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Scrum vs Other Methodologies

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You have probably already heard a lot about Scrum being the most efficient methodology for software development. However, nowadays, there are a lot of other frameworks that help teams organize their work — all having their pros and cons. And it’s not always easy to see the differences between them and figure out what would be the best fit for your product.

If you still feel confused when you hear the word “Scrum”, read this article where we explain what it is. For more information on how Scrum works, see this article.

Today, we’ll try to explain how Scrum relates to other methodologies and concepts you can hear about when it comes to project management.

Agile vs Scrum

Agile is the umbrella philosophy that underpins several methodologies. Scrum is one of the most popular of them along with Kanban and Extreme Programming. Hence, it’s not quite right to set Agile against Scrum because the former is just a more general concept that covers the later which is more specific.

Agile vs Scrum vs Kanban vs Extreme Programming

The distinctive feature of all Agile methods is that they are lightweight, meaning that they strive to reduce heavy planning and excessive regulation. That’s why, agile software development is highly adaptable to changes, aimed at rapid delivery, constant improvements and accumulation of knowledge.

To make the difference between Agile and Scrum more clear, here’s how these two concepts correlate:

  • Agile is the generalized approach to software development, while Scrum is one of the ways it’s implemented.
  • Agile does not have specific instruction on how the work should be done — it’s just a set of values and principles. Scrum includes rules and prescriptions that are based on these values and principles.

Summing up: One cannot choose between Agile and Scrum because if you opt for Scrum software development, what you actually choose is the Agile project management with Scrum.

Kanban vs Scrum

Both Scrum and Kanban are Agile methodologies. And since they’re built on the same philosophy, there are some similarities between these two approaches. For example, like in Scrum, the work in Kanban is done iteratively and the development process is quite flexible. However, the way a team collaborates and do the tasks is different.

In Japanese, the word “kanban” means “billboard” and the methodology got its name because it utilizes so-called kanban board. The board represents the items in a product backlog and, traditionally, it contains three key sections: tasks to be done, tasks in progress and completed tasks (see below). Yet, there might be some variations in software development, for example, a team may split the “in progress” column into “coding” and “testing” if needed.

kanban board

Speaking about the Scrum vs Kanban, the differences are the following:

  • Process. While Scrum development process consists of fixed-duration sprints, the work in Kanban occurs as a continuous flow.
  • Prioritization. In Scrum, the tasks are pulled from product backlog in batches that form a sprint backlog. In the case of Kanban, a team delivers feature sets on an as-needed basis and it starts the new tasks only after the previous one is completed.
  • Team roles. All members of a Scrum team have their own roles and responsibilities. In Kanban, the roles are not strictly defined and the team members are encouraged to collaborate.
  • Modifications. The changes in Kanban can be made any time during the development process. Scrum framework allows for the modifications only after a sprint is completed and any changes that jeopardize the sprint goal are prohibited.

Summing up: Kanban and Scrum are both efficient methodologies which are frequently applied in software development. Yet, Scrum has more strict rules in terms of roles and delivery timelines, while it still remains flexible and may be easily adapted to new conditions. This allows a team to avoid chaos and keep the cadence. At the same time, since Scrum is more structured and predictable, clients receive their increments on predefined regularity and can better understand what’s happening on the project.  

Waterfall vs Scrum

When it comes to software development, the confrontation between Waterfall methodology and Scrum (or even Agile vs Waterfall) is deemed to be the toughest one. This is because these two models represent diametrically opposite approaches to the way a product is created. 

stages of waterfall

Waterfall is a conventional project management methodology — it’s linear and sequential. This means that the whole process is broken into stages which go one after another. A team has to finish one phase of the development before the next phase can begin. The classic waterfall model of a software development process includes five stages: writing software requirements specifications, creating design, implementation (or coding), verification (or testing), and maintenance.

Waterfall and Scrum do not have much in common, so the list of differences can be really huge. But here are the most crucial of them for you to grasp the basic concept:

  • Planning. Waterfall assumes that requirements are well-documented before the coding starts. This stage of the process usually takes a lot of time, so the delivery of the first feature set is postponed until everything is planned. At the same time, Scrum does not have a lengthy pre-development stage — the team can start coding once the backlog for the first sprint is defined.
  • Flexibility. In Waterfall, any changes to the development process are not favored since you cannot go back to the prior stages. On the other hand, the Scrum framework is extremely flexible — clients’ feedback is gathered on a regular basis and can be adapted to new conditions as needed after each sprint.
  • Deliverables. If a development team applies Waterfall methodology, clients see only the final product since software isn’t delivered until the whole work is done. In Scrum, clients receive potentially releasable pieces of software after each sprint (i.e. every 2-4 weeks).
  • Client involvement. Since clients in Waterfall are not actively involved in the process, software development is driven by contracts and documentation. In the case of Scrum, clients are invited to Sprint Review — an event aimed at inspecting and discussing work done within the sprint. They have an opportunity to participate in the discussion and make comments on how to improve the product.

Summing up: Waterfall works well only for short-term, simple and fully predictable projects. It’s not the best option to use this methodology in software development since trying to predict everything in advance may be quite risky and ineffective. On top of this, there are good chances that clients will not be fully satisfied with results because their desires and market conditions may change over the development process. At the same time, Scrum allows teams and clients to eliminate these risks making the process efficient and convenient for all sides.

XP vs Scrum

XP stands for Extreme Programming and, as mentioned above, it’s another agile development methodology. Since XP and Scrum have the same principles and values in their foundation, they have some common features. Like Scrum, Extreme Programming aims at improving the quality of a product and adapting it to clients’ requirements. The work in XP is also based on early delivery, constant communication, clients’ feedback and iterative process.

The word “extreme” in the name of this methodology is not accidental. XP strives to take best programming practices to the extreme level. For example, if a team applies Extreme Programming methodology, they perform a code review constantly through pair programming (when two developers, a navigator and observer, work together using one computer), unit and integration testing. On the image below, you can see how the XP cycle looks.

Extreme programming

Yet, although Scrum and XP are both agile methodologies, they are different in terms of practical implementation:

  • Focus. Scrum focuses on the big picture, i.e. the way the work is organized. At the same time, Extreme Programming deals with engineering things and prescribes how a team should build a product, i.e. the way the work should be done.
  • Product backlog. In Scrum, sprint backlog remains unchanged till the end of a sprint, while XP allows a team to swap items within one iteration.
  • Roles and processes. XP does not contain any detailed instructions on team roles and processes. In Scrum, each team member has particular responsibilities and there are strict rules on how sprint events should be held.

Summing up: The main difference between Scrum and XP is that they focus on different things. Hence, it would be wrong to say that these methodologies are mutually exclusive. The one may complement the other if a team decide to apply both of them simultaneously. Yet, Scrum brings more benefits to clients since it makes the development process transparent, clear and organized. So we recommend opting for Scrum as the first priority and adding XP framework to it if you want to have a better control over the technical work.

Lean vs Scrum

lean vs agile vs scrum

Lean is a philosophy like Agile, not a methodology like Scrum. Its core principles include the following: eliminate waste, amplify learning, decide as late as possible, deliver as fast as possible, empower the team, build integrity in and see the whole. Here’s how Lean, Agile and Scrum relate to each other:

    • Lean vs Agile. While these philosophies have a lot in common, the difference between Agile and Lean is that they focus on different things (just like Scrum and Kanban). Agile is all about how separate projects are to be completed by a development team. At the same time, Lean takes more system view and looks at how the entire organization is delivering its value.
  • Scrum vs Lean. Scrum is based on Agile philosophy. However, since Agile and Lean are not contradictory in their nature, Scrum team can use Lean principles as well to improve the way they work.

Summing up:  Scrum and Lean are concepts from different categories so there can be no “either-or” choice. A team cannot do Lean, but it can certainly apply this philosophy to optimize software development, including processes within the Scrum framework.


A project management methodology is one of the most essential factors influencing the quality of a product, as well as the level of clients’ satisfaction from the final results. To pick the one that will suit your project best, we recommend you to do a deep research and think thoroughly about your expectations and needs. Yet, as we see from the practice, Scrum provides clients with the optimal ratio of their involvement into the project, flexibility and well-organized processes.

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