Ideally, we would all love to work on a single project or on a development of one specific product, but in reality our daily tasks are rarely that simple. We often manage more than one project and work with different teams of people, which can be overwhelming and time-consuming.
Organizing a team and making sure that the working process is running smoothly requires additional work and can slow down even the most promising projects.
But how do we make our teams more productive?
Well, this is exactly where we need to apply the Kanban method for project management. You’ve probably heard of it before, but how does it really work in our favor?
By employing the Kanban method and its main means for managing work processes – Kanban board – we can help our teams move forward faster, and also to increase their productivity and efficiency.
This advanced version of a simple to-do board has an incredible power to boost the productivity in a team environment. Regardless of whether it’s physical or virtual, a Kanban board’s main objective is to provide a visualization of the work process and to help us develop a product or a service in the best (and fastest) way possible.
Still, considering the fact that we live in the 21st century and that almost every aspect of business has gone digital, in this article we will focus on the new and advanced virtual Kanban boards.
What is a Kanban Board?
As previously mentioned, Kanban, is a visual system for managing work process, visualizing both the workflow process and the actual work passing through that process.
However, by now you may be wondering what “Kanban” means exactly, and how it all started.
Well, the word “Kanban” comes from the Japanese language and roughly translated means “a visual card” or a “placard”. First introduced by automotive giant Toyota during the early 1940s, the Kanban process is a concept related to the so-called JIT (just-in-time) production, and it represents a scheduling system that tells us what, when, and how much to produce. The key reasons for its development were low productivity and insufficiency of the company.
This system of workflow management turned out to be a huge success, since it ideally controlled and tracked the entire work process. Since then, it has been adopted by a variety of businesses, regardless of their size or industry.
The Kanban method is a process that can gradually improve workflow of any business and subsequently reduce the time of a working process, while increasing the value of your products and services.
The Kanban board, is the main means of implementation of this method. It’s a simple system of vertical and horizontal lanes that gives us the ability to map out our unique workflow, making our working process transparent and easy to track.
And here is the deal: Its strongest asset is the ability to create a picture of our work – a visual display of the process which helps our brains process the information faster and complete the tasks more efficiently.
(Image credit: Zapier)
In its simplest form, the Kanban board usually contains three main columns/stages of the development process:
- To Do
These stage showcase the project life cycle and help keep the whole team on track.
What is a Kanban board in Agile?
Speaking of Kanban boards, we also often hear the term “Kanban in Agile”, but not many are able to explain this concept in simple words. In order to understand it, we first need to learn what exactly Agile is.
Over the past several years, this new way of creating software has taken the software development by storm. According to the latest State of Agile report, as of 2017, 94 percent of organizations reported that they practice Agile in some form.
Agile software development, defined in the shortest manner, is a group of software development methodologies based on iterative development, where requirements and solutions evolve and grow through collaboration between cross-functional teams.
Why is it so good?
Well, Agile principles are all about being adaptive, flexible, and collaborative and are built upon the fact that the technology and the market are constantly changing. Agile methods keep teams up to speed by adapting to what a team needs to be more successful.
Most popular Agile methodologies in product development include Scrum and Kanban.
Scrum is an agile method for managing product development designed for teams who break their work into actions that need to be completed within time-boxed iterations called sprints (usually lasting between 15 and 30 days). Each sprint starts with a planning event that aims to define a sprint backlog, identify the work for the sprint, and make an estimated forecast for the sprint goal. The end of a process requires a product to be fully integrated, tested and documented, in short – ready to enter the market!
On the other hand, Kanban methodology and its board-like system of workflow management is not time-based. Instead, Kanban can be thought of as a large to-do list which is based on priority. In simple words, after one task is done, a team member pulls it from the list and switches to the next one. Kanban method keeps the lines of communication open and ensures that the team has flexibility to take on other roles and tasks outside their core responsibilities.
How to Increase Team Productivity Using a Kanban Board
Today, an online Kanban board serves as one of the most popular tools for boosting team productivity across various industries. It’s a perfect combination of Kanban system values and new technology, which helps your business succeed in a highly competitive market.
In product management, every step, action, and goal needs to be clearly defined and displayed in a logical order. Thanks to Kanban boards, nothing gets ignored or skipped, and here are a few reasons why:
- Having all the tasks on the same screen helps teams come up with a more efficient plan and get better results
- A Kanban board is extremely helpful when we’re working on multiple projects and/or with different teams
- It increases team collaboration and their ability to focus better on the tasks
- Visualization of the work process on a board leads to greater transparency in the distribution of work and clearly shows any potential bottlenecks
- By measuring the flow of our work on the Kanban board, we are able to significantly improve the speed of delivery, as well as the quality of products and services
The difference between online and offline Kanban boards
Some teams still use physical Kanban boards, with colored sticky notes or index cards, which works very well for them. Physical Kanban boards have been proven to be very effective at getting a job done, especially if a team is 100 percent co-located.
Still, they don’t quite provide the versatility of online Kanban boards. Online boards provide much easier access to project planning for members of a team wherever they are. They also enable us to keep more comprehensive information regarding each step of the working process.
Let’s take a look at the advantages of online Kanban boards over physical ones:
- An online board saves time
There is no need for frequent team meetings as an online board automatically informs team members about the progress of a project, as well as any changes that might have occurred. It also saves time on planning and documenting every alteration and each step of the project.
- It’s easily accessible
An online Kanban Board can be updated at any time, from any place, and to any necessary extent. This is very important for teams and stakeholders who don’t always share an office space to be able to visualize the work process.
- It’s “easy on the eye”
An online Kanban board is not merely a pretty design. Its advanced visual elements enable us to process information easier and illustrate our team’s work stream.
- It increases predictability
Reports and metrics generated by online Kanban boards are more sophisticated and take far less time to generate than physical boards. The predictability based on actual data you collect while working on a project is one of the most powerful attributes of Kanban.
Online Kanban boards are flexible, customizable, and modernized to achieve greater work management efficiencies. The good news is that many project management tools nowadays, such as Craft, offer digital Kanban boards as a feature.
Screenshot from Craft
This feature shows you in a simple and organized manner what every team member is currently doing, what they have to do, and what is already done. It enables you to see your tasks as cards, but also to easily drag their own or other columns on the board.
Regardless of what industry you work for, the Kanban board is a simple, visual tool that can provide you with the clarity of a working process and increase your team productivity.
By following the workflow you have mapped out on your Kanban board, you will be able to hold strings of each and every planned step and action of your working process, thus achieving your business goals more quickly and efficiently.
Keep in mind that a Kanban board is not only a to-do list, but also a comprehensive strategy to build, manage, and complete your projects.
To start building your strategy today, the only thing left to do is to find a powerful project management platform that offers this feature. Create your first Kanban board and give your business and your team a boost and the edge they need to stand out among competitors.