28/05/2024 |

Kanban board – for agile project management

Kanban is a method used in agile project management to make work processes visible and thereby improve them. A Kanban board is a project management tool that uses the principle of visualization. This means teams can work transparently on tasks and problems. This article shows how Kanban can be used effectively and will be used as a feature in OTRS.

Kanban Board

What is the meaning of Kanban?

Kanban is the Japanese term for “signal card” or “visual signal”. It is about making processes and workflows visible. Work on services, products or technologies is often not tangible. Kanban changes this: tasks, their due dates and their respective status can be shared in teams so that everyone is on the same page.  

Origin in automotive production 

Kanban originated in automobile production. In the 1940s, the automotive manufacturer Toyota decided to produce vehicles according to the pull principle. This means that only what was needed was stored and only what was missing was created. This method of “lean” production was used to avoid waste. This just-in-time principle enabled Toyota to save huge amounts of money and operate much more efficiently.  

Popularity within the software sector 

It was therefore not surprising that this approach quickly caught on. Kanban became widely adopted.  

With a few further developments, it was initially used by software development teams. Later, it grew in popularity across all industries. Today, the Kanban method is particularly well established in the software and service sectors.  

The pull principle has remained the same. Tasks are taken, or pulled, only when needed by team members.  

What is a Kanban board? 

In general, Kanban boards offer a transparent way to achieve the following: 

  • Visualize work items and information flows 
  • Identify and eliminate bottlenecks 
  • Prioritize and complete tasks 

In general, a basic kanban board serves to increase efficiency. It provides teams with an accurate overview of their tasks and the related processing statuses. 

Important elements of a Kanban process 

There are several elements of a Kanban board to consider. Here is a quick overview of the most important ones. 

  1. Kanban cards – cards or slips of paper that represent individual tasks or work packages, including relevant information and details.  
  2. Work in Progress (WIP) – Limits on the number of tasks that can be in each phase of the process at any one time.  
  3. Pull system – New tasks are not actively assigned. They are “pulled” by team members when they have capacity and are ready to take on new work.  
  4. Continuous improvement – The relevant teams regularly review the process to identify and remove potential bottlenecks and obstacles. They look for ways to work more efficiently. 
  5. Transparent communication – By communicating openly, sharing relevant information and keeping the Kanban board up to date, the status of tasks and workflows are clarified. 
  6. Service Level Agreements (SLAs)Service Level Agreements are in place to define the time required to complete a task through the process. This makes it possible to develop binding workflow management and better meet customer requirements. 

Tip: Users should not be rigidly guided by certain elements. They should work out the processes in such a way that they bring them the best possible benefit for each person and the team. Kanban should not restrict teams but give them more options and enable agile working.  However, the key elements of a Kanban process provide users with important orientation. 

Working with a Kanban board 

Teams use Kanban boards as visual aids to track, promote and shape the progress of tasks or projects. A Kanban board typically consists of columns that represent different phases of the work process, such as these: 

  • To Do 
  • Doing  
  • Done 

The team members place cards or slips of paper on the board that represent individual tasks or task packages. These now move across the board column by column whenever their status changes.  

For example, a card is moved from the “To do” column to the “Doing” column when someone starts working on the task. Then, it is move to the “Done” column when the task has been completed. 

Extensions for complex projects and processes  

Extensions are useful for more complex processes or projects, such as these:  

  1. To Do 
  2. Analysis 
  3. Development (Doing) 
  4. Test 
  5. Done 

Types of Kanban boards 

Depending on their needs and preferences, teams can use different types of Kanban boards. Here are some examples: 

  • Physical boards: Whiteboards and sticky notes are usually used here. The whiteboard has multiple columns. Physical cards or sticky notes are stuck to the board to represent progress on various tasks. 
  • Digital Kanban boards: These offer similar functionality to physical Kanban boards. Instead of physical cards, digital cards are used. Columns are edited and shared by team members online. 
  • Personal Kanban boards: Individuals use these to manage their individual tasks and projects. They can be either physical or digital – and are often simpler than boards for teams. 
  • Scrum Kanban boards: A scrum board combines Kanban with the framework of Scrum. They can be created using Scrum tools and help teams to optimize their workflows. 
  • Portfolio Kanban boards: These are used at a higher level to track the progress of multiple projects or initiatives at once. They provide an overarching view of the workflow. 

Principles for Kanban boards 

There are different approaches to achieving goals in project and process management. With the Kanban methodology, the principle is: start with what you have. It is therefore a pragmatic approach that is based on the status quo. 

The so-called WIP (Work In Progress) limits also play an important role. This means that the employees involved may only complete a certain number of tasks at the same time. Certain tasks must be completed first before new ones can be started. This prevents potential overload and ensures tasks are completed. 

Kanban vs. scrum 

Kanban and Scrum are both agile methods that enable teams to work in a more efficient, targeted and customer-oriented manner. 

The main differences lie in these points: 

  • Scrum works with a fixed time frame (sprints), while Kanban is based on a continuous, real time flow of work. 
  • Scrum defines specific roles (e.g. Product Owner, Scrum Master). In Kanban, on the other hand, there are no clearly defined roles. 
  • Tasks are planned and prioritized at the beginning of each sprint in Scrum. This is done flexibly in Kanban – according to current requirements. 
  • The WIP limits are firmly anchored in Kanban processes, whereas Scrum does not have such restrictions explicitly.  
  • Scrum uses metrics such as velocity (speed) and burndown charts. Throughput, lead time and cycle time play important roles in Kanban. 

The advantages
of Kanban

A Kanban system offers a number of advantages, especially when it comes to improving workflows and processes. It is particularly popular with agile teams and methods in order to optimize work processes and act more efficiently. 

The most important benefits are listed below:   

  • Visualization of workflows: Kanban boards graphically represent entire workflows. This allows teams to quickly get an overview of their tasks and respective status. This transparency makes it easier to prioritize tasks and thus process them more targeted and structured.  
  • Avoidance of bottlenecks: WIP limits mean that only a certain number of tasks can be tackled at the same time. Tasks tend to be completed more quickly (shorter lead time). By using Kanban to better organize their work, users benefit from continuous optimization. 
  • Agility and adaptability: Kanban can be flexibly adapted to the individual requirements of a team or project. It can be adapted and optimized again and again without the need to completely redesign the process. 
  • Optimized collaboration: By having the entire team use a Kanban board, progress is transparent and easily accessible. This provides an ideal basis for working together effectively and keeping an eye on the tasks and workload together. Needed intervention can happen whenever necessary.  
  • Learning processes: Through Kanban, teams live a culture of continuous improvement. By regularly reflecting on their work processes, teams learn, adapt and constantly improve their performance. 
  • Customer centricity: Plenty of companies have already recognized customer centricity as a crucial value. By focusing on consistently good results and enabling quick responses to requests, Kanban contributes to clear added value for customers.  


Kanban view in OTRS 

With the upcoming Kanban view, tickets and tasks can be managed even more effectively, conveniently and purposefully within OTRS. Workflows will be clearly visible, and tasks can be prioritized and organized more easily. This gives users a better overview and provides interactive options for organizing entire workflows more efficiently. 


The goals 

With the Kanban view in OTRS, you can achieve plenty of goals at once. In general, it works with visual possibilities that give tickets a project and process focus. They allow tasks to be organized intelligently, clearly and purposefully. This means that teams can react faster, more efficiently and more agilely. 

Here are the most important goals of the Kanban view in detail: 

  • Provide a visual representation of the “ticket flow” 
  • To be able to prioritize tickets better 
  • Optimize workflow management 
  • Enable more focused collaboration and plenty of transparency in teams 
  • Customize views individually to processes and workflows

The benefits 

The benefits of this upcoming feature are, of course, closely related to its goals. Tickets can be quickly overviewed on a project and process-oriented basis. The right next steps can be taken quickly as a team. 

The Kanban view enables the following: 

  • streamlined ticket management 
  • higher productivity 
  • lots of flexibility 
  • customization options for support teams 
  • greater visibility of workflows and ticket statuses 
  • better decision making with lots of visibility 

Details about the Kanban feature 

Here are some more exciting and interesting details about the upcoming Kanban view in OTRS. 

  1. Users will be able to view, organize and manage tickets accordingly. 
  2. Teams can customize the levels/columns of the Kanban view according to their workflows. 
  3. Permissions allow you to control who can move tickets between stages. 
  4. The Kanban view is responsive and can therefore be used on desktop and mobile devices. 

Conclusion: Kanban makes teams more successful 

Kanban is ideal for helping teams to organize and position themselves better. Numerous examples – starting with production at Toyota – prove that this method can make teams more efficient and projects more successful. It can even increase customer satisfaction. 

It’s important to emphasize that Kanban can be used flexibly and adapted to individual needs. Instead of being subject to rigid guidelines, teams can develop precisely the processes and workflows that bring them the greatest benefit. 

With the new Kanban view, these advantages can be utilized in OTRS. Among other things, users benefit from an optimized visual display and can organize tickets in a way that helps them better achieve their goals. Workflow status can be quickly seen and managed efficiently. 

Learn more about OTRS and how it can help your teams excel. 

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