JIRA Agile: Scrum or Kanban?

Posted by

March 11, 2014

In  fast paced and ever-changing environments, more and more teams are using Agile project management to build and ship products that meet their customers expectations.

JIRA Agile is a JIRA add-on developed by Atlassian and designed to support Agile methodologies – both Scrum and Kanban – within JIRA. It enables project teams who are already using JIRA to adapt to Agile practices, the easy way. However, when configuring the add-on, one big question arise : going Scrum or Kanban?

If you are not familiar with agility, this article will provide you insights on which board  to choose in JIRA Agile, and help you make the right decision for your team.

Scrum vs Kanban

Scrum Boards

Scrum boards are for teams who like to plan their work in detail before they start a project. This usually includes creating sprints and giving story points to user stories in order to plan which story can go to which sprint. When you first create a Scrum board, you create a list of items which becomes the backlog. From there, you create different versions and sprints and move the issue from backlogs to sprints.

Scrum boards have a Plan mode and a Work mode. The Plan mode, as explained above, includes moving issues from backlogs and giving each one a time estimate. The Work mode is the actual board itself, where you can move cards (issues) across columns (statuses).

Kanban Boards

Kanban by contrast allows users to start work without necessarily having a structured plan, and in fact does not even have a plan mode. The Kanban work board uses the same column-based interface as Scrum for tracking the status of tasks, however without the ability to organize these into sprints. This board will deal will all the issues in the project rather than a portion of them.





This is where the team will plan sprints and estimate stories that will go into each sprint


You can map columns to the statuses of your workflow. This can also be changed in the future if the workflow changes, by simply adding or removing columns as required.

Sprint Planning

Usually when planning sprints in a PMO department, the BA and the PM will sit with the developers and ask for their estimates. This information can be entered directly into JIRA Agile.


This are a very good tool for separating and organizing issues. One example can be to separate issues by assignees. This way you can see how many issues have been assigned to each developer

Agile Board

This is the Work mode, where you can see the board itself broken down into different statuses. This allows the team to see the progress of sprints


You can limit the minimum and maximum number of issues that should be displayed in each status. This will change the colour and make it obvious for the team to decide to whether to increase or decrese the number of issues.


With Scrum boards, you can see many types of reports even while you are in the middle of the sprint.

Burndown Chart – check the team progress towards their commitment. If the scope has changed while the sprint is still on, this will also be reflected here. Other charts include: Sprint Report, Epic Report, Velocity Chart, Version Report etc


Kanban also allows teams to view reports.

One chart that is quite useful with Kanban is the Control Chart.This will allow you to measure the cycle time for issues. For example, showing the mean time and actual time taken to complete issues.


This board allows you to apply to most basic Kanban principles to improve the flow of stories.

Some criteria to help you make your decision

So how would you know which one is best for you? Well there are simple things that you need to look out for:

Setting up speed

If you are looking to start working on a board quickly and with minimal configurations, then Kanban is the way forward. Other than creating new columns and mapping your statues, Kanban requires very little configuration and enables users to get started pretty much instantly.

Detailed overview of the project

If you are looking for more detailed tracking of your project progress, then Scrum; with its planned sprints, story points,  and assortment of charts and reporting tools (Burndown Chart, Sprint Report, Epic Report, Velocity Chart, Version Report etc), is the best option for you.


Scrum allows a lot more functionalities than Kanban, simply because Scrum involves a lot more planning before you can actually begin to work on the issue. With Kanban it’s more straightforward, simply getting the issues on the board and mapping them to the correct status.

Ease of use

Scrum can be quite complex to set up due to the amount of planning involved. You have to add versions, story points, sprints, keep track of the issues that are in the backlog and in the sprint, issues that have been completed in the closed sprints etc. This can be too much to handle for some users, whereas with Kanban, you can see all the issues within a project on one board.

Project Size

This is also a very key aspect of the decision making. If you are working on a smaller scale project with only a limited number of issues, then Kanban is undoubtedly the simpler option. With a larger scale project however, with greater numbers of concurrent issues developers, Scrum will offer greater organisation, process management, and overview.


Both Scrum and Kanban methodologies are great, but they are no one size fits all. Making the right decision for your team at the very start can save from the burden of carrying complex changes in workflows and habits.

We hope this article helps you get Agile right. If you want to dive deeper into JIRA Agile, we are running a webinar on Agile project management with JIRA Agile.

Also, we’d love to hear from you : what choice criteria is the most important according to you? Let us know in the comment section !

  • Tom

    I only know Kanban methodology and I like it very much. Our team is using http://kanbantool.com/ for project management and it really met our expectations, it’s a great way to make teamwork more organized.

  • Joe

    Has any tried Kerika? http://bit.ly/kerika

    It looks easy and I need a solution that my team will want to use.

  • Anand Unadkat

    Thanks David for your input. Really useful reference for other readers!

  • You have a good blog to read and the comparison of Scrum and Kanban are the offspring of the agile methodology. The two methods may have different approaches, but are both rooted in the agile philosophy of software development. My thought here is Scrum is the best model so far. We love the interaction part. I would suggest you to go through this http://www.scrumstudy.com I hope you will find the best comparison as well.

  • Anand Unadkat

    That is great to hear! Thanks for your feedback!

  • Scrum is the best model so far. We love the interaction part.

  • Anand Unadkat

    Hi Des,
    Thanks for your comment. If you would like to add estimate and have a velocity chart against it, then you have got that one right – you will need to use Scrum board. Moving away from the Agile topic slightly, have you tried JIRA Portfolio, or even Tempo to manage project deadlines/resources/budget?

  • Des

    Hi Anand
    One important element for me is to have an end-date for each project. While not totally time-boxed management likes to know how long a specific project will take/cost. I’m certainly attracted to the lighter/simpler kanban approach – but it’s not clear to me that it requires estimates or will give me a burn-down velocity/end date. Is scrum in Jira my only option?

  • Anand Unadkat

    Hi Ashwin,

    Thanks for your comment.

    Absolutely, you can have two boards! All you have to do is create a new Kanban board from existing project. However, these are not linked.

    What you can do however, is probably use same filter used for Kanban board and add it to your Scrum board. This can be your indirect link with Scrum board.

    Hope this helps.

  • Nice post Anand..I have a question. Is it possible for me to use a combination of both boards for a project. For example, As a PO I would like to set up a Kanban board to manage my Product Backlog better. The scrum development team would want to use the Scrum board. Can both boards be linked so that “Ready/Groomed stories” from the Kanban board can be used by the Scrum team to plan sprints and pull into their sprint backlogs

  • Anand Unadkat

    Hi Tarun,

    Well pointed out 🙂 I was just trying to point out what you can do in Kanban without duplicating that same information in the Srum column as I already mentioned in the text before the comparison, that Srum board has a work mode too and Kanban work board uses the same interface as Scrum.

    May be I should have added that to he comparison as well 🙂

    Thanks once again! I will remember this point for my next blog! I am glad that you found it good to read 🙂


  • Hi Anand,

    The blog is a good read, but the comparison of Scrum and Kanban which is shown in the blog is flawed as workflow, swimlanes and constraints is not exclusive to Kanban but is present on the Work-mode of Scrum boards as well.