3 Key Differences Between Kanban and Scrum Boards and Why They Matter

Tags: Agile


Virtual boards that allow teams to be agile and use Kanban or Scrum methodologies are all the rage. I would venture that everyone has used one of these boards sometime in their life for managing a project at work to possibly even using them in your personal life. But what is a Kanban board and a Scrum Board and what makes them different?

Kanban boards and Scrum boards are virtually the same. They both consist of columns and cards where the vertical columns denote card’s stage and the cards themselves indicate tasks. The order of the cards within a particular column denotes the order in which the tasks need to be completed. Typically, this is handled by the service request manager also sometimes known as the product manager, product owner, or service manager.

Kanban Board Example

But these two types of boards have three key differences. The first of these deals with columns like “in progress” or “solving”. Kanban boards limit the number of items that consume resources such as “in progress” at one time. Meaning, for example, only twenty items can be “in progress” at once. The main reason for this limit is, one of the key objects with Kanban is finishing tasks, not starting them. With a Scrum board, there is generally no limit on the number of items that can be “in progress” at one time.

The second difference is that a Scrum board will not have any new tasks added once the Sprint starts. Scrum is an iterative (systematic) process with a start, finish, and defined tasks. However, Kanban is a constant process, with new tasks being added and organized.

The third and final difference between a Scrum board and a Kanban board is that at the end of a Sprint, all of the items in a scrum board should be in the “done” or “closed” column. If there are any further items in other columns, the Sprint was unsuccessful, and the team should discuss why this is the case in the Sprint Retrospective meeting. However, a Kanban board will never have all of the cards in the “completed” column unless development has stopped

Making the Right Choice for Your Organization

You might have noticed one thing about these differences. Except Kanban boards limiting the number of items that are concurrently being worked on in a particular phase, these two boards are technically the same, and you are right. That is why most companies will choose a Kanban board solution. In most cases a Kanban board ≥ Scrum board. If a company chooses a Kanban board, they should be able to use it for both Scrum and Kanban methodologies.

So why does this matter? Why is it important to know the differences? Well, if you choose the wrong solution, it could limit your efforts to promote agile practices. Many of the “cool” additions digital Kanban boards have received do help simplify processes, improve visibility, and are nice additions. However, you should place more importance on trying to find a versatile tool which can be used by every area of your organization and easily modified to meet your needs. It is also helpful to find a tool that can integrate with your other systems to further promote agile and simplify the hand-off of tasks between workflows and personnel. Kanban boards are meant to help the teams who use them, meaning you must find the right combination of technical and design features to meet your needs. 


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Patrick Thurman

Written by Patrick Thurman

I am the Product Marketing Manager at Efecte and have a passion for identifying and experimenting with new project and management concepts, strategies, and technologies.