Kanban Cycle: How It Works
Every modern software developer knows Kanban. This is an efficient methodology of software development that allows to deliver final products just in time. This article is dedicated to Kanban cycles. The understanding of this issue may help you implement Kanban properly in your software development team. But before characterizing the Kanban life cycle we would like to remind you the general principles of this methodology. Without understanding them it is quite hard to describe the whole structure of Kanban life cycles.
Kanban was invented as a project management tool. Actually it can be applied to any sphere of business which requires fast delivery of high quality product. Software development is not an exception. Probably it is the sphere where Kanban has gained the largest popularity. This methodology allows to run software development projects quickly and deliver the final product to the customer within the shortest amount of time. That is why lots of teams all over the world prefer to use Kanban tools to manage their projects. Like any other Agile methodology, Kanban is based on the principle of customer involvement into the process of work. The second main principle of Kanban is the principle of visualization. It is much simpler to manage the workflow if it is visualized. The third principle of Kanban implies the limitation of WIP (work in progress) units. That allows the team to concentrate all its resources for performance of certain tasks.
Now, as we know the main principles of Kanban, we can start our description of Kanban development cycle.
First of all we should define that Kanban cycles are not similar to the cycles of other Agile methodologies. They don’t include certain segments of work that are limited in time and accompanied with strict plans (like in Scrum). Kanban life cycle is the term that applies only to certain tasks. Kanban cycle time is the time required for one task to pass all stages of work. Usually these stages are mentioned on the Kanban task board. That allows team to stick to one of the main principles of this methodology – the principle of visualization. The developers can follow the progress of their work while the task is transferring from one column of the Kanban task board to another. Modern Kanban project management tools allow to developers visualize this process in form of charts or diagrams. This function is very convenient because it is the best means to analyze the workflow during one cycle, or the entire project.
Every Kanban cycle is subdivided into two parts.
The first part is called the lead time. It is the definition for the entire period of task processing. The lead time begins when the task is placed into the product backlog, and ends when it is delivered to the customer. The lead time is a wider definition than the cycle time.
The cycle time starts only when the task enters its first column on the Kanban task board. It means that the work on it has begun. The cycle time lasts until the product is delivered to the customer. Hence, it does not include the time when a certain task waits in the product backlog to become a WIP item.