An Accurate View of Every Team's Work
A Planview blog post from a while back cited some frustrating data that's still true today:
Data is, or should be, the foundation for decision making for every organization. Yet nearly one-third of the product professionals surveyed said their data is inaccurate, and 36 percent said their data is not timely or current. Companies, however, are learning and acting.
How do you get a clear view of the invisible or inaccessible data about work for your organization? This use case clarifies the many ways the Portfolios Team Kanban module, powered by AgilePlace, enables organizations and teams to visually track and manage the flow of work from strategy to delivery in enterprise Kanban boards.
Visibility of work means being able to determine at a glance what work is in the queue, what's in progress, who's working on it, and what work has been completed. This is important for many types of teams, regardless of industry or work methodology (waterfall, Agile, Lean, or hybrid).
The Team Kanban module is designed to be a key tool in maintaining visibility within and across teams. It allows teams to gain a clear line of sight into connected work, from the portfolio to the teams, all within a single solution. Here are steps any organization can take to use boards to break down work, build and manage plans, and execute against strategy to deliver more value to customers, faster.
Watch the On-Demand Webinar: Improving Team Visibility with AgilePlace
We're here to help! If you need assistance with implementing any of the steps below, don't hesitate to reach out to your CSM.
Prefer to watch videos? Here is a link to the related video library.
Board Design: Reflect Your Process
Good visibility starts with good board design. Many organizations use templates (see more about templates in the Board Templates: Build Cross-Team Consistency section) to help their teams provide consistent and comparable information across groups. But, even if you have a template, it's important to first take the time to reflect on the steps in your process, since no team works exactly the same. Teams are more likely to stick with a board that makes sense to them and reflects their procedures.
Start increasing your team's visibility by visualizing the process as it is now, and make sure you know what you need to track: size of work activity, team members involved, scheduled dates, work type, etc. For example, some teams may need more than one type of backlog, depending on source, while other teams may need to add columns for approval processes and communication.
You can brainstorm your team's process so that team members feel a sense of ownership in their boards and have a process that matches how they work.
To design a board:
- Start with a template. See more about templates below.
- Edit your board layout. This includes opening the board layout editor, configuring the board layout by adding, moving, and splitting lanes and sub-lanes, edit lane width, set a lane WIP limit, and more.
- Share the board with the team, add cards, and visualize work as you move cards from left to right across the board.
- To View Board Health, press the H key on your keyboard to open the Board Health panel, which displays Bottlenecked lanes, Work in Progress (WIP), and Card Throughput.
- Continuously improve your board by periodically conducting board reviews!
If you leave with one key tip, let it be this one: Keep it simple when you start out, and add complexity only as needed. By periodically reviewing your board, you can identify areas of adjustment needed to help you and your team to improve the speed and efficiency of value delivery.
Try it out! Add a new lane to your board to accurately capture your team’s backlog.
Templates can help teams get started faster. They minimize configuration by having pre-defined board layouts and settings and can also be used to build in organizational standards and best practices. This provides insight into progress and creates opportunities for better alignment.
Templates are only a suggested framework and can be modified to fit your specific team, while keeping parts of the template that are important to the larger organization. Don't know where to start? Here's a list of common templates.
Consistent use of templates and frequent reference to the boards allows teams to incorporate their board best practices more easily - having a "Done" column and reviewing it first at every stand-up or team meeting ensures that you pull rather than push through the process, which is an Agile best practice that can apply to many types of work.
To create a new board from available templates:
- Click , then Home.
- Click the Templates tab.
- Click a template, fill out the board creation form, then click Save.
- Edit your board layout to make it even more specific for your team.
A template, once created, can't be modified, only deleted. To make a template based on another one, you can take a template, create a board based on it, edit the board, and then save the edited board as a new template.
Try it out! Reflect on your preferred way of working and create a board template to encourage consistency.
Board Levels: Facilitate Coordinated Planning and Delivery
Many organizations use different boards for different types of planning and work. Visibility into work is enhanced by using both high-level planning boards as well as team boards that track the delivery of work at a more granular level. These initiatives can be included at the team level to ensure work performed is aligned with corporate strategies. This also allows teams to work together on projects, yet stay within their own boards. Here are the important concepts for working with board levels:
- Parent board: A program board is a common example of a parent board, and may include larger deliverables at the team of teams or department level, with initiatives that map directly into the strategic initiatives used in Portfolios to perform investment and capacity planning.
- Child board: Team boards, for example, will often include the deliverables from their parent program board, broken into smaller features and stories that are completed by each team.
- Connected cards: The connection function allows related cards to be linked, whether on the same board or on a parent/child board.
- Viewing connections: Click or press C on your keyboard to see the connections.
- Mirrored cards: The mirroring feature lets cards appear on two boards, so that initiatives and their data can be shared with the program and team level.
Organizing work at the program and team levels gives executives visibility into what is going on without an overwhelming amount of detail at the story or activity level. By connecting the boards, though, anyone can get an in-depth view.
Try it out! Add some connections between a high-level board and a team board.
Cards on the Board: The Key to Visibility
The key to optimal Team Kanban visibility is to put all work on cards. You can't see work that's not on the board! This means not only work directly related to an initiative or program, but "lights on" or "business as usual" work, which all reflect team capacity.
Using the relevant card details that apply to a team's work is vital to not only seeing work, but knowing what's going on at a glance. While different options will work better for different teams, these are some important card features to use, and to use consistently:
- Card types: This is the quickest way to group types of work. The meaning of card types is easy to customize. A common differentiator is deliverables versus stories. Other common types are risks, ad-hoc work, and milestones.
- Headers: Headers make it easy to see and help differentiate work of similar types labeled by color into subtypes.
- Dates: It's important to use the planned start and finish dates for monitoring velocity and progress of work. Analytics make this easy to do. You may also want to Understand Actual Start and Actual Finish Dates.
- Users: Without saying who is doing the work, capacity can't be addressed, so be sure to use the Assigned Users field!
- Tags: Tags are flexible tool to categorize types of work, where work originated, or any other helpful attribute you'd like to track and/or filter by.
- Connected cards: Connecting parent and child cards or cards with dependencies highly increases visibility into work being done. Connections can be easily displayed to visualize them.
- Comments: Easily track progress on work and can be used to communicate progress via @ mentions in comments.
- Tasks: Using tasks makes it easy to break down stories into components, and their progress is shown on cards.
- External links: No one wants to hunt around to find the work a card refers to, so use these links to allow access to work in progress or finished stories.
- Mirrored cards: Teams who are coordinating on work can stay on track by mirroring cards on each other's boards, plus this is a great way to keep higher-level initiatives visible on team-level boards.
It's a fine art when it comes to using all the necessary fields on cards to let people see important areas but to not create so much complexity or duplicate information that the most relevant information is obscured. Don't worry if your first try doesn't work. Try a few options to see what is best for your team.
All team members should use cards on a board the same way, but each board is managed separately, so cards could be managed differently on different boards.
Bottom line? You can really SEE what is going on with your work when it's on a card, as compared to an Excel spreadsheet or other way of looking at work.
Try it out! Devise headers and color codes for the kinds of work that appear on your board, and see how it affects visibility.
Board Filters: Get Laser-Focused
Once you get all the structure set up for your boards and get information on all your boards, it can be hard to see the forest for the trees. That's where filters come in handy. Do you only want to focus on one type of work? Filter by card type. Do you want to look at each team member's work separately during scrum? Filter by assigned user. Since every field on a card can be sorted by, and multiple selections can be made, the exact work you need to see becomes clear and you can focus on it and eliminate distractions.
You can even save filters you use frequently, which makes managing work so much easier. This enables teams to quickly surface risks to plans resulting from cross-team dependency conflicts, blockers, and capacity constraints, and help drive proactive measures to enable teams to deliver on time.
The filter menu also has a very handy feature, especially for boards with multiple teams and initiatives on them. Click Search Card Descriptions to find the exact card you're looking for, an idea you want to discuss, or other information on cards.
Try it out! In your next team meeting, use filters to highlight each team member's cards as they share their progress and blockers.