Why use Kanban in Software Development?

Kanban is a highly effective form of task planning and management that allows for consistent and continuous development. Kanban’s method was originated within automobile production, along with the Toyota Production System, but has since spread to many areas of business, such as software development or even domestic tasks and chores management.

Though it’s origins lie in the automotive industry, Kanban has been continuously developed for its use in Software Development. Kanban manages to gather important elements from different management methods in order to “cover all the bases” when planning/managing your processes.

Kanban is highly focused on the pull system strategy, which means your employees will only take responsibility for more tasks when they have time and resource availability for such. Working with Kanban ensures resources will be allocated based on where and when they are needed within your production system in order to support just-in-time delivery.

But the million dollar question remains: how can you use Kanban in software development and what benefits can you expect from it?

How can I use Kanban in Software development?

The method used for visualizing tasks in Kanban is the Kanban board. In an industry or any generic production environment, this could be represented by a physical board: no more than a white board with color coded sticky notes representing the tasks/demands.

In software development, though, it’s a little harder to use a physical board mainly due to the fact that most teams are not working in the same physical environment – normally, they’re in distributed locations and/or in a virtual common environment only. Using Kanban in software development, therefore, will probably require the use of an online Kanban tool.

Benefits of using Kanban in Software Development:

Kanban boards, either the physical or online ones, are intuitive and easy to use – it’s easy to see how the work and consequently the cards flow from left to right in a board. Kanban can be used to visualize almost any software development process so its implementation wouldn’t require any kind of huge organizational change.

Aside from these, there are many other benefits of using Kanban in Software Development so we’ll make a list to make it easier:

Shows and helps limit WIP:

Kanban allows you to work with either unlimited or limited Work in Progress (though it’s highly recommended you opt for limiting it). WIP can be limited by the workflow’s phase or throughout the whole process in order to ensure new work can only be “pulled” into the system when there’s capacity and resource availability within your team.

By limiting the number of items “happening” at the same time, you are able to make individual tasks flow faster through your system. Also, due to the fact that new work can be only pulled in whenever there’s a “slot” available, team members will be encouraged to always finish what’s already started before being able to “grab” new tasks.

Workflow management:

Kanban allows for easy monitoring of the way the work is flowing through each phase of the process – using simple metrics to monitor, measure and report results ensures that, whenever someone needs insights into the work’s progress, it’ll be easy to extract this info.

Kanban is also very useful for it’s holistic approach to all levels in your organization – by being able to easily scale up or down, organizations become much more capable of optimizing the flow of features or even entire projects.

Kanban as a workflow management tool also allows for easier visualization – and fast action response – of bottlenecks in your process: whenever tasks cards start to pile up in a certain phase of your process, you’ll be able to actually see you found a bottleneck and quickly identify and start acting towards alleviating it.

Reports and Metrics:

The reports and metrics produced by Kanban systems (check out how Pipefy’s reports or metrics work) increase your system’s predictability. Many online Kanban platforms – Pipefy included – allow you to capture a wide range of metrics, making you able to identify and establish patterns.

In any Kanban system, lead-time, throughput and cumulative flow reports are the tools that offer you the most important set of information for better process management. The information derived from these reports will allow you to build realistic plans and predictions based on actual quantitative data analysis of your team’s performance, other than just guessing.

All the data you’re able to extract from Kanban also gives people in all levels of your organization – that including all members of your team, management, etc. – real-time insight on the status of all of your current projects.

Collaboration and experimentation:

Kanban is known for encouraging change to happen in small, continuous, incremental and evolutionary steps to ensure they’ll have less impact and will actually offer the desired results. By stimulating this slower change pace, Kanban also increases the team’s motivation and self-governance capacity.

Risk and problem management:

Due to the fact than Kanban promotes a very thorough understanding of how things work (process management) and how work is actually getting done (task management), it easily promotes more objective and rational discussions when it comes to issues and risks amongst the team.

Through its objectiveness and rationality, Kanban also makes it easier to reach consensus about improvement suggestions.


Decided to give Kanban a chance? Try Pipefy!

We help companies keep organised and more productive by running their processes and day-by-day routines on an easy and intuitive tool, making them leave in the past inefficient manual forms, spreadsheets and e-mail threads.

Pipefy’s Agile Software Development proposes alternatives to traditional project management. This process, mixing Kanban and Agile tools, will help your team to be more efficient and committed while also adding a sense of accountability and implementing an execution culture among your team members.

Written by Isabelle Salemme, Product content manager at Pipefy. She uses her extensive Pipefy knowledge to write informative pieces teaching users to make the best of Pipefy. Besides being responsible for all product-related content, she's an avid reader, a coffee lover and a professional photographer.