Managing IT Projects: Kanban Board Examples for IT Operations

Kanban boards are uniquely suited to the nature of work done by IT Operations. Teams need a way to manage the constant flow of planned and unplanned requests so they can make better prioritization decisions and manage their throughput more effectively.

By using Kanban boards to manage IT projects, teams can visualize their work and instantly see project status and where to focus their efforts. This enables them to communicate priority conflicts, zero in on how to solve them and get work flowing again.

Board Examples for IT Operations Teams

The examples below show you how other IT Operations teams are using Kanban boards to support specific objectives, including:

  • Managing work by type of demand
  • Managing shifting priorities
  • Managing team member specialties
  • Managing project work
  • Managing a specific process

Specific use cases show how to manage new infrastructure IT projects from build through deployment and how to balance planned and unplanned work requests.

Managing Work by Type of Demand

Managing IT Projects: Work by Type of Demand

From planned project work and routine maintenance to unplanned incidents and ad hoc requests, IT Operations teams must constantly balance work from multiple sources of demand. In this example, the team uses horizontal swimlanes to show different types of demand. Swimlanes increase visibility into the volume of unplanned work and show how it impacts the team’s ability to deliver planned work on time.

Managing Shifting Priorities

Managing IT Projects: Handling Shifting Priorities

This board uses icons and layout to help teams manage shifting work priorities. Visual icons show which items are the highest priority so the team knows where to focus first. The “On Hold” lane provides an immediate visual indicator of stalled work by highlighting work items that cannot progress further. Seeing which work items are stuck prompts a conversation among team members to discuss the issues and how to get the work item moving again. The “Abandoned” lane shows mid-stream work that the team has set aside to focus on other, higher-priority work.

Managing Team Member Specialties

Managing IT Projects: Understanding Team Member Specialties

Some teams find it helpful to organize their in-progress work by sub-team or specialized skill. The horizontal swimlanes shown above represent parallel processes for each sub-team (“Marco’s Team,” “Jason’s Team,” etc.). To prevent bottlenecks, each sub-team has set work-in-process (WIP) limits.

With a WIP limit of three work items in their “Doing” lane, Marco’s team is at capacity. The diagonal lines indicate to their sub-team, as well as to the team at-large, that finishing their current work in progress is their sub-team’s first priority. Accepting more work will likely overload the system and result in work delays.

Managing Project Work

Managing IT Projects: Managing Project Work

The above board example shows how teams can use a Kanban board to manage several types of work at once, from planned infrastructure IT projects to unexpected issues. This single source of visibility allows the team to balance planned project work with unplanned work, helping the team to communicate status and make trade-off decisions more easily.

Managing a Specific Process

Managing IT Projects: Managing a Specific Process

Kanban boards can have as many vertical lanes and sublanes as you need to accurately represent the steps of your process. This example shows a detailed build process for an infrastructure team. Visualizing each step in this way ensures that the team has a shared understanding of how work is done, which enables more predictable and consistent delivery.

The Bottom Line

Sometimes it’s easier to create or improve your own Kanban board after you’ve seen how other similar teams structure their boards. Experimenting with different board layouts can help you better visualize your work and work more closely as team. Remember to copy wisely and make sure that your board matches your team’s process and objectives as closely as possible.

For more Kanban board layout ideas, try these 10 ready-to-go Kanban board templates.

If you’re looking to visualize your work on a Kanban board, try LeanKit. Here’s what one IT Ops team had to say:

Managing IT Projects - IT Ops Testimonial

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