Kanban Methodology: How Can It Help Your Software Development?


The chances are you’re probably familiar with Kanban if you work in a software development or marketing team. The Kanban methodology, or framework, is widely used within popular online tools for boosting productivity and efficiency. Even Vault, our own enterprise resource planning tool, has a Kanban board feature.


What exactly is Kanban?

The Kanban methodology allows you to improve your workflow and manage it more efficiently. The basic form of this framework comes as a Kanban board which consist of separate columns. Columns for a Kanban board in software development may include:

  • Backlog
  • In progress
  • Reviewing
  • Testing
  • Done
  • Blocked

The task or activity is moved from left to right based on the phase it’s currently in. There are two main benefits to this approach, the ability to visualize the workflow and to limit the work in progress. Thanks to the relatively strict movement of activity across the board, you can identify potential bottlenecks that are slowing the workflow.


Example of a Kanban board

You can use a Kanban board for basically everything because its purpose is to make your work more effective and efficient. For example, if you’re creating written content your Kanban board and its flow could look like this:

  • Idea making

New ideas for articles to be written.

  • Search Engine Optimization

For infusing approved ideas with relevant keywords to provide a better impact on your online presence.

  • Currently writing (Work In Progress)

Articles that are currently being written.

  • Proofreading

Articles waiting to be proofread.

  • Published / Done

Articles that are finished and/or published.

You can add more steps or columns to your Kanban board based on your working process. It’s even possible to remove steps if you find that your workflow is running smoother. This is the beauty of the Kanban approach.


History of Kanban

Although the origins of Kanban are bound to UK factories that produced fighter aircrafts during the Second World War, the first trace of methodology or system can be traced to the Edo period in Japan (the 1600s). Kanban can be translated as a sign (Kan) board (Ban), and the first purpose of these boards was to attract customers to visit small shops in overcrowded streets of feudal Japan. The meaning of Kanban may have changed over centuries but what stays the same is their clear and concise interpretation of content, whether it’s a task or a good.

The real change of direction came in the 1940s with Toyota’s manufacturing process, thanks to Taiichi Ono who was a Japanese industrial engineer and businessman. He had identified seven types of waste impacting system throughput and performance. One of the biggest problems for Toyota was overproduction. The solution to this problem was simple, to only produce the parts when they were needed. This basic idea is still present in Kanban boards as you move tasks through one column at a time. 


Difference between Kanban and Scrum methodology

The term Scrum was first used in the 1986 paper “The New New Product Development Game” by Hirotaka Takeuchi and Ikujiro Nonaka. It comes from rugby which emphasizes the necessity of teamwork in complex projects.

Kanban and Scrum are both agile approaches. Their purpose is to make your working process smoother and help release higher quality products or services faster. Even though they may have similarities, there are also distinctive aspects:

Team roles

While Kanban doesn’t need specific team roles to be effectively implemented and used, Scrum has a product owner, development team, and scrum master. The scrum master is a fairly important role. According to scrum.org, his or her competencies are directed three ways:

  • Helping the scrum team
  • Helping the product owner
  • Helping the organization itself

Release methodology

Kanban has continuous delivery, while Scrum is defined by its sprints which is a time window dedicated to a specific task.


While Kanban has a continuous flow, Scrum’s sprints are of fixed lengths. For example, 1,2, or 3 weeks long.

Key metrics

Since Scrum’s most important part are its sprints, velocity would be the most important metric. With Kanban it would be lead time, time of the cycle and Work In Progress – Kanban is supposed to limit active tasks in a given time.

As you can see, even if both approaches are agile, Scrum is more structured. It’s suitable for projects that need more strict phases and documentation. Kanban offers more flexibility with the possibility to change parts of the process along the way.


What’s the biggest benefit of the Kanban methodology?

Arguably the biggest benefit is continuous improvement. The system reflects reality and your capacities. If it’s designed poorly, you’ll soon find out because it’ll affect your workflow.

Along the way you can tweak your Kanban board so that it suits your needs, which may change as you grow or when you deal with different projects. To put it in other words, Kanban is as scalable as it comes. And that is also the answer to the question of how it can help your software development.


Does Rare Crew use the Kanban approach?

Here at Rare Crew we’re all about the Agile methodology, so you can bet Kanban has its place in our workflow. The approach you use should reflect the project that you’re working on. As mentioned in our other article, even the Waterfall approach has its place.

We hope you find some answers to your questions in this blog. If you’re looking for an Agile team that provides complex services, feel free to reach out.



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