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Agile: 5+1 Advantages of using Kanban

Not sure if you want to turn to Kanban? Should it be Kanban or maybe you should turn to Scrum or even to a custom model? We’ve got you covered! Read this post and decide if you'll take it or leave it!

kanban-board

Not sure if you want to turn to Kanban? Should it be Kanban or maybe you should turn to Scrum or even to a custom model? We’ve got you covered.

This post is a “take it or leave it” analysis for those interested to take one step forward towards using one of the most popular agile methodologies today, the Kanban model.

Quick intro to Kanban#

For those that prefer the TL;DR version of our previous post, we can probably sum it up us follows. Kanban is a visual task scheduling system based on three principles: (a) visualizing your workflow, (b) minimizing the amount of work in progress (WiP), and (c) measuring the productivity/flow of the team using relevant agile metrics. Practically, Kanban offers a board with different columns representing stages of your development process. In its simplest form, this board may contain a ‘to do’ column used to add new tasks, an ‘in progress’ column for ongoing work, and a column for moving completed tasks (‘done’).

Unlike Scrum, Kanban does not necessarily rely on sprints, does not impose any good time to release new product versions (continuous delivery!), is super flexible when it comes to adding/removing tasks at any time, and generally the team is limited only by its own throughput. Granted, these may be good or bad points according to different points of view. So, let’s dive deeper into the pros and I promise to give some hints in order to avoid those becoming cons.

The advantages of Kanban#

Let’s cut to the chase. We will enumerate the benefits of Kanban and discuss how each one of them can be achieved.

  • Kanban is simple

A Kanban board is very simple to understand and use even for inexperienced teams. Setting up a board is generally easy, even more so if you use an automated tool.

  • Kanban is versatile

You can use Kanban anywhere anytime. You can use it to manage your personal to-do lists, to create a process for writing your blog posts, even to keep track of your tasks in an online course. But, most of all, you can use it to manage your company. No need for a set of different tools and methodologies; Kanban can work equally well in all departments of your organization, from engineering to marketing or sales, even HR.

  • Kanban means continuous delivery

OK, it actually means “visual signal” in Japanese, but you get the point. With Kanban, you don’t spend time worrying about incoming features, instead you implement them! By focusing on this model of “just-in-time delivery”, each feature is built at the time it’s needed, so overproduction is eliminated and new business decisions can be incorporated quickly to the product.

Hint: that said, it’s always good to keep an eye on those decisions, so that they are in line with your overall strategy.

  • Kanban eliminates waste And “what is waste?” you might ask. Waste includes not only unneeded features in your product (see previous point) but also badly spent time for your team. Kanban allows you to easily prioritize tasks and eliminate the distractions of excess multitasking.

Hint: just make sure to respect your Work in Progress (WiP) limit.

  • Kanban favors productivity

Or, if you prefer, “responsiveness”; Kanban empowers your team to take informed decisions and produce better software. Given its flexible structure (no need for long meetings to add any little thing to the next sprint), the members of your team can focus on delivering the features required by customers at (really) short notice. Furthermore, the no-strictly-assigned-roles philosophy of Kanban (as opposed to Scrum) means that anyone can chip in with improvements about the product.

Hint: the project manager (PM) role is still there (yes, even in Kanban), and is needed whatsoever in order to make sure that the product is on the right track.

Given these points, we can probably agree that using Kanban has several benefits for product development and, if implemented correctly, can empower your team. But what about the team leader? How can Kanban help you stay on top of your product? If everything is so flexible and ever-changing, how do you avoid getting lost inside your own board? And that brings us to the 6th (or +1, according to the title of this post) benefit of Kanban:

  • Kanban keeps you in control

It does so using metrics! Apart from the board itself, you can have better control of your overall process by measuring the cycle/lead time, throughput, and the overall flow of your team. By setting realistic limits and adhering to them, you can make sure that your product is continuously delivered correctly and immediately identify potential bottlenecks. The hard part is usually finding the right setup for your model and computing the appropriate metrics.

A closing note#

Kanban is a methodology, thus it has its rules. To truly benefit from Kanban and avoid potential pitfalls, you have to do it right. Although it’s a rather simple and intuitive model to grasp, it may not always be that easy to set up correctly. But if you do, rest assured that you will enjoy (at least some of) the benefits outlined in this post.

Keen on learning?#

In Cyclopt App, we offer a powerful and flexible Kanban board, full with automation and all metrics computed for you and visualized in intuitive graphs. Sign up for free and check out the benefits of Kanban firsthand, in our product!

Till next time folks!