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When Kanban is the Better Choice

Updated: Jul 15, 2023

The 4 most important criteria of “When Kanban is the better choice?”

More and more data teams in large enterprises across the world are realizing that managing their type of work in traditional project management is not successful.

Most people apply the same delivery approach to each scenario.

Most organizations are either stuck applying only traditional project management or only Scrum for all their work they are doing. It’s ok if you are doing that, sometimes you are stuck using whatever delivery method is most popular or most known in your organization.

It’s like that saying, to the man with only a hammer every problem looks like a nail

Those frameworks work great for software development large projects and when we know a good amount of requirements. But what about all other scenarios like business operations, service teams, marketing work or even Artificial Intelligence and machine learning work?

Let’s look at the 4 most important criteria of when Kanban is the better choice.

Number 1: When Priorities are Frequently Shifting

Have you ever found yourself in a team that changes focus and requirements every week or every other day. What about planning for hours or days and having to change direction which throws away all your planning?

In some teams or industries changing direction and constant change might be the nature of the environment. For example, a while back I consulted for a digital agency that was supporting marketing teams with web development and design work.

We were receiving updates on requirements or changes in priority every week, sometimes even less. Instead of fighting the business, the smart thing to do is to pick a method of delivery that fits the use case.

This is when Kanban shines, because the team was able to get feedback after each small request was completed. And this allowed them to change direction with minimal impact without having to wait until a large commitment was complete. This allows Kanban teams to be flexible and respond to emergencies or changing priorities without needing to renegotiate commitments.

Number 2: When the organization or team wants to keep their existing structure

Not all organizations embrace major changes in their existing team structure, especially if they are not familiar with Agile mindset and delivery. Most teams don’t want to majorly change the way they do things. Out of all delivery methods and frameworks, Kanban fits the best in this scenario because it is the least disruptive method. Kanban starts with what you know and with using the same roles and people already in your team. It gets applied to your existing process or way of working. It helps you visualize your existing way of working in a more organized fashion.

Number 3: When there is lots of experimentation

You probably noticed Artificial Intelligence or AI has been a very popular topic lately. The work behind AI is actually data science and machine learning work. In this area there is lots of experimentation. In data science, the basic main workflow phases are:

  • Preparation of data

  • Analysis of data

  • Build and train models

  • Share results in form of reports or dashboards.

The team goes back and forward multiple times between these phases.

Most data science teams can’t really plan ahead due to the trial and error nature of the work, which is why traditional project management doesn’t work. Scrum doesn’t work well either because teams have a hard time making commitments and fitting into a timebox all the time. It’s difficult to make a commitment when most of your work is experimentational.

More and more data teams in large enterprises across the world are realizing that managing their type of work in traditional project management is not successful and when using Scrum it seems forced. Kanban gives them freedom while still able to manage and visualize their work.

Number 4: When trying to keep things simple is a priority and minimizing the process

Kanban is a lightweight card-based workflow management process. It focuses on getting the job done rather than having an extensive process, which makes it ideal for small teams or projects that don’t require a lot of overhead.

Its small overhead means it’s ideal for teams who want to get started with a light workflow management or those on a tight budget. It also works well for service teams and operational teams. Kanban teams excel at quickly burning through small tasks as they arise.

If you want to learn more about Kanban, check out our Comprehensive Hands-on Kanban Course.

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