February 16, 2022

Kanban for Software Development – A Comprehensive Guide

Majorities of businesses are already using Kanban in their day-to-day operations somehow. Whether you are using Kanban as sticky notes or cards, the aim is to manage your task flow efficiently. Kanban boards add visual efficiency to organizational workflows. 

Here is a detailed guide on Kanban for software development, its principles, tried and tested tips, and much more. So, let’s dive in. 

What is Kanban in software development?

Kanban software development is a type of agile development approach where a particular project is divided into shorter, actionable steps so that it is easier to manage. Agile product development teams appreciate this approach to managing their tasks streamlined. 

Japanese brand Toyota was the first to implement the Kanban approach in the 1940s to deploy the “Just-in-Time” methodology. Back then, workers in the Toyota factory would move cards across different columns to report real-time updates on tasks. 

Later in 2004, David J. Anderson borrowed this concept from the automotive industry and implemented it into software development. Kanban was first introduced to Microsoft, and currently, IT enterprises worldwide are using this approach. 

Four principles of Kanban in software development 

Before explaining the Kanban software development process in detail, let’s discuss the four foundation principles of the Kanban approach: 

1. Start with what you are doing now 

The Kanban approach recommends that businesses should not switch to the Kanban system overnight. This could cause problems for employees. It suggests that businesses can simply lay this approach over their current system and observe how things are going. A final call can be made after a while. 

2. Switch to incremental change over radical change 

The Kanban system is not fond of making radical changes all of a sudden. It rather focuses on keeping the current production style intact and making incremental changes over a while. This will allow the employees to adapt smoothly, and internal resistance will be lesser. 

3. Stay aligned with the existing organizational structure 

The Kanban system strictly recommends remaining respectful toward your existing organizational structure and not making any massive changes right away. It believes that eventually, internal teams will identify and make changes within the current process. 

4. Believe that everyone can be a leader 

The Kanban approach encourages everyone to become a leader. It believes that everyone has the potential to generate new ideas, improve the working process and create long-lasting impacts. 

Benefits of adopting Kanban board in software development 

A major benefit of using Kanban boards for the software development process is that it provides a complete visual representation of your workflow. Kanban development is flexible, easy, and great at providing real-time updates to the team members. 

Kanban software development is a great tool for team leaders and product managers to visualize multiple tasks at once. Here are a few quick benefits of Kanban boards when it comes to software development: 

  1. Simple and user-friendly software development approach 
  2. Kanban board helps the developers to build a clear, visual overview of the entire project 
  3. It helps in building an efficient workflow for all the team members 
  4. Encourages team collaboration thoroughly at every step of the development process by empowering each team member 
  5. Kanban boards can enhance the productivity of your development workforce through in-depth communication 
  6. With Kanban boards, it is easier to identify errors and take action accordingly 
  7. Kanban boards come with a visual representation of tasks, and hence prioritizing the critical tasks become easier 
  8. The visual nature of Kanban boards helps businesses to identify bottlenecks quickly and ensure that proper actions are taken to remove those 

What is Kanban for workflow development? 

Kanban is used to manage different organization workflows. Internal teams adopt Kanban to introduce the scrum approach in workflows. There are some vital steps to keep in mind while establishing a Kanban workflow. 

The very first step is to create a board. This board should be divided into three different columns, where each column represents a stage. At the top of each column, there is a label to showcase the name of that particular stage. 

 For example, the columns from left to right can represent three stages, namely – “To do”, “In-progress” and “Complete”. But this is for simple projects. Large software development projects involve multiple stages, and each stage includes numerous tasks and sub-tasks. You can customize the Kanban workflows based on your requirements in those cases. 

Steps to follow at the start of each development iteration 

At the beginning of the development iteration stage, follow the below steps to streamline your projects properly: 

  1. Segment the iterations into individual tasks 
  2. For each task, make sure to add the names over the index cards 
  3. Next, it is time to place the index cards on the boards 
  4. Finally, assign the cards to individual team members 

After the project managers assign individual tasks to the team members, it is now the team members’ responsibility to move the cards across different stages of the project. As your cards move across the board, you can identify the bottlenecks and take action accordingly. These iterations will continue until an index card reaches the rightmost column, and you can mark the task as “completed”. 

Kanban policies for software development 

Businesses should create a set of explicit policies to ensure that the Kanban board is working efficiently. This policy must include various aspects like steps to include in a task, deadlines, execution criteria, and so on. For instance, “Only project managers can name/rename the columns/stages”. 

Communicating these policies with your team members is very important. A great way to do this is to create a quick checklist that includes all policies, entry and exit criteria, relevant definitions, etc. 

Tips and Tricks for Kanban in software development 

Struggling with Kanban software development? Here are a few tips to help you: 

Set practical deadlines on Kanban boards 

The Kanban board moves from left to right, and the concept behind this is that it is far more important to complete a task than to start a new one. Kanban development believes in realizing value by completing a particular task. 

Also, before setting the deadline for a particular task, ensure that the task is delivered within the stipulated time. Don’t push the Kanban cards. Think from right to left, complete the tasks with top-notch quality and then only push the cards from left to right. It should not be the other way around. 

Keep track of lead time 

The Kanban software development approach helps the team members to concentrate more on their tasks and complete more within the same amount of time. An efficient Kanban system will help internal teams measure how much time they are completing within a particular time. Your Kanban tool can answer the following questions: 

  1. How much work is done within a particular time? 
  2. How long do you need, on average, to go from the “To-do” stage to the “Complete” stage? 
  3. How long does it take your team to deliver a task? 

Finding an answer to these questions also means knowing various metrics like lead time, cycle time, throughput, etc. 

Arrange workshops for internal teams 

Is it your team’s first time using Kanban software development? Well, they need a training program or Kanban workshop to adapt to the changes in the current workflow. As a project manager, you might be well versed in the Kanban software development process. However, your team has to understand the process too. That’s only when the implementation of the Kanban system will be successful. 

Align Kanban and agile 

Many times, organizations are unable to align Kanban and agile methodologies. Largely because the agile development approach is associated with working in sprints, whereas Kanban is more of a continuous workflow. As a result, teams are often clueless about planning iterations successfully. 

However, businesses can easily resolve this mismatch by introducing the Scaled Agile Framework (SAF). This framework believes in centralizing overall development control to the management of an organization. Once you adopt this framework, Kanban-based workflow management becomes much simpler. With this framework in the picture, iteration and planning issues can be overcome when each team member gives an estimate of each task within the Kanban board. 

Hence, teams can easily estimate the following: 

  1. How long will a particular iteration take? 
  2. Do you have the capacity? 
  3. What additional resources can speed up the process? 

Encourage open communication

Kanban software development focuses on developing an open communication and feedback network that helps manage boards and ensures that all team members are participating productively. An organizational culture of open communication always helps teams find bottlenecks quickly and fix internal issues. 

Mythbusters of Kanban in software development 

Implementing Kanban software development is always a great decision. But you have to be mindful of the myths. There are a lot of Kanban myths floating around, and these can slow down your workflow eventually. 

Here are a few Kanban development myths that you must NOT believe in: 

Myth 1: Kanban is only for IT teams 

Not really! The Kanban approach was initially created for the automotive industry. However, due to its simplified approach, it became a top favorite for the IT teams. It is a universal approach, and other teams like marketing, sales, finance, etc., can also use it in their favor. 

Myth 2: Kanban is only for the employee support teams 

Support teams can be benefitted from the Kanban system. However, the Kanban approach should not only be limited to the support teams. Kanban’s visualization features are extraordinary, and all internal business teams can be benefitted from this system. 

Myth 3: Kanban doesn’t allow proper planning 

Planning might not be the central factor for Kanban, but there are enough opportunities for you to plan your projects with this approach. The Kanban approach rather neatly handles projects, and there is no chance of missing out on planning. 

Kanban board examples for software development teams 

Here are a few examples of Kanban boards for your development teams: 


Marketing teams are always juggling multiple tasks simultaneously. They are in dire need of a project management tool that helps streamline various tasks like running ad campaigns, social media campaigns, sending email newsletters, publishing blogs, etc. Hence, marketing teams will largely be benefitted from the Kanban approach. They can easily create different boards for different tasks and assign each task to respective team members. 


Sales is a compilation of different activities like awareness, relationship-building, decision-making, etc. All these activities can be easily organized with Kanban boards. Sales teams can create individual cards for each prospect and add tasks to build a personalized approach. 

Building a Kanban on DronaHQ for software development teams 

Kanban software development process is simple, flexible, and user-friendly. IT teams can easily manage their daily workflows by adopting this approach. In fact, you can create Kanban boards internally with DronaHQ’s “Kanban Control” feature. 

It helps internal business users to: 

  1. Display each task 
  2. Adding new tasks to the workflow 
  3. Deleting old tasks 
  4. Updating group tasks 

DronaHQ offers numerous customization options to design and manage the Kanban item cards according to your team’s preferences. Start exploring now

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