Kanban board in the Software Development Process

Why is it worth using Kanban in software development?

Olga BińczakOct 11, 2021

What is Kanban?

Kanban is a visual agile method. It helps to improve real-time workflow and get more teamwork done. Kanban in Japanese means signboard, information plate. The Kanban process was originally developed by the car manufacturer Toyota in the 1940s. Inspired by the cost-effective methods employed by supermarkets - where the grocery store ordered more when it was almost sold out - the Toyota team reworked its concept of car production. By matching inventory to demand, the Kanban system helped them achieve higher quality and efficiency. In fact, Toyota almost managed to overtake the entire American auto industry before the companies adopted identical rules. Today, Kanban is used by teams around the world and across industries. This method allows you to get more work done in less time, with an emphasis on customer value.

Kanban and Software Development

Kanban has been widely adopted by many development teams. The success is partly due to the Kanban board, which makes an otherwise abstract, sometimes invisible software development process visual and understandable to everyone involved in the project. This tool also found many supporters among teams that do not work stationary. Using project management tools based on the Kanban board turned out to be a great help here.

The Kanban methodology is based on four key principles.

Rule # 1 - Workflow Visualization

It is said that one picture is worth a thousand words. When development progress becomes visual, you improve communication, collaboration, and problem-solving.

Rule # 2 - Limit work in progress

Do fewer tasks at the same time to get more done. Instead of trying to maximize resource optimization, focus on delivering the maximum value your team delivers.

Rule # 3 - Concentrate on the flow

Don't start a new job until something is finished. Focus on improving the process of producing functionality, separate stages that correspond to the specificity of the process taking place in your company.

Rule No. 4 - Continuous Improvement

Nothing is perfect. Look for ways to improve. Identify problem sources that are wasting resources of time and money in the software development process.

Why is it worth using Kanban in Software Development?

Development teams use Kanban because it provides a simple visual method to improve productivity, reduce development overheads, and reduce development time.

Kanban is easy to use. Compared to other methods such as Scrum, Kanban is easier to learn for people unfamiliar with agile working methods. There are no defined roles or artifacts. For starters, you only need a board and a few cards. Start by visualizing the process you already have. The rest is a matter of improvement.

  • Kanban improves teamwork. The Kanban board is a common tool for the entire team. As it is visual, each team member may notice shortcomings or room for improvement.

  • Kanban is flexible to new needs. Kanban makes changes quick and easier for the organization. When your business needs change, you can quickly change, adapt and adapt to new realities.

  • Kanban reduces overheads. By focusing on on-time delivery and optimizing throughput using existing resources, Kanban helps reduce unnecessary overheads.

  • Kanban improves efficiency. Kanban focuses on continuous delivery. By reducing the effects of bottlenecks and constantly seeking improvement, Kanban helps teams increase their productivity.

Kanban board - Visualization of process steps and Software Development

Teamwork is focused on the Kanban board - physical (on the wall) or virtual (in software). The main goal is to create a commonly understood flow of value. But the board not only visualizes your workflow steps - it also highlights where in your processes cards accumulate and become bottlenecks.

Kanban cards - for the visualization of work items

Each work item undertaken by the team is visualized as a separate card placed on a Kanban board. The main purpose of the card is to allow team members to track when it is moving while they are working.

Each Kanban card contains critical information about the work item it represents, for example:

Who: The team member (s) responsible for the task.

What: Short job description (usually Acceptance Criteria is a separate attribute in card details).

When: Estimation of the time needed for implementation.

Dependencies: Information on which other elements this card depends on (if any, the less dependencies the better).

Attachments: Online tools often handle images and other attachments with all the additional information needed.

Kanban Software Development - 5 tips for optimizing your workflow

Start on the right side

What can you achieve today? Contrary to how we are used to reading, we browse the Kanban board from right to left. This is because it is more valuable to finish the job than to start working. After closing a given task, we realize its value. First, we check if something can be delivered and then if the situation allows the card to be moved if we have resources and time for the cards to start moving to the right side.

Limit Work-in-Progress (WIP) - Limit work in progress

Bottlenecks are bad! Unfortunately, there are times when we work on too many tasks at the same time. In Kanban, instead of looking at the bottleneck as a problem of local resources, we look at them from the perspective of a global flow. By applying work-in-progress limits, we manage them effectively. Compare your workflow with a crowded highway - it's much cheaper to create a smooth flow of cars than to build more lanes. Start applying WIP limits to the columns with the most cards and see how this affects your software development.

Measure throughput, lead times, and cycle times

One of the benefits of Kanban is that it can help you concentrate on your work and get more tasks done at the same time. A good Kanban tool will help you measure this. Do you want to know how much work you do in a given period? Start measuring your throughput, the total number of items completed, transit time, entire cycle time to delivery.

Go Beyond the Well-known Steps "New", "In Progress" and "Done"

When we start working with Kanban, we often use generic columns on our board: new, in-progress, done. However, a real Kanban board determines what steps actually add value to the process. So break away from such an elementary definition of the process. Due to the specificity of the industry, team, people, and their skills, the process and the needs of its description may be different.

Improve your workflow

If your team is just starting to use Kanban, organize a workshop where you map each stage of your organization's existing workflow. Then determine which steps actually add value. Know that you have taken the first step to Kanban success by doing this exercise and creating the board! Eventually, it will be easier to persuade the team to use the board as the source of truth in their assignments.

Summary

Kanban is a simple method to help you monitor software development and the key to success in your work. Just start and learn by doing! Thanks to the visibility offered by the Kanban board, you will soon discover the efficiency that you and your team can achieve by improving your work and the entire process.

If you are looking for an experienced team of programmers to create software - contact us!