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Product development using the Kanban method

29
April
2020
Adrian Kujawski
4 minutesread
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Product development is a complex and laborious process. To improve it, we use the Kanban method in our daily work.

product development

 

What is Kanban?

Kanban is an agile visual tool. This helps to boost the process in real time and to do more work in a team. Kanban in Japanese means a symbol, an information board.

The beginnings of Kanban - Automotive Origins

The Kanban method was originally created by the Toyota car manufacturer in the 1940s. Inspired by the competitive approaches used by supermarkets-where a grocery store ordered more products when it was almost sold out - the Toyota team has reworked the idea of car manufacturing. By matching stock with demand, the Kanban system has helped them achieve higher quality and performance. In reality, Toyota almost managed to dominate the entire U.S. automotive industry before these firms followed the same principles. Nowadays, Kanban is used by teams around the world and in various industries. This approach allows more research to be completed in less time, with a focus on the interest of the consumer.

Kanban and product development 

Kanban has been widely adopted by a variety of programming teams. Success is partially due to the Kanban table, which renders the otherwise abstract, often invisible software development cycle recognizable and understandable to all those involved in the project. This tool has also established many supporters of teams who do not operate on a stationary basis. The use of project management software focused on the Kanban Board has shown great convenience here.

product development project

4 Kanban principles

The Kanban methodology is based on four key principles.

Principle 1 - Visualization of workflow

One photo is said to be worth a thousand words. As development progress is visual, connectivity, collaboration and problem-solving are strengthened.

Principle 2 - Limit work in progress

Run fewer things at once to do better. Instead of trying to optimize resource optimisation, concentrate on achieving the best value the team produces.

Principle 3 - Focus on flow

Don't start a new job until it has been done. Focus on improving the process of creating functionality, separate steps that relate to the details of the process taking place in your business.

Principle 4 - Continuous Improvement

There are no perfect things here. Search for opportunities to advance. Identify the causes of issues that waste time and resources on the development phase.

 

Why use Kanban in product development?

Development teams use Kanban as it offers a clear visual approach to increase profitability, minimize total production costs and reduce the time required to enter the market.

Kanban is really pleasant to use. Similar to other approaches, such as scrum, Kanban is easier to assimilate for people who may not understand agile working approaches. There are no specified functions or artifacts. You just need a board and a few cards to start with. Start by visualizing the process you already have. The rest of it is a matter of change.

Kanban is enhancing teamwork. The Kanban Board is a growing resource for the entire team. Since it's visual, every team member will see flaws or areas for improvement.

Kanban is flexible to new needs. Thanks to Kanban, changes can be fast and simple to coordinate. As business needs change, you too will easily adjust, adapt and introduce new realities.

Kanban lowers operating costs. Through concentrating on time delivery and maximizing bandwidth using available resources, Kanban helps reduce excessive overheads.

Kanban boosts efficiency. Kanban is based on continuous delivery. Through reducing the impact of bottlenecks and continuously finding change, Kanban helps teams maximize efficiency.

Kanban Table - Visualizing process steps

Teamwork focuses on the Kanban table-physical (wall) or virtual (software). The main goal is to establish a widely known flow of values. But the whiteboard not only visualizes the steps of the workflow-it also shows where cards accumulate and become bottlenecks in the operation.

Kanban cards - for visualizing work items in product development

Every work item carried out by the team is displayed as a separate card put on the Kanban board. The main purpose of the card is to allow the members of the team to follow as they pass.

Every Kanban card provides important details about the job object it represents, e.g.

Who: the teammember(s) responsible for the mission.

What: Short work description (usually Accept Criteria are a separate attribute in the specifics of the card).

When: Estimate the time required for implementation.

Dependencies: Knowledge on which other elements the card depends (if any-the less dependent, the better).

Attachments: Online platforms often support photos and other attachments with any additional details needed.

 

Product development using the Kanban method - advice on workflow optimisation

Start on the right

How should you do today? Unlike how we read, the Kanban table is viewed from right to left. It's because it's more important to finish the job than to begin. We know its worth when we finish a job. First, we test if anything can be shipped, and then, if the situation requires us to shift the card, if we have the time and resources for the cards to start moving to the right.

Limit Work-in-Progress (WIP)

The bottlenecks are so bad! Sadly, they happen when we're working on so many things at once. In Kanban, instead of looking at the bottleneck as a local resource problem, we see it from a global flow perspective. By adding constraints to work in progress, we handle them effectively. Compare workflow with a congested highway-it's far easier to construct a smooth flow of cars than to add more lanes. Start enforcing work-in-progress limitations on most card columns and see how this affects flexibility and performance.

Measure the performance, lead time and cycle time.

One of Kanban's benefits is that it will help you focus on your job and do more work at the same time. A strong Kanban method is going to help you calculate this. Want to ask how much research you're doing in a given amount of time? Start calculating your throughput, total number of completed products, processing time, delivery time.

Go beyond the usual steps "New", "In progress" and "Done".

Beginning with Kanban, we often use the general columns on our board: new, in progress, done. Nonetheless, the actual Kanban table defines which measures actually add value to the method.  So get away from this elementary process concept. The details of the company, the organization, the people and their expertise make the process and the criteria for its description special.

Improve your workflow

If your team is just beginning to use Kanban, arrange a workshop in which you outline every stage of your organization's current workflow. Then decide which steps will actually add value. Know that you have taken the first step towards Kanban's success by completing this exercise and building a wall! By the end, it would be easier to persuade the team to use the whiteboard as a source of reality for their assignments.

product development team

Summary

Kanban is an easy way to help you track the quality of software and the secret to success in your work. Simply begin and learn by doing that! Thanks to the visibility of the Kanban table, you will soon discover the efficacy that you and your team are able to achieve by enhancing your work and the entire process.

 

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