Scrumban is a combination of key elements drawn from the scrum and kanban workflow management processes, both of which are considered agile approaches to project management.
In short, scrumban combines the iterative structure of the scrum framework with kanban’s ‘pull’ system of work scheduling, where completed tasks are continuously replaced with new ones. The best project management software now facilitates the implementation of scrum, kanban, and scrumban frameworks.
In this guide, we'll run through:
- The Difference Between Kanban vs Scrumban
- The Benefits of Kanban
- The Benefits of Scrumban
- When You Should Use Kanban and Scrumban
- How To Get Started with Kanban and Scrumban
Kanban vs Scrumban: What's the Difference?
Kanban is an agile workflow management methodology that helps project managers visualize the progress of all the constituent tasks that make up their project. Usually, these are displayed on ‘kanban boards’, which have columns denoting the different phases (e.g. ‘to-do’, ‘’in progress’, ‘completed’) that a task can be in.
The kanban method is a pull system, meaning new tasks are ‘pulled’ into the kanban board once there is space for them. This way, the development team never gets overburdened, and the task backlog is worked through incrementally.
Scrumban is a merging of the kanban and scrum methodologies. It combines the visualization and flexibility of the kanban method with the structure and iterative approach of scrum.
This is very different from scrum, another agile workflow management process, which focuses on breaking up projects into small collections of related tasks (called ‘iterations') and completing them in ‘sprints’ of one to four weeks.
Scrumban is a merging of the kanban and scrum methodologies. It combines the visualization and flexibility of the kanban method with the structure and iterative approach of scrum. Originally, scrumban was actually created to help teams transition between the two, but since then, it has taken on a life of its own.
From kanban, scrumban takes:
- Kaizen – A working philosophy of continuous improvement.
- Pull scheduling – In which work or tasks are ‘pulled’ into the workflow when there is space.
- Work in progress – A concept limiting the number of tasks that can be ‘pulled in’ to the workflow.
From scrum, scrumban takes:
- Sprints – Although scrumban teams may not sprint with the same intensity and speed as scrum teams, they’re inspired by the short development cycles in scrum.
- Process constraints – Scrum teams have to work under more rules and with a more rigid structure than kanban teams. Scrumban steals some of this structure to create focused, short cycles of work.
- Prioritization – Scurmban teams are similar to scrum teams in the way they treat prioritization – teams always work on the best thing to do next. With the kanban method, you don’t necessarily have to prioritize to the same degree.
Key Areas of Difference
As mentioned just above, scrum is a lot more rigid and constrained in its structure than kanban and scrumban are. Kanban can be easily sculpted to fit the project at hand, and the scrumban method is certainly malleable too – it’s just not quite as flexible as kanban because it borrows principles from the more rigid scrum framework.
The scrum and kanban methods differ in how project work is divided, with scrum splitting up tasks into one to four-week sprints and kanban teams working continuously, using a collection of either short or longer-term deadlines.
Scrumban teams in industries like software development may draw on both kanban and scrum approaches, instating shorter cycles for planning but sticking to longer-term release dates.
With kanban, teams set limits on how much work can be done at once (in other words, how much is in the ‘to-do’ pile), whereas scrum teams are already limited to the work that's been chosen for a specific sprint. The scrumban method takes more inspiration from kanban here, enforcing similar work in progress limits.
The scrumban and kanban methods also put no limits on task size, whereas a scrum team will limit task sizes to what can be feasibly completed within a sprint.
Evaluation and Reflection
Whilst scrum teams are expected to have plenty of catch-ups during a sprint, including daily scrum meetings, kanban teams can avoid meetings altogether. Scrumban teams sit in the middle, and will likely enforce more meeting time than the traditional kanban method demands, but significantly less than what scrum purists prescribe.
Scrumban teams will host ‘kaizen events’ in which teams members review processes.
A similar principle applies to evaluating performance. Whilst scrum teams will organize special sessions called scrum retrospectives to assess how the team is doing, this sort of mid-project evaluation is not necessary for kanban teams. Scrumban teams will host ‘kaizen events’ in which teams members review processes, although these aren’t as regimented or routine as scrum retrospectives.
Metrics used to chart performance also differ quite significantly between the three philosophies. Scrum teams will use burndown charts to work out exactly how well their sprint setup is working out for them, while kanban teams will compare lead time (the time elapsed between comitting to a task and completing it) to cycle time (how long you actually spend working on a task). Meanwhile, scrumban teams are more interested in the average cycle time.
Roles and Team Members
Scrum teams have rigid roles, including a product owner, a scrum master, and a development team, while kanban and scrumban teams do not require this level of structure. Another similarity between kanban and scrumban is that tasks can be owned by a number of different teams simultaneously, while scrum teams take responsibility for the entirety of a task.
Another key difference is in the skillsets of the team members in each framework. Scrum teams are usually cross-functional (meaning they take ownership of a product or service, and need all the competencies required to build and complete it), whereas kanban teams are usually bigger and have more task-specific competencies.
What Projects Are Kanban and Scrumban Best For?
Another way to understand the differences between these three philosophies – particularly kanban and scrumban – is to take a look at what kind of projects they’d be best suited for. Here are a few examples:
- Kanban is best for projects without a clear end date
- Kanban is better for projects that may change in scope over time
- Kanban is better when work is coming in at an irregular pace
- Kanban is better if tasks in your project vary wildly in size and scope
- Scrumban is better for software development teams that need to action feedback
- Scrumban is better for projects with high stakeholder involvement
- Scrumban is better for teams struggling to implement scrum properly
- Scrumban is best if you’re transitioning from scrum to kanban (or vice versa)
Scrumban will also benefit those who look at scrum teams and say “the structure and rules in this methodology would massively benefit my team, but the sprint cycles are too short to be appropriate for the product/services I work on.” Scrumban is the middle ground between the rule-free kanban board and the rule-bound scrum framework.
What Are the Benefits of Kanban?
Some of the benefits of kanban boards can seem almost like common sense. But this is precisely why it's been such a successful framework, and why so many teams use it.
- Sensitivity to change – The continuous nature of the workflow kanban creates means it's easy to change deadline dates, spend more time on the tasks that need it, and action any feedback you receive immediately.
- Clarity and collaboration – The best collaboration can only be done by teams that are all on the same page when it comes to the direction of a project, what needs to be done, and what’s been completed already. Kanban boards provide as much visual clarity on these issues as you could ask for.
- More productivity and less waste – Kanban allows for a continuous workflow, meaning that (in theory) there should be a constant stream of work coming through for your team and very little dead time.
Kanban boards are extremely useful for stakeholders who want to view a project’s progress. They can simply log into whatever project management software you’re using the kanban board function of, and they’ll have a crystal clear conception of the state of their project.
There are, of course, some disadvantages to the kanban method. For one, flexibility is an advantage, but this does mean the board will need to be constantly updated with changes. If changes to the project take place, but no one updates the board, then you're going to run into some very significant issues further down the line.
Relying solely on a single board for organizational purposes could see it get quite busy and overcomplicated.
Another downside of kanban is the fact that team members can lose focus or become distracted with less significant tasks, because there are fewer rules and a lack of project ownership. Some project managers refuse to use it because it lacks time parameters.
What Are the Benefits of Scrumban?
There are a number of useful advantages to deploying the merged scrumban approach over the original kanban and scrum options. These include:
- Rules and flexibility – By lifting kanban’s sensitivity to intra-project changes and pairing it with some inherited rules from scrum, scrumban creates a framework for managing projects that can incorporate change within sprint cycles whilst still retaining the cycles themselves.
- Improved processes – Kanban and scrum both have separate, distinct ways to evaluate project progress and better the processes being used. With both at their disposal, scrumban teams will have ample mechanisms with which to identify process issues and subsequently improve efficiency.
- Efficient compartmentalization – A visual project progress tracker (a kanban board), combined with scrum’s ability to break huge projects down into smaller collections of relevant tasks, creates a compartmentalized system of tasks that can be easily tracked and completed whilst remaining flexible to change.
Although there are of course many exceptions to this rule, a point that could be made in favor of scrumban over both kanban and scrum is that it is a workflow management method that combines the best elements of two already useful workflow management methods.
In theory, this means that scrumban retains the most useful elements of either whilst shedding the less handy aspects of both frameworks.
In theory, this means that scrumban retains the most useful elements of either whilst shedding the less handy aspects of both frameworks. This could also make it more applicable across teams, as it has characteristics that could help manage workflows in an even wider variety of industries.
One unfortunate pitfall to the scrumban method is that people haven't been using it for as long as the kanban and scrum frameworks. This means that best practices have had less time to rise to the top – and important modifications that take place early on in the life cycle of a popular workflow management process are unlikely to have emerged yet.
Difficulty tracking the work of self-directed and self-organized teams – and the fact that scrumban is designed to facilitate a ‘hands-off' approach – means that project managers may find they don't have as much control as they'd like with scrumban, too.
Should I Use Kanban or Scrumban?
The scrum structure, including the way it divides responsibility and has team members take ownership of the project they’re working on, makes the method attractive to teams inside and outside of the software development sector.
If you’re looking for a sprint-like structure to organize your team around – but would like to retain the flexibility of the kanban method – then scrumban could be the perfect middle ground solution that gives you the best of both worlds.
Scrumban will also be useful if you find the traditional sprint cycles in scrum too short. Because scrumban is the middle ground between kanban (no cycles, rather continuous work) and scrum (one to four-week cycles), teams with three to six-month project cycles often find it useful.
If you're working on one large project made up of smaller, constituent projects, then it may be easier to understand the overall progress once all tasks are added to a kanban board. Similarly, if you have a wide variety of teams working on a broad range of tasks – or the work you need to do is coming in at an uneven pace, then kanban is a better choice.
There are certain industries and teams that will find either the kanban or scrumban approach more useful.
- Startups and fast-paced software companies will benefit from scrumban, as it will provide more structure and help with quick delivery but still give room to maneuver.
- Event planners will also find that scrumban fits in well with their line of work, as events teams work in cycles typically longer than one to four weeks and will have skill-specific team members, such as lighting crews and sound engineers.
- New teams will find joy in scrumban, because it’ll provide enough scrum rules and structure to create stability and consistent achievement, while employing the continuous improvement mechanisms of kanban.
- Teams that are in transition will likely benefit from the ‘some rules, some flexibility’ approach that merges the merits of Scrumban’s parent methodologies.
Kanban, on the other hand, isn’t reserved for established or well-practiced teams. But due to kanban's lack of rules and structure, experienced team members with more specific skills will get the most joy out of the system. Other teams that will benefit from kanban include:
- IT teams that are working with a constant stream of tickets detailing technical glitches that need troubleshooting. Kanban's continuous flow will allow for flexibility and ensure the team does not feel swamped.
- Support and maintenance teams getting constant requests of varying sizes, coming in at all hours of the day, will benefit much more from kanban.
- Healthcare teams around the world use the kanban method to identify vacancies in hospitals and manage both the entry and exit process for patients.
- Manufacturing teams use the kanban framework because it improves efficiency by basing all work on the current processing conditions, so there’s less backlog and wasted time.
How Do I Get Started With Kanban or Scrumban?
If you're scheduled to manage a project in 2023 and you haven't invested in project management software, then it's safe to say you're putting yourself at a disadvantage from the get-go. Dedicated software always helps, whatever you're doing, but project management software really is a one-stop-shop with everything you could ever possibly need to facilitate a successful project.
To pick one relevant example to this article, kanban boards are provided by almost all solid project management software solutions. Providers like monday.com and Wrike will automatically fill your kanban boards, too (which essentially means that if you've put in your task info on another part of the software, it'll turn it into a kanban board without you having to do anything). This makes them ideal providers if you want your project to be underpinned by agile principles.
You can also create scrum boards with providers like monday.com, which has tools that help scrum teams like an online whiteboard and various other collaboration tools that allow for super-smooth day-to-day operations. The main advantages of PM software are:
- Assistance implementing frameworks – As we just discussed, features like kanban boards will give you a digital foundation upon which to build your workplace philosophy, and help ensure that all your processes are sculpted by it.
- Massive efficiency boost – If you're running – or have run – a complex project without project management software, then you'll find that timetabling is about to get a lot easier. This software will save you time by ensuring everything you need is right there at your fingertips, and by improving certain processes with software ‘shortcuts.'
- Long-term money saving – What happens when a project's goal is missed, or the final product falls short of expectations? Someone loses money. What happens when items or tasks are forgotten about? Someone loses money. Why do these things happen? Poor organization, uncommunicative teams, and a lack of understanding of the project as a whole – three things project management software is designed to mitigate, modify, and ultimately eliminate.
Here at Tech.co, we've spent hours researching the best project management software on the market in order to give our readers quality information.
The frustrating process of trawling through Google trying to find out if a provider has a free trial or a certain feature is something we know all too well – so we like to cut to the chase. Below are project management software vendors we've tested, reviewed, and rated:
All prices listed as per user, per month (billed annually)
BEST FOR SPREADSHEETS
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Slick, simple software with a powerful core, plus a genuinely impressive free tier for individuals, and great value plans for teams.
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A great tool for spreadsheet-natives, which can take your Excel-based task planning to the next level, and there's a free trial, too.
A feature-rich service with a plain interface that's easy to learn, and has a free tier option to try.
A management tool with a complex functionality.
A solid project management solution with an attractive free tier for small teams, as well as great automations that can help speed up workflows
A fairly-priced, stripped-down option best for small teams.
A feature-rich software with a pricing scheme best for mid-sized teams.
All-around great software, thanks to ease of use and a scalable pricing scheme.
A simple task-list-based project management platform with an acceptable free tier.
Scoro's clean interface allows for easy use of its dedicated financial tools and full CRM features, automatically collating all essential information
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A pricey service best for companies invested in Microsoft.
Modern, professional software with a simple approach and cheap plans, and a great choice for teamwork tracking.
A good value platform that's ideal for managing projects across growing teams