What You Will Learn

In this article, we'll learn about one of the most popular project management approaches, kanban. We'll see what other project management methodologies are available and how incremental kanban is different from them. Then we'll learn the steps to manage software projects using incremental kanban. We'll discuss the advantages of incremental kanban and the best practices that a development team and product managers could follow. We'll also see the various challenges involved in adopting the incremental Kanban methodology.


What Is Project Management?

Project management is the process of leading a team to achieve goals or tasks within a stipulated time by optimizing the available resources, skills, and knowledge. It is a method for organizing projects, creating tasks and sub-tasks, chalking out goals, and other administrative processes.

Project management is paramount when it comes to software development or any other business for that matter. But the crucial element of successful project management is to rigorously follow an established methodology and get your tasks done considering all the limitations. Here's a survey that shows how adopting a project management approach could benefit an organization's overall performance.

We can see that adopting a project management methodology helps you achieve your goals on time and within your budget. Incremental kanban is one such project management methodology .

Why Adopt a Project Management Methodology?

As mentioned above, project management (PM) methods allow us to deliver work and services on time and within the planned budget. Other than that, there are numerous other factors why you should consider PM methods, like:

  • PM methods help you prioritize tasks and resources for optimum delivery of work and efficiency.
  • They improve the quality and productivity of your work.
  • Adopting a PM method can keep your clients satisfied.
  • PM methods mitigate the risk of project failures.

Types of Project Management Methodologies

Here's a list of some of the significant PM methodologies available:

  1. Waterfall Methodology: The Waterfall approach is a traditional method to project management. Here, tasks and phases are completed sequentially, and each stage of the project must be met before the next begins. Also, the stages are interdependent here.
  2. Agile Methodology: Agile methodology came into existence due to the pitfalls in traditional (Waterfall) methods. It focuses on building iterative models that allow teams to revise their project as needed during the process, instead of waiting until the end to review and make changes. The fundamental principles of agile methodology are 1. Early and Continuous Delivery of Valuable Software. 2. Self-Organizing Teams. 3. Regular Reflection and Adjustment
  3. Scrum Methodology: Scrum is more of a framework that is a form of an agile methodology. With scrum, work is split into short cycles known as "sprints," which usually last about 1-2 weeks. Development starts with a general idea of what needs to be built and a set of tasks that need to be done from a product backlog. Teams are lead by a scrum master who reviews their performance.
  4. Kanban Methodology: Kanban is another agile methodology PM system. Kanban is a visual representation of work in the form of a Kanban board. A kanban board is a visual representation of workflows, which utilizes an analog or digital board with columns and cards. The cards represent tasks, whereas the columns organize those tasks by their progress or current development stage.
  5. Scrumban Methodology: Scrumban, as the name suggests, is the combination of kanban and scrum project management systems. The main benefit of scrumban as a PM methodology is that instead of deciding which task to pull from the backlog to work on in each sprint one at a time, you can continuously pull tasks from the backlog based on capacity.

What Is Incremental Kanban Methodology?

As we saw in the above section, project management methodologies like scrum, kanban, and scrumban are a few of the popular agile methods. These approaches can be iterative or incremental. Though these terms might sound confusing, they have distinctive meanings. When we say a project management method is iterative, it means that you repeat a process or a task repetitively until you finish the work. But, in the case of incremental development, you build your product progressively as an addition to something that already exists.

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Now, in the case of kanban, it follows an incremental agile methodology approach. Incremental kanban project management methodology is an agile method that incorporates collaborative communication of capacity and transparency of work. Every project has a kanban board, which consists of a visual representation of work items, each assigned to a team member. It consists of columns named after items to-do (backlog), doing (in progress), and done (completed).

David J. Anderson, a pioneer in the field of kanban, has put forth the following as the fundamental principles of incremental kanban:

  1. Start with what you do now.
  2. Agree to pursue evolutionary change.
  3. Initially, respect current roles, responsibilities & job titles.
  4. Encourage acts of leadership at all levels.

How Is Incremental Kanban Different From Other Project Methodologies?

Here's a chart that compares the popular project management methodologies:

Note: Incremental kanban is not different from agile methodology since it's an agile framework in itself; hence, it conforms to the agile manifesto. Agile methodology can be either incremental or iterative, or both. The kanban framework is mainly incremental.

How to Implement Incremental Kanban for a Software Development Project

Kanban can be used for different kinds of projects. The following steps will guide you through implementing kanban for a software development project.

  1. Divide Your Development Cycle Into Stages

The precise stages of your development process will depend on how you want to apply kanban. Here's an example of how a software development process can be divided into meaningful stages:

  • Product backlog and requirements gathering
  • Design and development
  • Testing
  • Deployment
  • Done

After you divide the whole development process into meaningful stages, you should define the number of tasks to work on at every stage and then assign the tasks to developers and team members. After confirming that you have the proper estimates, you can add this information to the kanban board.

2. Creating the Kanban Board

As described in an earlier section, we bifurcate the tasks into the below columns:

  • The backlog section contains tasks that were received from the client and required to be analyzed. Each task is assigned a kanban card with color according to its priority.
  • When the developer starts a task to be developed, they move it from the backlog to In Progress column and mark it with their username to indicate that the task is taken.
  • When a task is done, it's moved to the Done section.

Kanban is a pull system. After the team member has finished the task, the kanban board's manager can pull it to the next stage, signaling the developers responsible for the previous stage to start another task. You should be careful not to violate these core practices, as they will disrupt progress and cause confusion.

3. Finding the Task Blockers

Although it's a subject of some debate, many teams choose to include a "Blocked" column in their kanban boards. This section is reserved for tasks that have some blocker or impediment. This will help the team to allot other resources for the task or resolve the blocker. Practices like this give a proper release projection and keep the team prepared for adverse situations.

4. Optimizing the Working Flow

Two influential metrics will allow you to track your working process: lead time and cycle time. Lead time tells you how much time it will take to finish the task after receiving it from the customer. Cycle time is the time required to complete a certain task after the developer started to work on it. It is essential for the project manager and the team to keep track of the metrics per task and bring them to completion on time.

Core Practices of Kanban to Follow

The following are the core practices of incremental kanban:

  1. Visualize
  2. Limit WIP
  3. Manage flow
  4. Make policies explicit
  5. Implement feedback loops
  6. Improve collaboratively, evolve experimentally (using models and the scientific method)

Why Choose Incremental Kanban?

Here are a few advantages of incremental kanban that make it one of the most desirable PM methodologies:

  • A continuous flow of development: Continuous integration is essential for maintaining quality, and it goes hand-in-hand with continuous delivery. One of the benefits of kanban is the ability to marry these two practices successfully. Kanban's ability to increase productivity and team focus leads to improved efficiency and reduced overhead. This allows teams to find ways to improve their work and deliver a perfect product continually.
  • Visibility and transparency for better workflow management: Visualization is a vital kanban practice, and the most recognizable feature of the method is the kanban board. Every project has a board of tasks to look at, and a series of procedural states that a task must pass through before it is delivered. Using the kanban board, everyone can instantly see how tasks are moving through the process. This visual presentation enables you to spot bottlenecks while they are forming easily.
  • Improve productivity and reduce costs: Kanban's focus on continuous improvement and agile responsiveness to issues often mean that projects seen through to completion have fewer errors and require less rework. It puts quality control back into the project management process, yielding more accurate outcomes.
  • Improve team members' ability to focus: As we have seen earlier, the kanban advises us to limit WIP. With WIP limits in place, no new tasks are allowed to be pulled into a process state before another task has been finished. Kanban benefits team members by focusing on a single task at a time rather than having their attention split between multiple work items.
  • Flexibility and responsiveness: Tasks can be changed at any given time. Even though frequently changing tasks is not a good practice, it comes in handy in critical situations. Product managers should try their best to limit the frequency of task changes.

Challenges of Implementing Incremental Kanban

  • Requires constant board monitoring: While many teams may consider this a benefit, it cannot be denied that a kanban board must be surveilled continuously to ensure that the cards do not become outdated.
  • Volatile demands or product changes may cause problems: The kanban system assumes stable, repetitive production plans. When it is fed with unexpected input, the results can also be unforeseen or unstable.
  • Not so useful if development resources are shared: The kanban system requires the development team to have dedicated resources for each task. Not doing so might mess up the entire setup.

Who Can Use Incremental Kanban?

We're talking about kanban in the software development field, but you should know that any organization can use kanban! Here's a rundown of who can use incremental kanban for software development:

  • Any organization that is looking for a robust and efficient PM methodology
  • Any size of organization, even individuals
  • Any phase of software development like development, testing, or designing

Crowdbotics Uses Incremental Kanban Methodology

Crowdbotics uses an incremental kanban PM methodology for the software development process. If you're looking to hire expert product management and software development fast, Crowdbotics offers managed app development services from vetted project managers. We can work as part of your team or build custom apps from scratch – whatever works for you.

Get in touch with us today for a detailed estimate and proposal.