Kanban-What? One Company's Project Management Journey


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When faced with the challenges of managing a growing email marketing software and 40-person development team, AWeber turned to the project management system Kanban. In this presentation with Ethan McCreadie and Philip Cristiano, they shared AWeber's journey into Kanban, how it functions within AWeber's team structure, and the advantages and disadvantages other companies should take into consideration before implementing the system.

This talk was given on April 24 as part of the 2012 Philly Tech Week (www.phillytechweek.com).

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  • AWeber provides web-based email marketing and social media software to:\nentrepreneurs, businesses and nonprofits\n\npoll: who is a developer / project manager / designer / other\n\nPlease interrupt us with questions at any time\n
  • we’re just a couple of devs\n\nintroducing philip cristiano, previous kanban experience\n\nintroducing ethan mick-cred-eeee, project-lead experience\n\nstarted Kanban in September 2010\n\n1.5 years doing this\n
  • Kanban - sign, billboard, signal\n\nBreak projects down into tasks\n
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  • about as simple of a board as you can get\n\nuse a physical board\n
  • describe Kanban\n\nkaizen - “improvement”, continuous process improvement\n\n\n\n
  • TOYOTA! First applied in 1953 after watching supermarkets - toyota production system\n\nPull cards through the board / focus on prioritization over deadlines\n\nDon’t need all project cards to be done before shipping\n\n\n
  • Visualize productivity\n
  • Visualization becomes the expectation\n\nIncreased productivity\n\nHigher quality product because each task is a first-class citizen\n
  • Benefits happen naturally\n
  • Agile is a set of goals or ideals\n\nIndividuals and interactions over processes and tools\nWorking software over comprehensive documentation\nCustomer collaboration over contract negotiation\nResponding to change over following a plan\n\n
  • project was due but no where near ready\n\nmanagement didn't know\n\nturns our there was no visibility or accurate estimates\n\n
  • our initial approach - first attempt Small projects - 4/5 people wordpress plugin\n\nNEXT SLIDE: Kanban for small groups\n
  • Very useful easy to get small groups on the same page\n\nCameron story: He didn't have a choice.\n\nFeeling of completion\n
  • 4 days for cards\n\nscaling up Kanban doesn’t mean larger work items\n
  • Couldn’t force 20+ people the way we strong-armed Cameron\n\nmention standup\n\neventually ~25 developers, (plus management, designers, education)\n
  • ladies and gentlemen, this image is not an affiliate link\n\nhad weekly meetings to work through the book \n
  • mapping our workflow (chapter 6) \n\nlots of OH SHIT / CEO peeking in\n\nlots of firefighting - coming from ops\n
  • Don’t change anything else!\n\nIterative adoption\n
  • webops creates cards for any significant (20 min+) item\n\navoid firefighting\n
  • columns - ANALYSIS / elaboration & acceptance\n\ntrash\n\nwip limits\n\n3rd-party rail\n
  • We need to limit what a single person can work on. \n\nprimary/secondary per card as mentioned in continuous delivery\n\nneed project limits (~25 developers, 8 projects)\n
  • started measuring work item delivery\n\nadd new cards / re-adjust queue everyday\n\ninput queue replenishment meetings\n\nmost queues are currently working through a backlog\n
  • record CFD daily with Google docs\n\ndrop of TODO items is a result from pruning\n
  • noticed that 60% of our work items were maintenance\n\ndevelopers would become distracted from feature development\n\nwebops team, significant developer work becomes a card\n\nless shit hitting the fan (although still a lot of maintenance items)\n
  • Etrik has to count a lot, we don't have a single electronic ticketing system in use (trac/github per project) * Column limits hinder people who are making progress by people who are not even though they could do nothing to help (swimlanes)\n
  • We don't know how many projects are in progress by looking at the board * We don't set priorities for cards, lack of stackholders\n
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  • poor visibility: much better visibility\n\nmissed deadlines: visibility helps a lot\n\nincorrect implementation: \nexplicit analysis of done state\nless WIP -> less inventory (features going stale before release)\n\n
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  • Kanban-What? One Company's Project Management Journey

    1. 1. Kanban-what?One Company’s Project Management Journey
    2. 2. About UsWe’re just a couple of devs• Philip Cristiano - philipc@aweber.com• Ethan McCreadie - ethanm@aweber.com
    3. 3. This Is a Kanban
    4. 4. This Is a Kanban
    5. 5. Kanban BoardTo Do In Progress Done
    6. 6. Properties of Kanban• Visualize the workflow• Limited work in progress• Manage flow• Improve collaboratively (kaizen)
    7. 7. What Is It Really?• Project management methodology• Visual representation of work• Just-in-time delivery• Constantly ship software
    8. 8. Eliminate Bottlenecks• Swarming to resolve issues• Literally see card progress• Fixing problems by premonition
    9. 9. Manage Expectations• Eliminate confrontation between PM and stakeholders• Anyone can understand visual flow• Prioritization becomes the priority
    10. 10. Project Management• Coordinate and communicate project needs• Track project progress using defined metrics• Control project scope• Project planning and timeline management• Identify and eliminate bottlenecks
    11. 11. On Agile• Antithesis of waterfall development• Kanban is form of agile development• Similar to Scrum and XP
    12. 12. Before We Used Kanban• Poor visibility into projects• Repeated missed deadlines• Incorrect feature implementation
    13. 13. First Attempt• 4 developers• 1 project at a time• Daily standup meetings
    14. 14. Kanban for Small Groups Easy to: • Keep four people on the same page • Stay focused on a single project • Maintain momentum
    15. 15. Card Size• Daily work items?• Entire projects on a card?• Minimal marketable feature?• Smaller scoped cards work better
    16. 16. Kanban for a Larger Team• Initially 25+ people (3 projects)• Currently 40 people (9 projects*)
    17. 17. A Hitchhiker’s Guide to Kanban
    18. 18. Mapping Our Workflow
    19. 19. RELAX
    20. 20. Service Level Agreements• 4 service classes at AWeber• Currently no SLA’s• We plan on using them (eventually)
    21. 21. Our Wall
    22. 22. WIP Limits• 2 per developer• Limits per column• No limit for projects (oops!)
    23. 23. CadencesInput Output• Daily • Two-week delivery • Continuous delivery
    24. 24. Cumulative Flow Diagram
    25. 25. Less Fire Fighting
    26. 26. Wish List: No Data Entry• Manually entering data into Google docs• Integrate Kanban with issue tracking software
    27. 27. Issue: Project Count• No limit to the number of projects in progress• Each person focuses on their own project
    28. 28. Retrospective• 40 people is too much for a single card wall Looking into sub-boards by: • project • stakeholder (devs, CEO, education) • code domain
    29. 29. Before We Used Kanban• Poor visibility into projects• Repeated missed deadlines• Incorrect feature implementation
    30. 30. Questions?
    31. 31. Join Us 1516 Sansom St. Philadelphia, PA 19102