The core principles of Kanban are the same no matter what industry you are in — visualize the work that needs to be done, limit the work in progress, focus on continuous flow, and constantly improve the process.
Before we get started…
What is Kanban?
The Kanban methodology was created by Toyota in the 1940s when the company began optimizing its engineering processes based on the model that supermarkets use to stock their shelves. Known as the “just in time” manufacturing process, the idea is that there is just enough product in stock to meet customer demands, optimizing the flow between the supermarket and the customer.
Toyota applied this process to the factory floor by using colorful cards (or “kanban”) to communicate inventory levels in real time. Workers would pass the cards between teams when more material was needed, streamlining the process and making it more efficient overall.
This methodology is still popular today because its core principles are applicable to almost any industry. Whether you are developing software or a physical product, Kanban requires real-time communication and full transparency of work, which means that all team members can see the state of every piece of work at any time.
Why use this process?
- Planning flexibility
A team using Kanban is focused only on the tasks that are actively being worked on. That means that the backlog of work can be reorganized and reprioritized at any time without impacting the process of any members of your team.
- Shortened Cycle Times
Kanban allows teams to optimize cycle times — the time it takes for work to travel through the workflow — which means that you can forecast delivery of future projects more accurately.
- Limits Work-In-Progress
Employees that end up multitasking can cause bottlenecks in your team’s process, killing efficiency. Kanban limits work-in-progress and highlights any areas of weakness — it helps team members focus on accomplishing a single task before moving on to the next, optimizing efficiency.
- Continuous delivery to customers
Using Kanban allows high-quality products to be released continuously — even hourly depending on the product. This optimization is key to staying competitive in the constantly innovating modern marketplace.
How do you do it?
The Kanban methodology revolves around a Kanban board that is used to visualize the workflow, standardize the process, and quickly identify and remove any blocks to optimization.
The most basic board has three vertical columns labeled To Do, In Progress, and Done, but the Kanban board can be customized based on your team’s specific process and objectives.
Keeping workflow as visual as possible is the point of this process, so each task is represented on the board by a color-coded card. The cards contain the critical information about that particular task, what is currently being done, how long it will take, who is working on it, any technical specs, and images.
This full transparency ensures that everyone on your team knows all the details of every task that is being worked on at any time.
How to use Stormboard for Kanban
Using a virtual board like Stormboard for the Kanban methodology is crucial because it leads to better trackability, easier collaboration, and accessibility from multiple remote locations — processes are more easily streamlined and problems can be resolved quickly without having to gather for a meeting in a designated space.
Stormboard also provides additional collaboration features like real-time accessibility for employees and stakeholders in remote locations, a detailed audit trail of every task, sophisticated reporting, scalability, and security features that can be customized for any Enterprise team.
It elevates a physical whiteboard from a visual to-do list to a powerful, optimized workflow that will help limit your work-in-progress, allow you to see how tasks flow through your organization, and enable you to gather the metrics you need to improve your process.
Stormboard offers templates to suit any Kanban process including Agile Scrum Kanban, Kanban, Kanban-UX, and Scrum to Lean Kanban. The sample board shown below gives you an idea of how Kanban works on Stormboard.
Each vertical row is labeled with a step in your team’s process — backlog, to do, plan, etc. Kanban cards, or virtual sticky notes, are then placed in the column that indicates the status of the work. Once you have customized the sticky notes to reflect your team’s process, then you will be able to garner multiple details from just a glance at your Kanban Storm.
You can customize the card colors (see image above) to demonstrate the type of work, who is currently assigned to the task, or whether something is urgent. Individual sticky notes can also be assigned to any one of your team members, and comments can be added with status updates.
Visuals like images of products, how-to videos, and digital drawings can also be added directly to your Kanban sticky notes, as can Word, Excel, and PowerPoint documents that can be edited collaboratively in the Storm.
When it comes time to add a new task from your backlog, you can get your team’s input on what would be a top priority instantly using Stormboard’s voting feature (see above). It is considered a best practice to get input on what new tasks are top priorities from those doing the work in a Kanban system.
All of these visual details are stored in Stormboard — a single virtual space that can be accessed anytime, from anywhere. This significantly minimizes time spent tracking down status updates, progress reports, and in planning meetings.
Using Stormboard for Kanban means that high-value information can be communicated easily, securely, and transparently amongst your team.