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Main Differences Between Agile & Scrum

Agile is a project management approach, while Scrum stands as one of the popular types of Agile methodology. Find out more on Agile vs. Scrum in this article.
March 15 · 4 min read
Learn what the difference between Agile and Scrum is.

Agile is a project management approach that focuses on small iteration-based developments to complete a project. Projects that have some level of uncertainty or might require changes use the Agile incremental development approach. On the other hand, Scrum is one of the types of Agile methodology. You can consider Scrum as a structure that you have to use to implement Agile principles.

Many teams today use the word Scrum or Agile interchangeably owing to the growing use of Scrum as an Agile methodology. It is not a serious mistake to use the word Scrum for Agile, as the core concept is very much similar, but there are a few key differences between Agile and Scrum that you should know. So, let's have a closer look at Agile and Scrum and their main differences.

Agile – A Quick Overview

Agile is a philosophy or approach of project management that aims at completing a project in small executable increments. Instead of one big launch, an Agile project is based on smaller chunks of releases that the team can deliver in a smaller time frame. This way, it becomes much easier for the development team to identify bugs, adapt to changing priorities, get earlier customer feedback, reduce cost, and deliver more quality products.

Agile was created in 2001 when 17 project managers from the software development industry sat together in the Wasatch Mountains of Utah to develop a set of principles for better organizational communities. This led to the creation of the Agile Manifesto that comprised of 4 Agile values and 12 Agile principles.

The 4 values of Agile presented by the Agile Manifesto are:

  • Individuals and interactions over processes and tools;
  • Working software over comprehensive documentation;
  • Customer collaboration over contract negotiation;
  • Responding to change over following a plan.

For any organization to incorporate Agile principles, it needs to use a method or framework to implement those principles. Scrum stands as one of the most popular Agile methodologies today. Other than Scrum, you can also use Kanban, Extreme Programming (XP), Crystal, Dynamic Systems Development Method (DSDM), etc.

When Agile Should be Used?

Agile suits well for those projects where there are always some uncertainties. For example, when a development team is creating a new product, they can get sudden new features demand, changing priorities, unexpected hurdles, and similar other challenges. In such cases, Agile is the best choice, as it lets the team proceed gradually and take into count all the changes as they proceed. However, if there is a project with fixed parameters, such as fixed deadline and fixed budget, then the traditional Waterfall management approach might seem effective.

Initially, Agile was practiced by software development organizations, but today its principles are getting attention from a variety of other sectors, such as finance, marketing, design, etc. In fact, the construction sector is also seen adopting Agile principles now.

Scrum – A Quick Overview

Scrum is an Agile methodology that focuses on an incremental and iterative approach to deliver customer value. Scrum emphasizes delivering high-quality products in a short development cycle driven by faster feedback loops to ensure quality product development. It is built on three main pillars, i.e., Transparency, Adaptation, and Inspection.

Scrum-based projects are executed in small builds called Srpints that usually last for 2-4 weeks. The major components of a sprint include product backlogs, sprint backlogs, and sprint goals. In each sprint session, a specific function is defined, built, and tested. This way, if there are changes to be done, then they can be executed in short sprint sessions instead of repeating the entire development cycle.

A Scrum team comprises of:

  1. Product Owner: The main job of the product owner is to create a product backlog and maximize the product values and progress of the development team.
  2. Scrum Master: The main job of Scrum Master is to ensure that the Scrum team is following the guidelines of the Scrum framework.
  3. Development Team: The main job of the self-organizing development team is to turn a product idea into reality through multiple sprint sessions and regular meetings.

The process of Scrum goes through the following stages:

  1. The product owner creates a wish list of prioritized items called a product backlog.
  2. The development team conducts a sprint planning session where they take some items and put them at the top of the list. Those items become sprint backlog that the team decides to complete in the current sprint session. The sprint planning session is usually undergone with the help of an estimation technique, such as Planning Poker, Async Poker, The Bucket System, Affinity Mapping, etc.
  3. The team starts working on the sprint, which usually has a time frame between 2-4 weeks. The team also conducts a 15-minute time-boxed event daily, called Daily Scrum, to discuss and create a plan for the next 24 hours.
  4. Scrum Master ensures that the team remains focused on the main goals.
  5. Near the end of the sprint, a team must have some shippable product that can be shown to the stakeholders and used by customers.
  6. The sprint session concludes with a sprint review and retrospective.
  7. For the next sprint, the team again picks the next items from the product backlog and starts the above steps again.

In short, Scrum values teamwork and encourages an environment of continuous improvement. The five main values associated with Scrum are:

  1. Focus
  2. Commitment
  3. Respect
  4. Openness
  5. Courage

Just like Agile, Scrum has also gone beyond software development. Today, industries that deal with continuously changing environments in their projects are using the Scrum development approach for better team collaboration and quality deliveries.

Agile vs. Scrum

Now that we have cleared our concepts around Agile and Scrum, it's time to clarify the misconception of using Agile and Scrum terms interchangeably. One thing we know is that Scrum falls under the big umbrella of Agile, so it means there are some similarities between them. So, the key similarities between Agile and Scrum include:

  • Short iterative development cycles.
  • Emphasis on collaboration, communication, and people.
  • Frequent testing and better adaption to changes/feedback.

Other than the above similarities, there are many areas where Agile and Scrum differentiate. Here is the list of the key differences between both of them:

AgileScrum
Agile is a philosophy/approach.Scrum is one type of Agile methodology.
Agile involves a continuous iteration of developing and testing.Scrum involves sprints that focus on delivering business value in minimal time.
Agile involves members from multiple cross-functional teams.Scrum involves specific roles, such as product owner, Scrum Master, and development team.
Agile does not emphasize that a single iteration should offer a useable function.Scrum emphasizes that every sprint must offer a releasable/useable function. However, it is not mandatory to follow and mainly depends on the sophistication of the project.
Leadership has a key role to play in Agile.There is no leader in Scrum. It focuses on a self-organizing team where everyone contributes to resolving issues.
Agile expects the design and execution to be simple.In Scrum, the design and execution can involve new innovative approaches.
Collaboration in Agile is mostly face-to-face interactions with different members from cross-functional teams.Collaboration in Scrum is in the form of a "Daily Scrum" 15 minutes time-boxed session involving the development team and Scrum Master.
Agile is a rigid method with less room for rapid changes.Scrum is more flexible and encourages an environment of rapid response to changes.
In agile, working software is considered the most fundamental measure of progress.In Scrum, working software is not the fundamental measure of progress.

Wrapping Up – Agile or Scrum

Considering the growing customer demand, sophisticated development processes, competitive culture, and other challenges, the Agile development framework is becoming a highly rewarding and successful means to achieve business goals and deliver values to stakeholders. Scrum is a lightweight Agile methodology with fewer rules, making it easy for organizations to adapt to the Agile world.

So, there is no such thing as choosing Agile or Scrum. When you practice Scrum, you are already implementing Agile principles. In a nutshell, Scrum falls under the umbrella of Agile and should be just considered as one of the methodologies to practice Agile principles.

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