How the Kanban method is inspiring our approach to issue management

How the Kanban method is inspiring our approach to issue management

Kanban is a process management technique, often referred to as the “Supermarket method”. This is because the idea was heavily influenced by the way supermarkets operate, with product control cards containing key information acting as a central part of the system. When Toyota adopted the method in their “Just-In-Time” (JIT) production system, they used a kanban (Japanese for billboard, or signboard) with the key information, and thus resulted in the method being renamed.

What sets the Kanban method apart from other process management techniques, is with Kanban you impose limits on each process. This, in return, restricts each part of the pipeline to only produce what is necessary, and creates a constant flow, as opposed to an incremental one.

In the software development pipeline, imposing these restrictions to the amount of work-in-progress at each stage can reveal bottlenecks, allowing you to address them far easier, and more efficiently than with other techniques. When applied to issue management, the Kanban method has the same effect, making it far easier not only to take care the issue at hand but also to see where the pipeline is failing.

How does Kanban work?

In Kanban, work is organized on a kanban board. This board has columns, representing each state work has to pass through, from left to right. For issue management in Deveo, we use Open, WIP, Evaluate, and Closed, though these can be customized by company administrators.

One of the main criteria in Kanban is to include a limit to the amount of “Work In Progress” is assigned to each state. It’s not essential that each limit is the same for each state, in fact, it makes more sense to vary limits, in order to optimize the workflow through the pipeline.

Once a WIP limit is reached, no additional work items can be added to that state, which in turn, creates a bottleneck effect. Before any new work can enter the filled state, the team has to work together to clear space. This is an effective way to highlight bottleneck points in your production workflow, and help you see, at a glance, which areas of operations needs more attention, be it a case of training, or manpower.

Why issue management in Deveo got the Kanban makeover?

In Deveo, like with many other SCM tools, issue management has always been listed. And while that works for some, it can often be visually difficult and time-consuming to find, follow, and manage issues, particularly at a glance.

In Deveo 3.12, we took inspiration from the Kanban method and introduced a drag and drop kanban board style layout. All the usual functionality of our list style issue management, such as custom states, filtering, and assigning issues is retained, and with our Kanban layout, states are separated into columns, with easy drag and drop functionality changing the state as it moves through the pipeline. Although limits are not imposed by Deveo issue management, a good workaround here is to include the limit in the title of your state.

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