What is Kanban in Software Development?

What is Kanban in Software Development?

Kanban is a popular framework used in implementing agile and DevOps software development. It mainly focuses on creating a continuous workflow and an ongoing value increase for the customer. All the work items in a project are represented visually in the framework using a Kanban board. It allows the team members to see the state of every piece of work at any time.

It allows teams to plan more freely, produce work more quickly, maintain transparency throughout the development process, and have a clearer focus. Kanban reduces Work-In-Progress between software development processes by ensuring upstream processes create parts as long as downstream processes require them. 

The goal is to ensure that the work items move to the next steps quickly to realise business value faster. Therefore, customers benefit from a development pipeline that delivers high-value work predictably and efficiently. This article will teach you more about the Kanban framework and its benefits. Read on to learn more about the topic.

What are the Benefits? 

As mentioned in the introduction, it is one of the most popular software development methodologies adopted by agile teams. It offers numerous benefits for improving task planning and throughput for teams of all sizes. For your information, the following are some of them.

  • Flexibility in Planning
  • Reduced Cycle Time
  • Fewer Bottlenecks
  • Workflow Illustration
  • Make Continuous Delivery Possible

1. Flexibility in Planning

A Kanban team usually focuses on work in progress. They can select the following task from the top of the backlog once they have finished one. Since any changes to the current work items have no effect on the team, the product owner can rearrange the backlog of tasks without causing disruptions. If the product owner prioritises the most critical tasks at the top of the backlog, the development team can be sure they are contributing the most value to the business. 

2. Reduced Cycle Time

Cycle time is the time needed for a work unit to go from the point of start to the point of shipping. It is considered a key metric for Kanban teams. If the team can optimise the cycle time, they can confidently forecast when the work can be delivered. Smaller cycle times are possible when the team has overlapping skill sets.

  • If only one person in the team has a particular skill set, it can become a bottleneck in the work. 
  • On the other hand, if the team members can share their skills, they can collaborate and take on heterogeneous tasks, optimising the cycle time. 
  • It also means that if there is a bottleneck in the work, the entire team can swarm on it to get things moving again. 
  • For example, testing is not limited to QA engineers. Developers also contribute. 
  • The whole team is accountable for ensuring work proceeds through the process without hiccups in a Kanban framework.

3. Fewer Bottlenecks

As you know, multitasking is not the right thing to do, especially regarding teamwork. It results in reduced efficiency. When there are more work items in progress, context switching can occur frequently, which makes it difficult for the team to complete the tasks assigned. It is why Kanban uses WIP limiting as one of its core principles.

  • It will help pay attention to reducing the bottlenecks and backups that may occur in the process due to a lack of personnel, expertise, or focus. 
  • For example, when a typical software development team is considered, they work in four workflow states: To Do, In Progress, Code Review, and Done. Usually, in the code review state, they set a WIP limit of 2.
  • Setting such a low limit encourages them to pay special attention to issues in the review state and to review other people’s work before raising their code reviews. It, in turn, reduces the overall cycle time.

4. Workflow Illustration

The framework provides visual metrics such as control charts and cumulative flow diagrams to monitor the work, spot bottlenecks in the process and remove them. The team can ensure they are on the right track by monitoring the data provided in the charts and diagrams. The cycle time for every issue is displayed on a control chart along with the team’s rolling average.

  • Every team wants to shorten the time it takes for a problem to go through the whole process. Seeing the average cycle time decrease in the control chart indicates success. 
  • Conversely, a cumulative flow diagram displays the total number of problems in every state. 
  • Seeing an increase in issues in a given state makes it easy for the team to identify bottlenecks. 
  • Work in intermediate states, such as “In Progress” or “In Review,” has not yet been shipped to customers, so a blockage there increases the probability of massive integration conflicts. It can be solved immediately if they are aware of these issues.

5. Make Continuous Delivery Possible

Continuous delivery, or CD, is the process of regularly delivering work to clients. Code is automatically built and tested incrementally throughout the day using a process known as continuous integration (CI). They work together to create a CI/CD pipeline. It is crucial for development teams, particularly DevOps teams, to ship software more quickly while maintaining a high-quality standard.

Kanban and CD work well together because they emphasise the just-in-time (and one-at-a-time) delivery of value. A team’s product will be more competitive if it can quickly bring innovation to market. And that is exactly what Kanban teams prioritise: streamlining the process of delivering client work.

So, we discussed what Kanban is and some of the many advantages of using it in software development. While its core principles are timeless and applicable to virtually any industry, software development teams have found them especially successful. Once they understand the basic principles, they can begin practising with little or no overhead. It has helped many organisations increase the efficiency of their software development teams. Additionally, by creating a culture of collaboration and communication, the teams can work together to identify and resolve issues quickly.

Interesting Links:

Kanban vs. Scrum: What’s the Difference?

Kanban Software Development

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