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The Kanban Methodology and why you need it for your Software Team!

Edited
Gloria Ojukwu Community Leader May 30, 2020

Kanban (Japanese 看板, signboard or billboard) is a lean method to manage and improve work across human systems. This approach aims to manage work by balancing demands with available capacity, and by improving the handling of system-level bottlenecks. — wikipedia

In Project and Product Management, Kanban utilises the power of visualisation to increase team efficiency and deliver value to the team and customers faster. A kanban board can be used to visualise work, limit work-in-progress, and maximise efficiency (or flow). Kanban boards use a board, cards, columns, and continuous improvement to help technology and service teams commit to the right amount of work, and get it done!

 

The Goal

The main goal of a team using Kanban is to take cards/tickets from the commitment point(BACKLOG) to the delivery(DONE) point as fast as possible. The elapsed time between these points is called Lead Time. So we can say that the main goal here is to reduce the lead time as much as possible.

kan1.png

 

How the Kanban Framework works

Understanding the Components of the Kanban framework and how they work is set to lead your team to better project workflows and product launches.

 

The image above describes the basic components of the Kanban framework which are;

  • Visual Signal: Kanban makes it very easy for every team member and stakeholder to easily visualise and understand the status of each task/ticket, who is doing what, blockers, etc. This is usually achieved by the use of tickets or stickies. In general, these visuals make it easy for team mates to to understand quickly what the team is working on.
  • Columns: This is another important component of the Kanban. each column represent a workflow with tickets in it. Depending on your team workflow and style, the most basic workflows are; TO DO, IN-PROGRESS and DONE. Tickets or cards flow through the workflow until completed. These tickets are mostly containing the tasks which are usually “user stories” and must be assigned to a person
  • Work In Progress (WIP) Limits: The Kanban methodology enables teams to set what is called WIP. This is used to avoid “bottle necks”. For example, a column that has a WIP of 4 must have the team member(s) responsible for the tickets in that column finish those 4 tickets and move them forward before another ticket or card will be able to be added to the column.
  • Commitment point: In a typical Agile team using Kanban, there’s always a “backlog” from where teammates keep ideas and pick them up for execution. The commitment point is the exact time when an idea is taken from the backlog and the team starts working on it.
  • Delivery Point: As an Agile team member, always remember that the goal of the team is to get work DONE and minimise the LEAD TIME, ie. moving ticket(s) from the left side(commitment point) of the board to the very last column of the right side. The delivery point is the end of the Kanban team’s workflow. At this point, the customer must have validated the work and is happy with it.

Types of Kanban Boards

  • Physical Kanban Board

Physical Kanban Boards are easier and does not need any technical skills to setup and is ideal for teams who are the same physical location, just with your white or black board, marker, stickies and eraser, you can have your Kanban board. However physical boards are not ideal for remote and software teams since team member(s) will at some point be distributed or remote.

Digital or Electronic Kanban Boards

kanban boards went through a digital transformation when the Kanban Methodology started gaining favour with Engineering and Software teams. Digital boards allow teams that do not share a physical office space to use kanban boards remotely and asynchronously. The electronic board has many advantages over the traditional board. Advantages include; ability to be used by remote/distributes teams, ability to customise to contain many features, ability to integrate with other engineering tools like Slack, Git, etc. To use an electronic Kanban Board, you will need a software( I will talk about my favourite Kanban Software — Jira from Atlassian  and how to use it in my next article), a product or project Manager who will set it up and oversee things on a high level, assignees who will handle each task or deliverable.

In as much Kanban boards have undergone digital transformation, I still recommend you use both the traditional board and the digital board. The traditional or physical board will promote physical team communication at the workplace for team members who are at the same place. Actually, I still use it professionally alongside the digital Kanban Board.

Why do you need to use the Kanban Methodology

  • Self organising
  • Transparency
  • Accountability
  • Collaboration
  • Increased Productivity
  • Predictability
  • Reduced Waste
  • Flexibility
  • Bottle Neck Management

Among the listed advantages, I find the self organising point very dear. As a project manager, I don’t always have to move the tickets myself, other team members are responsible for each task they have been assigned to and failure to move for example a ticket(s) that is supposed to be “IN LOCAL DEV” means that the she/he is not working on anything even when they are actually working. That sense of responsibility it gives everyone is something huge, and then it does not stop there, It goes further to be transparent for everyone to see, you even get alerts in your communication tools like Slack for every update on the board(digital board).

Oh wow, you made it to this point, thanks for taking out time to read. At this point, you must have understood what Kanban is and why it is very necessary for your software team. However, if you are interested in setting it up and using it for your team or any other question(s), you can send me a DM on twitter @tech_bella or send me an email on gmail. Don’t forget to leave comments in the response section regarding any other thing.

2 comments

Kanban is the must thing to be implemented in software one. I am looking for this process to make task and allocated resources will consume less time.

@Gloria Ojukwu thank you for the article!

Just to echo you, the ultimate Goal is to deliver services/products in a predictable and reliable way. Quite often teams forget what is beyond commitment points -- customer (internal or external). Shorter lead time means you deliver the service to your customer on time or even faster.

The other side of Kanban is that it is fairly scientific and has a number of important metrics to watch. In our app, we make Kanban metrics like Cycle Time, Lead Time, Delivery Rate and Time in Status easily accessible so that teams can start improving. This is the next step after you set up your Kanban process.

Like pargab sala likes this

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