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Dovile Miseviciute
Dovile Miseviciute

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Taking Full Advantage of Kanban

Most of us are familiar with Kanban on some sort of a level. Some heard about it, others already tried it. But as a team that develops a Kanban tool we see that many still see the approach as shallow and lacking for larger project management.

That is a case for some Kanban tools and applications, but not all. And this is where a simple Kanban board differs from a Kanban system. Later being able to handle more difficult processes and aid in management of larger efforts.

So, let's talk what such systems include and how they empower the Kanban teams.

Components of a Kanban System

At a first glance, Kanban system is very similar to a Kanban board. As it visualises the teams tasks using a board and item cards. However, for most Kanban boards this is more or less the limit of what they can be used for. While the Kanban system carries much more functionality within.

Here is the most common list of tools you can expect to find.

1. Swimlanes or Classes of Service

This first and probably the most noticeable difference you will find in such a system is the ability to add Kanban swimlanes. For those not familiar with the concept, they can simply be described as rows on a Kanban board.

And while this seems like a very simple addition, it brings the ability to categorise your items in multiple ways and focus the attention of the team to the right place at all times. Which becomes especially important with a larger project or a larger team.

Kanban Swimlanes in Teamhood

2. Commitment Points

Another structural difference in a Kanban system will be the ability to clearly mark the commitment points on your board. The commitment point is used as a marker on the board that symbolises once an item goes past this point, it should not be moved back.

This is important to encourage effective problem solving and ensuring that the team members are not working on multiple items and switching back and forth.

3. WIP Limits

One more element of a Kanban system are WIP limits. Traditionally these are limits set to ensure only a certain number of items can be placed in any one column. Depending on the process steps, these numbers can be different for each column, but their purpose remains to limit work in progress and reduce lead time.

Some Kanban systems offer the ability to add such limits the the Swimlanes as well as process columns. Thus giving the team even more control of their process.

4. Kanban Metrics

Lastly, a Kanban system differs from a Kanban board by the simple fact that it carries the ability to calculate and review Kanban metrics automatically. Giving you important information about the capacity of the team and highlighting problem areas that could be solved to improve.

At the end of the day, it really is up to you and your team whether a simple Kanban board or a more advanced Kanban system is needed for your process. However, knowing there is more to Kanban than just columns and items, may help you make the right decision.

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