How To Reforge Your Own Tools


18 April 2016

We’ve covered the merits of kanban before. The system is notable, even among agile tools, for its adaptability. When we last visited the concept, we lauded it for the visibility that it creates. Our original praise still stands, but as our agile practice has evolved, so too have the tools we use.

Kanban consists simply of a board, separated into work progress columns (to-do, doing, done), with kanban cards representing individual jobs moving across the board as they’re completed. Kanban traditionally manifested as a whiteboard divided into progress columns, with sticky notes or index cards traveling across. Lately there has been a flood of software kanban solutions, our favorite being Kanbanize.

As adaptable as kanban itself is, though, software is only as adaptable as it’s designed to be. With a little bit of rigging we hooked Kanbanize into our ticketing software, ConnectWise. Tickets in ConnectWise would appear on a board in Kanbanize and move from the backlog down the line as we updated them. Here’s the catch: we’re constantly getting status update tickets on client projects that had nowhere to go but the backlog, and they had no relation on the board to the job they were pertinent to. Additionally, Kanbanize added some small hurdles to our daily stand-up. Revealing what a ticket in Kanbanize actually was involved scrolling through the

Kanbanize UI and clicking on each individual card -- fine for individual use but time-consuming when we were running through every single ticket during the stand-up.

Kanbanize is a fantastic tool. It has a depth of features that equips it well for any enterprise looking to try kanban. If what your agile practice needs is a claw hammer, though, a ball-peen may be close - but it still isn’t going to cut it. The kanban concept is one that we still need at The Agile MSP; without kanban we can only visualize the work as coming in, moving along and going out during our daily stand-up, and even then we can only create the image in our minds. ConnectWise is a perfect ticket repository (and it’s great at the hundred other things it does), but kanban is a simple, real-time way to visualize work as actually moving along and to inspire those important agile principles like personal accountability, big-picture awareness and teamwork.

Learning to adapt your tools is a crucial part of becoming an agile business. When something can’t be shaped into what you need, get rid of it and prototype a solution of your own. We’ve moved on to researching kanban-style integrations purpose-built for ConnectWise, and have even taken a crack at developing our own. That’s what separates the truly agile business from its competition: the determination to find the right solution, rather than settling for making the simplest solution fit.

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