Kanban vs. Scrum Boards for Agile Development

Kanban-vs-ScrumKanban and scrum boards are typically associated with whiteboards and to-do lists. How do you differentiate between the two? Comparing¬†Kanban vs. Scrum Boards in this article will look at their similarities and differences so you can determine which board is best for your organization’s management team.

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

Kanban Boards vs. Scrum Boards, which is right for you?

Kanban boards and scrum boards use sticky notes to visually show the state of your development progress. There are different categories of notes that will appear on your boards, including: tasks, bugs, new features, changes, requests, technical requirements, and knowledge acquisition.

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 boards are JIRA, Trello, RealtimeBoard, and others.

There are also systems called lean, which is born out of the Japanese manufacturing industry when it aimed to reduce loss and sustain production. But for now, we are focusing on kanban and scrum boards, which are agile development methods.

Kanban Boards

Kanban boards are a board that tracks the process flow 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 limits work in progress for each workflow state on the board.

Scrum Boards

Scrum boards are boards for tracking your work in Sprints. Springs are consistent, short, and repetitive periods of time. The length of Sprints is short enough to allow your team to focus but also long 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 (Sprint).

Scrum limits your work in progress per an iteration. Your team must commit to a certain number of tasks per Sprint time.

Differences in Kanban and Scrum
Differences in Kanban and Scrum

Board Ownership

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

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

Changing Rights for Product Owners

Scrum boards cannot be edited by the product owner if the team has already committed to several items for a Sprint. Scrum boards are visible, however, to anyone who is interested, but can only be edited by the Scrum team.

Product owners can edit a Kanban board. Kanban has two “hats” that team owners can wear: Service Delivery Manager and Service Request Manager, who is an alternative to the product owner.

Task Management

The entire team is devoted to each task on a scrum board.

On a kanban board, however, a team is not responsible for all tasks originally. Each team member is responsible for a certain step on the task flow like testing, coding, etc. There is a procedure to help resolve bottlenecks if needed: a team member can help someone else if he or she has completed their assigned task.


Scrum teams will not add new items during the Sprint because they are already set before it begins.

Kanban teams have no timeframes for updating 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 the methodology 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 may be equated with a “User Story”.


Scrum teams will break down items too big for a Sprint so they are done in steps.

Kanban boards have no specific rules for the volume 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.

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 board 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 board to find out which works best for your organization’s needs.

Once that is done, then you can begin to optimize the boards for your specific company. You can improve upon existing practices and possibly create new ones.