Project management methodologies can be a bit like sports teams — loyalty to one methodology is strong, and followers believe theirs is truly the best for achieving goals.
One of those such methodologies is the Kanban methodology.
No matter which you choose, project management methodologies come to life within project management software, which hosts day-to-day operations.
This software is often implemented as part of a company’s digital transformation, which has accelerated in the past year.
In fact, 68% of project management professionals thought COVID-19 accelerated their organization’s digital transformation, including changes in project management solutions.
In this article, we’ll walk through how to implement the Kanban methodology as part of your digital transformation, what it means to use Kanban, its origins, benefits, and examples.
What is the Kanban methodology?
Kanban methodology is a popular project management framework used to implement Agile principles or Agile methodology.
The Agile method is an iterative approach to project management. If you’re unfamiliar with it, you can learn all about it in this article: Introduction to agile.
The Kanban method is founded on real-time communication, full transparency of work, and visual organization of progress. It’s most well-known for its use within DevOps software development.
However, it can be used across all types of business teams and is usually visualized using a Kanban board.
A Kanban board is a project management tool that brings the Kanban method to life by visualizing a project team’s work. It limits the number of projects being worked on at one time and maximizes the efficiency of teams.
A Kanban board uses boards, cards, columns, and the movement of cards within those columns to track and display progress as teams work.
You should use a Kanban board if you want something super visual and incredibly simple. Kanban boards shine at helping teams achieve small steps toward a larger goal and visualize process bottlenecks.
monday.com is a work operating system (Work OS) that allows business teams of all types to build project management tools custom suited for their unique needs. Teams can use monday.com to display project progress using a Kanban board like this one:
Kanban vs. other methods
Kanban methodology is typically considered alongside other methodologies, including Scrum and Waterfall.
Here’s a breakdown of how they differ:
- Scrum: an Agile process that focuses a Scrum team on shortening timelines while also providing the maximum amount of business value. Scrum focuses on the team, teamwork, and short bursts of progress within defined timelines called sprints.
- Waterfall: a process that works best for projects that move linearly and will not move backward. It’s very results-driven, focusing heavily on project milestones, rather than the process.
- Kanban: a process mostly concerned with identifying bottlenecks. It’s a great method to use for projects that tend to lag.
Depending on how your team works together at the moment, any one of these methodologies could suit you better than another.
We’d recommend a Kanban project management solution for those who are looking to provide heavy amounts of visibility throughout a project’s process.
What are the origins of Kanban?
You can track the origins of Kanban methodology all the way back to 1603 in Japan. At that time, Japan was entering a period of stability and economic growth after many years of military conflict.
Japanese towns began to see streets filled with crowded shops and local businesses looking for attention from customers walking by, and those streets are where the term Kanban was born.
The word Kanban comes from 2 Japanese words: Kan, meaning sign, and Ban, meaning board. Originally Kanban was essentially a signboard on the street to advertise business.
Fast forward to the early 1940s. The first Kanban system was developed by Taiichi Ohno, an industrial engineer and businessman for Toyota automotive in Japan.
He created the Kanban system to keep up with American automotive competition, which had a much more efficient production process at the time.With the creation of the Kanban system, Toyota was able to increase productivity while reducing the cost of materials, and ultimately, the finished product.
What are the benefits and drawbacks of Kanban?
The Kanban methodology has many benefits but might not work for all projects or teams.
Here are some of the main benefits you can expect when implementing Kanban project management:
- Transparency: Kanban’s greatest strength is bringing visibility to the previously invisible — specifically, bottlenecks hindering processes. In fact, 59% of project managers think visualizing processes with Kanban is essential to implementing Agile.
- Responsiveness: when project roles and timelines are clear, teammates are more likely to respond in a timely manner.
- Shortened timelines: the Kanban process works by breaking down greater processes into small chunks or tasks, completed in smaller timelines, ultimately helping projects get done faster.
- Efficient resource allocation: with a Kanban board, you can visually view each team member’s task load and allocate resources across the staff.
- Continuous improvement: the more you use Kanban, the more you knock down roadblocks and bottlenecks throughout your processes.
But, like all methodologies, Kanban isn’t perfect. Here are some drawbacks:
- Visuals: complex projects could get messy on a Kanban board.
- Lack of timing: typically, Kanban boards aren’t associated with timelines, which means it can be hard to predict dates for final deliverables.
- Lack of dependencies: Kanban doesn’t work well for managing inter-related tasks, where one card or activity is dependent on another.
Examples of Kanban boards in practice
Implementing the Kanban methodology is easiest when you see it in action first.
Here are some examples of how businesses from different industries can use a Kanban tool to manage projects in different areas of business operations.
This example from interior design company Ellie’s Interiors organizes projects by completeness and client.
Each card represents a different client and room to be designed, whereas the column in the Kanban board organizes levels of completeness.
But with monday.com, you can easily alter your view so that cards are organized differently.
Here, tasks are displayed by the due date as opposed to the level of completeness.
Another example follows a fashion company, Madhatter, which uses a Kanban board to track where different products are in its inventory.
Cards represent products within the inventory workflow, and columns represent whether they need to be ordered and how soon.
This fashion company could also choose to build a Kanban framework to visualize the manufacturing process or visualize customer orders with cards to represent each work item. It can also use Kanban to track whether or not orders have been shipped on time.
Finally, here’s an example from a construction company where the Kanban team keeps track of the completion of construction projects by phase.
Cards represent the locations of projects, whereas columns indicate where each project is in a stage of completeness.
monday.com and Kanban boards
monday.com is a Work OS that allows business teams to build the best project management Kanban software for them.
Using monday.com as a foundation for your project management allows you to view your projects in various ways, including as a Kanban board.
monday.com Kanban boards are incredibly visual, colorful, and can include images.
Here’s are a few examples of how the same Kanban board from Ellie’s interiors could be displayed depending on the project team’s needs:
You can also use monday.com to divide your Kanban columns into different groups for even more organization.
In this example, Ellie’s Interiors uses groups of Kanban boards to separate different types of projects into their own Kanban boards.
Each card can be opened and easily updated with one click, allowing team members to assign cards to specific groups, update dates, attach photos, leave notes, and much more.
These cards are where team members store information related to the project, ensuring that everyone on the team, and cross-functionally throughout the organization, has all relevant information needed for operations to run smoothly.
When you need to move columns around, a drag-and-drop user interface makes it quick and easy.
You can do the same with cards within columns, easily moving tasks from one stage of your project to the next as items are completed.
Finally, you can view an organized list of tasks within your Kanban board as a table alongside the full Kanban board for an incredibly straightforward view of exactly what your team needs to accomplish.
Kanban boards are best used when visual organization is very important
The Kanban methodology is best used when project management needs a visual element or when it’s important to visualize processes in order to remove bottlenecks and streamline workflows.
To implement Kanban with technology that’s much more than just a Kanban board, connecting all teams across your organization with powerful project management technology, contact us and get started with a free 14-day trial of monday.com.