1. Introduction to the Flow Efficiency
The chart will automatically gather data from every card that passed through your Kanban board during the time frame of your choice to accumulate the overall flow efficiency for the period.
The higher your flow efficiency is (%), the faster tasks flow through the process. Tracking flow efficiency over time helps teams evaluate their improvement efforts.
The Flow efficiency chart shows you what percentage of the time your team was actively working on versus how much time the work items were waiting.
Kanban boards are meant to reflect the value stream. Value streams map both activities and the queues between activities.
How do we know if a work item is waiting? There are columns on the Kanban board, which were marked as "queue" ones, during the Board customization. When cards are waiting in these columns, they generate non-value-added time.
Some examples of "Queue" Kanban columns may be:
- Waiting for Approval – This type of Kanban queue column is appropriate for tasks which require approval to be processed (e.g. payments, promotional sales, etc.)
- Waiting for Review – This Kanban queue is a relevant stage of the workflow where work items wait to be evaluated. It is like a filter before tasks receive feedback and move forward to completion stage or go back for improvements. It plays a crucial role in product/service’s quality (e.g. product development, content writing, design, etc.)
- Waiting for External Activity – This kind of Kanban column is applicable for tasks waiting for third party actions in order to be completed. It happens often when a team communicates with other units outside of the company. (e.g. partnerships, affiliate programs, etc.)
On the contrary, all columns where tasks are actively worked on towards completion of a given goal generate value-adding time. Such columns are usually named “Development”; "Verification", etc.
For example, when cards are in the "Development" column, team members are working on implementing the code. Cards in the "Verification" column indicate that the senior team member is reviewing the code.
Kanbanize accumulates the time each card has spent along the workflow: from the initial phase until delivery and separates value-adding time and non-value added time.
With a single glance, this graph tells you how efficient your process is (for example 74.9 %).
Measuring flow efficiency is done with the help of this simple formula:
Flow Efficiency[%]=Value-added Time/Lead Time*100
The analytics use one calendar day as the lowest possible time unit.
The card was created 30 minutes ago and was moved to "In progress". The system shows 1 day for this card. The card was created late yesterday at 23:00 P.M. and you take a look at the chart in the morning at 9:00 A.M. (i.e. around 10 hours after the creation). The system will show 2 days as the card has been created yesterday and is still being worked on Today.
The Calendar time unit is used for analytics due to the fact that most of the modern Kanban systems are driven by client requests. As such, clients expect exact delivery dates or ranges that are calendar-based. They do not care about holidays, working hours, man-days, cycle, and lead times.
That being said, the Flow efficiency chart allows for cycle time recalculation based on working days.
When the option is selected, the graph recalculates the cycle time of each card accordingly, removing the non-working days. There is also going to be a disclaimer on top of the chart that the cycle time has excluded non-working from the calculation.
Note: In order to calculate for working days, blocked days must be disabled in the Calculation Inputs setting.
In case that you need precise cycle and log times for internal reporting, use the Advanced search capabilities with the different chart views and widgets.
2. How to set up the Flow Efficiency chart?
From the left side of the panel, you can control which data you can see on the chart within a predetermined time frame.
First, you select the workflows that you want to analyze. The chart takes into consideration all cards from the selected workflows. Note that you can add single or multiple workflows.
Second, you need to select at least one of the following fields: "Created At", "Start Date" or "End Date" and configure their value.
Note: you can't run the analysis without selecting at least one of the 3 fields. You can also select more than one of them for a more precise configuration of the dataset.
In addition, you can apply extra filters (Add cards filter). For example, you may want to see only cards with high priority or cards that are of a certain type.
From the right side of the module, you can view and adjust the Queueing stages in your process in order to distinguish the work activity from inactivity (stages where cards are waiting).
Queueing stages will be pre-selected automatically, based on the currently opened board's layout settings (via "Edit Workflow").
Once queueing stages are selected, the chart will produce the result.
3. Practical tips:
- Improving flow efficiency starts with visualizing your Queue columns. Identify the stages and the tasks that accumulate more time and try to understand why this happens.
- Managing queue columns helps you reducing waste in your process. When you define the queue stages in your process, you will see where cards spend time waiting and you can track how much time you actually spend working. The reduction of your inactive time directly impacts your overall cycle time. You have to investigate your workflow and eliminate the causes that block or delay your work.
- Measuring and tracking the efficiency metric helps you analyze performance, identify bottlenecks, and improve your workflow. Track the flow efficiency metric over time to evaluate improvement efforts.
- Take a look at the Process Efficiency chart at least once a month. If your process efficiency is below 35% -40%, you have a lot of grounds for improvement.
- If you set a "Work in Progress" limit in the Queue columns and thus force the system to resolve cards faster, you could achieve significant improvement in cycle time and respectively your efficiency metric.
- It is a common misunderstanding that if you start working on more tasks, you will boost your efficiency result. More work in progress means more context switching and multitasking, which increases your queue time.
In Kanbanize, you can monitor flow efficiency directly on the Main dashboard with the help of a specifically designed widget that is highly customizable. To learn more about the Efficiency widget, please check the dedicated article.