There is no doubt that the Kanban board is a tremendous tool for improving workflow efficiency because it visualizes all tasks in a work process and provides overall process transparency.
It allows teams to have a clear overview of all work items and to control them through the different stages of their workflow.
Of course, when considering how to create a Kanban board, you need to have your team’s needs in mind. Therefore, the application of Kanban may vary for the different teams.
In the following paragraphs, we tried to collect and show you some of the Kanban best practices.
Let’s have a more detailed look.
The basic Kanban board is a great start for teams who are new to the Kanban concept. It usually consists of 3 to 4 columns without any complications.
This simplified Kanban board is a great way for beginners to visualize their work and establish the foundations of a highly efficient workflow. Here, Kanban finds its application in the most organic way.
This template can serve well teams who have time-sensitive work (e.g. customer support, technical support, etc.).
Day-to-day Kanban boards can be really helpful when there are many small tasks planned, which don’t require much effort and go intensively through the workflow.
They are a perfect solution for a workflow, which hosts fast moving tasks with short cycle times.
Often, teams are focused on day-to-day operational tasks and when the workflow begins to run faster, it becomes difficult to see the bigger picture on a strategic level. This is the exact moment when Portfolio Kanban finds its application.
The Portfolio Kanban board template is similar to the previous one, however, it is suitable for planning your long-term activities and overall strategies. For example, it is a great way of visualizing the strategic evolution of a company, a department or a team.
Depending on the size of a company/department or the focus of work, portfolio boards my vary. Here are a few examples that you may use in different situations.
- Product Development Portfolio Board
As you can see, this agile Kanban board can help you visualize, manage and keep track of all important aspects of the product development process. This is a great way for everyone to see the direction that your company follows in regard to product development.
You can simply prioritize all initiatives by using two Kanban swimlanes as shown on the image above and follow the process.
The one at the top is for work that must be delivered, which means it is crucial for the success of the product. The bottom one is for optional work that is good to be delivered, but it is not of critical importance for the product development.
- Strategic Portfolio Board
This portfolio board can be applied on a global level and serve as a strategic roadmap. Here you can keep track of key initiatives that bring tangible value to your company.
The requested section of your board may start with a column for ideas that are yet to be broken down into actionable work items (in this case called OPTIONS). Right next to it, you can add a column for projects that are in the process of clarifying and delegating among your teams (PROBE).
The first “In Progress” stage can be dedicated to running a pilot test of the initiative (PILOT). If the results are optimistic, you can proceed to a full-scale execution in a separate column (BUILD UP/UPDATE).
Before putting any initiative to Done, it is important to make sure that every part of the project has been completed up to your standards. We recommend placing a column called SIGN OFF as a final step before deeming the initiative completed.
If you decide to drop an initiative for any reason, just move its card to the bottom swimlane (DISCARDED).
- IT Operations Portfolio Board
In case you are wondering how to create a Kanban board for an IT product portfolio, this is a classic example. The workflow steps are pretty simple and they follow the natural flow of IT teams.
If you want to classify the work you can simply do it by using swimlanes for business projects and internal projects.
In the top one you put initiatives that support the business in executing high-value activities, while in the bottom one you place initiatives that support the normal functioning of the company.
- Master Project Portfolio Board
This portfolio board is applicable for small to midsize companies where it is easier for executives to keep an eye on multiple teams at the same time.
As you can see on the image above, the stages of the workflow are basic and swimlanes are used to classify the work of different teams.
This is pretty simple, but it can help you see what is happening in the different departments of your company at a glance.
Kanban Helps Companies on a Portfolio level:
– Achieve a high-level of transparency
– Organize and keep track of all initiatives and projects
– Acquire accurate status reports delivered in real-time
– Use data-driven forecasting
IT operations teams often have a problem with prioritizing their work in the most optimal way. This is due to the enormous amount of tasks IT departments have to deal with. Therefore, using a Kanban board to visualize workflows can give a significant advantage to IT operations teams.
Apart from using columns to differentiate the stages of the flow, the team can use swimlanes to avoid priority conflicts and acquire a better understanding of the tasks’ importance. After all, a Kanban board can help IT teams plan better, focus and speed up delivery.
But let’s discover some different board designs appropriate for IT teams.
- IT Operations Beginners Board
If your team is new to Kanban, you can start with this simple approach. Map your workflow on the board without any complications.
Begin with a Ready to Start column and then just visualize the significant process steps that a task must pass to reach Done. It is also a good idea to use swimlanes to prioritize work and tackle urgent issues.
- IT Operations Master Board
Depending on the size of your organization, your IT team can have a wide spectrum of activities to process. In such cases, there could be smaller sub-teams such as sysadmin, NETENG, DBA, and others.
This is the right moment to use separate swimlanes for your sub-teams. This way you can keep an eye on everything that is happening in your IT department at a glance.
On the other hand, it could be a real pain to maintain all the work in one place if your IT unit expands. Therefore, you better go the extra mile and build those separate boards for each of your IT teams.
- IT Sysadmin Board
The sysadmin board will help your dedicated team organize and track their work in a convenient way. Sysadmins have a wide variety of tasks and having their own board will help them stay coordinated and productive.
Using similar Kanban board temples, as shown above, will help your team differentiate tasks such as running backups, maintaining system security, checking system configurations, etc. and speed up delivery.
- IT DBA Board
Database administrators (DBA’s) can also have their own board. Not just for the sake of having it, but because it will be much easier for them to tame the chaos and track their work on a separate board.
As we all know, when teams grow processes become more complex. So having their own board will help DBA teams keep track of tasks with different priority and scope. For example, managing VLDB’s, efficiently loading the data warehouse of data extracted from multiple existing production systems and others.
- IT Master Process Board
IT departments usually try to process more work than their capacity allows. Most of this work remains invisible, and as we know invisible work causes longer lead time and cycle time. This may result in a chaotic work process, angry customers, and unhappy line managers.
Therefore, you can use this last example, that shows you how to structure your IT ops board in a way that can help you acquire a better overview of the different workflows in your IT unit.
You can see everything at a glance, from regular activities such as fixing issues and maintenance to internal and business projects that are of greater importance from a strategic point of view.
In this case, the columns represent commonly accepted workflow stages of ?n IT team. However, with Kanban, you have the flexibility to configure your board in any way that fits your team’s needs.
Kanban Helps IT Teams:
– Avoid the overloading of certain parts of the team
– Differentiate types of work and prioritize
– Identify areas/resources within IT causing blockage for things being done
– Define the overall time it takes tasks to move through the system under each work stream
Support teams usually have very dynamic workflows. Tasks are coming and going faster compared to other teams. Furthermore, if you have a decent amount of customers, sooner or later, it becomes crucial for you to have a centralized solution so you can track all customer or internal requests. This is where Kanban comes into play.
A Kanban board for support teams may look different depending on the nature of your business. Here, the usage of swimlanes is inevitable. The team can apply them in order to divide work precisely based on priority, the time needed for solving an issue and else.
Moreover, team members can attach any details related to a certain issue and follow the status of any ticket. These advantages make the communication and the tracking process much more efficient and reliable.
Let’s explore a few useful examples that may help you when considering how to create a Kanban board for your support team.
- First Level of Support Board
It is a common practice support teams to be divided into first and second level of support. First level of support is responsible for basic customer issues. Usually team members gather as much information as possible from the customer in order to solve a problem.
However, clients can also be internal users, so it may be a good idea to use swimlanes in order to divide external support tickets from internal ones (as shown on the image above).
As work items go naturally through the workflow, some typical process stages may be implemented as a Client Feedback column, a Waiting on RND column or any other stage applicable to a specific team needs.
- Second Level of Support
The second line is a more in-depth level of support where team members are more experienced and have an extensive knowledge of a particular product or service. For the very same reason their tasks may be of higher business importance.
Therefore, swimlanes may be used to differentiate high business value tasks from regular support tickets. As usual, an Incidents/Expedite can be used on top of the board alarming for urgent tasks.
- Combined Support Board
As you can see, this board is a combination of the previous two examples. Here the swimlanes may be used for a precise work prioritization and time management.
In general, this board could help the different lines of support to collaborate efficiently and keep control on different customer issues no matter the level of their complexity.
Kanban Helps Support Teams:
– Organize great amount of work
– Keep track of every support ticket
– Have better control over the work process
– Maintain a short cycle time of solving customer issues
Dev teams usually have a workflow that consists of many functional steps. Here is why an agile Kanban board designed for development teams can have a certain level of complexity.
A Kanban board template for dev teams will naturally have a large number of columns such as Business requirements, Development, Verifications and etc. However, very often the essence of work is different.
For example, some tasks may require work on defects/bugs and others may require work on new product features. This is a great opportunity to implement swimlanes, so you can visually distinguish the various classes of work.
Now, let’s explore some examples of Kanban boards that may be suitable for different software development teams.
- Small Development Team’s Board
This board is appropriate for small teams or ones that are relatively new to the Kanban method.
As you can see the workflow consists of basic process stages for a typical software dev team such as design, development, code review, testing & deployment.
It is commonly accepted that such teams should have a Review column in order to establish high-quality standards.
Also, it is a common practice to implement an Expedite swimlane in order to differentiate urgent tasks from planned work.
- Software Dev Team Board with QA Included
Naturally, software dev teams may work on the same board with their QA peers. In these cases, you can structure a joint board as shown on the image above.
You may want to implement two or more columns for the QA team depending on the complexity of your teams’ processes.
Typically you’d have to put them right after the software dev team’s “in progress” stage and they will serve as a filter that secures high-quality standards before work items go to production.
For such scenarios, it is also a typical use case to use swimlanes in order to separate different classes of work such as Defects/Bugs, Features, etc.
- Front-end/Back-end Kanban Board
This agile Kanban board consists of the most typical steps for a software dev team. It is pretty similar to the example for small development team shown above.
However, in this case, swimlanes are used to separate bugs and front-end tasks from back-end work items. Here, the trick is that you can use task dependencies between the last two swimlanes in order to avoid miscommunication.
For example, imagine that you have a front-end task that should be started only when a related back-end task is completed. In this case, you can use task dependencies which will allow you to visually block the front-end task until the back-end task is finished. This common practice helps teams to stay tuned for what needs to be done next and improves collaboration.
- Software Kanban Board with UAT Stage
Similarly to the previous board example this one follows the logic of visualizing some of the basic software dev process stages. Swimlanes are also used to structure common types of work for such teams like defects, features, and urgent tasks.
The difference here comes with the User Acceptance column. User acceptance testing (UAT) is the last phase of the software testing process.
Some teams skip this step, but many prefer to go with it in order to collect valuable feedback from real customers. During UAT, actual users test the software to make sure it can meet customers’ requirements in real-world scenarios.
The UAT step can be of critical importance if you have lots of users so you can use small groups of them to test and validate certain features before wide implementation. It is also applicable if you deliver software for external clients, so they can test the product before the final production stage.
- Kanban Board for Advanced Software Dev Teams
Kanban boards give you limitless opportunities to structure and organize your team’s workflow. Depending on the complexity of your work process you can unfold a Kanban board to a complex workflow system such as the one shown above.
In this case, you can see that there are various workflow stages that may include tech design, development, and UI/UX. At the same time, swimlanes are used to differentiate types of work such as bugs and features.
However, in more complicated scenarios swimlanes can also be used to visualize the work of multiple other teams whose work is closely related to the software dev team activities. In the current case – customer support and QA.
If you are relatively new to the Kanban world, we recommend to start simple and evolve your board naturally as you and your team become more familiar with the method.
Kanban Helps Software Dev Teams:
– Organize different types of work and prioritize
– Identify bottlenecks in the work process
– Detect blockers and boost collaboration
– Reduce wasteful activities and speed-up delivery
QA teams are closely related to Dev teams. In this sense, both are seemingly important for the success of any product development process. They are inter-dependable and this is why their boards often look similar. Even more, it is a widespread practice Dev teams and QA teams to work on the same board.
Here, the swimlanes also find their application. For example, they can be used as a prioritizing tool. With their help, critical issues can be easily located and tracked when needed.
Therefore, a QA team’s Kanban board can have swimlanes such as “Low Priority”, “Normal Priority” and “Expedite”. Additionally, QA teams can rely on different card types so they can specify what kind of issue they work on (bug, new feature, etc.).
Here are two Kanban board designs that can be appropriate for QA teams.
- QA Team Board with Types of Work
As quality engineers are responsible for the high standards of each feature/product, they have to ensure quality delivery in every release.
In order to separate different types of work QA teams, you can use swimlanes such as Bugs, Features, Expedite, etc. This way, the team can acquire a clear overview of their current work in progress.
The columns could be labeled as shown on the image above or they can be even more process-specific, such as in the example below.
- Process-Specific QA Board
In this case, you pull the cards, which represent features that need to be tested. The swimlanes are used to separate the work items related to different products.
If performing a regression test is your final reassurance that a feature is ready for deployment, be sure to make it the last step in your process.
Otherwise, you could add a column called Final Regression, just before the Done column, to clarify the difference between work in testing and work that has passed testing but still needs final regression.
Kanban Helps QA Teams:
– Eliminate unrealistic expectations
– Keep track of tasks
– Define the actual team’s capacity
– Prioritize work
Marketing teams have a wide variety of tasks and their workflow is very dynamic. Therefore, many marketers are already taking advantage of using agile Kanban boards.
If you are a marketer, you can use swimlanes to divide tasks according to their focus on your board. For example, you can have different lanes for content, traditional media, digital marketing and design tasks.
Actually, depending on the size of your team, internal culture or any other specific factors, you may structure a Kanban board differently to fit your needs best.
Here are a few agile Kanban board examples that may be applicable for marketing teams.
- Small Marketing Team’s Board
If you are relatively new to Kanban or your team is small, you may start with this simple board. It is easy to visualize and organize your workflow to keep track of tasks.
Breaking down the progress section can be of invaluable help for keeping a close eye on each task’s advancement through your process. This way you can acquire a better overview of what remains to be done.
In order to differentiate urgent tasks, you can use swimlanes as shown on the image above. It is a common practice to implement an Expedite swimlane. There you can move work items that need to be processed without any delay, for example, prepare a press release to address ? PR crisis.
- Marketing Agency Board
In case you are a marketing agency, you probably work with many different clients. The image above shows a sample scenario that may be applicable to the case.
Usually, a marketing process may include steps such as content creation, design, promotion and so on. This is why you may use these steps to name your workflow stages, which will be the columns on your board.
On the other hand, if you put all the information for the different clients in one place at some point it may become confusing and messy.
This is why you can use swimlanes (as shown on the image above) in order to separate the tasks dedicated to each client. This way, information won’t get mixed and work will be structured and visible.
- In-house Marketing Team Board
If you have an in-house marketing team, then you know that there can be many different stages of the work process. Therefore, using a Kanban board is a great way to organize team tasks in an efficient way.
You may use the first two columns to prioritize assignments that will be tackled with priority or in the near future. Naturally, the following step should be a Working column. Cards are to be pulled into this column when they are ready to be executed.
It is a good practice to implement a “Review” column to indicate that an assignment is being evaluated before deeming it completed or returning it for rework.
Further, in the process, there could be different columns depending on the team, but it is a good idea to have a stage where cards can remain while waiting on external stakeholders.
For example, Waiting on 3rd Party. Other columns you can include in your marketing process are Experiments where you track all running tests and Ready for delivery.
Last but not least, you can use swimlanes to separate different classes of work such as Content, Design, etc.
- Content Marketing Team Board
Lately, it is becoming popular for marketing departments to create dedicated content marketing teams. This is why, you may want to try this Kanban board example that fits your content team.
As you can notice, the board structure is similar to the previous example. However, here after the Requested column, you have columns for content creation and design, while swimlanes are used to differentiate planned work and urgent tasks.
On the other hand, a content marketing team can deal with other accompanying activities such as SEO that are an integral part of content marketing. You can dedicate a separate column for them called Other.
Kanban Helps Marketing Teams:
– Organize and manage work in one place
– Keep track of every task and project
– Never miss project deadlines
– Improve internal & external communication
A Piece of Advice From Us
You may structure Kanban boards in many different ways depending on work focus, team’s functionalities, external factors and etc. Building the optimal version of your board is an ongoing process, and it should reflect all dynamics in the working environment.
1. Start with what you do now. Map your current workflow as it is. Don’t be tempted to make fundamental process reconstructions. They are time-consuming and costly. Your work process may just need some small improvements.
2. Pay attention when using ready-made templates. All Kanban board examples are built to meet the needs of specific teams. Figure out what your team’s needs are and build the board around them.
3. Pursue evolutionary change. You should constantly improve your Kanban boards in order to find the best structure that fits your team’s working processes. But even when you find it, you don’t have to stop because there is always a place for improvements.