Agile VS Scrum: Similarities and Differences

Product management is a complex job as it incorporates software development, innovation, and growth. In the modern world of product management, there are many tools and techniques discovered day in and day out. The ever-changing landscape of product development makes it crucial for product managers to stay on top of the latest tools and terms.

If you’re involved in product management, you’ve no doubt heard of the terms Agile and Scrum thrown around.

Agile is a philosophy where teams are managed to increase their adaptability to changing circumstances to deliver successful products to customers. Scrum is a part of the agile methodology that provides a framework for teams to follow.

Due to their similarities and effectiveness in managing products, these terms are used interchangeably. Although similar they have several differences. In this article, we’ll discuss Agile and Scrum, their similarities, differences, and how they are applied in product management.

What is Agile Product Management?

Agile product management is a flexible approach to product development where customer feedback is integrated into the product strategy. Under Agile, teams are encouraged to embrace change rather than avoid it by following a fixed plan. Teams work in a cross-functional manner where collaboration is encouraged.

The Agile philosophy is built on the principles stated in the Agile Manifesto – a declaration that outlines the core values and beliefs of Agile software development.

The manifesto was signed in 2001 by seventeen software developers including the brains behind Scrum, Extreme Programming, DSDM, Adaptive Software Development, and others. The Agile Manifesto includes four core values:

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

Along with these values, it mentions 12 principles for Agile software development. Any methodology that aligns with these core principles and is based upon the values stated in the manifesto can be considered an agile approach to development.

Although this mindset was adapted for software development, its modern approach was a suitable alternative to the Waterfall Method used by many businesses. For this reason, agile has become popular among many product managers due to its innovative workflow.

Agile philosophy focuses on embracing change rather than avoiding it, on maximizing productivity, and on getting better results in shorter periods of time.

Agile’s user-centric approach ensures product teams make decisions based on customer feedback thus lessening the risk of failure. Given the complex, ever-changing dynamics of customer demands, Agile is a highly needed perspective that helps users move away from traditional thinking and adapt accordingly.

What is Scrum in Product Management?

Scrum is an Agile methodology that provides product teams with an iterative and incremental framework. With Scrum, development is managed in short sprints that last around 2-3 weeks.

It was created and developed by Ken Schwaber and Jeff Sutherland. They published a 14-page document titled the Scrum Guide that explains Scrum methodology and how it works. It first appeared in the 1990s, was officially published in 2010, and further updated in November 2020.

In the Scrum Guide, Ken and Jeff list the five values upon which Scrum is built:

  • Commitment
  • Focus
  • Openness
  • Respect
  • Courage

These values help the development team to efficiently apply the Scrum methodology. A Scrum Agile framework consists of three main roles:

  • Developers – team members that are part of a Scrum team and are directly involved in the creation process of each Sprint. In Scrum, every team member is called a “developer.”
  • Product Owner – ensures alignment between cross-functional teams, is responsible for updating the product backlog and accountable for maximizing the value of output.
  • Scrum Master – responsible for aligning the Scrum according to the values and guidelines published in the Scrum Guide. They keep everyone on track and updated, educating teammates about Scrum theory and how they’re expected to implement these theories in practice.

While Agile focuses on developing products that will be popular with customers, Scrum is a guide that product development teams can follow during their development process. Scrum empowers businesses to deliver valuable products in the shortest time possible.

What are the Similarities Between Agile and Scrum

There’s not much to compare between Agile and Scrum because they complement, rather than compete with each other. Scrum is a part of Agile methodology since its values are aligned with the principles stated in the Agile Manifesto.

This means that there are a lot of similarities between Agile and Scrum. Scrum is so similar to Agile that many people mistakenly think Scrum is Agile. Here are some similarities they share:

Adaptability

The Agile Manifesto states, “Welcome changing requirements, even late in development. Agile processes harness change for the customer’s competitive advantage.” 

This is in line with the Scrum Guide that states, “If any aspects of a process deviate outside acceptable limits or if the resulting product is unacceptable, the process being applied or the materials being produced must be adjusted.”

This call for adjusting the process is present in both Agile and Scrum. Both adapt to change rather than follow a fixed plan. It allows for a more flexible strategy that takes into account the ever-changing demands of customers.

Provide Similar Outcomes

Before applying any approach or methodology, you need to make sure you can measure it.

“You can’t manage it if you can’t measure it” – Peter Drucker 

When it comes to measuring the success of your business, both Agile and Scrum focus on the outcome rather than the output. Both approaches train the development team to speed up the product development process and bring about similar behavioral changes. Both lead to faster results, increased transparency, and visible alignment between departments.

Encourage Collaboration

When applying Agile processes, team members can collaborate on a higher level. One Agile principle states, “Business people and developers must work together daily throughout the project.”

Scrum manages to maintain collaboration through daily scrums. Daily scrums are 15-minute events where the whole development team, including the product owner and scrum master, participate. These events are arranged to discuss tactics and an actionable plan to reach the sprint goal and adjust strategy if necessary. 

This increased transparency within both approaches offers better collaboration and improves communication between cross-functional teams. It increases productivity and builds trust in employees.

Is Scrum Part of Agile?

The Agile philosophy is a mindset – it isn’t a framework that could be applied to development teams. Many Agile methodologies align with the values and principles stated in the Agile Manifesto.

One such method is Scrum. Scrum is part of agile since it adheres to the principles stated in the Agile Manifesto. There are other frameworks such as Kanban, Extreme Programming, Scrumban, and many more. These are all part of Agile software development.

What are the Differences Between Agile and Scrum

While the processes involved in both Agile and Scrum are similar, there are also some clear differences.

Here are some key differences between Agile and Scrum.

Agile is Broad, Scrum is Specific

As mentioned before, Agile is a philosophy, a broad concept that incorporates numerous application frameworks which product managers can use to develop their processes.

Scrum is just one part of Agile and provides a specific framework that helps product teams develop products in shorter time frames.

Definition of Roles

Agile largely focuses on self-organizing teams and is geared toward a more autonomous way of working. This empowers the development team to make their own decisions and choose the strategy they see as the best fit for the market.

This approach worked for Spotify and helped its growth skyrocket. They managed to gather 15 million active users in the course of 6 years using agile practices. However, most if not all, businesses require some structure to maintain efficient operations.

In contrast to this approach, Scrum provides structure to the product management process. It segments employees into a Scrum team and appoints three official roles of developer, product manager, and scrum master to maintain effective communication within the team.

Agile is Abstract, Scrum is Concrete

Agile is an abstract concept and is more related to how people should think about the product development process. It doesn’t provide a detailed structure on how to implement Agile Manifesto values.

Alternatively, Scrum is a concrete process managers and developers can use to guide development teams. The Scrum Guide provides actionable steps, defines roles, and lists exact processes a team can follow to achieve maximum results.

When it comes to how to approach the product development process, managers can refer to agile. Agile is a mindset where managers are told to focus on developing products in the fastest time possible. But, to make that a reality, Scrum is commonly used to guide the strategy.

Contrasting Values and Principles

The Agile Manifesto is based upon four values that move away from a traditional mindset to a more modern approach to product management. It gives product managers a favorable shift from the traditional Waterfall approaches.

Scrum, on the other hand, is based on five core values that relate to how team members should think about the development process. Although they align with agile values, they are more targeted towards employee attributes and what the ideal Scrum team would look like.

In addition to the above-listed values, Agile consists of twelve principles that a company can apply to its development process to be considered “agile.” 

If you look at the Scrum guide you won’t find a list of principles to follow. Rather, Scrum was based on “empiricism and lean thinking.” Scrum’s foundation lies on the three pillars of Scrum– transparency, inspection, and adaptation.

Conclusion

Agile is a popular philosophy that encourages product managers to approach product development while keeping changing customer trends in mind. Scrum methodology is the most popular implementation of Agile practices in business.

It is so popular that many people have started to confuse Agile with Scrum and use these terms interchangeably. In reality, there is no real comparison between the two as they are complementary. Knowing what each term is and how they compare will keep you informed on the product management process. Once you know the difference you can move on to the next step and learn more about Agile product development and Scrum methodology.