If you’ve scoured the internet for project management approaches and tools, we bet you’ve come across Kanban as one of the search results. Kanban is becoming more commonly used as a project management technique. That’s why it’s no surprise if you’re here to know how you can kickstart your project with Kanban. If you’re curious that Kanban is a good fit for your project, we’re here to help. If you’re just starting and would like to know how to make your Kanban board, stick around and we’ll show you the ropes.

Why Use Kanban For Your Project?

Kanban is gaining popularity as an Agile project management technique for a reason. Aside from the fact that it actually works and keeps project teams in check, it’s also versatile and simple.

Any business operation involves the use of processes. Whether it be physical goods creation, informational or knowledge-based work, you still have to create your products and services by following a process.

Kanban takes your process and visually lays it out for you through a Kanban board. A simple Kanban board can transform the way you manage your project. Its simplicity is also a key reason why teams have very little problems getting used to the tool and the technique as a whole.

What is a Kanban Board?

Kanban takes its roots from the Japanese automotive manufacturing industry. Loosely translated as “visual card”, Kanban makes the use of visual signals to manage work. A Kanban board is a tool used to visualize the flow of work and enables a team to manage and optimize its processes. Kanban boards have evolved since its first use. From a physical whiteboard to digital ones, like Kanban Zone, Kanban boards have come a long way.

Team Board Kanban Zone Image

A Kanban board is divided into columns. These columns represent the workflow or process steps in creating your product or service. The general framework of Kanban uses three columns – To Do, In Progress, and Done. Teams would list their tasks in the To Do column. Once they’re ready to take it on, they move the task cards to the In Progress column. And when the tasks are done, they move it to the Done column.

Taking it a step further, the In Progress column can be expanded to represent the actual process of a team. Imagine a software development team’s process. The features and functionality that they need to code would be treated as task cards. Their process would most likely include the following steps: Coding, Testing, and Deployment. Each task card will flow through this process.


Steps to Create Your Kanban Board

Our 3-step process to create your Kanban board will help you kickstart your project in no time.

Map Your Workflow

Before you get excited on putting up your Kanban board, you need to first identify the steps that would actually make up your board. While a simple To Do-In Progress-Done Kanban board can work, it won’t be as effective in giving insights to the way you do your work. If the workflow in your board is as close to what happens in real life, it can be a great information radiator. It can help you identify bottlenecks, assess workload, and gather data about your process, like cycle times and throughput.

Now, you don’t need to get hung up about laying out your process perfectly. It doesn’t have to be as thorough and detailed on the first pass. The flow just has to be enough to reflect on how your team will do the work. As you refine and improve your process, you can update your Kanban board as well.

To map your workflow as accurately as possible, you need to have your team with you. This is to ensure that you will have everyone’s perspectives as to what actually goes in the pipeline. If it’s not possible to get everyone in one room, make sure to have at least have one representative per functional group.

Check out our collection of Kanban board templates

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Choose Between a Physical or Online Kanban Board

Now that you have your process mapped out, it’s time to put it to work. You now have to put them up in your board. But what type of board will you use? You have two options – go physical or digital.

Physical boards can work well for co-located teams. It would be easy for a team to collaborate as they gather around the board. The constant visibility of the board can even motivate your team as they do their work.

Online Kanban boards, on the other hand, are the recommended weapon of choice for distributed teams. But that is not to say it can’t be used by co-located teams. An online Kanban board is easy to make and more importantly, easy to update. You can create your board in a matter of minutes and can expand it as needed. No need to rummage for markers or sticky notes when you go for this option.

Another good thing about online kanban boards is you can access them from anywhere. This is a great option for companies that offer flexible work arrangements for their employees. You can keep yourself updated whether you’re working at home, at a cafe, or even overseas.

With a variety of online Kanban board options, it can be tricky to choose which one will work for your team. You can use the following criteria when evaluating online Kanban apps:

  • Ease of use – Is the interface intuitive or do you find yourself losing minutes trying to find which button to click? Can you put up your board in minutes? Are you able to see your work at a glance? Does it offer visual cues or notifications?
  • Implementation of WIP Limits – A key property of Kanban is the use of work-in-progress limits. Does your online Kanban app offer this feature?
  • Reports and analytics – Does your app come with built-in reports that will help you track your key metrics?
  • Flexibility – Can the app keep up as you scale and evolve your company’s processes? Are you able to create boards for different layers of your processes?
  • Cost – How much is the projected long-term expense for the number of boards and users for your company? Is there a free trial so you can road test the app?

Use Your Board

Time to line up your tasks and let them flow through your board. Regularly review your work and adjust your board to align with any changes in your process. Should any policies come up as a by-product of your improvement initiatives, make sure to explicitly indicate these policies in your board.

For improved team collaboration, have your Kanban board ready during team discussions and meetings. Maximize your Kanban board by using it as a means to get to know your process more. Monitor your key metrics and use them in the evolution of your process.

Now that you’re all set, gather your team and start mapping out your process on your first Kanban board!

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About the Author: Lena Boiser

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Lena Boiser is an Agile enthusiast. Starting off her career as a Software Business Analyst in 2010, she eventually performed other roles including Project Manager and IT Business Manager. When she was immersed in Agile methodologies in 2014, Lena found her way through honing her craft and eventually became a Certified Scrum Product Owner. In 2017, after 7 years of working in the corporate world, Lena started her own remote consulting practice. Today, she provides project management and Scrum Product Ownership services to various businesses including software development companies, e-Commerce business owners, and small to medium sized companies. She believes that even teams working remotely can harness the benefits of Agile in order to deliver results for their companies. In her free time she likes to write. One day she could be writing about Agile, the next she could be writing anything about fashion or travel.

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