Kanban for Software Teams

Highly competitive contemporary businesses focus on effective, efficient, robust and speedy solutions that can deliver quality products. And the application of the concept of Kanban is helping businesses achieve this objective.

Kanban, as a concept, was initially developed and applied by Toyota in the 1940s as a method that helped their project team to visualize the entire process workflow, thus enabling better communication and collaboration among team members. Further, it also assisted in standardizing cues and refining the process, resulting in reduced wastage and enhanced value.

Given these obvious benefits, the core principles of Kanban have since moved into industries beyond manufacturing. And currently, in Software Development and Testing sphere, application of the principles of Kanban has become almost inevitable.

Kanban ensures faster release of quality software by enabling better team collaboration. Using Kanban, the entire software development and testing process are divided into different stages, with tasks being transferred from one stage to another as the process moves forward. And a Kanban board is created to visualize and share this entire process, and the ongoing work-progress, with all the stakeholders.

Typically, a Kanban board consists of the following essential elements:

Columns And Swimlanes: The Vertical Columns reflect the phases of the process the task must pass through before being finally considered as complete. The FIFO principle is followed with tasks being pulled from the top and added at the bottom.

And there are Horizontal Swimlanes that divide the Kanban board into cells. Swimlanes denote the horizontal categorisation of issues in the active Kanban board and may contain tasks or indicate priority, person, classes of work and so on.

Individual Kanban Cards: They bear the complete information and details about a given task- type of task, task requirements, task deadlines, people responsible, and all affiliated docs. These cards are post-its when it’s a physical board, while for online boards, they are digital elements to open, update, and move across the board through simple click and drag.

WIP(Work In Progress) Limits: These are limits that stand for maximum amount of work items a given phase or the whole workflow can hold. These limits are set to ensure that the team is focusing on limited tasks, and not working on too many things at the same time. This saves the team from work overload and undue delays.

Card Blocking: They represent the tasks that pose challenges for the team working on the board. And further indicates that the team needs to resolve the problem before pulling in new work. Even though this slows down the cycle time but it saves your potential inventory of in-progress work that can grow and become stressful over time. Hence, its better to clear the blockers as soon as possible.

Source: Maltem

Using these elements, Kanban ensures a lean software development methodology that focuses on just-in-time delivery of functionality through managing the work in progress (WIP).

Benefits of Kanban

The biggest benefit of Kanban is waste minimization through right prioritization and application of WIP limits, thus leading to an overall improvement in throughput. And moreover, Kanban is an easy fit-in. You don’t have to alter your current procedures to imbibe Kanban, rather you may work the way you do, and Kanban can act as an overlay on top of your current work processes.

The method is also quite useful in contexts with frequent priority shifts and change requests by getting rid of time-framed fixed-length iterations, and setting up WIP limits. Kanban optimizes and prioritizes User Stories by sizing and decomposing requirements into Minimal Marketing Features thus delivering value to customers more rapidly and frequently.

Kanban also positively influences the overall working style of the team by embracing the philosophy to complete the projects timely and encourages leadership across organizational structure. In Kanban, as the entire work-chain is visible to everyone, hence, whenever there are any jams or bottlenecks, everyone knows where they occur, and are collectively responsible to ensure work-flow continuity thus encouraging the team spirit. Kanban thus assists in securing high-level transparency and real-time communication of capacity.

Moreover, having limited tasks to spread and focus upon assists the team to achieve an optimal level of performance along with making them visualize the broader organizational goals.

Thus Kanban assists teams to deliver software services more efficiently, more frequently, and at an optimized flow and throughput levels.

To ensure that our clients receive these benefits, we at Astegic have developed a dedicated Kanban Driven Engagement Framework for Testing (KDEFT) that addresses the critical concerns of speed, agility and communication throughout the SDLC, and across time zones. Our methodology involves complete transparency of work and real-time communication and we offer near 24×7 rapid service from both Astegic’s US and India based testing operations.