Scrum and Kanban are terms often used interchangeably in project management, though they have their differences. In fact, that’s why they may be used at the same time for tracking and managing various aspects of work. For example, a Kanban board might be used to track work during a Scrum sprint. However, each has its strengths and weaknesses, and trying to juggle the two is often unnecessary. In the Kanban versus Scrum debate, which one is best for your operation?
What Is Scrum?
Scrum relies on a number of sprints. Each sprint is dedicated to solving a particular problem. Scrum originated in iterative software development, but it could be applied to the development of products, as well. You evaluate many possible solutions and try to find the best one for a particular problem.
Demonstrate the solution to the customer and get feedback. If the issue is resolved, you move on to the next problem or design challenge. That’s the next Scrum iteration. Scrum sprints typically have daily meetings between team members and try to include the customer. Scrum is geared toward customer satisfaction.
Why Did Scrum Become a Formal Project Management Philosophy?
Scrum began in agile software development – it is the foundation for all agile project management methods. One study found that nearly half of organizations had used agile or hybrid agile project management frameworks, though not all of these were Scrum.
Because Scrum was designed for rapid software development, nearly ninety percent of software developers used agile project management at work. The Scrum Alliance did a survey and found that just over sixty percent of Scrum projects were reported to be successful.
For comparison, business surveys suggest that seventy percent of all projects fail in some way. This could be due to cost overruns, schedule overruns, or failing to get a product to market at all. In the case of IT, nearly twenty percent of failed IT projects go so badly that it threatens the health of the company.
What Is Kanban?
Kanban originated on the Toyota shop floor. It was developed to manage work in progress (WIP) and inventory at every stage of production. The goal was to prevent backlogs of WIP and shortages, both of which hurt efficiency and lead to waste.
At its simplest, it was a visual signaling system to manage stock. More advanced versions could track work at every phase of the operation. This was reported via a Kanban board. The Kanban board itself is a simple, centralized visual representation of the state of the project or operations as a whole.
Why Did Kanban Become a Project Management Philosophy?
The Kanban board was adopted in agile software development because of its simplicity and flexibility. The goal remains continuous delivery of service or a finished product like working software, and it is designed to avoid over-burdening the team. They focus on what needs to be done now. They don’t start things that have incomplete dependencies. They know who is assigned to what task. Communication is simplified, and everyone knows how their assigned task is related to the whole project.
Kabanize has an informative article on Kanban project management. It runs down the common problems project managers face while discussing how Kanban can help. It also explains the relationship between Kanban principles and Kanban practices. For example, Kanban principles include respecting the process and supporting incremental improvements, while Kanban practices include visualization of the workflow and agreeing to abide by rules regarding allowable work in progress. Furthermore, there are now software applications that allow you to ditch the large board in the middle of the office and track work via a digital “Kanban board”.
When is Kanban Better for Project Management?
Kanban was designed for the production line, but it can be applied to any complex process with a schedule and a limited number of interconnected events. This makes Kanban perfect for managing construction projects as well as waterfall software development. It can be used for production line environments and job shops. You can also use Kanban to manage daily operations, whether you’re closing real estate deals or managing a repair shop. Scrum isn’t suitable for this.
Kanban is the better choice when you want to make business policies clear and then enforce them. How many sales do we want to complete this month? Where is every prospect in the sales funnel? Where are we in the construction project? What dependent tasks must be completed before we can pour the foundation or build the second story?
When is Scrum Better for Project Management?
Scrum sprints are managed by a Scrum master who mentors the team and works closely with everyone. This is fine for small teams, but it makes Scrum difficult to impossible for very large projects.
Scrum is better for solving specific problems, whether you’re tackling every bottleneck on the assembly line or improving the quality of a buggy product. This makes Scrum ideal for rapidly identifying and resolving problems with software, dramatically speeding up software development. It can also be used in IT to solve everything from IT security problems to software bugs.
Scrum is a good choice when you can be creative in your problem solving and need to tackle particular problems. This is why Scrum can be used in retail and service-oriented environments. You can try new store layouts for a set period and see if it increases customer traffic and sales. Iterative improvements in a controlled manner can lead to significant improvements in a short period of time. And when you find what works, you can make it the new, formal process or standard for the whole organization.
Scrum is a good choice when you have small, set projects to deal with. This makes it a viable project management method for consulting firms. Scrum is also regularly used to tackle problems that arise in waterfall style development projects or Kanban managed assembly line operations. The Kanban workflow for creating products or delivering services remains in place, as the Scrum process determines why half a batch was defective or seeks to improve production rates. This is how Scrum and Kanban often complement each other.
Kanban and Scrum are seen as competing project management philosophies. In reality, each is designed for a different set of circumstances. Choose the right one for managing your project, though you may borrow the other for specific situations.