How does Kanban work for Software Development?

Screenshot of the final phase of the Software Development process on Pipefy.

Many business and team settings can use Kanban. Nonetheless, this principle probably excels in the software development and IT fields.

Kanban is a principle that was developed to help team members:

  • visualize their work
  • eliminate bottlenecking in the workflow
  • (drastically) improve efficiency and quality

Kanban in Software Development (and IT)

How does Kanban work in Pipefy

Kanban’s main advantages are: it helps to improve and manage the delivery of service in an evolutionary and continuously enhancing manner. The three main guidelines in Kanban are:

  1. starting with what you have now, with your current process
  2. agreeing to make changes and evolve your approach
  3. respecting your team’s current responsibilities

In Kanban, management policies are explicit and its visual representations allow us to understand the process better and quickly. Visual models and scientific methods are often included, which also improve collaboration.

Kanban in software development works with one specific process at a time, that is,  the process on top of the work log. This gives flexibility to other processes and ensures that all team members are working in the current process, skyrocketing productivity and limiting the work in process.

In terms of software and IT, Kanban allows the team to deliver services and software more quickly and smoothly, optimizing the workflow and every level. Kanban often leads to the discovery and implementation of new processes that focus on gradual organization and collaboration.

Kanban for Agile Teams

How sprints work in Agile teams

Due to its simple methodology of helping people visualize work and limiting the work in progress, using Kanban in Agile teams is a great way to improve how things are done (it also works with any other methodology of choice, such as Scrum or any other that suits you better).

The Kanban methodology is based on the use of Kanban Boards and Cards that represent tasks and workflow overview. Kanban is as simple to use as a physical board with color-coded sticky notes. A more practical way to use it is through a Kanban program, such as Pipefy.

Visualizing work in a Kanban board view will enable you to 

  • see how tasks move across different phases of your processes
  • see where the process can be improved
  • see where tasks are dragging, resulting in bottlenecks

The work-in-progress (WIP) limit determined by the Kanban methodology is nothing more than setting rules for your team regarding how many tasks can be done simultaneously. Once you do that, the number of works that are started but not finished will be limited to the amount previously set by you. Consequently, you won’t be able to start new tasks until some space is freed on the board (space becomes free as tasks are completely moved across the board).This is a very good way to encourage team members to focus on WIP tasks and promote collaboration to get things done better and faster.

Why is Kanban useful for Agile teams?

Agile teams work with sprints (2-4 weeks) and deliver user stories—each story contains a feature related to the desired service/product. To finish the sprint, Agile teams focus on getting a specific set of stories completely done until the deadline.

Agile teams that use Kanban can visualize the work in sprints more easily—as mentioned above, in a board view. In addition to visualize all the current tasks in each sprint and user story, Kanban boards can be your tool of choice to actually replace the sprint container.

Using the Agile approach means that, at the beginning of every sprint, some time will be spent to plan and estimate the user stories and tasks for the entire sprint period (2-4 weeks). When the focus is changed to workflows instead, when Agile teams use Kanban, they still can work with the sprint methodology, but they do it faster, without the necessity of batching the planning and estimation of all sprint tasks: they can be individually done to each item once a card reaches the top priority on your backlog.

WIP limits will ensure people are only responsible for as many tasks as they can bear and, once there’s space available for a new task on the board, people with available time and resources will have the responsibility of pulling the task to themselves to work on them. Setting a limit for the work in progress encourages members to become fully responsible for moving an item all the way from planning to completion. Instead of focusing on getting a 2-week batch of work done, people will focus on finishing one thing at a time and follow the progress more easily.

On the other hand, it doesn’t mean that your team will stop using Agile or Scrum for Kanban. These methodologies are far more than just the sprint and Kanban must be seen as a way to achieve process improvement, which means you already have a process to begin with, regardless of the methodology it follows.

How to improve your processes with Kanban and Pipefy

Screenshot of kanban view for Agile Software Development template

Pipefy’s Agile Software Development Template gives you alternatives to the traditional project management. Agile approaches are typically used in software development to help businesses become more efficient. This process template helps your team to become more efficient and committed, adds a sense of accountability and implements an execution culture among team members.

Written by
Isabelle Wuilleumier Salemme
Head of Customer Support @Pipefy. She uses her extensive Pipefy knowledge to help users make the best of Pipefy via support and writing informative content pieces. Besides being in charge of support, she's an avid reader, a coffee lover, and a professional photographer.