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May 18, 2017 @ 11:05 by Sebastian Straube

How Kanban speeds up product development of a German savings bank

Recognizing that bank account fees will no longer hold as the main revenue stream in the future and in a digital world, a German savings bank planned to create a life companion chatbot for smartphones as a pilot for innovative new digital services. The product development started using the Scrum framework but transitioned to Kanban to speed up product development even more.

The banking industry must find new innovative revenue streams

The finance industry is massively influenced by the digital transformation as all other industries. Not only new payment methods are rising (PayPal, AliPay, WeChat, Google Pay, mostly through NFC), the finance sector will lose bank account fees as one of the major revenue source. A German savings bank had identified those risks and started to kick-off new innovative digital services to create new revenue channels. Thus, the bank decided to develop a local life companion chatbot for iOS and Android smartphones. The project team consisted of business development, content, marketing – and frontend- and backend developer teams.

Kanban board from case study

Complications with the Scrum methodology slowed down product development

Unfortunately, the product development did not go as smooth as the theory of Scrum predicts. Meetings and reviews slowed down the progress, constant re-prioritizations of features changed the scope of the sprint backlogs which resulted in not achieving the sprint commitments. Constant re-prioritizations were caused by parallel concept and development work which was a huge challenge for applying a methodology like Scrum as it is defined in theory. This led to a difficult measurement of velocity which is critical for reliable future forecasts. The developer teams had difficulties to focus on their current tasks because of scope changes as they were never able to reach their sprint commitments.

Typical elements of a Kanban board

Transitioning to Kanban was the solution

To be able to respond to changing customer demands and competitive behavior, sprints were replaced by continuous development with releases in regular cadences. The lead time of developing new features from idea generation to live deployment could be reduced by a significant amount of time through limiting work in progress (parallel work on user stories). Limiting work in progress reduces partially done work, extra features, lost knowledge, handoffs, task switching, delays and defects which are considered as the seven wastes of lean software development. Furthermore, Kanban offers massive analytics possibilities, e.g. the development team can predict with 70%, 80%, 90%, etc. probability when a feature will be available for the customer. Thus, the product owner can calculate when the backlog will be ready for the live environment based on his desired probability. The positive aspects of Scrum were still used in the Kanban process, such as the Scrum ceremonies like Daily Scrum and Retrospective Meetings, to combine best of both methods. Besides the gains in speed and predictability, the development team was more satisfied with the process because they could react to demands at any time without having the feeling that they did not stick to commitments.

Sebastian Straube is a consultant for digital transformation realizing agile online and eCommerce projects. He is a certified Scrum Product Owner, Scrum Master, Agile Requirements Specialist and an enthusiastic Kanban practitioner.

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