What’s the difference between a kanban board and a Scrum board? (2024)

What are the differences between a kanban and Scrum board, and how can you decide which might be best for your project? A brief introduction.

READ TIME: 10 minutes

What you’ll learn

  • What are boards?
  • What’s a kanban board?
  • What’s a Scrum board?
  • Kanban boards vs. Scrum boards: Which is best for your project?

NOTE: This is a general introduction, with links to further resources both in and out of the Atlassian Community.

What are boards?

Boards are a foundational element of the Agile approach to project management and a vital visual indicator about how a team is working. While they’ve been traditionally physical—for a team working in one place—digital boards allow remote teams to collaborate in real time by:

  • Tracking day to day work
  • Sharing workflow and progress both inside and outside the team, as necessary
  • Informing decisions with collective vision and transparency

Boards work against the product backlog, a prioritized list of work for the development team that is derived from the roadmap and its requirements. The most important items are shown at the top of theproduct backlogso the team knows what to deliver first.

In Jira, boards are digital and accessible to all. They take the form of either a kanban board or Scrum board. What’s the difference between them? Let’s take a closer look at each starting with the kanban board.

Related resource:

  • What is Agile?

What’s a kanban board?

Kanban is a Japanese word meaning visual signal. Kanban boards are a way of visualizing work (in progress and upcoming) to maximize efficiency and the collective workflow. Teams working in a kanban management framework focus on reducing the time it takes a project—or a user story within a project—to move from start to finish.

Kanban boards use a dynamic assembly of cards and columns to chart and promote continuous improvement in workflow. It helps ensure technology and service teams commit the right amount of work time to hit visible delivery points promised to the client or sponsor of the project.

What’s in a kanban board?

A kanban board most often contains five elements:

What’s the difference between a kanban board and a Scrum board? (1)

What’s the difference between a kanban board and a Scrum board? (2)

  1. Visual signals: Cards (tickets or user stories) showing at a glance what each team member is working on.
  2. Columns: Represent a specific activity that taken together compose a “workflow”; the visual signals (“cards”) move from one column to the next on its way to completion.
  3. Commitment point: Flags the point at which an issue is picked up by the team from the project’s backlog, and when work begins on that issue.
  4. Delivery point: Flags the end point at which the product or service is in the hands of a customer.
  5. WIP limits: This is a limit to the number of cards in a column at any time, or quite simply, a limit on the “work in progress” of a column.

Kanban boards may vary in style, but share the same objective of moving cards from the commitment point through the columns to delivery. The board is limited in what can be added to it (WIP limit), and is clearly visualized to all. In an online tool like Jira, issues appear, then move from left to right.

What’s the difference between a kanban board and a Scrum board? (3)

Related resource:

  • What’s a kanban board? (with video)

What’s a Scrum board?

First, it’s important to understand that “Scrum” and “Agile” are not interchangeable terms—sometimes they can be confused:

  • Agile is a set of values and principles
  • Scrum is a framework for actually getting the work done

Adopting an Agile approach doesn’t automatically mean you’re adopting Scrum.

Scrum teams commit to ship working software or products through set intervals called sprints—often timed two to four weeks. Their goal is to create continuous loops to quickly gather and integrate customer feedback.

Scrum teams adopt specific roles, create special artifacts, and hold regular ceremonies to keep things moving forward.

A Scrum board applies the workflow visualization of kanban to the scrum framework for developing, delivering, and sustaining complex products.

What’s in a Scrum board?

While the contents of a Scrum board can vary, the principles are similar. A Scrum board most often contains four elements:

  1. Product backlog: As noted earlier, the backlog is a prioritized list of work for the development team that is derived from the roadmap and its requirements.
  2. Sprint backlog: A list of tasks identified by the Scrum team to be completed during the sprint.
  3. In progress: A list of tasks that are…well, in progress and being worked on by the team in the sprint.
  4. Done: A list of tasks completed in the sprint.

As with kanban, issues move from left to right, but with Scrum they do it within the sprint’s specified timebox.

What’s the difference between a kanban board and a Scrum board? (4)

What’s in a sprint is defined by the Scrum master in consultation with the product owner. The board shows the workflow at a glance.

Related resources:
Four agile ceremonies, demystified
What is Scrum?

What’s best for your project, kanban or Scrum boards?

It is up to the team to decide whether to use kanban or Scrum, some combination of them, or another agile method.

Kanban boards can be a great choice for ongoing IT support teams, if you’re delivering a continuous flow of improvements, or if you prefer to start with a simpler, flexible workflow before deciding to adopt the ceremonies and cadence of Scrum.

But if you have a large team with a more complex workflow, or fixed timeframes for completing work, you may want to consider using a Scrum board.

Another way to consider: if the nature of the work is more of a queue, like with support requests, kanban might be a better choice. For teams that are building a product, scrum might be a better choice, though some teams could be more effective using kanban.

One last thought

Kanban and Scrum are about more than the boards. Just because you use a kanban board doesn’t mean you shouldn't implement Scrum ceremonies.

The question here isn’t only which board is best for your project, but what workflow is best for your project.

Some teams may find that a hybrid of the two makes sense—combining a kanban board with the structure of Scrum. It really depends on the nature of your project, how your team works best, and what will create the most efficient, effective process for getting the work done.

Related resource:

  • How to manage workflows in Jira

Continue learning

Ready to talk about workflows with your team? We’ve put together a series of helpful guides to walk you through workflow best practices—this is where your project goals, team values, and performance tracking all come together.

Other workflow related resources:
Kanban vs. Scrum Frameworks

Building an awesome Jira workflow

Using Jira software for workflows

Browse more Jira Cloud Basics articles on Atlassian Community.

Learn more from Atlassian Support for Jira or enroll in the free tutorial Go Agile with Jira from Atlassian University.

What’s the difference between a kanban board and a Scrum board? (2024)


What’s the difference between a kanban board and a Scrum board? ›

While Kanban is centered around visualizing tasks and continuous flow, Scrum is more about implementing timelines for each delivery cycle and assigning set roles. Both Kanban and Scrum borrow from Agile and Lean approaches, though Scrum is often more heavily associated with Agile.

What is the difference between Scrum board and Kanban board? ›

Summary: Kanban is a project management framework that relies on visual tasks to manage workflows, while scrum is a project management framework that helps teams structure and manage their work through a set of values, principles, and practices. Agile is a set of ideals and principles that serve as our north star.

Which of the following describes the difference between a Kanban board and a Scrum board? ›

A Kanban board is capacity - based, while a Scrum board is time - bound. A Scrum board is developed using rolling wave planning, while a Kanban board is developed using scheduling techniques.

How would you best compare a Kanban board to a Scrum board quiz? ›

Scrum board vs Kanban: Basic definitions

Scrum boards are more methodical but require more prep time and organization; Kanban boards give team members more leeway but don't provide the same level of organizational structure. So, which is the best project management methodology for you?

What is the difference between Kanban and task board? ›

The Kanban board is divided into three or more columns that illustrate the level of progress that's been taken on the task. Progress in a Kanban board is represented by the position of the Kanban card on the board. Meanwhile, a task in a task board can be checked, crossed out, or moved once completed.

How does Kanban differ from Scrumban and Scrum? ›

And, much like Scrum, it breaks projects down into smaller chunks or stages. But, how is Kanban different from Scrum? While Scrum breaks projects down based on time (one- to four-week sprints), Kanban breaks projects down based on the workflow.

What are the differences between Scrum Kanban and Scrumban? ›

The main difference between Scrum vs Kanban vs Scrumban is that Scrum requires them to happen at a certain time, while in Kanban and Scrumban there is more flexibility for the team to choose when they are held. There are 4 main meetings between these methods: Sprint planning or Planning session.

Why would you use Scrum vs Kanban? ›

Complex, iterative work, like new product or feature development, may be better done with scrum. Continuous flow. In a kanban work cycle, as soon as one thing finishes, the team takes another thing up. Kanban is better for continuous flow work like support and services.

Can you explain why you would use Scrum vs Kanban? ›

Kanban is centered around visualizing projects while Scrum is centered around processes. Another difference is that Kanban works best with continuous delivery of tasks until a project is complete while Scrum focuses on delivering chunks of items.

How do I know if a board is Scrum or Kanban in Jira? ›

a Kanban, you can look at the "Issue Type Scheme" that was given to the project. Kanban ones will be marked with "Project Key: Kanban Issue Type Scheme", Scrum ones will be "Project Key: Scrum Issue Type Scheme". "Basic" ones will be marked as "Software Development Issue Type Scheme". See my screenshots.

When would you choose Kanban over Scrum? ›

If your project has stable priorities that fit well into time-boxed iterations, Scrum might be better. Choose Kanban for projects requiring flexibility and the ability to change priorities quickly.

Which is more disruptive, Scrum or Kanban? ›

While both methodologies are flexible, Kanban is generally more so. It allows for changes to be made mid-stream without disrupting the workflow. Scrum, in contrast, encourages changes after each sprint during the planning session for the next sprint.

When not to use Kanban? ›

Teams with little autonomy: Kanban is based on the principle of allowing teams to self-organize and manage their own work, so it may not be effective in environments where teams have little autonomy.

What are the two types of Kanban board? ›

There are two types of Kanban boards – physical and digital boards. A physical Kanban board is the most basic form of a Kanban board where teams use sticky notes (representing tasks) and a whiteboard (corkboard). Work phases are represented as columns and sticky notes are getting moved from one stage to the next.

What is the difference between Kanban board and backlog? ›

The Kanban board is made to provide agile working solutions to improve productivity. The backlog only helps in prioritizing and cataloging the various tasks still left according to their importance. The Kanban board reflects the activities of the entire team whereas the backlog can be taken at every level.

What is the difference between sprint backlog and Kanban board? ›

A Sprint Backlog is owned by the small Sprint team tasked with working on the items included in the list. Hence a large project can have several small teams, each working on its own Sprint Backlog. A Kanban Board is owned by the entire department or even the company.

What is an example of Scrum and Kanban? ›

Scrum and Kanban tools

For example, Jira is built for the Scrum crowd, while Trello is a super-powered Kanban Board. Neither methodology replaces the need for a product roadmap. So there must be a tight integration between these planning and execution tools and what product teams use for roadmaps.

Is a Kanban board used in Scrum? ›

Kanban boards allow teams to share a consolidated view of work priority and project status to enable teams to manage their speed of delivery. The question of which work method(s) works best isn't easy, however many Scrum and non-Scrum teams have adopted the Kanban method as a way to visualize their work.

What feature is present in a Scrum board but absent from a Kanban board? ›

Scrum boards are usually dedicated to a single team. Meaning it is only tasks of that team that are visualized there. Kanban, on the other hand, poses no such restrictions. It can be shared by multiple teams or individuals.


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