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Kanban vs Scrum vs Agile

Kanban vs Scrum vs Agile

by Svitla Team

December 27, 2018
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Software development is a project-based environment. All projects require a degree of structure and standardization that make them function and move forward in a systematic, measurable, and secure fashion. Projects of all shapes and sizes can be managed under different methodologies that help make the overall process flow more effectively and efficiently.

There are numerous methodologies used to tackle projects, from small and simple to large and complex. Overall, these methodologies are put in place to help navigate the strenuous and constantly-changing environment of software development to turn it into a hassle-free experience.

In this article, we are going to talk about Kanban vs Scrum vs Agile to identify their key differentiators, their benefits, and their areas of usefulness to better understand what each option entails and which one is best suited for different situations. Regardless of their variations, each methodology has one common goal: facilitate the completion of projects through structure and communication.

Before we fully dive into the Kanban vs Scrum vs Agile topic, let’s first define what a Software Development Methodology actually is.

Software Development Methodology

Before we shed light on the differentiators, advantages, and drawbacks of Kanban vs Scrum vs Agile, we must understand what software development methodology entails.

Software development methodology is a framework that is used to structure, plan, manage, and control the process of developing a software application or system. There are multiple methodologies available such as:

  • Agile Software Development
  • Crystal Methods
  • Extreme Programming
  • Feature Driven Development
  • Lean Development
  • Rapid Application Development
  • Waterfall
  • Spiral

According to the industry, these are the phases of the Software Development Methodology:

  • Initial Discussion: In this phase, the groundwork for the entire software application is laid out for further research and analysis. In this phase, the development team must understand the requirements and user stories of the project to further advance its progress. After a thorough analysis of different software development aspects, the business needs of the project are reviewed to design a comprehensive scope plan that helps determine and begin documentation efforts for the overall project.
  • Project Evaluation: In this phase, the Project Manager and software engineers evaluate the business and technical requirements of the project to fully understand all the aspects of the project, its scope, and approach. Oftentimes, the Project Manager helps estimate the number of hours expected to accumulate for the project.
  • Start of Development: After the desired software solution is researched, outlined, evaluated, and approved, the development teams begins to execute work based on the scoping plan and the client’s requirements. The software engineers push code for incremental reviews during development.
  • Project delivery: Continuous status updates must be delivered periodically to introduce and phase out resources as the project advances. In this phase, the Project Manager and software engineers must communicate any roadblock or necessary revision to perform basic quality assurance activities.
  • Code review: In this phase, the code is pushed for review prior to final deployment so that errors, defects, or bugs can be identified.
  • Deployment: Once the product is deemed ready for use, it is moved into the deployment phase. In this phase, the software product is launched and goes live to the end-user.
  • Maintenance: The work is not complete once the software product is launched. In reality, the application must be continuously maintained to ensure consistency in its quality and monitor its need for incremental improvements or updates as requirements or needs change over time.

Now that we understand what the Software Development Methodology is, let’s review the Agile vs Waterfall differences and similarities to have a better understanding of each of them.

Agile vs Waterfall: Agile software development as an alternative to classical Waterfall methods

The heated debate in the beginning stages of software development is without a doubt the one of Agile vs Waterfall. The advocates of each methodology are adamant about the benefits their favorite contender has to offer, and while Agile vs Waterfall can both produce successful results, , it is also true that neither is the right option for each and every situation.

Agile is best suited for fast-paced project environments where iterations are many and frequent and where the context is team-based. This methodology places top value on swift delivery of a software application with complete and functional components. 

The essence of Agile is to have phases or “sprints” that have a defined duration in which there is a deadline for lightweight deliverables that build upon the grand total of the entire project’s scope. These sprints are planned ahead and prioritize specific deliverables based on what brings more value to the end client. The Agile methodology is flexible enough that it allows developers to re-prioritize tasks if they are unable to be completed.

The clear advantages of Agile are:

  • Agile is iterative. This winning characteristic sets Agile apart from competitors because it is an incremental management method that helps teams evolve organically and maintain a focus on rapid development and delivery of business value. With the Agile approach to iterative planning, teams adapt far more easily to changes in requirements and because there is continuous planning and feedback throughout the process, teams drive and deliver business value from the beginning of any Agile project.
  • With Agile, there is a deep sense of client involvement with multiple opportunities to oversee and review the work being delivered with each sprint. The client is empowered and has a strong sense of ownership due to the intensive and direct along-side involvement with the project’s team, from start to finish. Client involvement is thoroughly encouraged as it provides visibility and transparency in the process that is relatively missing in more traditional methodologies.
  • Agile is flexible in terms of responsiveness and quick delivery of the working application, which can be further built upon with successive iterations. The flexibility of Agile is also due to its user-oriented development that fosters the introduction of any modifications in virtually any stage of the project. Its flexibility is also reflected in the high degree of collaboration that leads to successful development environments when it comes to overall product quality.

Some of the Agile drawbacks include:

  • Agile is labor-intensive as it requires constant commitment, engagement, and time from both the client and the developers, to succeed.
  • Agile requires a dedicated team of resources that are solely focused on the project, which prevents them from multi-tasking and puts a constraint on team availability.
  • Refactoring is a recurring variable in Agile environments where changes are frequent and even more so if there project’s scope is not well defined from the initial stage of architecture development and design.

Waterfall, or the “traditional” approach, is a sequential methodology framework that follows a systematic set of events which include collecting requirements, designing the software solution, developing the software solution and performing multiple tests to evaluate the application’s state, debugging, and delivering the finished product.

In true Waterfall form, each of these events represents a distinct stage that must be fully completed before moving on to the next stage. The Waterfall methodology is a good fit for projects that are designed in a linear fashion, preventing users from going back to prior phases. Since its inception, Waterfall has remained as a relevant framework because it is consistent and predictable, delivering results while keeping a team organized and on track.

The two unique traits of Waterfall are its discreet, terminal phases and its thorough documentation. Considering these traits, these are the advantages of the Waterfall methodology:

  • Waterfall has a clear, simple structure with a defined set of steps.
  • The waterfall approach is a committed framework that defines the end goal early on in the process. This clear end goal definition prevents users from deviating from the original commitment.
  • In Waterfall, information is transferred smoothly within its methodical approach that emphasizes a clean transfer of information at every stage of the project.
  • Progress is easily measured given that the full scope of work is known in advance of the beginning of the project.

These are the Waterfall drawbacks:

  • Waterfall requires a far longer cycle because of its process-oriented approach that tends to slow down the flow of the development phases. The value proposition of Waterfall is very different from Agile, which delivers visibility, adaptability, and value from the beginning of the process, while in Waterfall you don’t see the business value being delivered until the later stages of the process.
  • The Waterfall methodology is not as adaptive as some of the other methodologies in the software development atmosphere. It is systematic and stringent about its stages which makes it a secure system, but inflexible as well.
  • Requirements are very challenging to document in ways that are valuable to the client. Frequently, clients find the requirement-documentation stage daunting and complex as it is filled with specific details. Ultimately, this can cause the client to feel dissatisfied with the delivered software product.

Now that we understand Agile vs Waterfall, let’s talk about the advantages and disadvantages of Scrum.

Scrum vs Agile: Advantages and Disadvantages

The Agile methodology is oftentimes implemented using Scrum. But what is Scrum? What are its advantages and disadvantages? In this section, we detail these aspects to better understand how Scrum works best.

Scrum is an Agile framework that focuses on delivering valuable results in the shortest time. It allows users to adapt in response to different situations during the project management process by rapidly and repeatedly inspecting the actual working software. Scrum is an Agile project management tool geared for software development and it consists of three key roles: product owner, Scrum master, and the team. The product owner is the client or company’s representative. The Scrum master is the project manager who  controls, oversees, and measures the software development process. The team is comprised of the project executors who will perform the needed tasks to complete the software product.

The most noted advantages of Scrum are:

  • The incremental nature of the Scrum delivery system shortens the time to market, which oftentimes leads to higher revenue.
  • Mistakes are easily corrected which fosters a quick-paced environment where development is swiftly coded and tested. These errors are speedily solved due to their early identification through daily meetings.
  • Control is light with frequent updates to understand the progress of the project achieved through regular meetings.
  • Changes are easy to cope with as sprints are short and there is a constant feedback flow.

Individual productivity is easily tracked and measured.

These are some of the disadvantages of Scrum:

  • Unless there’s a defined project scope and timeframe, project owners may end up requesting new functionalities constantly.
  • Project costs and time are hard to estimate if tasks are not properly defined.
  • When using Scrum, the team members involved in the project must be highly-skilled and have a significant amount of training to implement the project stages successfully.
  • Since Scrum works best for small projects, it can be difficult to scale a Scrum approach to large, complex projects.

With this and the previous section, we have a clear understanding of what Scrum vs Agile entail. In the discussion of Scrum vs Agile, it is important to understand how each methodology high business value to the client to better assess which one to use.

It is not completely viable to perform a comparison of Scrum vs Agile as they are not in the same realm of the category. Agile is the parent framework from which Scrum stems from. In reality, Scrum is used to implement the Agile methodology, thus they are not comparable items per se. Scrum is well known as one of the top advocates of Agile that shares the iterative approach where sprints are short and let developers deliver software at a quick pace.

Kanban vs Scrum

Within the Agile framework, there is one more comparison to review in this article: Kanban vs Scrum.

Kanban, which in Japanese means “visual sign,”  is a visual management scheduling framework. It is mainly a board that allows display of a project’s workflow. It basically has three segments: to do, in progress, and done. Additionally, Kanban follows three rules: visualize the workflow, limit the work in process, and measure and improve the flow. 

Within the Kanban framework, there’s the Kanban board. The Kanban board is a visualization tool that is designed to help visualize work, limit work in progress, and maximize efficiency. Kanban boards typically use cards, columns, and sticky notes to communicate status, progress, and arising issues. Overall, Kanban boards have 5 components: visual signals, columns, work in progress limits, commitment points, and delivery points.

Every work item within the Kanban board is called a Kanban Card; with this card, the team is able to track the workload in a visual fashion by providing brief details about the responsibility, estimated completion time, and current status of the work item.

Scrum boards are also a visualization tool that helps display backlog items in a more visible fashion for easy identification. The Scrum board is updated regularly to plan the workload in sprints while also including the backlog. Typically, the Scrum board includes rows that represent a user story which is the unit of work. The Scrum board usually includes the following progressive columns: story, to do, work in progress, to verify, and done.

Now that we understand what each board is in the context of Kanban vs Scrum, let’s dive into how each tool compares and differs.

Much like Scrum boards, Kanban board tools promote that work is broken down into small, manageable pieces to allow visualization of  the work as it advances and moves through the project’s workflow.

In the debate of Kanban vs Scrum, it’s important to note that these two frameworks share the common ideology of making work highly visible to keep all team members aware of the work in process and what’s to come. It places top value on continuous improvement and optimization.

While Kanban tools and Scrum tools are sometimes used interchangeably, these two Agile tools have key differentiators that constitute their unique essence. These are some of the main differences between Scrum and Kanban:

  • Scheduling: Scrum places a great emphasis on schedules. Usually, Scrum teams are provided with a list of prioritized stories that must be completed on time to deliver a finished product. Kanban is iterative by nature, allowing continuous improvement to flow organically as work is completed, but it does not have a defined time constraint.
  • Roles: Scrum must have three defined roles - the product owner, the scrum master, and the team members. Each of these roles has their set of responsibilities but they simultaneously work together to achieve a harmonized environment. In Kanban, there are no prescribed roles as these are preferred to evolve from the needs of the project and the organization. 
  • Boards: While very similar, each board has unique aspects. In Scrum, columns reflect periods in the workflow, from the sprint backlog to the completed product. Scrum stories are added at the beginning of each sprint and if one of them is not completed, it is cleared and prepped for the subsequent sprint. With Kanban, columns show workflow states that include the maximum number of stories allowed in each column at any one time. Since there is no time frame to complete the stories, the Kanban board does not reset as work progresses. It flows as the project continues to evolve with new stories added as new needs arise.
  • Prioritization: Prioritization is an obligate step in Scrum. On the other hand, Kanban uses probabilistic forecasting for project planning.

Scrum and Kanban share these similarities:

  • Agile: Both frameworks are built on the Agile principles to describe how a team collaborates, learns, and completes a project.
  • Communication: Both frameworks use sticky notes to communicate that status of the development process. These sticky notes have the following categories: new features, tasks, bugs, change requests, technical requirements, and knowledge acquisition.
  • Value-centric: Both frameworks are value-centric and are both geared to continuously remove waste and obstacles.

How to avoid micromanagement and disorientation when using the Agile method

There’s an unwanted trend in Agile where users are seeing it evolve into a new form of micromanagement. This micromanagement trend is the result of the increased pressure developers are burdened with to continuously increase efficiency, deliver more outputs using the same number of resources, and be totally transparent. Additionally, product managers are required to deliver assistance or secretarial aid to product design teams to crank out user stories.

In an industry that demands quick results, creativity is being significantly hindered as employees are being instructed on how to perform every little step of their work instead of being empowered to achieve their objectives. Micromanagement is a command and control management style that is permeating the Agile framework, dictating how people should perform their job instead of focusing on the incremental development of a product.

To help avoid this dark trend, there must be clear and open lines of communication between upper and middle management that trickles down to the entire team of developers that is executing the software project.

Another method of avoiding micromanagement and disorientation when using the Agile method is to focus on the developer by giving them the power to do the job they were hired to do and that they know how to execute well. 

Let’s detail the different methods in which Agile users can prevent the framework from becoming a mask of micromanagement and disorientation:

  • Outcome driven: To avoid micromanagement, development teams must focus on outcomes and be open about the needed resources and constraints and trust the rest of the team to get the job done.
  • Target specific areas for improvement: By being mission-oriented, teams must crystalize an arising issue to evaluate the best route to solve it. Effective missions are results-oriented and have set realistic and achievable goals.
  • Time limits: Empowering the team to both define the requirements and build them gives them control over the duration of the project and the isolation from disruptions and context switching.
  • Accountability to achieve a mission: By providing development teams with the power to control the scope and the execution of a project, they are motivated to succeed and achieve the desired end results and overall success in the project.

Now that we know more about the different solutions to avoid micromanagement and disorientation, next we are going to talk about the different Software Project Management tools available and how they can prevent Project Management tasks from turning tedious or overly complex.

Software Project Management Tools

Again and again, Project Management has proven to be critical to organizational and business performance success. Thus, Project Managers must be equipped with a comprehensive set of tools that help them achieve their goals effectively and efficiently.  These are some of the most popular software project management tools that project managers rely on to reach successful results:

  • Casual: Visual project and process management tool that helps organize tasks and ideas to execute a project with simple and easy-to-navigate workflows.
  • Asana: Work management platform that focuses on goals, projects, and daily tasks to help project managers stay on track, stay organized, and meet deadlines.
  • Trello: Collaboration tool that organizes projects into boards. It enables project managers to organize and prioritize work. At a glance, Trello offers a comprehensive view of the projects being worked on, the individuals assigned to each task, and any missing items or tasks in the process.
  • Basecamp: Project management tool that provides a centralized location for the company-wide, team, and project communication. With Basecamp, project managers can communicate effectively and keep everyone in the loop.
  • Todoist: This tool tracks, organizes and accounts for all aspects of a project. It provides a clear overview of the project’s state to meet deadlines, review future workloads, focus on other areas of the project, highlight important aspects of the project, and more.
  • Omniplan: Project management tool for Apple products that places all vital information about a project in a centralized location to create, modify, and track projects.

Conclusion

With Svitla Systems, you have the possibility of leveraging software development structures that are designed specifically for your needs, using the best methodology for your projects. Whether it’s Kanban vs Scrum vs Agile, what really counts for Svitla Systems is to help our clients and deliver a solid and successful product that fully satisfies the client’s needs and requirements. 

We hone in on what is the best solution to reach the best results - from selecting the best methodology for your project to carefully selecting and deploying a team of experts who will help you in every step of the software development process.

Reach out to us for more information, we are happy to help!

by Svitla Team
December 27, 2018

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