Kanban is an approach well known for its visualization of data. This is done with the help of Kanban boards and allows teams to replicate and analyze their processes with ease.
However, Kanban boards may seem lacking for those used to working with calendars and seeing schedules next to their work items. Because of this, more and more project management solutions now offer additional tools to use alongside the Kanban board. One of which could be named as a Kanban timeline.
Let’s see how this looks in different task management solutions and why you may choose to use one.
What is a Kanban timeline?
A Kanban timeline is essentially a timeline tool used in a Kanban setting. It allows us to visualize the board items on a calendar and better understand their schedules as well as dependencies.
The application of the Kanban timeline will be different depending on the tool you choose. In some, it is represented as part of a Kanban board. In others (and this is more common), it is a separate view that can visualize data from just one or multiple Kanban boards in one place.
On a Kanban timeline, you will find elements such as:
- Calendar – to represent the item schedule
- Work items – to represent the tasks your team has planned or is working on
- Dependencies – to visualize the relationships between the work items
- Rows and row sections – to represent different Kanban swimlanes and different boards (when data is pooled from several boards)
- Item details – Name, assignee, completion status, and others.
Depending on the Kanban board tool of your choice, the visualization may differ a bit, but it will still possess these essential components and filtering capabilities. This will allow you to define the parameters of your view and only view essential data.
Why use a Kanban timeline?
The main reason behind introducing a timeline into the Kanban process is the need to better understand the schedule of your items.
Kanban boards are great for visualizing the process and progress of your work. However, regarding schedules and long-term planning, it lacks a big-picture overview. While some long-term planning can be achieved with a separate backlog board, it does not provide planned items in a calendar-like view.
For this, most teams choose to implement one of two tools – Gantt chart or Timeline.
Gantt charts are mostly chosen when all the project items are held on one board. In other words, this is more commonly done for visualizing items of a single project or team. In such cases, the planning and dependencies can quickly be drawn by switching back and forth between Kanban and Gantt views.
Timeline is mostly chosen in cases when the team is using more than one Kanban board to manage their processes or projects.
In such cases, there is a need to understand how the multiple schedules work against each other and align them to ensure resource availability. Thus, the Kanban timeline allows us to see the interconnecting dependencies, plans, and delays.
Since the timeline reflects multiple projects or processes, it is also vital that it does offer filtering capabilities. Allowing you to zero in on the data when needed as well as view the whole big picture in other cases.
Benefits of using a Kanban timeline
Kanban timeline is not something you will hear about when first learning about Kanban overall. It is rather an additional tool for those who need to have a sense of schedule alongside a flexible process.
As such, there are no rules on how the Kanban timeline should be applied. It is entirely up to you to decide if you need this solution and what you may use it for. Here are a few possible applications to give you some idea:
- Visualize Kanban board items on a timeline to understand dependencies and schedules between projects.
- Get a sense of a schedule for planned items. Adding your backlog items to a timeline will allow you to better understand the possible timeframe for their delivery.
- Forecast delivery dates. If you do not use due dates, Kanban flow metrics could be used to forecast completion times. Teamhood offers a board layer ‘When will it be done?’ that uses your team’s work data to forecast when in-progress items will be completed. It is also possible to use such forecasts to add a schedule for your items, thus creating a more understandable timeline for other stakeholders.
Implementing a Kanban timeline is a great way to expand your Kanban board capabilities when you need to get a better sense of the schedule your team is working with.
There are no specific rules on how this should be done, and it is entirely up to you to decide when and how the Timeline view should be applied. If you feel like this is something your team would benefit from, go forth and try it out. Here are some free timeline tools that will help you do the job.
Passionate content marketer looking to bring better solutions to the project management space.
2020 - Present Marketing specialist at Teamhood.
2014 - 2020 Marketing manager for Eylean.