What Is Kanban: Elements, Limitations, And Benefits For Modern Businesses
Modern-day businesses need efficient project management systems to keep up with the fast-paced market trends that define most industries today. Kanban management offers a robust set of tools to help businesses stay organized and productive.
As a workflow system, Kanban helps project managers keep track of work tasks as they move through the development process.
In this blog, we'll go through what Kanban is, how to use its capabilities, and the benefits it has for project management teams. After going through this essential guide, you will have a clear idea of how your team can use Kanban boards in your startup projects and processes.
What Is Kanban?
Kanban has its roots in Japanese manufacturing and was used to optimize just-in-time production systems. From there, it has evolved into the popular project management system it is today under the umbrella of agile project management.
You've probably heard of a Kanban board and know it's mainly used to organize and update project teams on progress. A Kanban board helps teams visualize tasks and track them from start to finish. This allows project managers to record when tasks have been completed or still need attention.
Kanban boards allow teams to quickly break down complex tasks into small components and easily track the status of those components. Teams can organize individual tasks into "columns" with Sprint cycle labels. Sprint cycle labels are the titles at the top of each board that indicate the cards' status, progress, or purpose.
The beauty of the Kanban board is that it can be used across multiple industries and project types like Agile and DevOps. It's an excellent tool for keeping track of all tasks, deadlines, and team members. Of course, most Kanban tools allow administrators to customize column names based on project needs, making it highly flexible.
Kanban's visual system allows project managers to quickly identify bottlenecks, prioritize tasks, and delegate responsibilities efficiently. As a result, tasks can be completed faster, and businesses will have the capacity to take on more projects with better organizational intelligence.
With the right tools and implementation, Kanban can become an invaluable asset to any project management system. So, no matter how broad your project becomes, Kanban can seamlessly incorporate new facets and tasks into your existing list of tasks.
Elements Of A Kanban Board
Kanban boards may vary in their provided elements, such as templates, design, and other features. Generally, Kanban boards contain the following elements:
Task cards are typically color-coded and contain all information pertinent to that task, such as name, description, assigned member, status updates, and comments. Most Kanban boards have a notification system that pings a task card assignee, eliminating the need for project leads to contact the member separately. This helps mitigate human error and keeps the project moving smoothly.
An additional benefit of task cards is that they can contain all the necessary information a team member needs to start. This reduces waiting time and allows team members to start immediately.
On a Kanban board, team members can move task cards between columns. A drag-and-drop feature lets project managers move tasks around as needed, updating their statuses and keeping the board organized in one glance. Also, project managers or board administrators can assign roles to each team member. Keeping track of who has access to specific columns can be especially useful regarding accountability and pinpointing where issues may arise.
Work-in-progress (WIPs) limits are both a benefit and a limitation to a project. On the one hand, WIP limits help keep track of workloads and prevent any bottlenecks in workflow, as project managers can quickly see which columns have reached their maximum task count. On the other hand, WIP limits act as a cap on how many tasks can be assigned in each column at a given time. The limit helps ensure that team members take on only a few tasks at a time and can be kept accountable for the ones they are currently assigned.
While WIP limits do come in handy for large projects with multiple phases by ensuring that no stage gets an overload of tasks and avoids burnout, it poses a problem for large-scale projects.
A filtering feature allows users to sort tasks by deadlines, due dates, or assignees. Filtering makes it easy for board administrators and members to view what tasks have been completed and which need more attention. Filtering can also be used to group teams, making it easier for members to view their tasks and keep on top of their work.
5. Descriptions, comments, and chat
One pain point that project teams face has multiple communication platforms. Kanban boards eliminate this pain point by integrating tools like Slack and Microsoft Teams, letting project members comment and chat directly on task cards. Not only does this feature eliminate the need for separate platforms, but it also helps keep all communication pieces involved in any one task closer together.
6. Task Dependencies
Dependencies in project management are essential to help team members know when they should start or complete a task. Kanban boards are equipped with task dependencies that allow project managers to link specific tasks together and indicate the sequence in which they should be completed.
One form of dependency is a checklist that helps tackle more significant tasks with multiple phases or steps. Having a list lets team members view all the different parts of the task and mark them as complete, making it easier to stay on top of their work.
Another valuable feature of digital Kanban boards is the ability to attach files or images that are relevant to a task. Such a feature may be helpful when providing image references, documents, and other data related to the task that team members need to view. Having all this information in one place helps streamline workflow and keeps everyone on the same page.
A few more sophisticated Kanban boards come with reporting features that make it easy for managers to view progress on tasks and projects. They can generate reports with information about task completion times, team performance, and any other data necessary for tracking project performance. This benefits both teams and their stakeholders as they can get an immediate picture of the progress.
9. Integrations and add-ons
Kanban boards come with various integrations and add-ons that can be used to customize the board further. This includes customizing colors for different tasks, setting up automated notifications, linking project data from other applications, and more. These features help make Kanban boards even more helpful for team members by allowing them to tailor their boards.
The more sophisticated Kanban boards will allow project teams to integrate the tool with other essentials like Slack, Google Suits, and Microsoft Teams. This helps teams manage tasks and communications all in one place, allowing them to work more effectively.
10. Workflow automation
Kanban boards offer a variety of workflow automation features that make managing tasks easier. Teams can set up automation processes to move tasks from one column to another, assign tasks according to members' availability, and set up reminders for upcoming deadlines. These automation features allow teams to stay on top of their work without having to manually manage each task.
Overall, Kanban boards can be an excellent tool for modern businesses looking to streamline their project management processes. With the variety of features and integrations available, teams can customize their board to fit their needs and keep on top of their projects. And with automated processes in place, teams can focus more on getting work done.
Benefits And Limitations Of Kanban Systems
Using Kanban as your chosen project management system comes with a complete list of benefits and limitations. However, it's essential to keep in mind the goals and characteristics of your project before deciding on its applicability. To streamline your decision-making process, let's go through the benefits and limitations of Kanban.
Benefits of Kanban
In deciding on a project management system, it's essential to understand the benefits of using Kanban. The benefits listed below focus on streamlining the task management, accountability, and team collaboration processes.
Built in Documentation
Kanban encourages teams to clearly define and document their processes so everyone can understand them. As the task card moves through the development process, team members should be able to see who worked on the task and how it changed over time. This makes it easier for new members to understand how the workflow works and keep established members accountable.
Kanban also encourages teams to create feedback loops. By making it easier for team members to provide feedback, you can ensure that your process is constantly improving. Feedback helps ensure tasks are completed efficiently and on time while identifying any issues that need attention or improvement. This allows teams to become more agile and adaptable in their operations.
Improve Collaboratively (Using Models & the Scientific Method)
Kanban encourages teams to use models and the scientific method to improve their operations collaboratively. The scientific method Kanban encourages teams to use models and the scientific method to enhance their operations collaboratively. The scientific method helps teams measure and test ideas to find the best solutions.
Teams can use models such as the 6-step process, value stream mapping, or A/B testing to identify issues and make necessary changes quickly. Such a collaborative approach helps create an environment of continuous improvement that results in faster and better solutions.
As a result, using models and a scientific approach helps teams identify areas that need improvement and find solutions through testing and experimentation. It also allows teams to be creative in finding solutions and continuously experiment with new methods. This helps teams remain agile and adaptable in an ever-changing environment.
Alignment between Project Goals and Execution
Kanban helps teams to align their project goals with their execution. Understanding what needs to be done and when it's easier for teams to track progress will help ensure the team can achieve their desired outcomes. This ensures that resources are used efficiently, and projects are completed on time and within budget.
Improved Ability to Manage Scale and Dependencies
By using Kanban, teams can improve their ability to manage scale and dependencies. This helps teams understand the impact of changes on their project and ensure they manage their workloads effectively. It also allows teams to manage project risk better by quickly understanding which tasks or processes need attention.
Limitations of Kanban
Even with all its benefits, Kanban has a few limitations. These limitations tend to be more minor than the benefits, but they are worth considering when deciding on a project management system. It is important to note that elements of kanban systems are often used with other project management frameworks like Scrum in order to mitigate some of these weaknesses.
Not Ideal for Long-term Projects
Primarily, Kanban is best suited for short-term projects and tasks. As a result, teams may find it challenging to use when trying to manage long-term goals or milestones. Projects with multiple working teams or a handful of moving parts, like those in the construction sector or product development, may also need help to keep track of progress.
Expects Regular Maintenance
Kanban also requires regular maintenance to remain relevant and up-to-date with changing project needs. This might not be easy for teams who do not have an internal resource dedicated to managing the board or ensuring tasks are completed on time.
Additionally, Kanban requires team members to self-manage and take responsibility for their workloads. Doing so can be difficult if some team members are uncomfortable taking on additional responsibilities or lack the necessary skill set. As a result, teams should take a careful look at their current resources when considering Kanban.
Even with specific boards having workflow automation, the team's capabilities and resources are still significant factors when it comes to making Kanban successful. Teams should assess their current capabilities and resources before implementing Kanban to ensure that it is the right tool for their needs.
Limited Number of Active WIPs
Kanban also has a limited number of active Work In Progress (WIP) items. This means that your team can only work on a certain number of tasks at any given time, and anything beyond this limit will get blocked until more resources become available. This can be problematic if teams must move quickly and juggle multiple projects simultaneously.
With such a limitation, Kanban boards are often used for small project teams of up to 15-20 people. If too many people interact with the board, the board can become cluttered and disorganized, defeating its initial purpose of creating an agile form of project management.
The Best Kanban Tools For 2023
The rising popularity of Kanban management means there are a handful of tools that can help teams better organize their Kanban boards. The possibilities for teams of all sizes are seemingly endless, from free and open-source options to paid enterprise solutions.
Trello is a powerful tool for organizing work and keeping project teams on the right track. The tool allows you to create tasks and track the progress of project team members easily. Users can customize boards and task cards with defined fields like:
- Member assignments
- Due dates
Aside from that, admin and project leads can also access a timeline view which allows for a quick scan of the team's progress over a period of time. This feature enables leaders to monitor how efficiently members accomplish tasks and pinpoint any potential lags or bottlenecks early on.
Monday.com is a highly rated project management platform designed for collaboration on- and off-site teams. There are many features and templates to choose from, one being a Kanban project management style. Monday.com's Kanban board includes essentials like:
- Customizable sprint cycles
Aside from that, Monday.com takes Kanban board management to the next level with visualized reporting and integrations. Visualized reporting gives project leads insight into team productivity and status, while integrations let teams use their preferred communication and documentation tools. These integrations make it easy to have everything in one place.
JIRA is a software application that helps management teams track project progress and tasks. JIRA is a cost-effective tool that offers a diverse range of features and benefits for modern businesses. It is ideal for projects of all sizes and complexity. Teams can use JIRA to:
- Track project status
- Assign tasks
- Track dependencies between tasks
It can also be used for collaboration and communication among team members. Those using JIRA can also expect its features and capabilities to continually improve. The team behind its creation provides responsive feedback, incorporating new features and updates as necessary.
Kanban boards have become extremely popular over the last few years. They help teams visualize workflow and complete tasks more efficiently, saving time and boosting productivity. And as digital tools evolve even further, Kanban boards are here to stay to ensure teams remain agile in their workflow management.
If you're looking for Kanban tools to help you plan, track, and visualize workflow management, check out our blog on the best Kanban tools. You can also dive deeper into project management and planning with our related articles.