Community, Development, Kanban, Tupalo

The Tupalo Kanban Story – Visualization and Kanban Board Design (Part I)

When it comes to Kanban board design, I think it is a good idea to start simple – you will figure out soon enough what you need to add or what you need to change. Others’ Kanban boards might help you collect ideas on how to build your own, but don’t think of them as a blueprint and don’t expect them to work for yourself just like that.

In order to come up with a Kanban board design that fits your needs, take your time to do some research and think about your processes. What kind of processes are you currently using? What are the workflow steps you have in place? What different work item types can you define? …

Then visualize everything on your board. You might not be able to get everything “right” the first time, but you will gain new insights every time you think it through. Some of the specific details will miraculously appear to be obvious after some time of using the system.

The picture below shows what the very first version of our own Kanban board looked like:

It is quite obvious that we were using a very simple structure with only four workflow steps and started with (in my opinion) high WIP limits of five for Development, three for Test and three for Deployment (with a team of four developers).

We also defined the following policies:
– pull tickets, don’t push
– stick to the WIP limits
– first in, first out
– the higher the rank of a ticket in the Input Queue, the higher the priority
– be aware of Classes of Service (details in next blog post)
– track date of entry and done date of each ticket (details in next blog post)

I have spoken with a lot of teams that struggle with the decision between a physical whiteboard or an online version of their Kanban board. Having tried out both options, I personally prefer the physical one but of course it depends on a lot of factors – like e.g. layout of your office, team size, whereabouts of your team etc. If the team members are scattered throughout different areas of the country or the world, a physical board would be quite a challenge, as it cannot be easily maintained and is not directly accessible to everyone. In that case, online tools like kanbanery, agile zen or LeanKit Kanban might be a better choice.

Whether you are using a physical or an online board – the visualization of your work flow and tasks will surely help you create more transparency, give you opportunities to improve your processes and to manage some of your risks.

Coming up next: Prioritization and Ticket Design

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