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Ranjali Roy
Ranjali Roy

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Agile vs Scrum: Breaking Down the Difference

If you’ve heard the term Agile, you couldn’t have possibly missed Scrum. In fact, more often than not, the two get mixed up. You will also come across ‘scrum agile’, ‘scrum in agile’, ‘agile scrum methodology’, etc.

It must be super confusing when you’re new to these terms. It’s natural. I know because I’ve been there, too. So scratch off everything you previously learned about agile and scrum, turn yourself into a blank slate, and read on.

Before getting to their difference, let’s first clear up what agile and scrum are, as separate terms.

What is Agile?

Up until now, you most likely would have been familiar with developing software through a series of rigid steps that begin with gathering requirements and end in deployment. But since you’re here, I’m assuming this sequential approach didn’t quite work out. No scope for changes and improvements, huh?

Enter Agile.

Agile was designed to mitigate all the shortcomings of the traditional approach of building software. Here, the development process isn’t a one-time thing. Instead, it is an iterative cycle where the delivery of the software occurs in increments. Got changes to make? Agile welcomes them with open arms. :)

In fact, the beauty of agile is that feedback is received at the end of each increment to ensure that the end product is every customer’s dream.

To learn all about the basics of agile, check out these articles. Also, here’s a helpful article on the detailed differences between agile and waterfall that you might like.

What is Scrum?

Scrum is a popular framework in agile that is considered by many teams to be a golden ticket to delivering valuable increments quickly. With this framework, the software product is developed in iterations.

Each iteration, called sprint, is time-boxed to less than a month. All it takes is 1-4 weeks, commonly 2-3 weeks, to deploy workable pieces of software. Seems ideal for your project? Learn more.

Hold on a second, this sounds like agile, right? I hear you. That’s why, without any delay, let’s jump right into the differences between agile and scrum to ease this confusion.

Difference between Agile and Scrum

To give you the difference in a line, here’s a simple yet cool one that I read somewhere.

Scrum is always agile but agile isn’t always scrum.

That is, agile is a software development philosophy with various frameworks to implement it; while scrum is one of the many frameworks under agile that you adopt to practice this ideology.

Let me try to explain this better with an example.

Agile is like warfare. It is a mindset. And to carry out warfare, you will need strategies. These strategies are nothing but frameworks. Scrum is one such strategy/framework. And just like you have weapons to execute a war strategy, you have tools to run these frameworks. (You’ll learn about these tools later on.)

Breaking it down further, let’s delve a little deeper into the nitty-gritty differences to clearly understand the equation between agile and scrum.

Agile Scrum
Core Definition First things first, Agile is a mindset and
an incremental software development
model that can be implemented using
frameworks such as scrum, kanban,
lean, XP, and FDD.
Scrum is one of agile’s frameworks that is
used to facilitate agile implementation. It is
simply a part of agile.
Principles Agile has a set of 12 principles and 4
values that are documented in the Agile
Apart from agile’s principles and values,
scrum has its own values and principles
documented in the Scrum Guide.
Roles The definition of roles depends on the
framework being chosen to implement
agile. For instance, kanban doesn’t
have distinct roles while scrum does.
Roles in scrum are clearly defined as

1. Product Owner
2. Scrum Master
3. Dev Team
Schedule Not all agile methodologies have a
time box for each iteration.
Scrum time-boxes each of its iterations to
1- 4 weeks.
Meetings Meetings in agile are framework
specific. That is, based on the agile
framework you choose, the mandatory
meetings and their nature will differ
accordingly. Because kanban doesn’t
have mandatory meetings like
scrum, lean, and XP.
Scrum ceremonies are an integral aspect
of scrum. There are 4 key ceremonies:

1. Sprint Planning Meeting
2. Daily Scrum Standup
3. Sprint Review Meeting
4. Sprint Retrospective Meeting
Implementation 1. Visualize your product and gather all
the business requirements.
2. Layout a roadmap or a plan of action
with desired deadlines for the releases.
3. Choose a framework such as scrum,
kanban, or any other, depending on your
project, to implement the agile approach.

To understand how agile is implemented
using its framework, click here.
1. Business requirements gathering and
product backlog creation
2. Sprint Planning
3. Sprint Review
4. Sprint Retrospective

To learn how to implement scrum,
specifically, click here.
Tools Once again, it boils down to which agile
framework your team is going to opt for.
So the right way to go about this is to
pick a framework first and then select an
agile tool that supports your chosen
Scrum implementation would be incomplete
without a scrum board. And this scrum
board concept is best achieved via an
efficient scrum board tool.

Other popular Agile frameworks

By now you would have figured out that agile is just an umbrella term that requires frameworks for its implementation. And scrum is one of the most popular ones. So the right question to ask isn’t agile or scrum but rather what framework to choose. Because scrum isn’t the only widely-preferred choice.

What are the others?


Kanban is a visual framework. That is, you visualize your workflow using task boards called kanban boards. This framework also follows an incremental delivery approach.

But the iterations are not time-boxed. Instead, the task items are taken a few at a time to work on and shipped as and when they’re completed.

The kanban board commonly has three columns 'To-do', 'In-progress', and 'Done' to indicate the various stages of the software development process. Items are placed under each column on the board depending on where they stand in the development workflow.

Here’s an interesting point to note. Since kanban is a continuous process with a loose structure, there isn’t an actual product backlog. Most often, teams consider the to-do column as the backlog.

That is, the user stories are broken down into sub-tasks that are to be worked on one at a time. Those sub-tasks that are yet to start are placed in the to-do column. The ones that are under development are placed under “In-progress”. And the completed items are listed in the done column.

Of course, these columns are editable. You can name them however you please. For instance, done can be named completed or perhaps something creative like nailed-it.

Note: You can create as many kanban columns as you need.

Now that you know what kanban is, would you like to know the difference between scrum and kanban? Check out Scrum vs Kanban.

Apart from Scrum and Kanban, there are 3 other frameworks. You can read about them here.

Choosing your tool

Now that you know the difference between scrum and agile and have an understanding of other frameworks, it’s time to pick a tool to facilitate agile implementation. Because agile tools play a key role in its implementation. Be it scrum, kanban, or any other framework you choose.

So it is of paramount importance to list your team’s requirements as well as your project’s needs and select a tool that fits the bill.

Take a look at the best agile tools to help you implement the approach that’s ideal for your team. I’m leaving the trade-off to you whether to pick the most popular tool out there and get disappointed or to pick a tool that has all your needs met in one place.

But I think I know what your choice is going to be. ;)

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