Scrum vs Agile: Key Differences and Similarities

Published: February 17, 2023
Last Updated: February 29, 2024
Project Manager in Alpha Serve
In the world of project management, one common controversy you'll probably come across at some point is the Scrum vs Agile controversy, as many methodologies float around, offering different ideas on how projects should be managed. The differing nature of these ideologies often creates questions and arguments regarding the right approach to managing projects and the right time to use them.

If you have a clear idea of the methodology you want to use for your project, you can execute it quickly and efficiently. Knowing more about how each methodology works is helpful to understand Agile and Scrum better. But first, what is Agile and Scrum?
Scrum vs Agile: Key Differences and Use Cases

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What is Agile

What is Agile
Agile is a project management methodology that takes an iterative approach to managing projects from start to completion. The project is divided into short iterations with continuous involvement and stakeholder communication. That makes it possible to align expectations and adapt to changes accordingly throughout the process.

To enhance one's understanding of what is Agile and its operational dynamics, it proves beneficial to juxtapose it with the conventional waterfall approach to project development. The waterfall model entails the systematic breakdown of a project into a sequence of linear activities, each completed before transitioning to the subsequent phase. This method, characterized by its rigidity, mandates the sequential completion of each step, posing challenges for accommodating changes once the project is initiated.

The fundamental Agile methodology principle is to maintain the flexibility to implement changes as necessary. The Agile methodology takes a more flexible approach to managing projects, emphasizing people over tools and processes. As a result, the different iterations of a project are completed with regular interactions between the project team and clients, with an openness to allowing the project to evolve based on feedback from business stakeholders.

Agile Benefits for Customers

Among the benefits of Agile project management is that it prioritizes keeping customers in the loop throughout the project lifecycle. It means they can give feedback and see that the project deliverables are delivered according to their requirements. Agile teams prefer open communication and continuous interaction with customers. Customers can always ask for changes that offer the best value, even in a project's later stages.

Projects managed with an Agile approach often guarantee better quality output. That's primarily because Agile teams are self-organizing and emphasize continuous improvement. This type of iterative approach leads to better quality products or results at the end of the day.

Agile Benefits for Companies

As the name suggests, Agile teams are quick and responsive to change. Flexibility is one of the benefits of Agile project management. Project deliveries are not set in stone, so teams can constantly reevaluate their position and adjust their priorities based on new realities or project goals. Being adaptable this way ensures that the project team can consistently deliver and do so effectively.

With an Agile approach, project teams can assess progress with each project iteration. It gives greater visibility into the entire project, allowing managers to spot and tackle obstacles before they worsen. It reduces risk, increases flexibility, and encourages better team synergy.

What is Scrum

What is Scrum
The Agile methodology has many project management frameworks built on its fundamental principles. One of the most popular ones is the Scrum framework. But what does Scrum stand for? Scrum is a starting script for Agile methodology that leverages its core values to ensure results for clients in a series of incremental steps or sprints.

The project is divided into sprints, each taking two to three weeks. However, sprints may also be daily or weekly. Starting each sprint, the team commits to specific project deliverables, which must be completed by the end of the sprint. A new sprint can begin when the tasks of the old one are completed. In this framework, the Scrum Master plays a vital role in ensuring project success by keeping the team on track, addressing issues, ensuring adherence to Scrum methodologies, and enforcing deadlines.

With Scrum, there's an emphasis on taking customer feedback, and change is affected when required. The Scrum tools are primarily used by teams working on complex projects, with the project broken down into smaller manageable chunks for easier management. It also works perfectly for customer-facing companies that value results more than just documenting the steps of a project.

Scrum Benefits for Customers

Among the advantages of Scrum is that it delivers ROI faster to customers. Each sprint is time-boxed, and there's a reduced risk since everyone knows what they're working on and the expected results. Customers get specific deliverables at the end of each sprint that give them value within a short time frame. Also, since their feedback is prioritized, customers get more control.

Scrum Benefits for Companies

One of the main Scrum benefits for companies is that it helps teams work together more effectively. The Scrum team is self-organizing to work together to solve problems and shop value for customers throughout the project lifecycle.

Therefore, Scrum is an Agile framework that helps Agile teams work together. The team members develop, deliver, and sustain the complex product using it. It encourages the team to learn through practice and self-organize while working on the problem. Scum is work done through the framework and continuously shipping values to customers.

Difference Between Agile and Scrum

Difference between Agile and Scrum
At its core, the main difference between Agile and Scrum is that Agile is a broader project management philosophy built on fundamental values and principles. At the same time, Scrum is a more specific Agile methodology designed to guide the execution of projects.

The key difference between Agile and Scrum is in how they're applied. As earlier mentioned, Scrum project management is based on Agile methodology principles. But ultimately, they're different and cannot be used interchangeably.

Agile is a set of values that guides a project's management. One can adopt these values using different methodologies such as Kanban, XP, Or Scrum. Scrum is a more specific framework that dictates how the project team is structured, how roles are defined, and the rules to follow in managing a project.
difference between scrum and agile

Some of the key differences between scrum methodology vs agile include:

Principles vs Rules

Agile project management refers to a set of ideologies. It is more about "who" you are but doesn't say a lot about the "how" of it. Agile methodology focuses more on people than processes, as well as on adaptation, mutation, and changes to satisfy the client.

Scrum is a process in which actions and rules are applied regularly to work collaboratively as a team and thus obtain the best possible result. Scrum aims for projects in which immediate results are needed, and the requirements are changing or poorly defined. The Scrum work model is developed in iterations called sprints.

Leadership and Team Organization

In the comparison of agile vs scrum difference, leadership and team organization stand out prominently. Agile prioritizes leadership above all else, with project manager accountability for agility, responsibility, and decision-making. Conversely, in the Scrum methodology, there's a notable focus on cross-functional roles comprising a product owner, a Scrum master, and a self-organized team. Additionally, other stakeholders, including customers, management, and executives, actively participate in the project management process.

Flexibility

Comparing scrum vs agile methodology, although still more flexible than traditional development, the Agile approach is relatively rigid. Scrum, on the other hand, is more flexible, with more room for frequent changes.

Deliverables

The Agile methodology emphasizes taking feedback from end users as frequently as possible and incorporating this into each iteration of a project. With the Scrum model, the requirements for each sprint are determined upfront to deliver value to the customer. After each sprint, the client gives feedback, and this is used to adjust deliverables accordingly.

When To Use Agile

Software development projects use Agile methodology. Unlike Scrum, which can be experimental and innovative, Agile is for simplicity. While it is still more effective in this domain, it has also found application in other contexts. Generally, an Agile approach is more effective for projects that do not have a strict scope or specific development requirements.

Of course, it is worth noting that picking, when to use Agile, does not necessarily mean picking between Agile or Scrum. Even after determining that an Agile approach is right for your project, you will still have to choose which Agile methods you should use. In many cases, the answer to this is still Scrum, as against the other Agile methodologies.

When To Use Scrum

The Scrum model works best for flexible projects whose requirements are likely to change constantly. Such a project must be open to innovation and creativity. You can also adopt this methodology if the project benefits from some level of process control. Finally, to adopt this methodology, you must have a self-motivated and fully collaborative team since your project's success will depend on them.

Scrum vs Agile: Similarities

In the Agile vs. Scrum comparison, it's essential to consider the role of Kanban. Kanban, also under the Agile umbrella, finds frequent application in marketing. It operates as a workflow management and scheduling system, often drawing comparisons with Scrum.

Both Scrum and Kanban share the objective of minimizing waste through iterative work systems, relying on process flows and functioning as pull systems where team members must complete specific tasks before taking on new ones.

A notable distinction emerges in their approach: Scrum adopts predefined roles for team members, while Kanban promotes equal collaboration among all team members. Additionally, Scrum adheres to strictly followed sprints to measure project deliverables with limited room for change, whereas Kanban provides greater flexibility throughout a project.

Project Management Tools for Agile and Scrum

Scrum, as one of the multiples methods of Agile methodology, has several helpful tools to effectively perform this Agile project management and assure successful completeness of your project:
Project Management Tools for Agile and Scrum
Project Management Tools for Agile and Scrum
Project Management Tools for Agile and Scrum
Project Management Tools for Agile and Scrum
Project Management Tools for Agile and Scrum

Conclusions

The Agile approach to project management can be employed in various ways. Since Scrum is just one of those Agile-based frameworks, choosing the suitable project management method isn't merely about choosing one or the other. A more accurate approach is determining if adopting Agile is ideal for your project management efforts. Then, you can analyze the benefits of Agile vs Scrum to see if they suit your team dynamics, client needs, and the specific requirements of your project.

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