Kanban vs. Scrum boards: what’s the difference?

Kanban vs. Scrum boards: what’s the difference?

Project Managers are fawning over Kanban and Scrum boards. They are the hottest scheduling systems around. Both benefit the software space exceptionally well.

From afar, the two systems look very similar. Each emphasizes project completion and scope management. Yet, upon closer inspection, many differences exist between the two.

Both systems come with their own flaws and success stories. Each is steeped in Agile methodology. However, their approaches splinter from there.

Kanban and Scrum boards can work for your team. But which works best? To understand, let’s discuss their differences.

The Differences Between Kanban and Scrum Boards

Structure and Team Roles

With Kanban boards, the structure is pretty fluid. No key role exists. It is advised that Kanban teams should at least designate a Project Manager, though it’s not required. Instead, Kanban fits the need of the team. Cross-functionality is also not required.

Scrum requires a more solidified team organization. Key roles must be assigned to process the workflow. They are:

With Scrum boards, your team functions off a clear delineation of roles:

  • The Product Owner sets the team’s goals.
  • The Scrum Master manages the timeline.
  • The Development Team accomplishes the tasks defined by the overall goal and daily stand-up.

Regardless the setup, both emphasize teamwork. Scrum pushes for team-sourced solutions for every problem. Kanban does the same. However, it portions the work into chunks that the team completes in increments.


The function of workflows and deadlines vary between Kanban and Scrum boards. With Kanban, prioritization is key, and evolution is expected.

Product deadlines are established by the need of the project. Along the way, processes are evaluated and addressed. Variables are often altered, including:

  • Roles,
  • Processes, and
  • Allowances & Restrictions.

Scrum’s disciplined approach focuses on staying within scope on a predetermined schedule. Priorities once again play critical importance. However, the team decides its points allocation based on the team’s capabilities.

Accuracy is required when predicting scope. A deliverable is needed at the end of each sprint. So, every point assessment must be met at the end of every sprint.

Teams ahead of schedule also need to reign in their work. In Scrum systems, exceeding the goal of a sprint is not allowed. All work must be done within its set sprint.

Project Alterations

Kanban’s free-flowing schedule allows for mid-project changes. If time permits, a task can be added to the team’s calendar. Once a task is marked complete, a new job fills in as the active assignment.

This system allows for modifications and alterations to occur in real-time. A high-quality Product Owner and Scrum Master need to take ownership of these decisions. Otherwise, projects can become overloaded due to inaccurate scope assessments.

Scrum strongly advises against deviating from the original plan. This allows for complete attention on the current sprint. Without additional project needs arising, the team focuses keenly on the prioritized tasks.

Each system offers its pros and cons. Kanban can lead to team members getting overwhelmed by constant work. Yet, with Scrum, team members’ full potential can be stifled with a work cap.


In this facet, the differences are limited. Both boards employ labels to designate workflow statuses. From there, they begin to differ.

Kanban places a cap on the number of stories at any given time. Once this number is established, it cannot be exceeded. This helps the Scrum master determine if there is time for additional tasks during a sprint. With this pipeline, a project’s end is determined by when the tasks stop flowing in.

Unlike Kanban, Scrum boards aren’t cleared to signify the end of a sprint. Instead, a project’s completion is when every task is moved to the bottom of the board. In this system, all work is added before the sprint begins.

Both boards can be useful and potentially overwhelming. Though, any skilled team will know how to manage either system.

When to Use Which

Both Kanban and Scrum offer solutions for teams large and small. Additionally so, they both have their pros and cons.

If your team is subject to change, it’s safe to say that Kanban is for you. You may have to deal with the story cap, but it’s worth it. And if your team is solidified and by the book, Scrum is perfect.

The scope and depth of your project also determine which is best for you. Kanban works best with smaller-scale projects. Meanwhile, Scrum helps larger projects deliver work on time.

Consider these points as suggestions. Choose what works best for your team. Whether it’s Kanban or Scrum boards, make the informed decision. Analyze your needs and capabilities for the optimal scheduling system. And choose the right tool to support you and your team.

Backlog Backlog is a member of Nulab, the creators of Backlog.