How to Use Kanban with Software Testing

In the software development world, demands for quality software and a fast speed to market for new features have never been higher. Against this backdrop, software testing teams face a tall order to do more and achieve higher quality standards while completing development cycles faster. Meeting those objectives isn’t easy, but it is possible with the right approach to project management.

Enter kanban.

Taking a kanban approach to project management helps software testing teams meet today’s high demands with ease by staying organized, improving transparency, and maintaining strong communication.

Kanban in Software Testing: Understanding What and How

Born from Toyota’s efforts to improve efficiency and simplify processes, kanban is a project management approach that has proven particularly popular among Agile software testing teams.

What’s the Value of Kanban in Software Testing?

Kanban is a visual-driven model for project management that focuses on continuous improvement, and transparency in workflows. At the simplest level, kanban in software testing is all about visualizing project status to clearly understand what’s sitting in a backlog waiting to get picked up, what work is currently in progress and what work is complete.

The visual nature of kanban makes it easy for everyone involved in the software testing process to get a clear snapshot of the work in progress and the status of each task at any time. Ultimately, this transparency simplifies collaboration and makes it possible to identify, communicate, and resolve issues in real-time.

Because of this improved transparency, collaboration, and communication, using kanban in software testing also helps teams keep tasks running through the workflow smoothly and maintain an amount of work that feels manageable to avoid over-committing and under-delivering.

How Does Kanban in Software Testing Work?

So how does kanban in software testing actually work to accomplish these goals?

Applying kanban in software testing starts by defining the steps in your workflow. These steps might be more generic, such as “Upcoming,” “In Progress,” and “Complete,” or more function-specific, such as “Test Plan,” “Test Design,” “Test Execution,” and “Test Reporting.”

Once you’ve defined the steps in your workflow, you need to create columns for each step. You can create this visual using a whiteboard or kanban software. If you go the function-specific route for your workflow steps, you might create two sub-columns under each step: One for work that’s in progress and another for work that’s complete. This split is important because kanban in software testing focuses on differentiating between tasks awaiting attention, tasks currently in progress and tasks that are finished.

Next, you create cards for each project or task. As work begins, you will move these cards through each step in the workflow to map their progress and make it easy for everyone to identify where each project or task stands at any given time. Finally, you need to set a limit for the number of cards that can fall in each column at once. Setting this work in process limit (or WIP Limits) is essential to achieving success with kanban in software testing, as this limit will help make sure the team doesn’t over-commit and end up with a bottleneck in the workflow.

Why to Use Kanban in Software Testing: 4 Key Benefits

Using kanban in software testing helps improve organization, maintain a consistent (and faster) speed in project flow, and increase clarity on the status of work throughout the entire process. Diving deeper, applying kanban in software testing delivers four key benefits:

1) Speedy Resolution of Bottlenecks

The visual nature of kanban in software testing creates a high level of transparency that makes it extremely easy to understand the flow of work through the software testing process. In turn, this transparency allows team members to see bottlenecks as they occur and immediately identify where work piles up (e.g. if tasks start piling up ahead of one step in the workflow every time). By making it easy to identify and understand the cause of bottlenecks, kanban in software testing also helps teams also resolve these issues faster.

2) Better Project Commitment

Applying kanban in software testing helps teams prioritize moving projects/tasks through the workflow and seeing them through to completion over taking on new work. Specifically, with a kanban model, software testing teams will commit to taking on a certain number of projects/tasks at once and then commit to finishing the work in progress before taking on anything new. As a result of this emphasis on moving projects through the workflow, using kanban in software testing helps avoid the common problem of over-committing to work and then not delivering on time because the team gets stretched too thin.

3) Improved Planning and Prioritization

Because kanban requires software testing teams to focus only on the work in progress and moving those projects through the workflow to completion, any additional projects that come in end up waiting in a backlog and go untouched until the team has availability for them. The fact that these projects go untouched gives project managers more freedom to re-prioritize upcoming work as needed without disrupting the team. In contrast, without using kanban in software testing, teams likely begin work on new projects as they come in, and changing the priority of those projects might disrupt already scheduled work.

4) Faster Cycle Times

Finally, the improved planning and prioritization that comes with using kanban in software testing also leads to faster cycle times. For software testing teams that don’t use kanban for project management, team members with specialized skills often become a bottleneck because all projects have to go through them at a certain point, which leads to an overload of work. Using kanban in software testing helps avoid this bottleneck by making sure all team members, even those with specialized skills, never have more work coming in than they have going out. Ultimately, this optimization helps avoid bottlenecks and move projects through the necessary workflow faster to increase the speed of cycle times.

Ready to Get Started with Kanban in Software Testing?

Given today’s demands to produce higher quality software in less time, software testing teams need to take a strategic approach to project management.

For many of these teams, kanban proves the ideal solution. That’s because using kanban in software testing helps keep projects organized, maintain transparency into project status and pipeline, easily identify and eliminate bottlenecks, improve communication, and speed up cycle times. And perhaps best of all, using kanban in software testing is easy with the right project management solution.

Try LeanKit Free!

You're in good company.

Our customers are the best. Read their stories.

Learn More about LeanKit