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Why Kanban Suits DevOps so Well?

by Charan Atreya 

A cross-functional team's problem

If you're running a relatively small team, but your process is built of many steps, it's clearly impossible to assign one person to one type of work only. Your team is forced to divide their time into different types of work, and this in turn puts an additional strain on the workflow.

Especially, when you consider that apart form the varied work types there is also the added pressure of task priorities and due dates. All in all, it will sometimes be weeks before an employee gets to an item that he or she was meant to deal with a while ago. This can easily create an avalanche of delays, a set of idle workers and an inevitable delivery failure.

How can this be altered?

The solution to this problem is easy. There are some information necessary to obtain before the team will be able to take the first step on their way to an improvement. As long as you have distinguished your work types and you have an idea of the rate of flow of each work type through the entire process, you're on the way to smoothing things out.

Figuring out your production rate

If you're wondering why is this even important, just consider going into a service level agreement with your client, without having the information on how quickly can you deliver anything. Not doable, is it? Your overall production rate is the production rate of the slowest team involved in your process. Should you be able to improve this, you will get the complete process enhanced by tenfold.

Kanban is here to help

The one area in which Kanban comes to the rescue immediately is recognizing bottlenecks. If there's too much work
piling up in one part of the process, what indicates possible delays, overworked employees and potential requests to expedite work (at extra costs) – it will be clearly visible both on a Kanban board and in the Cumulative Flow Diagram that goes with it.

Are bottlenecks always a bad phenomenon?

Now that you've got your process visualized on a Kanban board and can see a bottleneck forming, is this a problem? If you think of it as of a real-life bottleneck, which actually makes pouring of a liquid possible without making one big mess, you may see that it can also be a helpful occurrence for your process. Charan makes a claim that bottlenecks are an effective way of making a smooth flow.

On the road to improvement

Thanks to the smoothed workflow and continuous delivery, the team can get along the way of making improvements. A great aspect of implementing Kanban is the lack of initial necessity to make changes. You can simply start with what you're doing, only visualized on a board. After the team has gotten used to this, you are free to introduce WIP limits, either by process stage or by person. This will further improve the system. As you can see the implementation process - overall - is not difficult. All you're asked to do is visualize – limit – improve. Good luck!


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