What is the difference between agile vs Scrum? (With tips)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 25 April 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

The agile methodology is a form of project management that allows for fast implementation, adaptability and flexibility. As one of the most popular options for agile project management, the Scrum framework helps businesses to achieve fast and effective product development. If you work in project management, you could benefit from learning more about the agile and Scrum frameworks. In this article, we look at a comparison of agile vs Scrum, including definitions, key differences and tips for choosing a suitable agile framework for a project.

An overview of agile vs Scrum

When making a comparison between agile vs Scrum, it's useful to look at an overview first. The agile methodology is a project management method that has grown rapidly since its origins in the software development industry. As a newer and more innovative way to develop products through ongoing testing and improvement, the agile framework offers a way for teams to work together and meet goals as effectively as possible.

While agile development covers the entire philosophy of this project management style, the Scrum framework is a specific method that teams use to complete the development process. For example, a team working with Scrum methodology may work together to sprint towards predetermined deadlines in each development phase. Agile development may include Scrum or a range of other methodologies developed to fit this model. Each particular agile method has a specific purpose with the same underlying goal of flexible, high-quality output that suits user needs and goals.

Related: The 6 agile methodology steps for project management

What is agile project management?

Agile project management is a top-level methodology that covers a wide range of individual project management styles. The idea behind agile development is to provide an environment for continuous improvement through constant feedback from end-users or customers. This flexibility makes it easier for teams to make changes quickly and effectively through each development phase. In addition, this practice helps ensure that the end result aligns with the business goals and user requirements for high-quality output suited to its specific niche or sector.

What is Scrum project management?

Scrum project management is one form of agile methodology that utilises a sprint process. Sprinting breaks each part of development down into small, individual phases with their own deadlines and metrics. Following a sprint development period, the team delivers the current iteration of the product to the client or end-user for feedback. This information helps to set goals and deadlines for the next sprint, allowing for the swift completion of project deliverables with the flexibility required to adapt to end-user needs. Sprints typically last from one to three weeks for Scrum development cycles.

Related: How to get scrum master certifications (plus career info)

Key differences between agile vs Scrum

As the scrum framework is a specific form of agile methodology, there are many similarities between the two. But, there are also some key differences between a standard agile work environment and project management that utilises Scrum practices. Here are some of the key differences between the agile and Scrum project management frameworks to consider:

Philosophy vs methodology

The agile methodology is a top-level philosophy that covers a wide range of individual strategies, processes and project management methods in the workplace. Some examples of agile frameworks include kanban, extreme programming and Scrum. Every form of agile methodology has its own rules and constraints to suit the needs of a specific industry or market, with some companies using hybrid or combination options to suit their development requirements.

As an agile methodology, Scrum is a specific set of rules and practices used to implement development within the agile philosophy. One of the key differences between Scrum and standard agile practices is the use of short sprints to complete fast, flexible development and receive consistent feedback. The agile methodology is the blueprint for developing projects in environments where flexibility is important, while the Scrum framework is the actual method a team follows to achieve that goal.

Related: Different types of project management methodologies

Team collaboration

Teamwork is a crucial component in all agile methodologies, as each team member works together as effectively as possible to meet specific goals and deadlines. Team collaboration in an agile methodology can refer to the core team working on the project's development and the wider team of stakeholders, clients and other developers that may support the project.

In a traditional agile methodology, a project leader oversees each stage of the project to guide their team towards deliverables and effective output. The scrum methodology values teamwork as an agile philosophy, but the roles and positions in a Scrum team are slightly different from the standard frameworks. Instead of having a project lead, the Scrum methodology has several specialised roles to support the development of a project. These roles include:

  • Product owner: Product owners help the team understand the vision and goal of product development and may also prioritise the work for each team and provide motivation to reach goals and deadlines.

  • Scrum master: Scrum masters act as the individual coach on each scrum team, overseeing the development, organising meetings and communicating directly with the product owner, without taking leadership in their team.

  • Team member: Team members form the bulk of scrum teams, with on average five to eight team members working together on each development phase for programming, testing and design work.

Related: What is a scrum master's role and how to become one?

Delivery of projects

The agile methodology offers a range of different options for delivering products or components throughout development. For example, the kanban methodology involves a team continuously delivering product iterations throughout the development process. The idea is that product delivery occurs continuously instead of at the end of development, which makes it easier to garner feedback and make changes as required.

Scrum development also prioritises feedback and deliverables, but this only occurs at the end of each individual sprint. Team members within a Scrum team typically have daily or weekly meetings to adjust, discuss progress and address problems, with iterations delivered on the completion of the sprint instead of during it. This practice allows for adjustments, changes and implementation of new features before the next sprint begins.

Metrics and KPIs

Agile frameworks focus on various metrics to achieve project goals and progress through development. For example, extreme programming focuses on continuous testing in development to track the progress of specific project goals and requirements. Scrum development uses speed as the primary metric for progress, with set deadlines for each sprint to motivate each team member to work together quickly and complete tasks effectively.

Flexibility and response

Agile frameworks provide flexibility in development. This practice makes it important for methodologies to have inbuilt processes to gain feedback, implement changes and adjust the development cycle as required. Kanban, for example, allows swift changes at every stage in project development. The Scrum framework encourages flexibility at the end of each sprint, providing breathing room between fast-paced development and adjusting to changes and new requirements for the project.

Communication

General agile frameworks encourage open and active communication between different development teams and decision-makers, such as developers and project managers. Cross-functional collaboration means that everyone understands how their work fits into the bigger picture of development. In contrast, scrum teams are more insular, with less requirement for inter-team communication. Scrum teams instead focus on internal communication, often with daily meetings to track and review progress, while the scrum master alone communicates with the product owners, stakeholders and clients as required.

Tips for choosing the right agile framework

Choosing the right framework for the right project can help you to make development as easy and effective as possible. The agile methodology includes a range of frameworks, with many businesses choosing to take different parts from different methods to suit their needs and goals. Here are a few tips to help you determine which agile framework may be suitable for a specific development:

Start by defining your goals

Defining what you want to achieve with development can be helpful in choosing the right agile strategy. For example, if you have strict deadlines for development, the Scrum framework may be more suitable for your goals. In contrast, you may find other agile frameworks better suited to your development requirements for projects that require extensive customer feedback and testing.

Understand the requirements of the project

Deciding on and listing the goals of a project provides a foundation for discussion with stakeholders and clients about the objectives and requirements of a product. This insight can support you in picking a framework that's suitable for that type of development. For example, the Scrum framework may be suitable for projects where requirements throughout development are likely to change.

Consider the skills and expertise of team members

The ability of each team member is an important factor to consider when choosing an agile framework. Scrum development, for example, requires all team members to work towards a goal with equal responsibility. Teams with less experienced members, or with varying levels of expertise, may find a more collaborative methodology to be the better solution for project requirements.

Utilise the strengths of your project team

The agile methodology has its roots in software and app development. Scrum, in particular, is well-suited to getting the most out of a team's strength in programming and testing. It's important to note that projects requiring expertise in design or other specialist niches may be a better fit for different agile frameworks that allow for better use of those unique skills.

Related:

  • How to write agile user stories: plus template and examples

  • What is an agile coach? Definition, duties and benefits

  • Agile framework: types, methodology and how to choose one


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