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What is Kanban?

When it comes to the topic of agile development, many people think of the very popular SCRUM methodology. But SCRUM is not the only way to apply agile project management in an organization. Kanban is another method that has already been tried and tested in many areas and is used extremely successfully.

History of development

The system originates from Japan. The traditional Japanese car manufacturer Toyota developed the method for its internal needs as early as 1947. At that time, Toyota optimized the flow of materials by using the new system. The company wanted to eliminate bottlenecks and, at the same time, avoid excessive stocks of production materials. The result of these efforts is now known as the “pull method”, as supplies are only requested when stocks are nearing their end.

Benefits for project management

Teams using the system are primarily looking to streamline workflow while also improving productivity and the quality of the end product. Kanban is one of the so-called “agile methods” and as such allows work stages to be extremely flexible. Tasks are broken down into smaller steps and processed one after the other. The changeover to the new method usually takes place without any further problems. In contrast to other similar systems, the Kanbanmethod can be quickly and easily integrated into existing processes. This is realized so openly that it is possible to use other methods such as Scrum in addition to the Kanbansystem.


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The functionality at a glance

In the center of the system is the so-called “Kanbanboard, with which the visualization of the work steps is realized. All tasks are displayed on a board that can be seen by all team members. This board can be, for example, an ordinary pin board or whiteboard. Individual tasks are clearly arranged on the board, for example in the form of index cards.
The board itself is divided into at least three columns. On the left side is the backlog, where all pending tasks are collected. This is followed by the column in which all the tasks currently to be processed are placed. This column is called “Work in Progress” (WIP). The cards move from left to right and go through all the passes until they arrive at the final column with the completed cards. A total of five different practices can be defined by Kanban, namely:

  • Visualization
  • Limitation
  • Management
  • Regulation
  • Feedback

Advantages and disadvantages of Kanban

  • easy integration
  • continuous optimization of workflows
  • increased transparency
  • However, there are also some disadvantages. For example, it is imperative that the work process can actually be divided into individual steps. If this is not possible, then the complete system makes no sense. Another reason why the system is not the perfect solution for every team comes from its high flexibility. Kanban ensures that problems at a station become visible quickly and capacities can be shifted as needed. However, this is only possible if capacities are actually available.


Kanban is an agile method, which is characterized by a first-class flexibility and can show its full potential especially in the field of software development.

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