Scrum versus Agile Project Management

At first glance, project management seems like a simple profession. How difficult can it be, after all, to manage a group of software developers and make sure they are performing their tasks on time? It is a simplistic view that doesn’t remotely ring true. In reality, project management is highly complicated, and a good project manager (PM) needs to know the ins and outs of project management tools and software, PM philosophies, and the entirety of the software development lifecycle. That does not factor in management styles, the technology being used, and a million other details.

In this article, we will tackle one specific challenge for a project manager: which software development methodology to employ for their development team. In particular, we will be look at two philosophies – for lack of a better phrase. As you may have guessed from the title of this article, we will be comparing scrum to agile project management. We will learn about each style, the elements that comprise each and try to figure out which is best for your software projects.

What is Agile Project Management?

Agile project management is a mix of various software development styles and methodologies focused on incremental and iterative software creation. You could argue that agile project management borrows heavily from extreme programming, the rational unified process, Kanban, and even scrum – to name but a few.

At its core, agile development is all about the continuous iteration of the development and testing of software. The idea is to break down parts of software – or the product – into small pieces or builds. It is unique from other development methodologies because it encourages development teams to develop and test portions of code concurrently or at the same time.

In the agile development process, clients, stakeholders, developers, and the project manager all communicate frequently and work as a team to make sure the product is delivered on time and to completion. Agile development is all about flexibility and being able to adapt to a client’s – or the markets – evolving needs. During the development process, agile developers code iterations of a project, which, in turn, gets organized and prioritized before being added to a backlog based off of end-user feedback.

Agile Software Development

What Is Scrum Project Management

As you might imagine, just as agile development methodologies contain elements of scrum, scrum, in turn, contains features of agile. In fact, the two are very often confused, despite the fact that they differ in many fundamental ways.

Scrum is a framework for a collaborative approach to software development. Scrum projects consist of sprints, which are, in turn, broken down into product backlogs, sprint backlogs, and spring goals. Each sprint has a specific function or software feature that gets defined, programmed, and tested. Sprints have small time windows, usually consisting of two-week time periods. This process makes development much more streamlined and efficient because if issues occur or changes are added, they can be addressed in-between sprints versus at the end of the software development lifecycle – basically the opposite of the Waterfall software development process.

Scrum Elements

Read our article What Is Scrum? to learn more about scrum software development and scrum project management. We also discuss Scrum Teams and Scrum Roles in separate articles.

What are the Differences Between Scrum and Agile?

One of the main differences between Agile software development and scrum software development has to do with the time frame in which deliverables are completed. In scrum, everything is broken down into smaller parts, known as sprints, and each function of a piece of software is due at the end of a sprint. In Agile, everything gets delivered continuously for feedback and then, finally, when the project is at its end.

Another difference between scrum and Agile is how teams function and what they consist of. In Agile development teams, the actual team consists of the client, programmers, project managers, marketing, DevOps, and various other members of an organization. Scrum software teams, meanwhile, are very specific with a set number of members and very defined roles. Scrum roles include the Scrum Master, who helps ensure sprints and teams are properly managed. Scrum masters, product owners (another team role), and developers work and meet on a daily basis.

Another key difference between Agile and scrum is the way the design process and execution are handled. Agile seeks simplicity. Scrum, meanwhile, looks more for innovation, experimentation, and flexibility.

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