Extreme Programming vs Scrum: What’s the difference?

Extreme programming (XP) and Scrum are two software development methodologies that have been around for years. They both fall under the Agile umbrella, which is a huge benefit because they allow companies to handle change quickly. While there are similarities, many differences can help developers choose one over another.

Related: What is Agile Development? Agile Methodologies & Processes

What is extreme programming?

Extreme programming (XP) is a lightweight, iterative approach to programming based on quick feedback from users. It emphasizes simplicity, communication, and flexibility over often rigid and formalized processes. This involves continuous planning, collaborative design, pair programming, test-driven development, and evolutionary design.

How does XP work?

XP is an Agile software development methodology based on iterative and incremental development, where requirements and solutions evolve through collaboration between self-organizing, cross-functional teams. 

A typical XP team will include a programmer, a tester, and a project manager. This team works together to develop new software features. Rather than spending months or years writing and testing code before launching an app, XP teams start by delivering small pieces of functionality frequently.

In contrast to traditional software engineering approaches, XP emphasizes working software over comprehensive documentation, customer collaboration over contract negotiation, and responding to change over following a plan. 

Learn more on TechRepublic: Why Extreme Programming can be an asset or a liability for data scientists

What is Scrum?

Scrum is an iterative and incremental development method that helps teams create high-quality products with less stress and more flexibility. Originally used for software development, Scrum can be applied to any project or product. It breaks down large projects into smaller components with concrete outcomes. 

How does Scrum work?

Instead of breaking projects into phases, which can be characterized by their goals (requirements analysis, design, development, and testing), Scrum follows an iterative process that depends on short periods of intense activity. 

The Scrum framework consists of a 3-5-3 structure (three roles, five events, and three artifacts). 

Three roles

The three roles include product owner, Scrum Master, and the team. 

  • The product owner owns, prioritizes, and distributes the product backlog, which represents the customer’s ongoing interest in the project. The product owner also maintains a list of product requirements (features) to be implemented. 
  • The Scrum Master is responsible for maintaining Scrum processes within the team and organization. They ensure that everyone follows Scrum rules and practices effectively. 
  • Team consists of a cross-functional group dedicated to delivering increments at the end of each sprint.

Five events

The five events include sprint, sprint planning, daily Scrum, sprint review, and sprint retrospective. 

  • A sprint is a fixed-length period (usually two weeks or more) that focuses on completing a specific set of requirements. 
  • Sprint planning involves planning out what you are going to work on during your sprint, who will do it, how much time they will spend on it, etc.
  • A Daily Scrum meeting consists of a short status update from each member of the Scrum team on items planned for their task board and any blockers they are facing. 
  • A sprint review session takes place at the end of each sprint. In this session, team members can showcase what has been completed so far and discuss the project with stakeholders so they can provide feedback. 
  • A sprint retrospective is a meeting during which the team discusses anything new that has come up since the last retrospective, what worked well in the last iteration, and any improvements needed for the next iteration.

Read more on Project-Management.com: Agile Scrum Ceremonies & Meetings

Three artifacts

The three artifacts include the product backlog, sprint backlog, and increment. 

  • The product backlog is a prioritized list of all functionality required for a product. 
  • The sprint backlog is a prioritized list of functionality that will be developed during a sprint.
  • An increment is what has been developed during a sprint after the Scrum Master or product owner has reviewed it.

Read more: Tips for Implementing Scrum Best Practices

XP vs. Scrum: How are they similar?

There are some similarities between extreme programming and Scrum. For example, both involve frequent releases of working software with incremental changes over time rather than large-scale updates or overhauls later in a project.

Both methodologies also aim to get your project up and running as fast as possible. XP and Scrum use short iterations and deliverables, as well as a high degree of transparency and quick feedback loops. 

Furthermore, both XP and Scrum promote open communication among team members. Both methodologies stress simplicity over complexity in software design to make it simpler to comprehend how each component functions separately. In turn, this makes it easier to solve issues that emerge during development.

XP vs. Scrum: How are they different?

While extreme programming encourages continuous inspection and adaptation during development, Scrum focuses on managing a product’s lifecycle from beginning development to ending support. 

The table below breaks down some key differences between XP and Scrum.

Extreme programmingScrum
Extreme programming focuses on programming, coding, and test-driven methodology.Scrum focuses largely on management.
Extreme programming requires just one to two weeks of teamwork.In Scrum, teams work in “sprints,” which can last from a few weeks to a few months.
Extreme programming uses story cards to keep track of tasks.Scrum uses task boards to track tasks.
Extreme programming permits changes to predetermined timelines.Scrum does not permit changes to its timeline or principles.
The purpose of an extreme programming sprint is not product release, but rather the creation of bug-free software.Scrum sprints are intended to result in a functional product.
Extreme programming works strictly in order of sequential priority.The customer prioritizes the features to be built, and the team is expected to execute them in that order.
Extreme programming practices include simple design, pair programming, constant testing, ongoing integration, refactoring, coding standards, and small releases.Scrum does not prescribe any engineering practices but emphasizes self-organization.

Extreme programming vs. Scrum: Which approach is right for your team?

While extreme programming and Scrum are Agile frameworks, the two approaches are distinct in their approach to software development. They can benefit different teams—those working on short-term projects versus those with a long-term product roadmap. However, one isn’t necessarily better than another; instead, it comes down to identifying which methodology best fits your organization’s needs. 

The best way to figure out whether you should use an extreme programming or Scrum approach is by determining what type of team you have. For example, extreme programming would be ideal if you’re working with a small team that has tight deadlines and quick turnaround times. Alternatively, if your organization is looking to develop something with a longer shelf life that will be used over several years or even decades, Scrum would be more beneficial.

Read next: Best Agile Project Management Tools

Aminu Abdullahi
Aminu Abdullahi
Aminu Abdullahi is an award-winning public speaker and a passionate writer. He writes to edutain (Educate + Entertain) his reader about Business, Technology, Growth, and everything in between. He is the coauthor of the e-book, The Ultimate Creativity Playbook. Aminu loves to inspire greatness in the people around him through his actions and inactions.

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