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Scrum vs. Kanban vs. Scrumban: How to Choose the Right Framework for Your Project

Artur Olechowski d08c1359d2

02/09/2021 |

11 min read

Artur Olechowski

Software development teams use many various project management methodologies today. Picking the right one might be difficult when they all have their pros and cons. 

In this article, we explore and compare the three most commonly used approaches: Kanban, Scrum, and a mix of the two called Scrumban. By the end of this article, you will have a clear idea about what each can bring into your project and whether it's a good candidate for your team. 

Ready to dive into the most common project management methods in the tech industry? Let's get started.


Table of contents:

  1. Kanban: about, pros & cons
  2. Scrum: about, pros & cons
  3. Scrumban: about, pros & cons

What is Kanban? 

It might come as a surprise, but Kanban is actually a manufacturing system developed by Toyota in Japan many years ago. In Japanese, Kanban is translated as “signboard” or “billboard”. The method uses visual cues that communicate what is to be produced, when, and by how much. 

Today, the Kanban methodology finds many uses in software development and business teams. It's a great method for creating and delivering both products and services. The learning curve is flat, and Kanban allows teams to stay flexible in production by adding no extra complexity to their processes. 


How does Kanban work? 

Kanban is based on visualizing the workflow in the form of a board with cards that are sorted into columns. Every column on the board represents a different step in the workflow, and each card represents a different task or work item. 

The main idea of Kanban is to establish maximum items for each stage. That way, you make sure that your team isn't multitasking too much. By limiting the work in progress, you can quickly identify problems in your flow and resolve them before they become serious. 

In Kanban, what you manage is how work items move through the production process. Instead of micromanaging team members, managers focus on understanding the work process and removing bottlenecks. 

Kanban also assumes that you formalize the rules for moving cards from one column to another – for example, the conditions a card needs to meet to be transitioned from In progress to the Done column. This method helps to improve work gradually, so your team handles small changes instead of being trumped by an entirely new workflow.


Pros of Kanban

  • It keeps everyone on the same page.
  • It's flexible in production due to being event-driven, not time-boxed.
  • You can easily remove tasks from the to-do list or add new ones, whereas in Scrum, you can't do that until the sprint is finished.
  • Kanban is a great method for identifying bottlenecks in your workflow - you can see which column contains the most cards to tell which stage of the work slows the delivery process down.
  • The gentle learning curve of Kanban is another important advantage. It's incredibly easy to adopt and doesn't require any role changes or new roles like Scrum Master.


Cons of Kanban

  • Kanban doesn't perform so well in scenarios where team members share resources. For example, a marketing team and a software development team might share one graphic designer. While the former needs marketing materials, the latter wants UI design. When both teams face increased demand, it's hard for the designer to prioritize their work. Both projects can get blocked.
  • Kanban assumes that your workflow is stable.
  • The methodology is not flexible enough to accommodate mixing different products and flow changes in the delivery.

What is Scrum?

Scrum is a framework that helps to address complex problems and finish tasks on time. The Scrum methodology took its name from the rugby formation where all the players pack closely together and try to get the ball. 

In Scrum, you take advantage of user stories, tasks, story points, and sprints. Both user stories and tasks are estimated using story points. Based on that estimation, they're located in sprints that have clear deadlines and goals. The direction of the sprint is the responsibility of the Product Owner, who represents the business side of the matter, and the Scrum Master, who manages the work process. 


How does Scrum work?

The Scrum methodology is based on four ceremonies – which is just a fancy word for meetings. Here is the Scrum sequence:

1. Backlog refinement 

The backlog is the core of Scrum and looks more like a very long to-do list that includes all the different tasks, features, and user stories the team needs to deliver for a product or service. During the backlog refinement phase, the Product Owner and Scrum team work together on the details and estimate all of the items in the backlog. All user stories and tasks need to be immediately executable when put into a sprint. 

2. Sprint planning meeting

The goal of this meeting is to prioritize which tasks from the backlog will be added to the sprint. Sprints typically last two weeks, but their duration can be easily adjusted to match the specific needs of the business or team. 

3. Daily standup meeting

This meeting happens every day, and it doesn't take longer than 15 minutes. Most teams organize this meeting at the start of each working day. The goal here is to synchronize the work of the team, the Scrum Master, and the Product Owner by unblocking the ongoing tasks. Every team member answers the following three questions:

  • What did I do yesterday?
  • What will I do today?
  • What are the challenges or obstacles for my task at hand?

4. Sprint review meeting

Sprint review happens at the end of every sprint. The goal is to review what was delivered, how it was delivered, and what the team could do better. It usually starts with a demo of the added functionality created during the sprint to get approval and feedback from the Product Owner. 

5. Sprint retrospective meeting

Retrospectives last 90 minutes and allow the Scrum team to reflect on what went well and wrong in their previous sprint and how to improve that. 


Pros of Scrum

  • It sets clear goals and deadlines for the team and commits the team to a single goal that needs to be delivered within a specific timeframe (the sprint).
  • It helps teams to handle large projects that consist of multiple features and tasks to be delivered in the course of months or even years.
  • Scrum works really well in fast-moving development projects that may require continuous changes in priorities and features.
  • The contribution of every single team member is visible thanks to the daily standup meetings and sprint reviews.
  • Scrum helps in team collaboration because it prioritizes frequent communication, which helps to eliminate obstacles as soon as possible.


Cons of Scrum

  • Scrum assumes that the tasks planned for each sprint are fixed, and adding extra ones is impossible. But in reality, emergencies happen in projects all the time – like a critical bug or sudden demand change. This may add scope creep, unplanned work and result in missed deadlines and frustration for the team.
  • Reacting to sudden changes is difficult in Scrum because it's time-based on all the work that is planned in sprints that can't be modified once started.
  • The Scrum framework is complex and requires experienced teams.
  • Updating the team on all the roles and responsibilities and complying with all the Scrum ceremonies can be time-consuming and frustrating for the team.

What is Scrumban? 

Scrumban is a project management methodology that brings Scrum and Kanban together to form a flexible hybrid. It was developed to help Scrum teams in transitioning into Kanban and exploring other than methodologies. 

Scrumban takes the structure of Scrum and combines it with the visualization and flow-based methodology of Kanban. 

Teams can be just as agile as in Scrum and as simple as in Kanban. 


How does Scrumban work?

In Scrumban, all teamwork is organized in iterations and monitored using a visual board. The on-demand planning meetings happen when the team needs to identify which user stories and tasks are to be completed within the next iteration. 

Scrumban uses work-in-progress limits to keep iterations short and make sure that the team can easily adapt to the quickly changing environment. This is the best hting about Scrumban - your team will never drown in the tasks at hand. All the planning in Scrumban is based on demand and happens when the planning trigger is on. The planning trigger itself is related to the number of tasks left in the To-Do column on the board. When it goes below a specific number, the team holds a planning event to add tasks for the next iteration. The planning event is also an occasion for prioritizing all the tasks. This can be done either by adding numbers to the tasks or simply ordering them by priority in the column. 

A basic Scrumban workflow consists of three columns: To Do, Doing, and Done. As team members work on tasks, they move cards into Doing – and once the task is complete, it's moved to Done. Just like in Kanban. 

For long-term planning, Scrumban offers bucket-sized planning. It's based on a system of three buckets that a work item needs to pass before being included in the Scrumban board. These buckets represent different stages of the plan – usually one year, six months, and three months. The one-year bucket is for long-term ideas and goals; the three-month bucket is for tasks ready to be implemented. 


Pros of Scrumban

  • Since there's no need to estimate or plan sprints every second week, the team can save lots of time.
  • Scrumban comes in handy for handling large projects that consist of multiple features and tasks to be delivered on a long-term basis.
  • Scrumban is a great tool for revealing bottlenecks in the workflow because the entire workflow is visible on the board.
  • It keeps everyone on the same page, it is easy to adopt and presents a simpler process than Scrum.


Cons of Scrumban 

  • Since it's a new methodology and a mixture of two that are known to most developers, Scrumban still doesn’t have clearly defined practices. This can create some methodology mishmash that requires teams to start inventing things on their own.
  • It might be harder to track the individual effort and contributions of team members.
  • The project manager will also have less control over the process.
  • Just like in Kanban, an outdated board can cause many issues - for example, having two team members working on the same task because nobody updated the board.


Scrum vs. Kanban - when to use each of them?

So, now you have a clear idea about what Scrum and Kanban are and the unique benefits they bring to teams. But how do you know which one is the best pick for your project? 

Before settling on the project management methodology, you must first determine what you want to accomplish. For example, if your task at hand is time-sensitive, Scrum might come in handy. And if you prefer to focus is on the process, Kanban is a better choice. 

Generally, Scrum is the best method for projects that are feature-driven and carry significant goals or milestones. For managing smaller bits of work - like bug fixing or smaller upgrade requests - Kanban is a good option. 

In some cases, it might be necessary to combine Scrum and Kanban. Don't be afraid to mix them if that happens to be your case. You can choose to follow the Scrum methodology while simultaneously incorporating Kanban concepts into your Visual Management Boards.


Key takeaway

We hope this article clarifies these agile methodologies and shows you the clear differences between them.

  • While Scrum is the most complex, challenging, and strictest methodology of them, it still comes in handy for experienced teams working on a project that is longer than one year.
  • Kanban is the simplest and easiest one to adopt. A great fit for support and maintenance teams, delivery teams, or continuous product delivery where you have a stable workflow.
  • Scrumban is a hybrid version of these two methodologies and a good match for plastic projects, startups, which means teams can sacrifice the strict rules to gain some extra freedom and efficiency.


Are you looking for software development teams that know how to pick the right methodology and deliver results within the set timeframe? Get in touch with us and let's talk about your project. We have an excellent track record and know-how to tell which methodology will serve your project best.

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Artur Olechowski d08c1359d2

Artur Olechowski

Managing Director at Codete. Master of Law, a graduate of postgraduate studies at the University of Economics in Krakow. In his daily work, he masters the combination of business strategy and technology.

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