Scrum, on the other hand, focuses on delivering maximum value to the customer, developing and releasing features one at a time, as they are completed.
Waste is an action that consumes resources without adding value. A lot of waste can lead to arbitrary work and take up unnecessary resources (including time and effort) that are always valuable. By reducing unnecessary activities and downtime, the Kanban board can work more efficiently.
As we have seen, Kanban is particularly suitable for continuous and adaptable workflows, whereas Scrum is based on sprints with fixed deadlines. Kanban offers greater flexibility in managing priorities, allowing tasks to be added and removed at any time. In addition, Kanban provides greater visibility of the workflow and offers more accurate control of the workload by limiting ongoing tasks. This helps to identify possible obstacles and improve efficiency. Finally, Kanban lends itself well to projects with changing requirements or non-linear workflows
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