Guest Post – Why Kanban & Why AgileZen?

by agilezen on February 24, 2012

David Shrimpton (@davidjshrimpton) is the Custom Website Development Manager for the Global publisher John Wiley & Sons. He works with teams across the UK, Germany, Singapore and Moscow. David has over ten years experience in managing software teams, products and projects. The views expressed here are my own and not those of anyone I work for.

David Shrimpton

David Shrimpton

Trying to change the way you work is one of the hardest challenges companies or departments face.  With AgileZen and Kanban we have been able to visualise our workload, monitor our workflow and introduce changes that have revolutionised the way we work as a department. It has also highlighted changes that we need to make in other areas of the company.

Over the past 2 years we have been using AgileZen and Kanban to help us examine and visualise the way we work. It has been a complete game changer for us and that’s why we have signed up to AgileZen for another year.

So what are the advantages of using Kanban and using AgileZen in visualising work flow and limiting your work which eventually leads to greater productivity?

According to David J Anderson, a major Kanban thought leader (@agilemanager on Twitter), the process leads to:

  • A smoother flow and greater agility
  • Evolutionary change and less resistance
  • Better predictability in controlling variability and eliminating over burdening
  • Better risk management

Our Process
Within AgileZen we have a number of boards which we use in our development, personal and project process. We have two main development boards: one for our ASP and .Net development, the other for our Java development.

On each board we have project work and issues and we ask our Product Manager to select the next stories to be worked on by our development teams. We have two main types of cards, one for Issues and the other for Projects.

Springboard Mirror Board - AgileZen

Smoother Flow
The advantage of AgileZen is that it helps us monitor our flow of cards moving from one side of the board to the other. We can see when items are not being pulled into the next column or blocked. We can then work to either free up resources to pull stories or swarm around blockers to make sure we resolve the issues.

AgileZen has helped us identify where we need to employ more resources to make sure we can continue pulling cards into columns at a steady rate.

With AgileZen you can see who wrote the story and who is in charge of it, whose working on the story at any stage and at which stage the story is within our development process.

We can also see where we need to look at our process and where things need discussing and changing.

Greater Agility
One of the main advantages of Kanban is that we can re-prioritize our next stories that the customer thinks are most important by changing them in the selected column before development analysis and work takes place. AgileZen makes it very simple and easy to do this by letting us pick up the card and drag or click to move into the next column.

With our process we have to be pragmatic so AgileZen lets us skip columns because our issues don’t go through the same process as our stories or MMF’s.

We can also monitor and change our process very easily. AgileZen provides us with monitoring tools and the ability to be able to move or change our columns with the click of our mouse.

Evolutionary Change – Less Resistance
With AgileZen you can monitor progress and then trial changes to improve the quality, delivery and length of time the product takes to be delivered. Because of the way AgileZen works it provides a visual reference and monitoring for where things are taking their time or when things are blocked and the reasons for that. It highlights problem areas which then you can look at with your teams and everybody knows where they are because everyone can see progress.

Better Predictability – Controlling Variability
AgileZen provides an easy way to measure how long a card takes to go from the selected column across the board into the archive. This lets us gauge how long small, medium or large stories may take to be delivered.

If we make a change then we can measure it over a period of time to see whether it has helped increase the quality of our products or the delivery time.

Better Predictability – Eliminate Over Burdening
When you first create your board within AgileZen you get to set your work in progress limits (WIP limits). By setting them low it means that the cards move faster through the board.

Within the AgileZen board you can see who is working on what story and if they have too much work and are themselves becoming a blocker. You can also see where you need to hire more staff to keep cards flowing through the board.

Better Risk Management
Because of the visual nature of Kanban we have the ability to not only monitor risks but also to collect data and diagnose long term issues which could then turn into risks for other software projects.

Conclusion
All of our Custom Sites team distributed teams across the world work with AgileZen and find it very easy to use. This tool is still one of the best and most simple one to use. This is why I would recommend all software teams to try Kanban and AgileZen and help change their process for the better.

If you have questions about how we’re using AgileZen, it would be great to hear from you in the comments.

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