Agile vs Scrum: What You Need to Know

Agile vs Scrum: What You Need to Know

Are you ready to take your project management approach to a new level? One of the most popular project management approaches today is commonly referred to as Agile. Agile is more of a mindset then a defined methodology and is purposefully lightweight and adaptable. In organizations that adopt agile and have projects with high complexity or ambiguous requirements, projects are completed at a rate of 75%, while companies that use more traditional project management approaches for this type of work only have a 56% project success rate. There are many approaches to project management, but two of the most popular ones include Agile and Scrum.

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While you may have an interest in Agile, you might have a few questions before you start using this approach. First, you might be wondering what Scrum is and how it is related to Agile. Scrum is a common term that comes up when Agile is being discussed. The difference between Agile and Scrum is kind of like the difference between dogs and a Labrador. The Labrador is obviously a type of a dog, but not all dogs are Labradors. Scrum is one way for an organization adopt agile, and is often credited as the most popular, but it is not the only way.

Before you enhance your project management skills and pursue a new methodology to improve your project management approach, you should have a better understanding of the difference between Agile vs. Scrum. Below, we’ll learn more about both Agile and Scrum, and the training programs that are available to those who want a better approach to project management.

What is Agile?

Agile project management is an approach that uses incremental development and an emphasis on collaboration to ensure project success. Agile was originally designed to streamline project completion in the software development world, though it has been applied to a number of other industries since its creation.

Agile stands out from other project development approaches due to its incremental development sequence. Instead of working on a project from start to finish and delivering the final product once it has been totally completed, Agile delivers pieces of the project at a time, with the next piece building on the previous one until the project is completed.

Think of it like being asked to build a mobile application for your phone. You may start with minimal features, such as an ability to create an account and login. Over time, further functionality will be added based upon the priorities established by the customer. This ensures that work always focuses on the highest priority features so that the customer can quickly derive value from the deliverable.

Agile has become such a popular method of project development because it offers practitioners a number of benefits. Incremental development means that clients are constantly receiving deliverables. This strengthens the relationship between client and vendor, and also better involves the client in the development process. Because they’re seeing projects in various stages of development, there is ample opportunity for clients to offer feedback, ensuring the final product is closely aligned to their vision. Clients can also expect accurate and rapid product delivery.

What is Scrum?

When it comes to Agile vs. Scrum, Agile offers a high-level concept that Scrum turns into a series of ceremonies and artifacts. Scrum is a way of organizing and managing projects that allow companies to use the Agile methodology. This focuses on what Agile looks like on a day-to-day basis. Scrum’s framework includes tasks in the backlog, which will be worked on in the future, tasks that are in progress, and tasks that have been completed. The product backlog and sprint backlog are two of the key artifacts of scrum.

There are no Project Managers in Scrum since the development team is empowered and self-organizing. The closest the team has to a ‘manager’ is a servant leader, meant to help the team be successful, called the Scrum Master. The Scrum Master is not a master of the team, but of Scrum itself. They are the parties that effectively manage the correct application of Scrum which ensures the project’s success.

Scrum has an incremental structure indicative of the Agile framework, and that structure best represented with the Sprint. Sprints are two- to four-week work cycles in which iterations of a project are started, completed, and implemented. Each Sprint builds on the finished work of the previous one.

Sprints include four key ceremonies:

  • Sprint Planning – During Sprint planning, team members, led by the Scrum Master, select the tasks that will be completed in the next Sprint, estimate how much time each task will take, and commit to what they plan on completing.

  • Daily Stand-Ups – Daily stand-ups allow team members to discuss their current impediments, giving the Scrum Master a chance to help them overcome their challenges. These short meetings usually last no more than 15 minutes, and cover what team members accomplished and what they have in progress.

  • Sprint Review – During this meeting, the team demonstrates what has been created during the Sprint. Only work that is completed is presented during this meeting. It is here that the Product Owner decides what is actually completed, and what requires further work.

  • Retrospectives – Retrospective meetings at the end of each Sprint give employees the opportunity to discuss what lessons have been learned in this Sprint, and what changes can be made to improve processes for the next Sprint.

Because they are the the resident experts on Scrum within their teams, Scrum Masters play an important role to ensure that the artifacts are created and updated appropriately, and that the ceremonies are conducted as required.

Where Can I Get Agile or Scrum Training?

Since Agile is such a popular approach to project management and Scrum is a popular Agile implementation, it’s wise for project managers to pursue training in both of these areas. If you’re considering pursuing a career in Agile project management or the Scrum implementation of Agile, there are a few training paths you can take:

  • PMI Agile Certified Practitioner (PMI-ACP)®  – This is the only official Agile-related PMI® certification. The certification requirements are:

    • 2,000 hours of project experience (While a Project Management Professional (PMP)® certification is not essential to getting the PMI-ACP® certification, having your PMP® credential will satisfy this requirement.)

    • 1,500 hours working on Agile teams or using Agile methodologies, in addition to your 2,000 hours of project management experience

    • 21 hours of Agile training

If you meet the eligibility requirements, you should pursue certification as soon as possible. If you don’t quite meet the requirements yet, there are training courses you can take. This is a valuable certification, as it increases your earning potential and hones your project management skills.

  • Agile Fundamentals – If you don’t yet meet the requirements to sit for the PMI-ACP exam, that doesn’t mean you need to wait to start using Agile methodologies. With the Agile Fundamentals course, you can learn more about the basic principles of Agile and gain an understanding of how to apply these principles to your own company. While this is not an official certification, it does provide a great foundation of knowledge for the PMI-ACP exam.

  • Scrum Master – Taking a Scrum Master course is another great way to gain and use Agile knowledge even if you’re not ready to take the PMI-ACP exam yet. This course will teach you the basics of being a Scrum Master and explore skills that ensure project success. With this course, you’ll learn more about the day-to-day functions of a Scrum Master and how they manage entire projects.

Now that you know the difference between Agile vs. Scrum, you’re ready to improve how your projects are being implemented. This is the time to start your Agile or Scrum training. With the right training, you can strengthen your project management skills and starting using Agile or Scrum in your organization.

The Agile project management approach benefits the project team, as well. One of the foundational principles of Agile is constant improvement. The team works together to streamline processes leading to better outcomes.

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Erin Aldridge, PMP, PMI-ACP, & CSPO
Director of Product Development at
Erin Aldridge, PMP, PMI-ACP, & CSPO