Moving from Scrum to Kanban. Benefits and pitfalls

The transition from Scrum to Kanban is a process of changing the project management methodology. Both methods focus on managing software development, but they differ in their approach to planning, task management, and process control.

Let’s imagine that you are thinking about changing the methodology and moving your team from the Scrum framework to the Kanban method.

First, let’s discuss what advantages Scrum has over Kanban.

Both methodologies, Scrum and Kanban, have their advantages and disadvantages, and the choice between them depends on the specific needs of the team and the nature of the project. Here are some disadvantages of Kanban compared to Scrum.

Disadvantages of Kanban compared to Scrum

No iteration structure

One of the main differences between Scrum and Kanban is the lack of fixed iterations in Kanban. This can lead to less precise planning and more difficult forecasting of completion times.

Uncertainty about task completion times

Because Kanban does not have fixed deadlines (like Scrum Sprints), predicting when specific tasks will be completed can be difficult. This can create problems when it comes to providing time estimates.

Greater freedom can lead to indiscipline

Lack of a strict iteration structure can result in the team encountering problems managing time and priorities. The team may lack the discipline and structure that Scrum provides.

Less Explicit Planning

Scrum provides a clear iterative process with fixed sprints and scheduled review points. In Kanban, planning is less formalized, which can make it difficult to manage and predict the progress of a project.

Limited focus on improvement

Scrum has a built-in continuous improvement cycle (retrospective) that occurs after each sprint. In Kanban, these events are not so explicitly built in, which can make it difficult to continuously improve the process.

Uncertainty about priorities

Scrum provides a clear hierarchy of tasks within a sprint, with the Product Owner determining the priorities. In Kanban, it is less clear which tasks have higher priority, which can lead to confusion in resource allocation.

Difficulties in managing large projects

When a project becomes large and complex, some teams may find it more difficult to manage processes without the clear iterations and structure provided by Scrum.

Now let’s look at when it makes sense to switch to Kanban after working in Scrum.

Why switch to Kanban after Scrum

Flexibility in task management

If your team is faced with changes in requirements and task priorities, and Scrum iterations are proving too rigid to adapt, workflow-focused Kanban can provide more flexibility.

Constant need for product supply

If you have a product with a constant stream of new requirements or a constant need for delivery, Kanban may be better suited for continuous development and delivery.

Low predictability of iterations

If Scrum sprints often fail to achieve their goals due to sudden changes or unpredictability of tasks, Kanban, which focuses on managing flow, can help improve the predictability of the process.

The need to visualize the workflow

If your team feels the need to better visualize their workflow, monitor task flow, and identify possible bottlenecks, then Kanban, with its emphasis on visualization and WIP management, can be useful.

Dealing with technical debt

When there is an ongoing need to manage technical debt or perform product maintenance in parallel with developing new features, Kanban may be more suitable because it does not require strict iterations.

Support and Maintenance Teams

If your team is focused on product support rather than developing new features in fixed iterations, Kanban may better suit their needs.

Prefer continuous optimization

If a team prefers continuous optimization of the development process rather than periodic changes at the end of each sprint, then Kanban can support more continuous improvement.

Now it’s time to discuss how to make this move. Both approaches focus on software development management, but they differ in their approach to planning, task management, and process control.

Steps that can help you move from Scrum to Kanban

Understanding the basic principles of Kanban

Kanban is focused on continuous flow production, in contrast to the iterative Scrum model.

The main emphasis in Kanban is on visualizing the work process and limiting the work volume (WIP – Work in Progress).

Unlike Scrum, there are no fixed iterations (sprints) in Kanban, and tasks can be added or removed at any time.

Workflow visualization

Create a Kanban board that displays all of your team’s tasks.

Divide the board into columns representing different stages of the workflow (for example, Pending, In Progress, Done).

Setting WIP limits

Determine the maximum number of tasks your team can handle simultaneously at each stage of the process.

Set WIP limits for each column on the board.

Analysis and optimization

Conduct regular reviews and analyzes of the work process.

Use Kanban data to identify bottlenecks and optimize work flow.

Gradual implementation of changes

Make the transition gradually, step by step, to make the onboarding process smoother for the team.

Support the team and train them in new aspects of Kanban.

Control and improvement

Implement changes based on team feedback and experience.

Monitor the process to ensure its effectiveness.

These steps will help you begin your transition from Scrum to Kanban. Remember that the effectiveness of the methodology depends on the team and project context, so view Kanban implementation as an iterative process that can be tweaked and optimized. Before deciding to make the switch, it is important to conduct a thoughtful analysis of your team’s needs and the specifics of the project. Sometimes it is also useful to conduct a pilot project to evaluate how a new methodology works for your specific situation. Each of these methodologies has its strengths and weaknesses, and the choice between them should depend on the specific project conditions, team preferences, and level of readiness for change.

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