Agile vs Scrum: The Key Differences, Benefits, and Use Cases

The Agile vs Scrum debate is huge, as they’re two of the biggest project management methodologies, and they’re often used together. In fact, the terms scrum and agile are often used interchangeably, which can be confusing.

In this article, we explore the key differences between agile and scrum, their benefits and use cases to help you confidently use the best methodology for your next project.

Key Takeaways

  • The Agile philosophy is a set of high-level principles for managing projects in a way that prioritizes flexibility and learning over documentation and structure.
  • The scrum framework is a detailed set of instructions for implementing agile principles within your team or project.
  • Scrum methodologies work best with small, empowered teams with the motivation, skills, and freedom to figure out the best solution to the problem.

So, is There a Difference Between Scrum and Agile?

The agile and scrum concepts don’t describe a different approach to project management. Instead, Scrum is a methodology that uses Agile principles. This is what makes the initial question of Agile vs Scrum confusing. That said, they are still distinct concepts.

What is Agile Methodology?

Agile started over 20 years ago in software development but has now become popular across most sectors, including finance, pharmaceuticals, and manufacturing.

The Agile values were documented in the Agile Manifesto. The 12 principles behind that Agile manifesto emphasize customer collaboration, responding to change, and iterative development.

Essentially, the agile methodology is a flexible approach to project management that prioritizes adaptability and responsiveness, as opposed to traditional rigid, structured, and pre-planned approaches.

Agile teams work with customers to deliver small, meaningful pieces of work as quickly as possible and then change the project plans based on what they learn.

Beyond software development, well-known companies such as Spotify and Netflix follow an agile approach, and their customers now expect regular changes or updates to the navigation, layout, or features on offer.

The agile approach empowers those closest to the problems—the customers, engineers, or designers—to make key strategic decisions about the project rather than executives or account managers who often prioritize different business factors and lose sight of the end-user requirements.

        When to Use Agile Methodology

        The Agile framework works best when your project has the following properties:

        Flexible ScopeMinimal DependenciesEasy to ChangePro-Active Team

        Flexible Scope

        If your customers know (or think they know) the solution they want, an agile delivery method adds no value. However, if the problem is clear but no one is sure how best to solve it, agile methodologies deliver better results, though the end product may not be what you expected.

        Minimal Dependencies

        Agile teams work best when they can freely organize their own workload, enabling them to deliver what’s most important for the project at that moment.

        If dependencies on external factors, such as the availability of suppliers, prevent them from pursuing their priorities, time will be wasted on less important work. This slows progress and ruins team morale.

        Easy to Change

        Making changes to a software project is less disruptive than changing a construction or manufacturing project. If there are fundamental decisions in your project that can’t be “undone” if needed, then an agile methodology may not be the best approach.

        Pro-Active Team

        You need a team driven by the cause or the problem you’re trying to solve. They must be keen to learn about the problem from the customer, open to feedback, and happy to share work early and often.

        Team members also need to have a high level of technical competence and self-discipline to choose the correct solutions, accurately estimate timelines, and deliver.

        Pros and Cons of Agile Methodology

        Here are the key advantages and limitations of this specific framework:


        • Agile approaches are adaptable
        • Agile promotes the experts on the teams to make the key decisions
        • Quick releases encourage stakeholders to get actively involved
        • It’s iterative and frequently adapted based on end-user feedback


              • Agile makes teams self-organize based on what they learned
              • Coordinating multiple agile teams can be a challenge
              • The adaptability makes it hard to plan, forecast, and budget
              • Retention is critical as agile teams develop knowledge that can’t be easily replaced
              • Projects can take longer to complete than other approaches

              What is Scrum?

              The difference between agile and scrum can be confusing—even for experienced project managers! Scrum is the most common implementation of the agile methodology, so they often overlap.

              Scrum is the instruction manual for implementing an agile mindset within a team. It adds additional structure and guidance to agile, making it feel similar to traditional project management approaches like waterfall.

              Scrum defines the different roles within a team, such as the “product owner” to manage the backlog of work and the “scrum master” to ensure the correct scrum processes are followed.

              Complex projects or work are organized into smaller chunks called “sprints“; focused periods of effort to deliver new or improved working software to the customer.

              Scrum also defines the meetings that should be held and their purpose, such as “daily planning,” “sprint backlog refinements,” and “sprint planning” to ensure work is prioritized and allocated effectively, and “sprint retrospective” to find ways to improve future sprints.

                    When to Use Scrum Methodology

                    Scrum is an excellent project management approach when your project has the following properties:

                    Small, Capable TeamEngaged StakeholdersEmpowered Teams

                    Small, Capable Team

                    Scrum is most effective with a core team of skilled individuals. The technical leaders and product owners, in particular, must be well organized, strong communicators, and engaged in the problem they’re working on.

                    The rapidly changing requirements as a project progresses, speed of delivery, and necessary documentation means that inexperienced teams can focus on the wrong areas and can quickly lose control of a project.

                    Engaged Stakeholders

                    Scrum methodology requires the commitment of the stakeholders. The customer must accept that the early iterations of the product will be basic and will need to provide feedback when a sprint ends.

                    If the customer isn’t interested in collaboratively developing the product, then nothing of value is learned by sharing the iterations.

                    Empowered Teams

                    A critical component of scrum is that the team is empowered to organize and prioritize the work that needs to be done. The business defines the timeframe and parameters, but the team decides how to deliver the best product.

                    Traditional project managers and business leaders typically feel that such critical decisions should require their input or approval, but this can slow the project down and create confusion.

                    Pros and Cons of the Scrum Framework

                    Here are the key advantages and disadvantages of the scrum project management methodology:


                    • Easy adoption as most teams are familiar with scrum
                    • Fast, frequent delivery improves stakeholder visibility
                    • Encourages continuous improvement
                    • Scrum can be optimized over time by complementing it with a lean methodology like kanban
                    • Unlike other agile methodologies, processes are defined in detail


                          • Unreliable project estimates are common
                          • Scrum entails a lot of documentation
                          • A scrum master and product owner are specific roles you may need to hire for
                          • Coordinating multiple scrum teams can be challenging


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                          Scrum and agile methodologies are two parts of the same solution and guiding principles. The difference between agile and scrum is that Agile is a project management philosophy that suggests being flexible and iterative in your approach to delivering results.

                          Scrum is the most popular implementation of those agile project management principles, and that’s where the confusion about these concepts can creep in.

                          You can still implement an agile approach without following the scrum methodology, but scrum introduces more structure, visibility, and clarity around how the team should work on the project.

                          One of the easiest ways to fully understand the benefits and use cases of an agile approach like scrum is to compare it with different project management methodologies such as waterfall or lean.

                          Read more:


                          What is the key benefit of using scrum?

                          Are agile and scrum the same?

                          Who uses agile and scrum?


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                          Joe Crocker
                          SaaS Product Expert
                          Joe Crocker
                          SaaS Product Expert

                          Joe is a former police officer with over 10 years of cybercrime detective work under his belt. He's coordinated the response to thousands of complex investigations involving multiple stakeholders, analyzing complex datasets, conducting interviews, and writing comprehensive reports. Joe also served as a hiring manager for 3+ years, growing and managing the unit's team. Upon leaving the police force, Joe began his career in product management, helping companies build and launch digital products. He now brings his many years of experience in cybersecurity and digital product management to Techopedia.