Agile vs. Scrum

Large team sitting at boardroom desk

Agile and Scrum evolved from the complex and morphing needs of software development projects. And while they still play a key role in this industry, other industry segments, ranging from construction and marketing to advertising and event planning, have embraced them for their problem-solving capabilities.

When it comes to Agile versus Scrum, you may wonder which best suits your needs. This guide will give you a better understanding of both methodologies, including their respective strengths and how to use them.

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What is the Agile methodology?

Around 2001, software development teams began to use the Agile methodology as an alternative to traditional project management methodologies, such as the Waterfall method—a sequential development process cascading like a waterfall through all phases of a project, demanding a lot of upfront planning.

The term “Agile” reveals the management framework’s strengths, adapting to changing requirements over the duration of a project, and encouraging constant feedback from end users. The method helps project management teams to cope with week-to-week changes—often from stakeholders—reevaluate priorities on the fly, and adjust to changing circumstances in given increments.

Cross-functional teams tackle work broken into manageable chunks—prioritized in a product backlog, with their importance weighed according to business or customer value—and handle these in a series of iterations, the purpose of which is usually to deliver a working product at the end of each one.

What is Scrum project management?

The Scrum methodology is the most popular Agile framework. It breaks up projects into small segments that it delivers quickly in a series of Sprints—often done in a period of two to four weeks. The team performing the work defines how much it can do in a Sprint during a Sprint planning meeting and endeavors to stick to this commitment without changing or reprioritizing their workload.

By the end of a Sprint, the project management team produces a working product, potentially releasing it to the target market. With rapid iterations, the DevOps team quickly learns what does and does not work and can pivot quickly to make adjustments.

What is the difference between the Scrum and Agile frameworks?

Agile and Scrum are related project management methodologies and sometimes hard to tell apart. Everything that is Scrum is Agile, but not all Agile approaches are Scrum. Agile is a broader project management philosophy based on a set of principles described in the Agile Manifesto, creating software through iterative development.

Scrum is the preeminent methodology of how to apply Agile, but there are other Agile methodologies, such as:

There are also hybrid methods that include:

Both Scrum and Agile are iterative processes that accept change and embrace transparency and continuous improvement. As a project manager, you need first to decide whether an Agile approach is what you need. Then, you must determine whether Scrum or some other Agile framework fits.

Starting from the top down, you might decide to use an Agile approach if a project will require a lot of changes throughout the process, often coming from stakeholders or clients. It is also beneficial if the final product is not fully defined and requires rapid deployment, and if the project management team can adapt quickly and think on its feet.

Once Agile is decided for a project, you can consider whether Scrum or some other Agile methodology will best do the job. Compared to other approaches, Scrum is particularly well suited to large projects with many unknowns or projects that will change a lot over the course of their development, with continuous feedback from stakeholders and clients.

Scrum is often more flexible than other methodologies and depends more on self-organized, cross-functional teams than top-down leadership. While a number of Agile methods require a fair bit of upfront work and organizational change, Scrum is more focused on the process as it evolves and requires less work at the front end. It can also be more experimental and innovative in its processes, whereas design and execution are kept simple in some other methods.

The Agile Manifesto best practices.

As Agile methodologies, frameworks like Scrum depend on the four values and 12 principles outlined in the Agile Manifesto.

Agile software development values include:

In practical terms, some of the best practices for Scrum teams include:

Become an Agile developer or Scrum Master today.

If you are involved in project management, being agile counts, whether you are a Scrum Master, a member of the development team, or play another role in the process. While you may choose a particular methodology for your work, your best chance of success is to embrace and internalize the principles of Agile management, whether developing self-sufficient teams and team members or striving for continuous improvement.

Another way to succeed is to use a work management platform that can help you manage multiple methodologies or frameworks.