Kanban

Kanban Board Definition

A defined project management system is critical to keeping teams on track and aligned. While there are many choices, the Kanban board is the simplest way to increase communication and efficiency within your team.

A Kanban board is a task-based project management template that visualizes an entire team’s workflow. A typical Kanban template tracks the backlog, in progress, and completed tasks, but this structure can be expanded to incorporate multiple teams or projects.

When used correctly, a Kanban board can circumvent bottlenecks in the workflow and improve the efficiency of an entire team. Traditionally, it’s used in software development with short-release schedules and can help these teams plan short and long-term goals on a shared canvas.

The Kanban template was initially created in the 1950s by a Toyota employee named Taiichi Ohno in an effort to optimize stages in the production line. Only in the early 2000s was it applied to software by David J. Anderson, and since then, it has become one of the most popular collaborative workflow methodologies.

 

Kanban Template Explained

Kanban boards focus on team needs, so each team might adjust theirs slightly to meet their specific priorities. The most common template has three columns: Backlog, In Progress, and Done. These are the core building blocks for a Kanban board, but more columns can be added to incorporate more collaborators or add additional projects. Below, we’ll outline how to use the Fresco Kanban template effectively.

The purpose of using a Kanban is to visualize and organize the actionable tasks you need to accomplish to achieve success in your project. Because of this, your team will organize tasks based on their priority to the current project. Each column represents a different stage in the workflow, and tasks will move from left to right until they are completed.

 

  • Backlog: The backlog is reserved for all the tasks that aren’t a high priority, are scheduled for a later release, or aren’t fully ready for development. Anything that is coming next should go here.
  • In Progress: This column is very self-explanatory. All items currently being worked on should go in the in progress column. This includes things very early in the creation process or items almost ready to be shipped. Each note should correspond to a specific task and should be assigned to someone to ensure accountability.
  • Testing: The testing column is the last phase before full release and encompasses tasks that are ready to be reviewed. This column is flexible and can be changed to incorporate quality assurance, customer feedback, or stakeholder confirmation. At Fresco, we think having a column for testing is important because it ensures that nothing gets shipped without multiple levels of verification. While this column might not be essential for every team, it helps provide some meaningful perspective to the workflow and ensures more accurate delivery.
  • Completed: The completed column is for all of the tasks that have been finished and delivered. It’s important to review these tasks at the end of a sprint to reflect on the previous project’s efficiency and think about what could be improved. Additionally, it can be helpful to revisit completed tasks to ensure they continue meeting their requirements.

 

As your team collaborates on this board and moves forward, you will see tasks cycle in and out of each column, and your projects will move forward. Documenting everything on an online whiteboard is one of the best ways to ensure ample communication between team members and can be the catalyst to completing more successful projects.

 

Kanban Board Advantages

A Kanban board is one of the best communication tools you can add to your workspace. It helps keeps teams aligned, reduce waste, avoid roadblocks, and increase collaboration. Among others, here are some of the advantages of using a Kanban board.

More Informed Clients

Delivering projects in increments helps customers see consistent progress and gain confidence in the final product. It also allows them to be more involved in the development process. If they see something they don’t like, they can make a note of that, and the team can reprioritize their next sprint to accommodate those concerns. The Kanban template allows teams to be agile in their workflow, making quick changes and prioritizations to avoid derailing entire projects.

Creates Mutual Understanding

Having a shared visualization of the team’s workflow is super helpful not only to clarify the tasks that are being worked on but to give everyone a shared understanding of what the project looks like on the whole. Having a shared workflow means everyone is fully involved not only in their tasks but in the success of the project as a whole, something that is critical to Kanban.

Increases Team Flexibility

Another advantage of having a visualized workflow is that the team has a solid understanding of what their current project looks like from the top down. This means they can prioritize the critical tasks in each sprint from the start while completing some of the less essential requirements as time goes on. Having a visual workflow allows them to do this and helps increase the efficiency of completing a project.

 

Kanban vs. Scrum Boards

People often confuse the differences between using a Kanban and a scrum, and rightfully so. These two project management systems are very similar and often use the same physical formats, but can differ greatly in their mindset and goals. Here are some of the key differences between the two.

As a brief definition, while they both focus on the completion and organization of actionable tasks, Kanban workflows are more malleable and fluid, whereas scrum organizations are more rigid and based on small sprints.

 

  • Scrum sprints have strict timeframes and release deadlines. While Kanban flows can also focus on specific projects, they are more used for continuous team alignment.
  • Kanban organization pushes content/product continuously, whereas scrum sprints have a scheduled weekly/bi-monthly release date.
  • Scrum boards have clear roles and guidelines, while Kanban boards are more self-organized and team-based.
  • Kanban boards are designed to be revisited and reassessed. This flexibility is key to the Kanban workflow.

Kanban Board Example

Kanbans are some of the most versatile and widely used online boards and for a good reason. They are incredibly versatile in being able to sort tasks for upcoming projects and are very good at making a complex project seem actionable and palatable. Our example shows how you can use a Kanban board effectively during a product release.

 

  • Backlog: The backlog column for this product release emphasizes some features that are non-essential to the project’s vision but will be prioritized if time allows. These include email campaigns, bug fixing, and design changes. While these items are planned for the future, they’re not necessarily planned for this specific release.
  • In Progress: The in progress column holds all the notes currently being developed. These include redesigning specific elements, making bug fixes to specific features, and adding new backend statuses. The items in this column align with the project’s fundamental vision, making them a higher priority. This is one of the main reasons they are in development over the backlog features.
  • Testing: The testing items are on the brink of completion and just need one or two changes until they’re moved to completed. These front-end changes and functionality fixes just need to be signed off on before moving to the final column. 
  • Completed: In the completed column, you see all the tasks that are 100% finished. These tasks will be a mix of the highest priority items and the easiest things to accomplish. For this example, they are a backend data fix, new board features, and the addition of new colors for the users.

 

We can see how, through a Kanban board, teams can gain much more perspective over the complete cycle of their project and can increase their overall efficiency through communication and prioritization.

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