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You need to hire highly skilled, top of their game, experienced information technology professionals for your business. It sounds simple enough, but in practise this is proving very difficult for companies up and down the country. So, why is this and what can you do about it?

Identifying skills gaps

What is the tech skills gap? Simply put, the pace at which we as a society, our schools and universities, develop the skills in the areas of computer science and create the IT employees of the future, isn’t keeping up with the fast-paced demand being seen in businesses.

This is creating a gap between what companies need and what potential employees have to offer. Identifying where your skills gaps are is the easy bit, what to do about it may prove more elusive.

Upskilling and reskilling

So, what can you do about this problem? As the demand for these roles is only set to increase you can’t afford to wait around for more young people to arrive out of university ready to fill your needs.

You already have a workforce so why not look to them to solve this problem? If you can upskill and reskill your existing employees you fill the role you need to be filled, you provide training to staff who already want to upskill, and you use loyal experienced employees who are already a part of your team and won’t be so easily lured away.

Recruitment

You are still going to need to recruit from outside of your company for some roles, and in some cases, this is a better option. You may not have the time or the funds for training existing staff, and to allow them to learn on the job can be risky and could slow everyone else down.

But with so many openings across the tech industries and so many companies who are not traditionally involved in tech, you’ll have to attract the right talent to your business, and then keep them there.

Retention

The overwhelming demand for qualified tech employees may make it difficult to keep those staff members once you’ve found them. As the race for hiring talented IT professionals who can fill the skills gap heats up, companies will try to lure away your hard-won employees.

To make a success of filling your skills gaps you need a two-pronged approach. Yes, you do need to keep hiring, but many companies are finding this is a never-ending revolving door, so you also need to reskill and upskill at the same time.

By providing training in software systems and programs to your existing staff you create a backup for if and when your IT professionals are lured away to another company with a tech skills gap.

You can fill those gaps without having to go through the time and expense of hiring all over again. As filling your skills gaps get harder, and doesn’t show any sign of slowing down, training is the key to retaining a professional and skilful workforce.

Simply defined, a Kanban board is an agile project management tool that enables you and/or your team to enhance the flow of your work.  There are two types of Kanban board - a Physical Kanban board and an Online Kanban board. The former is when someone uses sticky notes on a whiteboard to track a project’s status, issues, and most importantly, progress. On the other hand, an Online Kanban board is a virtual version of the whiteboard method, using specialised project management software.

Where did Kanban Boards originate?

Historically speaking, what we know now as the Kanban method actually originated in Japan sometime in the late 1940’s. It was initially used by Toyota to track their manufacturing and engineering progress. Initially, line-workers in Toyota used colored Kanbans or actual colored cards to inform each other of what is needed for a specific task.

Kanban is actually the Japanese term for “card” or “visual sign”, and this specific approach to workflow allowed the teams within the company to communicate easier than they used to, hence they were able to maximise their workflow, refine their processes, and standardise their cues.

Although the application of the Kanban method has greatly influenced Toyota’s system of production, it has also been adapted to human resource management as well as software development throughout the years. This is due to the fact that the Kanban method’s core principles can be easily adapted into other industries.

What are the Kanban core principles?

The Kanban method enables you to first visualise your work, and then limit the said work in terms of process, which will enable you to focus on flow, and then eventually, you can practice constant improvement.

Why do I need to visualise my work?

In the manufacturing industry, the process of accomplishing tasks is seen in the arrangement of the production line. In knowledge work, however, the process is often not as transparent.

Using the Kanban method to map out processes on a Kanban board and using Kanban cards to characterise work delivers transparency in the process. Additionally, using this method shows the project’s workflow.

Visualising one’s work and workflow has a lot of benefits, including how our brain soaks up and process certain information. Scientifically speaking, the human brain stores graphic information to up to 60,000 times faster than when we look at text, and since the Kanban method requires you to create a visual of your work, the visual presentation of your work will be easier to understand and remember so there is continuous productivity.

Additionally, graphics or visual details are presented in a single place, which minimises the time that is spent tracking down information such as progress reports, updates, and even meetings. The Kanban board and the Kanban cards signify a mutual visual language that a scrum team and stakeholders can use to easily communicate and pass on project information transparently.

What are the goals of using the Kanban method? 

The goal of the Kanban system is to simply limit the work quantity in terms of process so that the workflow matches the system’s capacity. Simply put, a system can only handle a certain amount of traffic to make everything flow smoothly throughout the rest of the steps in the process.

Visualising your work first using the Kanban board and the Kanban system elevates both virtual and physical whiteboards from a simple to-do list to a well-optimized workflow system. This will enable you to limit your work in terms of process, give you a transparent vision of your workflows, and most importantly, gather needed data for further improvement.

The downside is that once the system becomes overloaded, the entire workflow tends to slow down, turning the smooth-sailing work process to an impasse. The good thing is that it is easy to spot jammed workflow on a Kanban board due to the piling work cards within the affected lanes, which will give you an instant idea into which lane needs to be resolved.

Kanban boards can help prevent jammed work flowthrough utilising one or more WIP (work-in-process) limits. Simply put, a WIP limit is a constraint that can be used and applied to certain parts of the workflow, or to the rest of the whole process. Using WIP limits can highly improve the workflow through the steps in the process that you have initially outlined on your Kanban board, eventually helping your team to become even more productive and more efficient.

When your Kanban system is finally set and in place, it eventually becomes the foundation of a constantly improved work flow. With a well-oiled Kanban system, teams can track and measure their effectiveness and efficiency through the tracking of their flow, lead times, quality, and more.

Physical or Virtual Kanban Board?

There are certain teams that opt to go old school when using the Kanban system, preferring physical Kanban boards over a virtual Kanban board. A physical Kanban board uses good old sticky notes or even index cards for the Kanban cards, and the board is drawn on an actual whiteboard or wall. This option works really well for teams that are in the same workspace since every member of the team can physically interact with the board and do not need to rely on their other colleagues to move their own cards using a proxy.

Generally, physical Kanban boards are a very inexpensive way to begin observing the Kanban system in the workplace.

On the other hand, a virtual Kanban system gives your team a lot of additional features for collaboration such as email integration. Using a virtual Kanban board can also give you a detailed trail that tracks the history of each card, and a far more sophisticated data reports and metrics in an instant.

Virtual Kanban boards also give you the opportunity to integrate with other software needed for your operation, such as project portfolio, or HelpDesk platforms that will help remove duplicated entries. And when the time comes that your team needs to expand, there will be no need to switch to other tools which can delay the team’s productivity, cost, time, and resources.

But whether you prefer to use a physical or a virtual board, Kanban boards will make your processes transparent to the rest of your team. It will also give you a quick glance of the progress of your work, to help you further enhance your workflow through continuous improvement of your processes.

Comurce Kanban Boards

If you're looking for an agile project management solution with a smart Kanban board that goes the extra mile. Senior stakeholders can view a dynamic roadmap across the organisation from portfolio to projects, from board to teams. The team behind the actions get an intuitive Kanban board which helps them to identify bottlenecks, manage processes and work towards continuous improvement. Find out more about Comurce today!

FAQs

What is a Kanban board?

Simply defined, a Kanban board is an agile project management tool that enables you and/or your team to enhance the flow of your work.

Where did Kanban Boards originate?

Historically speaking, what we know now as the Kanban method actually originated in Japan sometime in the late 1940’s. It was initially used by Toyota to track their manufacturing and engineering progress.

What are the Kanban core principles?

The Kanban method enables you to first visualise your work, and then limit the said work in terms of process, which will enable you to focus on flow, and then eventually, you can practice constant improvement.

Why do I need to visualise my work?

Visualising one’s work and workflow has a lot of benefits, including how our brain soaks up and process certain information. Scientifically speaking, the human brain stores graphic information to up to 60,000 times faster than when we look at text, and since the Kanban method requires you to create a visual of your work, the visual presentation of your work will be easier to understand and remember so there is continuous productivity.

What are the goals of using the Kanban method? 

The goal of the Kanban system is to simply limit the work quantity in terms of process so that the workflow matches the system’s capacity.

Physical or Virtual Kanban Board?

Whilst some organisations still prefer to use physical Kanban boards, the transition to a digital Kanban board is happening quickly, enabling team members to collaborate remotely.

What goes on a Kanban board?

Typically, a Kanban board for software development includes columns for the following: Backlog, Ready, Coding, Testing, Approval and Done. However, these can change (or be renamed) according to the stages of your agile project.

Comurce Ltd, 1st Floor Packwood House, Guild Street, Stratford Upon Avon, Warwickshire, England, CV37 6RP
Phone: +44 (0)20 3890 5583