Kanban is a prevailing system used to execute DevOps and agile software development. It involves fully transparent working and real-time information of capacity. Kanban boards display work items to let the team members see the work they need to do whenever they want.

In other words, Kanban is a system that provides visual means of managing work when it moves from one level to another in a given process. It visualises the workflow and the actual work passing through. Kanban aims to identify and fix the potential bottlenecks in the process, so the overall workflow is throughput or cost-effective at optimal speed.


Kanban in Software Development

Nowadays, agile software development teams can leverage the usual Just-in-time (JIT) principles by corresponding the amount of work-in-progress (WIP) to the team’s capacity. It offers continuous improvement by providing them with flexible options for planning, clearer focus, quick output, and precision during the development cycle.


An Agile Methodology

The one thing that distinguishes Kanban from Scrum is that it is not iterative. In contrast, Scrum processes have short iterations, which clones a project lifecycle on a smaller scale with a clear beginning and ending for each iteration. Kanban is an agile methodology that allows software development in one considerable cycle time.

Kanban fulfils all twelve principles of the Agile manifesto as it is incremental, not iterative. Since there are no Kanban project iterations, it has no defined beginning or ending for each work item. In this way, the work items can initiate and terminate independently and have no pre-determined period.


How Does it Work?

Kanban utilises the phases in the software development lifecycle to illustrate the stages of the development process. Each phase has a limited capacity for work at any one time. There is a prioritised requirements list from which a small work item is created; the list usually elaborates the requirements. This work item won’t be allowed to move on to the next lifecycle phase until some space opens up ahead.

Developers can control the number of active tasks at any one time, so they approach the project incrementally and have an opportunity to apply agile principles.


Work in Progress (WIP) Limits

While understanding the working of Kanban methodology, it is essential to know that these projects have WIP limits that specify the capacity of each work item. In this way, the development team focuses on a small amount of work at one time. Once a task is finished, only then the new one will be pulled into the cycle. WIP limits need to be upgraded by comparing the actual and expected effort for finished tasks.


Kanban in Agile


Kanban Boards

Kanban boards make it easier for the teams to visualise their work and optimise the workflow among the team members. Like any other physical boards used by teams for projects, virtual boards are used for easy collaboration, accessibility from different locations, and traceability in agile software development.


Kanban Cards

In each kanban board, there are kanban cards that illustrate each work item separately. Kanban is a term of Japanese meaning “visual signal”. Using kanban cards, the team members can track the progress in a highly visual manner with the flow of work.

These cards contain critical information of a particular work item, showing the team members what needs to be done, who is in charge of it, how long would it take, and so on. It helps with the overall project management process and makes it efficient.


Benefits of Kanban Methodology in Agile Software Development

These days Kanban method is the most well-known methodologies exploited by agile teams due to its numerous benefits and throughput for teams of any size. Here are some of its most outstanding services:

●     Planning Flexibility

By applying the kanban methodology, the team remains focused only on the tasks that are actively in progress. When a work item is concluded, they take the next work item from the top of the backlog and starts working on it. The product owner decides to prioritise the work items on backlog and reprioritise them without disrupting the team. When the prioritisation of the work items is done accurately, the team will provide continuous delivery for the project completion, which takes us to our next benefit of the Kanban method, continuous delivery.

●     Continuous Delivery

It is the method of frequently delivering work to the clients. On the other hand, continuous integration is developing and analysing code gradually around the day. Together, they configure a CI/CD pipeline, helping the development teams (mostly DevOps teams) ship high-quality software in less time.

●     Optimised Cycle time

Cycle time is a crucial aspect for kanban teams. It is the amount of time a work item takes to travel through the workflow from the start till it ships. With shortened cycle time, the kanban team can predict the completion of forthcoming work with surety.

●     Fewer Bottlenecks

The more work items are piled up and done simultaneously, the more content switching occurs, becoming a barrier to project completion. Multitasking can reduce efficiency in the project management process. Work-in-progress limits in the kanban method highlight the bottlenecks and reserves piled up in the process because of the lack of skill sets, attention or team members. In this way, the kanban teams limit the work in progress to make the process more efficient.

●     Visual Metrics

Another advantage of the kanban system is that it offers visual metrics for strong focus that ultimately improves the kanban team’s efficiency and effectiveness. This visualisation practice makes it easier for team members to spot any bottleneck or sprint backlog and remove it. In this agile method, the Kanban teams utilise control charts and cumulative flow diagrams to enhance the overall functionality.


Wrapping Up

The agile manifesto for software development has changed the way companies plan, design, test, and deliver software. Eliminating the traditional methods, agile product development methods are now accepted by almost all software companies. Kanban methodology is a widely used agile product development methodology, and it is replacing scrum due to its additional benefits and functionality.