Agile project management vs Scrum: What's the difference?

Written by 
Brianna Hansen
June 20, 2024
Woman typing on laptop
Agile project management vs Scrum: What's the difference?
Written by 
Brianna Hansen
June 20, 2024

Agile and Scrum are related but distinct concepts in project management. Like members of a family, they share common principles, sometimes disagree, but overall work pretty well together — enough to cause some confusion between the terms.

To effectively find the winning choice between Agile project management vs Scrum, or even try a hybrid approach, understanding their differences is key. Let's explore the definitions, benefits, and main factors to consider when choosing the best framework.

What are Agile and Scrum?

The terms Agile and Scrum get thrown around so much in project management and software development, they often lose their meaning. Here's what you need to know:

Agile project management

Agile is a methodology that emphasizes adaptability, collaboration, and continuous improvement. Think of Agile as a project management philosophy, with principles like: 

  • Individuals and interactions over processes and tools
  • Consistent client involvement for greater customer satisfaction
  • Responding to change instead of following a strict plan

Scrum project management

Scrum is a structured way of working on complex projects. Scrum is an Agile framework, a set of resources, and practices to put agility into action, including:

  • Roles: Specific team functions like product owner, scrum master, and development team
  • Events: Scrum meetings, like sprint planning (yay, new project!) and sprint review (yay, it's over!)
  • Artifacts: Tools that track the work, like product backlog and sprint backlog

Scrum is an approach to an Agile mindset — like Kanban, Lean, Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe), and others. These frameworks provide more structured ways to implement Agile principles in project management.

Related: How Mural supports Agile, from learning to development

Differences between Agile and Scrum project management

Agile vs Scrum project management isn't like Avengers vs Thanos. It's a win-win battle. The best choice for your project depends on its complexity and need for adaptability. 

So, let's compare the two to help you decide which fits best — or mix and match if that feels right.


Related: Find all these templates and more in our Template Library

Agile vs Scrum project management: Five questions to help you choose the best methodology for your needs

To pick the right methodology for your project's success, ask yourself these five questions:

1. Are your project requirements likely to evolve?

Adaptability is one of the principles of the Agile Manifesto, and preparing for changes can help you avoid a lot of headaches. If your project needs to adapt to eventual changes or continuous updates of new information, Agile is the way to go. It's the best bet for SaaS development or large-scale projects in highly regulated industries. While Scrum also allows changes within sprints, Agile's flexibility extends beyond sprint boundaries.

Related: A guide to the Agile development lifecycle

2. What is the experience level of your team with different methodologies?

If your team has little experience with Agile methodologies, adopting Scrum could be a struggle with its many ceremonies and best practices. Agile is more accessible as a starting point, as it adapts well to various team sizes, while Scrum works best with smaller, experienced teams.

Notice that this isn't an A or B choice: you can incorporate practices from both. For example, instead of keeping a traditional backlog list, you can use a Kanban board to visualize the product backlog. This "Scrumban" practice (or would it be "Kanbum"?) combines the Kanban work-in-progress logic with Scrum's sprint structure.

Related: Scrum vs kanban board: which to use?

3. How frequently do stakeholders need to get involved and provide feedback throughout the project?

If feedback is essential, Agile is the go-to choice for project collaboration because it encourages engagement with stakeholders. Scrum relies on more formal meetings like sprint reviews to showcase progress and gather feedback. But the right approach depends on the frequency and formality of the stakeholder engagement you need.

Related: How to run efficient Agile meetings

4. What's your tolerance for risk in this project?

Agile's iterative approach enables teams to adapt to risks like scope creep, resource shortages, and unforeseen technical issues. Scrum is more suitable for projects with lower risk, like:

  • Projects with clear deliverables: In marketing campaigns with a clear budget and timeline, Scrum helps everything get done on time and within the scope.
  • Highly regulated industries: In industries with strict regulations, like finance or healthcare, project requirements are usually pre-defined and less prone to changes.
  • Product updates: When updating an existing product, the core functionality is already established, so the focus is on improvements and bug fixes.

5. Do you have any project management tools or preferences you'd like to factor in?

Agile and Scrum have great tools to streamline strategy and planning, progress tracking, brainstorming, and other tasks related to project management. Remember to check if the platforms you already work with support these methodologies. While you can implement both with various tools, some solutions offer better integrations and functionalities for each approach.

Mural's integrations help you work with popular project management tools like Jira, Asana, and Miscrosoft Teams, so you can incorporate them into your Agile and Scrum workflows.

Whether it's Scrum or Agile, Mural has your back

Scrum vs Agile or perhaps Scragile? Don't put off this decision to the next sprint! Get started with Mural's collaborative Agile project management software, so you have the best of both to kick off your next delivery. 

Here's how Mural's features support all the stages of your product development, campaigns, events, and more:

  • Agile templates save your team time in sprint reviews and daily meetings, making them more collaborative, visual (and fun!)
  • The retrospective tool for Scrum enables teams to share feedback in real time
  • Digital whiteboards give you infinite canvas for brainstorming solutions, letting you interact through video and even vote on the best ideas (like your favorite place to order lunch)

Get your Agile and Scrum projects done with Mural. ‍Sign up for free.

About the authors

About the authors

Brianna Hansen

Brianna Hansen

Sr. Integrated Content Manager
Brianna is a storyteller at MURAL. When she's not writing about transforming teamwork, she enjoys swimming, cooking (& eating) Italian food, reading psychological thrillers, and playing with her two cats.