Kanban vs. Scrum Boards for Project Management

Kanban-vs-ScrumKanban and scrum boards are both used for project management, often alongside the agile methods of project management.

But just because kanban and scrum boards have been historically been used for software, don’t let that stop you from using them to efficiently manage your project. They can be used for any type of project management.

If you are interested in kanban, consider using Allisian as a kanban board management tool. 

So, how do you differentiate between the two? In this article we’ll compare kanban and scrum boards. We’ll look at their similarities and differences so you can determine which board methodology is better for you.

You may find that you may have to combine the two methods, but first, let’s look at how they are implemented individually.

Kanban boards vs. scrum boards, which is right for you?

Kanban boards and scrum boards historically (in their “analog” state) use sticky notes to visually show the state of your development progress. Of course in their digital format, paper sticky notes are digital blocks, or tiles, on your task column.

To-Do/In-Progress/Done columns are not necessarily canonic, and typically a development team will expand an In-Progress column to meet their needs (testing, etc.).

Many companies today are using remote-workforces, utilizing the gig economy and remote workers, so they will not use physical whiteboards. There are various online kanban boards and scrum boards that allow for your entire remote team of workers to be virtually present when viewing the board.

Some of these online scrum board offerings are JIRA, Trello and others.

Kanban Boards

Kanban boards track the status of each task (i.e. backlog, ready, in-progress, complete) and the number of work-in-progress activities. The work-in-progress is typically small so it avoids tasks that are unworthy while still being big enough to reduce idle time for your team.

Kanban boards limit the amount of work in progress for each workflow state on the board. As opposed to scrum boards, they are also unlimited in scope as far as time goes.

If you are interested in kanban, check out Allisian as a kanban board management tool. 

Scrum Boards

Scrum boards are boards for tracking your work in sprints. Sprints are consistent, short, and repetitive periods of time. The length of sprints is short enough to allow your team to focus but also enough for them to deliver shippable increments of work. Scrum is like a test, really: you need to complete a specified number of tasks in an allotted period – and no other activities are allowed during this time (or the sprint).

Scrum limits your work in progress per an iteration (or sprint). Your team must commit to a certain number of tasks per sprint.

Sprints can vary in the amount of time – but they typically range from a week to a month.

Differences in Kanban and Scrum
Differences in Kanban and Scrum

Board Ownership

Kanban boards do not need to be owned by any specific person because they are primarily devoted to the workflow.

Scrum boards, however, are always owned by one scrum team, and prioritized by a product owner. A scrum team is a group of cross-functional employees with the skills necessary to complete all tasks in any of the sprints.

Changing Responsibilities for Product Owners

Scrum boards cannot be edited by the product owner if the team has already committed to several items for a sprint. The backlog is what the product owner is responsible, and authorized, to prioritize. More on that here. Scrum boards are visible to anyone who is interested, but can only be edited by the team.


Scrum teams are not allowed to add new items during the sprint because they are already committed to the tasks at hand.

Kanban teams on the other hand, have no timeframes for updating tasks on the board, so as soon as a task moves from “In Progress” to “Completed”, a new item will come under development.


Scrum teams will rarely face unexpected urgencies because one of the aims of scrum is to make it adaptive to the team. It’s predictive in other words.

Kanban boards can add an urgency section when an unpredicted task arises from a backlog or bottleneck. The urgency will be deemed high priority for the team, so members can be sent to finish it faster.


Scrum boards move items from the product backlog to the sprint backlog. These are items which ought to be committed to create in a defined time period.

Kanban boards also use backlogs which are filled with “user stories”.


Scrum teams will break down items too big for a sprint so they are done in steps. This means it is accomplished in multiple sprints.

Kanban boards have no specific rules for the size of a task.

Prioritization is a must for scrum boards, which include sorting and grooming the product backlog and setting priorities. This will allow for prediction of sprints.

Kanban, however, doesn’t use prioritization but uses probabilistic forecasting for prediction.


Scrum boards use velocity as a primary metric to report and chart. You’ll get sprint burndown charts, sprint reports, etc.

Kanban’s primary metric is lead time, a control chart that measures cycle time for various issues as well as a Cumulative Flow Diagram.


When you finish a sprint on a scrum board, all stickers should be moved to the DONE section of the board.

Kanban boards are a persistent tool without any specific timeframes, so you don’t have to reset or start over.

Task Columns

Both scrum and kanban use columns of tasks to manage the project. This is one area that the two do not differ. Often the columns are grouped into the below, or something quite similar.

  • Backlog
  • Ready
  • Clarification
  • In-Progress
  • Blocked
  • Complete

While the bullets/columns above are not conclusive, they are representative of a scrum or kanban board in many situations.

Which Board is Best?

It’s impossible really to know for sure which one is best for you, but it is helpful to understand each method before trying.

The best results often come from combining features of both boards.

Before customizing your project management approach, try to implement the features of the boards as they are originally intended. Try each method (kanban and scrum) to find out which works best for your organization’s needs.

If you are interested in kanban, check out Allisian as a kanban board management tool.