By: Shuchi Singla
One of the biggest challenges leadership faces is that of predicting future expected results or even simply understanding the current state of a project. However, using Kanban allows the team to visualize their work and monitor a more predictable flow pattern of their work (though it may change/improve as the project progresses). Visual reports help the team define their progress and predict future outcomes of their efforts. Lean Kanban software tools such as Kanbanize simplify this process by providing insightful analytics in various formats and measuring varying data from the work process. Lead and Cycle Times and Cumulative Flow Diagrams allow teams to measure the project performance and help in identifying inefficiencies and bottlenecks.
The Cumulative Flow Diagram (CFD) shows how work “accumulates in the flow” with time. It shows the relative amount of work for each stage of the project over time. Large gaps and flat horizontal lines indicate impediments to flow or lack of flow, which usually occur due to ineffective work in progress limits.
In the example above, on June 30th 2015, there was only 1 item in Done, 2 items in the Backlog, 19 items in In Progress, 0 items in the Temporary Archive and 2 items in the column Breakdown (where parts of project planning happen).
This means there is some impediment in the In Progress column, which is drying up work that can go into the Done state and the impediment is creating a queue in In Progress.
By looking at the diagram above, a manager can predict that on June 30 – there are a total of 55 tasks (vertical distance) in various stages of completion mapped on the Kanban board. 19 of those are being worked on at the moment. The horizontal distance will depict how long it took to complete ( cycle time), until June 30th is 55 days, in this case.
How is the Cumulative Flow Diagram different from a Burndown chart?
Usually, when referring to CFD, people tend to ask how is this different from a Burndown or a Burnup chart. In fact, at times they get confused between the Burnup Chart and CFD.
The key difference between Burnup Charts and CFDs are:
- A Burnup chart shows progress towards a goal.
- A Cumulative Flow diagram shows the distribution of all work items (e.g., stories,defects) across various states, over time.
A Burnup Chart shows progress towards the scope. Changes in scope or estimates during the cycle cause fluctuations in the scope line. At the same time, we show progress towards the goal by charting the amount of work completed to date. Ideally, the amount of completed work will rise to the scope line by the end of the cycle.
A Burndown Chart is a simple graph used to track a team’s progress and help estimate how much time is required to complete the project. The number of tasks remaining in the project is usually plotted on the y-axis, while time is plotted on the x-axis. However, the limitation of a Burndown Chart is that we can only plot the tasks that have been completed so far and not those that are works in progress (WIP). Also, it does not explain why work may have been delayed. On the other hand, in the CFD, we can plot the total backlog at the beginning of the project, work in progress and tasks that have been completed. The features are plotted on the y-axis, while time is plotted on the x-axis. CFDs are more informative visually and are, at the same time, simple to create and update.
Below is an example of a Burndown chart, which has a downward slope unlike the CFD.
Lead and Cycle Time Reports present the average amount of time it takes for a task to be processed from the specific start to the finish point. Depending on the economic value you choose to measure, both cycle time and lead time can be applied directly to your team. For example, if you want to improve the delivery capabilities of your software development team, your cycle time measurement can track the time it takes for a work item to go from the commitment point to deployment.
These can be used to analyze the time required to traverse work items across the Kanban board and to make improvements in the project performance.
Throughput is the average number of task units processed per time unit. In a Kanban system, examples can include “cards per day” or “story points per iteration”.Throughput is an important metric to track in order to know what impacts your economic system. Think about how an understanding of the average units processed per time period impacts business decisions and measure it accordingly.
Whichever reporting pattern we choose to make use of, at the end, the goal is more about creating economic value than it is about having the fastest cycle time or highest throughput. Maintaining a steady flow of work through your Kanban system can help you deliver value more quickly and reliably.
Kanban analytics, similar to those in the Kanbanize analytics module, help you plan and organize work by allowing you to track your Cycle Time and lead time.
You can use metrics to improve your process efficiency by making project performance visible, identifying bottlenecks early and solving problems as they occur.