Managing Software Development Projects: Kanban vs. Scrum

By Ryan Vice | Posted on December 13, 2019


Software development has a unique lifecycle process. To get the desired outcome requires multiple rounds of building, testing, updating and obtaining feedback to repeat the cycle over again. Luckily, if you’re working with experienced developers, effectively managing software development projects should come second nature to them.

Every aspect including planning, scheduling, allocating resources and tracking development and delivery should come together as a well-oiled machine so that project stakeholders never lack visibility. If you’re curious about what happens behind the curtain, though, how all the moving parts of a development team work together to fulfill all feature requests while maintaining the scope of the project, here’s your chance to get a sneak peak.

An Agile Mindset

When it comes to managing software development projects, most teams subscribe to the Agile methodology because it allows more flexibility. For projects that require more rigidity, developers may use the Waterfall model. This model calls for stages to be completed in sequential order, meaning the previous stage has to be completed successfully before the project can move forward. Usually, it can be tough to make software and web projects fit into these constraints, though, since the scope can change at any time. Whether or not Agile or Waterfall is the correct approach is a different blog, though. Agile is more than likely the one you should familiarize yourself with.

To Be Agile

The Agile methodology is built on constant collaboration and continuous iteration that demands the dedication of project stakeholders and developers. To best manage the process, the team breaks up each project into stages beginning with clarifying customer expectations. Then, the team cycles through the planning, executing and evaluating stages. Agile provides a structured but flexible approach to your project that recognizes the volatility inherent in software development and gives you a methodology for responding to change as it arises.

The Agile methodology can be applied in countless ways, but there are a few popular frameworks, in particular, Scrum and Kanban.


The Kanban model has been used for decades in factories before it was adopted by software developers. It utilizes a visual approach to move items through the different stages of development. Think sticky notes on a whiteboard, though there are plenty of apps that also get the job done.

Tasks are moved through predetermined stages – or columns, on your Kanban board – allowing everyone to easily track progress and spot bottlenecks. The goal with Kanban is to maximize efficiency and reduce the time it takes for a task to go from start to finish. In pursuit of that goal, there are no delineated stages for the team to move through, development happens continuously in a free-flowing environment.


Scrum provides a more systematic approach to the Agile methodology than Kanban. In this model, a small, self-organized team is led by a Scrum Master. The Scrum Master’s role is simply to help the team understand and follow the Scrum process. In doing so, they help spot and clear and obstacles impeding the project. There is also a Product Owner who is solely responsible for managing the project’s backlog – adding items, keeping everyone on the same page and optimizing the value of the work the development team puts in.

In Scrum, work is completed in sprints, short cycles usually lasting about two weeks, and the team meets daily throughout each sprint to discuss updates, roadblocks and any other pertinent information. At the end of each sprint, new features are presented to stakeholders and are either approved or sent back into the backlog. The goal of such an ordered system is to create a learning loop that helps you quickly gather and integrate feedback with each successive sprint.

Kanban vs. Scrum

Since both Kanban and Scrum fall under the Agile methodology to managing software development projects, you’ll find a lot of similarities between the two: the commitment to collaboration, the plasticity of the processes, an emphasis on delivering value over paperwork and red tape, etc. There are some notable differences we should point out, though.

Flow: Projects managed using Kanban have a continuous flow of development in which new tasks are added as needed and don’t follow a set schedule. In Scrum, project development operates through sprints that can last anywhere from two to four weeks. The sprints are planned out beforehand.

Roles: There is no “Kanban Master” in Kanban nor any other defined roles. Once the system is set up and running, no one is needed to maintain its operation. Scrum, however, calls for a Product Owner, Scrum Master and a development team. The team itself is self-organized and everyone is an equal player despite their different positions and responsibilities.

Feature Releases: New features are continuously developed and released using Kanban. There are no set schedule or due dates. Scrum only has new feature releases at the end of each sprint, and you usually have a pretty good idea of what’s coming since sprints and their goals are planned out beforehand.

Philosophy on Change: Changes can occur at any point during development under the Kanban process. It’s extremely iterative and can respond quickly to sudden shifts in the project. Scrum only allows for scope changes to happen between sprints, not during sprints as it would disrupt the flow.

What Does Your Project Need?

Neither approach to managing software development projects is always better. Scrum, of course, calls for the team to work within a more established structure than Kanban. It forces projects to be broken down and tasks to be completed more incrementally. This helps development carry on at a fast pace, accelerating as the team becomes more comfortable working with this methodology. For this reason, Scrum is usually an ideal option for larger projects as it creates smaller milestones the team needs to reach along the way.

Kanban, on the other hand, is a great choice for a team with a lot of incoming requests that vary in priority and size. Teams well-versed in working in this way are nimble and ready to pivot as the scope or priorities of a project changes. Its simplicity also lends itself to smaller and less complex projects.

There’s more than just these two models, though. Adaptive Project Framework, Extreme Programming, and hundreds of other hybrid Agile models help teams all over the world manage their tasks, successfully collaborate with one another, maintain visibility and organization with project stakeholders and bring projects from start to finish.

Per the Agile methodology, we should value individuals and interactions over processes and tools, so if your developers are following through on that principle, then they need to adjust their project management mindset.

So, What Does Vice Software Do?

Vice Software is open to managing software development projects in whichever way will satisfy the demands of the job. Typically though, we manage projects through a Scrum model. For each project, we create a value pipeline, an assembly line that ideas must be shipped down to ensure they have business value. Ideas go in one side, fully articulated features come out the other side.

Throughout our development process, we organize our tasks into sprints that each come with a commitment where we set goals, estimate duration and review and groom features. With each sprint, we make sure we understand what each feature will do and how much development needs to go into it. All features are reviewed in GitHub, giving project stakeholders full transparency into the codebase as well as our progress. We hold demos frequently, usually at the end of each one- to two-week sprint. Since we deploy features to a live environment, we’re always able to show you a working application.

We hope we’ve given you some insight into how the process will go for your and your burgeoning product. Good project management in software requires both the development team and our clients to be invested in what we’re making, after all. If you have an idea you’re ready to see come to life, tell us about it. With some basic information, we can give you a quote in under 30 minutes!

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