How to Track Your vSphere Project with Kanban

kanban board

I use Kanban because it works!

Kanban has been around since 1953 and is known for helping make Toyota so successful.

And yes, even today, Kanban is used to track the assembly of Toyota automobiles.

So now that I have your attention, I’m going to explain why you should be using Kanban for tracking your vSphere project. Let’s get started.

Definition of Done…

Let me stop for a moment and quickly cover an important lesson I learned in Scrum training with ScrumBob on why you need to verify when something is said to be “done”. .

The reason is because the definition of “done” means there are no more cycles that should need to be burned after someone says they are finished with a task. If even one more minute is needed to finish something it is NOT done!

I have found while working with IT professionals for nearly 20 years that we [including myself] like to say we are done before we are done. Really, I don’t think we get it – finished is 100%, not 99.9%.

The reason I am making such a big deal about this is because you will find after weeks, or even months, 4 out of 10 tasked in the “done” column of your Kanban board will not be done.

It’s frustrating to be so close to finishing your project and find out someone has left something at 99.9% and you then have to go back and finish it.

So validate to make sure it’s done before the Post-it is moved to the done column!

According to Wikipedia  Kanban is a system to control the logistical chain from a production point of view, and is not an inventory control system. Kanban was developed by Taiichi Ohno, at Toyota, to find a system to improve and maintain a high level of production. (picture below copied from Wikipedia)


How to use Kanban

Traditional Kanban uses cards to track tasks. A white board and Post-its works great.

You’ll need 5 columns:

  1. Backlog (all the project tasks that need to be done)
  2. Hold (all the project tasks that are in progress but on hold pending something such as parts)
  3. In-progress (all the project tasks that are being worked on)
  4. Validate (all the project tasks that are supposed to be done but you’re waiting for verification)
  5. Done (all the project tasks that are verified as completed)

Getting started…

Start in the backlog column by creating separate Post-it stickies with each task you or your project team need to complete.

Basically you will take the project task list and break it down into small, medium, and large tasks using this criteria:

  • Small – Usually multiple small tasks can be complete in a day.
  • Medium – Often medium tasks can be completed in a day.
  • Large – Large tasks can usually take up to a week. (break up large tasks into smaller or medium tasks when possible)

Here’s the VMware vSphere installation documents to get you started on your project task list. Read through the installation guide and create the list:  VMware vSphere Documentation

Tip: Once all the tasks are created, only assign tasks that can be completed by the staff doing to work.

One Task at a Time

It’s better to only complete one task a week then to have 10 tasks pending with the same person.

The goal is to finish something before starting on something new.

For example, if the task is to rack and cable server hardware, then that should be completed before assigning the task to install and configure ESXi.

Then when the task to configure ESXi is completed, then the task to test and validate the HA and DRS should be completed, and so on.

As explained, only one task at a time should be worked on by each resource [or group of resources] before the next task is issued. The only other way to start something new is when something is placed on hold.

Daily Stand up Meeting

With Kanban, another important step is the daily stand up meeting – yes just like with Scrum.

During the stand up meeting you need to ask each person the status of their task and if there is anything hindering getting it done that you can help with.

For example, if the security team is holding up progress for opening up ports for the management network, then it’s your job to escalate the tickets and get things moving.

Any action item you can take away is important to keep the progress moving from backlog to done. Not more than one day should go by without making progress.

This process also works very well to organize chaos where too many things are going on and nothing is getting completed.

Stop the madness and create a Kanban board and use it to regulate the tasks and monitor the progress.

As more Post-its are moved from the backlog column to the done column, it will energize the team and they will want to finish what they start.

Not Everything is High Priority!

Far to often, everything becomes the highest priority and nothing gets done. Using a Kanban board helps stop the confusion and gives the team the focus they need.

Aside from the traditional white board and Post-it pads, here are a couple of other ways Kanban solutions.


Kanbantool is an online tool that turns the white board and Post-its into a visual software tool (see screenshot).

I’m currently using Kanbantool and it work just as well for organizing, but the draw back is the need to have users log into to see the progress.

Having a white board that everyone sees all the time is better but the online tool is still effective.

Other Free Kanban Tools:

I’ve used a PowerPoint deck that is updated and sent via email daily. And here’s a free agile template that can be customized into a Kanban board. (see screenshot at the beginning of this post)

And more recently I started using Free Trello which is another online Post-it board.

Once again, this works but is not as effective as the board and stickies in the office that everyone sees all the time.

Video Example Using Kanban with Chef


Want to read more about Opscode Chef?


As a technical project manager I’ve used waterfall, Scrum, and Kanban to manage infrastructure projects. And for the record, each has its own strength, but Kanban is the best for tracking each of the assembly steps used for building a vSphere cloud or tracking a data center migration.

It’s great for tracking high level tasks like building servers, networks, and clouds. Give it a try for yourself. All you need to start is a while board and a few packs of Post-it pads.

How do you track your vSphere projects?

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