BY Masa K Maeda | January 23, 2012 | Blog

My business focuses on lean-agile coaching, consulting and training, not on software development services, and I successfully use Kanban to manage my customer portfolio.

It is untrue that Kanban is only good for software change management work. Many people new to Kanban have this misconception mainly for two reasons. One is because Kanban started in a change management team at Microsoft. The other one is because David J Anderson declared that Kanban is a method for change management in the organization and that statement can be misinterpreted. What David meant with that is Kanban helps you bring positive change to your organization. Although the original Kanban description is around software it is actually context free. There is a very popular book entitled Personal Kanban by Jim Benson that I invite you to consult.

Getting back to the main subject of this blog. I have been using Kanban for years to manage customer-facing and business-facing activities. The customer facing activities Kanban board has one swim lane per customer for easy visualization of the activities with each customer and to avoid making mistakes on which customer a given activity is for.  Each customer has its own backlog, which we make visual as the first column on the board. The other columns are Ready, Execute (doing/done), Customer verification, and Completed columns. The WIPs for each customer are different and in agreement with the customer needs and my resources. The figure shows our SwiftKanban board for one of the countries where we conduct business. In addition to making remote communication easier, a huge advantage we have with SwiftKanban is that it allows us to resort the lanes up and down to indicate level of priority and activity (we used the smart lanes feature to accomplish this). That is, a lane (a customer) bubbles up if the our level of activity with that customer and its priority increases and bubbles down if the activity/priority decreases. That way if we will not be doing any work with a customer for a while its lane is “out of the way”; and it is still readily available to resurface at a moment’s notice. We also count with a swim lane called “other” for general work that has to do with potential customers when the relationship hasn’t matured yet to the point of earning a dedicated lane.

SwiftKanban Board

Our classes of service are –

  • Business task
  • Business appointment
  • Business partner / associate task
  • Fixed delivery date
  • Immediate

Intangible tasks are business-facing and are, therefore, on a separate board.

Masa K Maeda

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