What’s a scrum board?
A scrum board is a task board tracking work in short, incremental sprints. It is typically a physical or digital board divided into columns representing different stages of the development process. A sprint is a short, consistent and repetitive period of time. The length of the sprint is short enough to keep the team focused but long enough to deliver shippable increment of work.
A scrum board may include the following four columns. Before the sprint is completed, your goal is to move all of the tasks to the Done column.
- To-Do: prioritized backlog or a list of tasks planned for the current sprint
- In Progress: tasks that have been taken up and are currently in progress
- Testing: tasks that have been completed by developers and are awaiting testing or quality assurance
- Done: tasks that have been completed, tested, and approved; ready for release or deployment
What’s a Kanban board?
A Kanban board is a board tracking the process flow while limiting the number of work-in-progress activities and maximizing the workflow. The number of tasks that are in progress should be small enough to avoid unworthy tasks but big enough to keep all team members engaged to minimize idle time.
Typically, a Kanban board workflow may include these three categories:
- Queue: work that needs to be done
- In Progress: work that has been retrieved from the queue and is currently being worked on
- Done: work that has been completed
Each category limits the number of work items that are assigned to it. Besides, you can customize the Kanban board to include any categories and columns that you want, like to add a column for testing before it is considered completed.
Here are some of the similarities between Kanban and Scrum boards, the two visual tools for project management.
Visualization of Work: Both Kanban and Scrum boards provide a visual representation of the work to be done and its progress. They use columns to represent different stages of the workflow and cards or sticky notes to represent individual tasks or work items. This visualization helps teams have a clear understanding of the current status of work.
Task Tracking: Both boards allow teams to track and manage tasks or work items throughout their lifecycle. Teams can move cards or sticky notes across the columns to reflect the progress of the tasks, from "To-Do" to "In Progress" and ultimately "Done." This tracking enables transparency and accountability within the team.
Collaboration and Communication: Kanban and Scrum boards promote collaboration and communication within the team. Team members can easily see what tasks are assigned, in progress, or completed, facilitating coordination and reducing dependencies. The boards serve as a shared visual representation of the team's progress, enabling effective communication during stand-up meetings or other team interactions.
Adaptive Nature: Both boards offer flexibility and adaptability to changing circumstances. They allow for the addition or removal of tasks based on the team's capacity and priorities. Both Kanban and Scrum encourage teams to respond to changes and adjust their work plans accordingly.
Continuous Improvement: Both Kanban and Scrum boards support the concept of continuous improvement. Teams using either board can analyze their workflow, identify bottlenecks or inefficiencies, and make adjustments to improve their processes.
Visual Management: Both boards enable visual management of work. By having a physical or digital representation of tasks and their progress, teams can quickly grasp the overall status of the project, identify any impediments, and make data-driven decisions to optimize workflow and productivity.
Generally speaking, scrum boards are tailored for sprint-based planning and tracking, while Kanban boards focus on workflow visualization, WIP limits, and continuous improvement. The major differences between the two visual tools are presented as follows.
Methodology: Scrum is an Agile framework that follows time-boxed iterations (sprints) and emphasizes cross-functional teamwork. Kanban, on the other hand, is a lean methodology focused on continuous flow and optimizing workflow efficiency.
Planning and Timing: Scrum follows an iterative and incremental approach and operates in fixed-length sprints (typically 1-4 weeks). Thus, it requires adherence to the sprint timeline and goals. In contrast, Kanban is not limited to an iteration or sprint and allows for a more continuous flow of work, and is thus more flexible for work management.
Work in Progress (WIP) Limits: Kanban places a strong emphasis on limiting work in progress in order to maintain a steady workflow and avoid overburdening the team. Scrum boards, on the other hand, focus on managing the progress of user stories or tasks within time-boxed sprints. (Scrum does not explicitly enforce WIP limits but relies on the team's commitment to completing the selected sprint backlog.)
Roles and Ceremonies: Scrum defines specific roles such as Scrum Master, Product Owner, and Development Team, along with ceremonies like sprint planning, daily stand-ups, and sprint reviews. Kanban does not prescribe specific roles or ceremonies, offering more flexibility in team structure and workflow management.
Continuous Improvement: Both Scrum and Kanban emphasize continuous improvement but with different approaches. Scrum achieves this through sprint retrospectives, where the team reflects on their processes and identifies areas for improvement at the end of each sprint. Kanban promotes continuous improvement based on real-time data and feedback.
How to choose between a Scrum board and a Kanban board?
When deciding between a Scrum board and a Kanban board, it's important to consider the specific needs and context of your project and team. Here are some factors to consider when making the choice:
Project Requirements: Evaluate the nature of your project and its requirements. If your project involves fixed-length iterations, frequent planning, and time-boxed deliverables, Scrum may be a better fit. But if your project requires a more continuous flow of work without predefined iterations, Kanban might be more suitable.
Team Structure and Preference: Consider the size and composition of your team. Scrum is well-suited for cross-functional teams with dedicated roles like Scrum Master, Product Owner, and Development Team. Kanban offers more flexibility and can be adapted to different team structures and sizes. In addition, consider how your team members are familiar with these Agile methodologies--whether they have a preference and have prior experience with Scrum or Kanban.
Work Characteristics: First, assess the characteristics of your workflow. Kanban is beneficial when your workflow has a high degree of variability or frequent changes in priorities. If your workflow is more predictable and benefits from time-boxed iterations, Scrum may be a better choice. Second, consider the complexity and predictability of the work you are managing. If the work is highly complex and may require frequent re-prioritization, Kanban's flexibility and continuous flow approach can be advantageous. For projects with clearer requirements and a structured backlog, Scrum's iterative approach can provide better visibility and control.
Continuous Improvement Focus: If you value regular retrospectives and dedicated time for process improvement, Scrum may be preferable. Kanban, on the other hand, emphasizes ongoing analysis and incremental changes to optimize workflow efficiency.
Remember that the choice between a Scrum board and a Kanban board is not necessarily mutually exclusive. A combination of both may also be a great choice. Ultimately, it's essential to align the chosen methodology and board with the project's requirements, team dynamics, and goals.