Scrum Board vs Kanban Board – Your Tools to Success

Dovile Miseviciute ·

Passionate content marketer looking to bring better solutions to the project management space. 2020 - Present Marketing specialist at Teamhood. 2014 - 2020 Marketing manager for Eylean.

scrum board vs kanban board

These days, it is all about visual task management. We want to see the work that is being done, understand the progress, and easily identify any roadblocks or issues. And at the center of this, we see – various task boards.

There are several options and setups out there for teams to choose from. But the most common dilemma is still between the two most popular visual boards – Scrum board vs Kanban board. To answer this question confidently, let us take an in-depth look at the two boards. Focusing not only on their differences, but similarities, and which is better suited for each type of workflow.

This post is focused on comparing the Scrum board vs the Kanban board. If you are looking to compare the approaches instead, take a look at this: Scrum vs Kanban.

Ready? Let’s begin.

What is a Scrum board?

Scrum board is a visual tool used to track the progress of user stories and their completion during Sprints.

Such a board is most often used by teams that also apply Scrum to manage their projects. However, it can be used as a separate tool to visualize the teams’ progress if there is a need. A typical Scrum board is made out of 3 sections:

  1. Sprint Backlog – holding all of the planned tasks for that Sprint.
  2. In Progress – holding all of the tasks that are currently being worked on. This can be further divided into separate more detailed statuses to mark the progress of individual tasks or subtasks. For example – Doing, Review, Testing.
  3. Completed – holding all of the completed tasks.
Scrum board vs kanban board
scrum board example in Teamhood

How to use a Scrum board?

Since Scrum teams work in iterations called Sprints, the Scrum board is filled with tasks at the start of each new Sprint.

  • During Sprint planning, the Scrum team and the Product owner discuss which user stories will be completed for that Sprint. After dividing them into tasks and estimating the complexity with story points, these tasks are added to the Sprint Backlog section on the Scrum board.
  • Once the planning is done, the Scrum team gets to work on the tasks. They pull them from the Sprint Backlog into the In Progress section. If the team is using a more detailed process description, these statuses are used to mark progress.
  • As the tasks are finished, they are placed into the Completed section.
  • Once the Sprint is over, the team discusses the process and progress of the Sprint. They then move any unfinished tasks into the next Sprint Backlog and clear the board.

Scrum teams that use physical task boards, usually clear the completed items for the next Sprint. Those using an Agile collaboration tool can archive or keep the completed items in a separate section of the board. Allowing them to check up on the information when needed.

What is a Kanban board?

The Kanban board is a tool used to visualize the team’s processes and work progress.

Similarly to the Scrum board, Kanban boards are often used alongside the Kanban principles. However, due to its flexible structure and few rules, we often see Kanban boards being applied without implementing the full approach. Instead, you should be using what works for each specific team.

The Kanban board structure is similar to that of the Scrum board. It is usually composed of 3 main sections that can be expanded on as the team sees fit:

  • Backlog – holds new, planned, and prioritized items for the team to finish. It can be further divided into separate statuses to mark item priority. For example – Priority 1, Priority 2, To Do.
  • Work In Progress – holds items that the team is currently working on. This section is usually divided into multiple statuses to reflect the process each item has to go through. This symbolizes the unique process of each team. For example – Design, Manufacturing, Quality assurance, etc.
  • Completed – holds items that have been completed by the team. Some teams also separate this section to have statuses for tasks that were delivered at a lower level or failed.
Scrum board vs kanban board
Kanban board structure in Teamhood

How to use a Kanban board?

Unlike Scrum, the iterations in Kanban are not fixed in terms of time. Instead, the iterations are planned to deliver a substantial improvement to the product/service/project. While there are no time limits, the teams still follow certain rules to ensure continuous delivery of value:

  • At the beginning of the new iteration, Kanban teams hold a planning meeting. During this time, the team reviews the backlog and selects which items to deliver based on their priorities. Selected items are then moved to the Backlog or Priority columns on the Kanban board. Since there is no time limit, the team plans the scope intending to deliver a substantial value increment during each iteration.
  • As the iteration begins, team members pull items from the backlog according to their priorities. The highest priority items are completed first, then moving to lower priority items.
  • Work In Progress statuses help the team visualize the progress of each item. Work In Progress limits define how many items can be pulled in progress at any time to avoid working on too many things at once.
  • Kanban boards can be further divided into swimlanes to help separate different types of items, teams, service levels, etc. This helps larger teams to keep the boards organized as well as mark the most urgent items.
  • Completed items are placed in the Completed section of the board. The planning trigger notifies the team when a new planning session needs to be held.

Since iterations in Kanban are continuous, there is no clearing of the board after each iteration. The work simply goes on without any interruptions. However, if the team wants to keep the board clean, there are no rules against clearing the board as they see fit.

Explore more Kanban board examples.

Scrum board vs Kanban board – similarities

When looking at the Scrum board vs Kanban board, both are visual tools that help understand and track the progress of the team. Here are a few of the ways these two solutions are similar:

  1. Both visualize task progress. Scrum and Kanban boards are essentially tools that allow teams to track the item’s progress. They visualize the teams’ process and give a single-glance overview of what is going on.
  2. Both use backlogs. To hold all of the ideas and plans for the future. The application is a little different, but essentially backlogs act as a place to put all the ideas, customer requests, and plans.
  3. Both prioritize items. Unlike traditional project management, both tools ask for teams to prioritize items before each iteration/Sprint. This gives teams the option to review priorities and decide what is the most important to do at that time.

Scrum board vs Kanban board – differences

Now that we looked at the similarities of the two solutions, we should also discuss the differences. And even though the idea behind these tools is very similar, the application differs as well.

1. Board ownership

  • Scrum boards are usually dedicated to a single team. Meaning it is only tasks of that team that are visualized there.
  • Kanban, on the other hand, poses no such restrictions. It can be shared by multiple teams or individuals. As long as their processes are aligned.

2. Board management

  • In Scrum, the board is the responsibility of the Product Owner. It is their duty to prioritize with the team and fill the product backlog for each sprint.
  • Kanban boards are managed by the whole team. It is up to the team members to prioritize the backlog and then pull items from it to start working. It is the team members who assign items to themselves.

3. Iteration scope

  • Scrum boards ask the team members to estimate their tasks in story points. Such a system is used as an alternative to time estimations in an effort to remove the pressure of performing. Instead of focusing on the complexity of each task. Based on previous performance, the team knows how many story points can be completed during a Sprint and defines their scope by that.
  • In the Kanban board, the iterations are not timed. To forecast how quickly the planned work can be done, teams use probabilistic forecasting and Flow metrics. Based on previous performance, they give the team a realistic timeline for their work. Some tools even include additional layers, which forecasts the completion dates of your items.
when will it be done
When will it be done layer in Teamhood

4. Item size

  • In Scrum, task size is evaluated in story points and broken down if too big. Typically, the team aims not to have any tasks that would take longer than 1 work day to complete.
  • In Kanban, there is no requirement to break down tasks if too big. However, keeping items at a similar size allows more accuracy when calculating average cycle time and other performance metrics.
cycle time

5. Urgent work

  • Scrum iterations are planned in advance and this means adding anything new to an ongoing Sprint is highly discouraged. It can be done, but only in extreme cases.
  • Kanban boards are often created with an expedite swimlane for such cases. Since the iterations are not fixed in length, urgent work can be put into an expedite lane and completed with the highest priority.
kanban vs scrum board
Expedite swimlane

6. Work In Progress Limits

  • In Scrum boards, there is no requirement for teams to limit the work in progress. Since the iteration scope is already limited by time.
  • With Kanban, most teams imply a WIP limit in order to minimize the number of items that are being worked on at any one time. The general rule of thumb is 1 item per team member. Thus forcing team members to finish their started work before starting a new item. WIP limits are usually visualized next to the status name.
wip limits
Exceeding WIP limit in Teamhood

7. Performance metrics

When comparing the Scrum board vs Kanban board, we can see a true difference in the metrics that each tool tracks.

  • Scrum board metrics are mostly focused on velocity as well as visualizing progress on a Burndown chart.
  • Kanban boards follow metrics more closely related to throughput. You will find things like Cycle time, Age in progress, and Cumulative flow diagram. Learn more about the Kanban metrics.

8. End of iteration

Lastly, we can find a difference between the Kanban board vs Scrum board in terms of how often they are reset.

  • The Scrum board is cleared and reset after each Sprint. Any unfinished items are moved into the next Sprint backlog or resolved. Thus leaving a clean slate for the next Sprint.
  • Work in Kanban is continuous, thus there is no resetting of the board for each iteration. The work carries on, however, it is up to the team to clean up the board if they want to remove old items and minimize cluster.

Which to choose – Kanban vs Scrum board?

The choice between the Scrum board vs Kanban board is subjective to each team. In most cases, this boils down to the Agile framework the team decides to go with – Scrum or Kanban.

If you are still on the fence, here are some pointers to guide you on the right path.

Choose a Scrum board if:

  • You prefer to work in time-defined iterations.
  • You prefer to work in a framework that has clear rules to follow.
  • Your process needs to accommodate change as well as have a clear delivery schedule.

Chose a Kanban board if:

  • You simply want to visualize your tasks without having to worry about any frameworks.
  • You already have experience with Agile and want to tailor the board to your processes.
  • You want to give the team autonomy in their work and trust them to deliver results.
  • You need flexibility in your processes.

Visualize your tasks with Teamhood

Looking to visualize your work with one of the two tools? You do not have to choose which is better for you – Scrum board vs Kanban board, when using an Agile project management tool like Teamhood. Here, you can visualize tasks on a flexible Kanban board that can easily accommodate Scrum, as well as any other Agile teams.

Register for a free account today and visualize your tasks in minutes.

Visual work management for high performing teams.

Scrum board vs Kanban board – you do not have to choose.

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online kanban board
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