When you are wrapped up in the software development process, it can be difficult to find time for everything. From laying out the UX to drawing up the design specifications to making sure the code is correct, it can often feel like you are juggling more than you can handle. Add to this the decision of whether or not to use Kanban vs. Scrum and you may just want to pull your hair out.

Until now. As software developers, we understand the daunting task before you, especially with plenty of Agile methodologies to choose from. In this article, we will take a look at two of the most popular development processes and offer all the information you need to decide between Kanban vs. Scrum.

In the end, our hope is that you will be able to mark this off your list and begin focusing on creating the best possible product you can for your users. After all, this is what is at the heart of Agile development. Let’s get started.

Introduction to Agile development

If you aren’t already familiar with Agile development, there are just a few things you should know before we look specifically at Kanban vs. Scrum, since both of these methodologies fall within the Agile family. In order to better understand both Kanban and Scrum development, keep these 4 pillars of Agile in mind.

  •      Individuals and interactions over processes and tools
  •      Working software over comprehensive documentation
  •      Customer collaboration over contract negotiation
  •      Responding to change over following a plan

By following these basic tenants, software developers are able to produce a custom software that better serves the users while taking less time in development. Ultimately, this is why so many developers use Agile and why we are taking time to talk about Kanban vs. Scrum today.

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Kanban vs. Scrum

While each of these Agile methodologies share common characteristics, the differences between them is what will ultimately be the basis for deciding on Kanban vs. Scrum.

However, in order to give you the full picture, we will first review each methodology individually and lay out their pros and cons. Only then will you have everything you need to decide which development process is best for you and your organization.

Let’s begin with Kanban development.

Kanban development

Based upon the JIT or ‘Just in Time’ development method of Toyota back in the 50s and 60s, Kanban development relies heavily on transparent communication and real-time updates. By laying out all works in progress and comparing them with the team’s capacity, Kanban teams use continuous deployment to get things done efficiency, while remaining flexible when necessary.

Although Kanban is less structured than a methodology like Scrum, many teams appreciate the straightforward nature of this development process. By putting everything on a Kanban board and using Kanban cards to show development progress, each member of the team is able to know exactly where they are in the development and, more importantly, where they need to go.

Benefits

While the Kanban methodology has some obvious benefits, there are a few others that may not be so obvious. For instance, not only does Kanban allow for greater flexibility in planning and shortened time cycle for delivery, but by limiting the amount of WIP or Works in Progress, Kanban teams can focus on what is important and get it done before moving on to other tasks.

Additionally, since Kanban focuses on continuous integration, software teams can roll out improvements and bug fixes as they happen. Not only does this offer an advantage over your competition, but it can greatly improve the quality of your product on a regular basis.

Drawbacks

So far, it may seem like Kanban is the best choice when deciding between Kanban vs. Scrum. However, there are a few drawbacks to this methodology that we should mention. For example, the flexible nature of Kanban can often be distracting and even counterproductive for teams that are used to a more structured development environment.

On top of that, without built-in timeframes, unless there is someone specifically in charge of tracking everything in the project, things will likely fall through the cracks. In order to avoid these drawbacks, it may be worth setting up an unofficial timeline that you team can stick with to avoid getting off course and behind schedule.

Scrum development

Now that we have reviewed Kanban and the flexibility it provides, let’s take a look at the more structured Scrum process. While Kanban focuses on continuous development, Scrum is built on the idea of sprints, which are short, 2-4-week time periods that the development project is broken up into. Although developers more familiar with Kanban may not appreciate this rigidity, others prefer this iterative approach to software development.

Scrum development also has a more structured approach to the development team than Kanban, with varying roles and responsibilities assigned early on. These roles include Scrum master, product owner, and development team. By dividing responsibilities based on these stipulations, teams can operate efficiency and focus on tasks that align with their skill sets.

Benefits

Along with the mentioned benefits above, Scrum offers unique advantages for software development teams that are hard to find anywhere else. For instance, Scrum teams meet daily and have a Scrum planning meeting at the beginning of each sprint. Not only do these help the development team stay on track, but some even say that this creates an even more transparent and open environment than Kanban.

Another one of the many benefits that Scrum provides is the ease in which things can change. Whether it is something simple with the UI of the software or completely changing the direction of the project, Scrum accommodates and even encourages these changes as long as it benefits the end user. This also is why products developed with Scrum are often successful and under budget.

Drawbacks

Despite all of these benefits, Scrum does suffer from some serious drawbacks. For instance, considering the somewhat high-level nature of Scrum, unless your development team is experienced with this style, it can be uncomfortable at first.

This leads us to another disadvantage, the high barriers of entry into Scrum development. In fact, this is why so many teams avoid using this Agile methodology. Unless you have the right Scrum master leading the way and a firm understanding of the development process, things will fall apart. Our advice is to lean into it and stick with it, even if you don’t understand why.

Key differences

Which leads us to the key differences between Kanban vs. Scrum. As you may have been able to tell, each methodology offers different advantages for developers depending on their style and type of project. Kanban differs from Scrum by keeping everything flexible and allowing for iterative updates throughout the development. Scrum, on the other hand, is very structured and relies on the rigidity of this structure to be successful.

Another major difference is in the team dynamics. While Scrum designates roles from the very beginning, with each member maintaining their role throughout, Kanban is more of a free-for-all that relies on open communication and visual cues to stay on track.

Conclusion

In the end, these subtle differences between Kanban vs. Scrum are ultimately what will decide for you which style you will utilize. If your product would benefit from more frequent updates and a continuous development process, Kanban is the choice for you. However, if you are looking for a development methodology that will keep you on track and help create the best possible end-product for your users, Scrum is the clear winner.

Whichever solution you decide upon, we wish you the best of luck with your project. The important thing to remember is to lean into the Agile methodology you choose. Only by fully committing to it will you get the best possible results.