In previous post I described Kanban and its application in agile software development. Kanban board is not just a way to communicate story state, it is a tool that can reveal some problems in the development process.
There are some simple patterns that are very intuitive and can be applied to any development process. You should look for gaps on the kanban board. If you have many stories in a column before the gap, you definitely have a problem in development process.
For example, we have several user stories in Implemented column, but none in In Testing column. It means that testers are unable to process user stories. They are overburdened, or unexperienced, or lazy, or travel to Bahamas, or anything else. Kanban board can’t tell what the problem is, but it shows that it is exist.
The gap may unite several columns. For example, we have some user stories in In Progress state and some in Done state. It means developers are unable to feed testers with implemented user stories. Maybe we have too many testers or not enough developers. Again it is not clear, but the problem is there.
Last case is when we have user stories in all states except Done. It is more complex case and it depends on context. In the beginning of the iteration it is definitely OK to have Done column empty, but in the halfway you expect to have something done. Otherwise testers will be overburdened in the end, we’ll drop some stories, or we’ll complete them in a hurry with poor quality.
As you see it is a very simple but effective way to identify problems in agile software development process. Nice side effect of the pull system!