The Agile vs Scrum debate is one that has puzzled even the most experienced project managers. Often, these two concepts are used interchangeably, but in reality they are two different things.
In practice, using Agile and Scrum in a similar manner will not result in trouble, but it might be misleading. In order to avoid any confusion throughout the stages of product development, it is best to use the correct terminology. This will not only avoid confusion. It will also help software development teams gain a better understanding of the underlying principles of popular software development methodologies, and improve in terms of efficiency and productivity as a result.
In this post we discuss the difference between Agile and Scrum so that you make the most of each of them throughout the software development process.
What Is a Project Management Methodology?
Before addressing the Agile vs Scrum debate, it is important to understand what a project management methodology is. In brief, a project management methodology is a combination of methods, processes, and practices that determine the best way to approach a project throughout its different phases, from start to finish.
In time, such methodologies have become a useful way to help guarantee that complex endeavors end on a positive note. Without them, it would be very hard for project managers to keep track of everything that is going on. A complex project requires monitoring and making sure that people, budget, materials, time, and other resources are managed correctly.
Software development is no exception to this. As software projects become more complex, developers and project managers have seen an increasing level of project complexity that demands them to implement state-of-the-art management tools.
This is where Agile and Scrum show up. However, before diving into their characteristics, it is first necessary to understand the precursor of Agile: the Waterfall methodology.
The Waterfall Methodology
The Waterfall methodology, often referred to as the Waterfall model, is one of the most widely used project management methodologies of all time. Software development projects followed this same approach for many years, but eventually, it became problematic. As the level of software development complexity increased, developers found waterfall to be very restrictive.
In this method, a project is often approached in terms of phases and activities, and each one will only start once the previous one has already been completed, thus the name Waterfall. This is inconvenient for various reasons. For one, it approaches projects in a linear, sequential, and inflexible way. Secondly, it is not optimal in terms of a project’s resources and how they are used. Lastly, it is problematic for projects that require high levels of interconnectedness across teams. For this and other reasons, software developers decided to take a different approach. Enter Agile.
The Agile Philosophy
More than a project management methodology, Agile is a work philosophy. It was developed in the 90s by software engineers as a way to solve the limitations of existing work methods. Rather than establish a specific way to do things, Agile established a series of principles to improve work.
The Agile Manifesto
Agile’s principles can be found in the Agile Manifesto. In short, they can be summed up in:
- People being more important than tools or processes
- Software that works should be prioritized over excessive documentation
- Collaboration with customers instead of negotiations
- Being resilient rather than sticking to the plan
Agile Is Not a Methodology
It is a common mistake to refer to Agile as one of many work or process management methodologies. In practical terms, it is a set of guiding principles for software development, not a methodology. In other words, Agile does not state how something is to be done exactly. At Koombea, for example, we use Agile principles for our app development projects.
Agile’s principles are not exclusive to software-related projects, although it is particularly good at it, especially in the development phase. Other disciplines have started making use of Agile principles, showing great results. The key to implementing Agile successfully lies in every team member adopting its principles. The stronger a team’s commitment is to Agile, the better it works.
Agile has given birth to a number of frameworks that have been adopted as software development methodologies. Among these we find:
- Disciplined Agile (DA)
- eXtreme Programming (XP)
- Feature Driven Development (FDD)
- Lean Software Development (LSD)
Let’s take a look at Scrum.
The Scrum Methodology
Scrum is one of the various frameworks that operate under the Agile philosophy. It is often referred to as a methodology because, contrary to Agile, it does have certain rules for how a project should be managed. These rules are often referred to as a series of best practices.
The main quality of the Scrum methodology is that it is particularly useful to develop complex adaptive projects, that is, those where there are different agents involved, with different tasks to be handled, as well as lots of deadlines and stages of the project, all interacting with one another in a non-linear way. Because of this, it can be used for all sorts of product development projects as well as software testing exercises. In general, one can even say that it is perfect throughout the development phase.
Under Scrum, there is one person in charge of managing the team. This person is known as the Scrum Master. The Scrum Master’s responsibility is to help team members achieve their goals. This includes:
- Helping the Product Owner organize a product backlog
- Selecting the work to perform on a Sprint in order to increase value
- Inspecting results and preparing for the next Sprint
- Making sure the cycle can be completed and repeated all over again
Team members work in a self-organizing way under Sprints, a period of 1 to 4 weeks. Throughout this period, a project backlog is organized in order to keep track of the activities being done as well as those that are done or pending.
Agile Vs Scrum: The Difference In a Nutshell
The main difference between Agile and Scrum is that Agile is a working philosophy whilst Scrum is a work methodology. This means that, in a sense, Agile dictates the principles under which Scrum operates.
Most software development companies have seen the direct benefits of working with both to develop outstanding digital products. Thanks to their collaborative and hands-on approach, Agile and Scrum are the preferred alternatives by software development teams across the world.