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The Project Kanban Wall: Combining Kanban and Scrum for Coordinating Software Projects

FEATURED PAPER

Helgi Thor Ingason

School of Science and Engineering, Reykjavik University 

Eirikur Gestsson
Technical services, Siminn 

Haukur Ingi Jonasson
School of Science and Engineering, Reykjavik University
Reykjavik, Iceland
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Introduction

Many businesses that build their reputations and profits on IT technologies, such as modern telecommunication enterprises, survive and grow in competitive markets by applying Project Management Offices (PMOs) and Software Developmental Departments (SDDs) . One of their greatest challenges is to coordinate the flow of projects from the PMO to and through the SDD, ensuring quality for customers, as well as effective and efficient project workflows.

In the search for an appropriate solution to this problem, the book Kanban and Scrum, making the most of both, aroused our interest. Its authors, Henrik Kniberg and Mattias Skarin, describe how two management methods, Kanban and Scrum, can be used in a combined way (Kniberg & Skarin, 2009).

We decided to put the idea into practice by designing what we call a Project Kanban Wall, which illustrates the progressions in project-flows rather than task-flows, along with the use of Scrum as a software development tool. The aim was to investigate if, and then how, such a combination might solve the PMO/SDD workflow of IT product development projects within a typical telecommunication company that professes to be a forward-looking service provider.

This paper looks at the implementation of the combined Scrum/Kanban method in the PMO/SDD of one such company.  The company selected was Siminn hf, an important telecommunication provider in Iceland, a country of approximately 320,000 people.  Even though the company is small compared to bigger players in the global telecommunication business, the essential challenges faced by its project flows through the PMO and SDD are universal, and mirror those in larger companies.

The new Project Kanban Wall that was trialed is an updated version of the more conventional Kanban Wall. It is tailored to optimize the flow of IT projects and to enhance the communication between the SDD and the PMO. In addition, the necessary criteria that must be put in place for the Kanban system to work are discussed.

The research questions were:

  • How can the use of a Project Kanban Wall give a better overview of the flow of projects between the PMO and the SDD?
  • Did the use of a Project Kanban Wall improve the execution of projects at Siminn PMO/SDD offices?
  • Is it wise to use a combination of Scrum (at task level) and Kanban (at project level)?

The article shows how a Project Kanban Wall — a wall that defines a workflow progression at a project level — was implemented within a telecommunication company. Furthermore, it shows how the people within the PMO/SDD experienced the improvements in workflow due to the implementation of the new approach.

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To read entire paper (click here)


About the Authors

iceland-flaghelgi-thor-ingasonHelgi Thor Ingason 

School of Science and Engineering

Reykjavik University, Iceland 

Helgi Thor Ingason (b. 1965) holds a PhD in process metallurgy from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU), MSc in mechanical and industrial engineering from the University of Iceland and a Stanford Advanced Project Management Certification from Stanford University. He is an IPMA Certified Senior Project Manager (B level).

Dr. Ingason is an associate professor at Reykjavik University. He is co-head (with Dr. Haukur Ingi Jonasson) of the MPM – Master of Project Management – program at the university. The research fields of Dr. Ingason range from quality- and project management to system dynamics and renewable energy, production, transport and utilization, changes in the energy infrastructure and energy carriers of the future.

Dr. Ingason has reported on his research at conferences and in several reviewed conference and journal papers. He is the co-author of 6 books in the Icelandic language on project management, strategic planning, product development and quality management. He is also a co author of the book Project Ethics, published by Gower in January 2013.

Dr. Ingason was interim CEO of Orkuveita Reykjavikur (Reykjavik Energy) from 2010 to 2011. A co-founder of Nordica Consulting Group, Dr. Ingason is a management consultant and a recognized speaker. In his spare time he plays piano and accordion with the South River Band (www.southriverband.com), an Icelandic world music ensemble. More information on Dr. Ingason can be found on www.academia.edu. Information about the MPM program at the University of Rehkjavik can be found at http://en.ru.is/mpm/why-mpm/.  Dr. Ingason can be contacted at [email protected].

iceland-flageirikur-gestssonEirikur Gestsson 

Technical services, Siminn

Reykjavik, Iceland 

Eirikur Gestsson holds a B.Sc degree in computer science from the School of Computer Science, Reykjavik University and a MPM (Master of Project Management) degree from the School of Engineering and Natural Science, Univesity of Iceland. He works as a specialist in the Technical services department of Siminn, the largest telecommunication company in Iceland.

haukur-ingi-jonassoniceland-flagHaukur Ingi Jonasson 

School of Science and Engineering

Reykjavik University, Reykjavik, Iceland

Haukur Ingi Jónasson (Cand. theol., University of Iceland; S.T.M., M.phil., Ph.D., Union Theological Seminary (Columbia University); clinical training in pastoral counseling, Lennox Hill Hospital; psychoanalytical training, Harlem Family Institute New York City) is an assistant professor at the Reykjavik University School of Science and Engineering. He heads the MPM (Master in Project Management) program at the university. He is a psychoanalyst in private practice and a management consultant at Nordica Consulting Group (Iceland). As a consultant, his clients have included the Icelandic National Energy Authority, major Icelandic banks, the University Hospital of Iceland, and other public and private organizations.