BY Mahesh Singh | September 27, 2016 | Blog

With the latest update to SwiftKanban, we have made some exciting progress in supporting Enterprise Services Planning, Upstream or Discovery Kanban – and Portfolio Management with Kanban. At the same time, we have tackled one of the most needed, and fairly tricky, feature of customizing the information one can see on Kanban cards in the Kanban Board view.

Upstream Kanban and Minimum WIP Limits

Enterprise Services Planning helps organizations focus on the need to look at various organizational functions (departments) as services that need to be delivered smoothly, with maximum flow, in a coordinated manner, so that the overall delivery of products and services to the external customers is optimized. Any system – or function – must not only look at it’s own flow of work – but also how it is impacted by flow of work in both upstream functions – and how it might impact downstream functions’ flow of work.

Kanban, by its very design, helps teams and organizations engage in systems thinking and design – and optimize not just locally but also at the system level. Upstream or Discovery Kanban actively supports this principle and helps teams in the following ways –

1. Defer making commitments to external customers until both sides are ready to commit to the work being undertaken.

Upstream KanbanFigure 1 Copyright – Lean Kanban, Inc.

This is crucial since you do not want to spend effort and resources on work that might possibly be discarded. At the same time, you want to take up work that the customer is committed to take delivery off – so that later, once completed, finished product (be it software features or some physical products) do not end up as inventory waiting to be shipped. Inventory represents waste – one must avoid it!

Upstream Kanban provides for Kanban System design where upstream and downstream processes are modeled on one or multiple boards. Work flows from the upstream board to the downstream board, when pulled.

2. Use Minimum WIP Limits to ensure that downstream flows (teams) are not starved of work. Usually, Kanban boards have the maximum WIP Limits defined – which represent the maximum work that can be ‘open’ at any stage of the workflow. This helps reduce multi-tasking and overburdening of resources – and helps them focus on finishing the tasks at hand.

Minimum WIP Limits, on the other hand, take account of the fact that many times, there may NOT be enough work for the downstream teams/ functions. They, therefore, help both upstream and downstream functions focus on some minimum amount of work identified at all times at different stages of the overall flow so that downstream functions are not starved of work and sit idle.

With this update, SwiftKanban now supports both Maximum and Minimum WIP Limits. To understand how to define these WIP limits – and how they will function, please look at our online Help.

Portfolio Swim Lane Enhanced!

We launched our Portfolio Swim lane a few months back, boosting our already significant capability towards supporting Card Hierarchy and Portfolio Kanban capabilities. Using the Portfolio Lane capability, you can model multiple types of hierarchies – portfolio initiatives, programs, epics, for example – where the parent cards move in the Portfolio Lane while lower level cards – projects, user stories, etc. – would move in separate “lower” level swim lanes or even separate Kanban boards.

The Portfolio Lane allowed customers to track the progress of parent cards – be they programs, projects or portfolio initiatives – automatically, based on the progress of (completion of) their child cards. The % completion of the parent-child was computed based on the number of children cards completed as a ration of the total number of child cards.

Portfolio Lane

Figure 2- SwiftKanban Portfolio Board (click on the image to enlarge)

With this latest update, we have enhanced the Portfolio Lane capability so you can choose whether you prefer % complete computation based on the number of cards, the number of To Dos (tasks listed within each card) or completely manually captured.

Swim Lane Type Portfolio

Figure 3- Smart Lane settings at Admin level

With the new Portfolio Lane choices, you can now configure the Portfolio lane to behave exactly the way you want. By using To-do option, % progress of the card gets updated automatically based on that card’s To-do % completion. The parent card in a Portfolio Lane is automatically moved forward, based on the progress of the child card by selecting Portfolio lane choice as Hierarchy.

If you don’t want the parent cards to move automatically based on child card progress, and you want to enter a % complete manually on the Parent Cards, you do that as well. Based on the value entered, the parent cards will be positioned in the Portfolio Lane at the appropriate % point.

Customized Cards like never before!

As we all know, teams working with Kanban boards would like to have their Kanban Boards just so! Each team has a unique Kanban system, a unique workflow and their own policies on how to deal with work that goes through that. Their Kanban Boards need to reflect exactly how they work and how they want it to look and show.

SwiftKanban has long supported a variety of ways to configure the board, such as the SmartLane based swim-lane and columns design, the colors and attributes to support work item types and Classes of Services, visible Policies for each lane and column and so many others. We support extensive card configurability with numerous custom attributes teams and organizations can define for their Kanban systems.
One key requirement is that teams be able to show specific information on cards as they look at their Kanban Board. We have so far supported the ability to configure the information showed on the cards as viewed on the Kanban board from a pre-defined set of attributes

With this latest update, we have taken this capability to a dramatically higher level. You can now define as many as needed attributes that are common across the different card-types on a board – and choose which of them show up on the cards on your board. The only limitation now is the real-estate available on the cards!

I hope you are already using these new capabilities on SwiftKanban. If you are new to SwiftKanban, sign up now and check out these cool new capabilities! Give us feedback on how you like these and how we can improve further.

Mahesh Singh
Co-founder, Sr. VP – Marketing

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