BLONDÉ is a third generation independent family business that thinks locally and acts globally in delivering liquid content services to its clients worldwide. Since their establishment as a high-end printing company in Antwerp, Belgium, in 1934 by Lode Blondé, they have evolved into a multifaceted global provider of services in the communications industry.
Presently, BLONDÉ is a multinational team of more than 30 people with cross-platform talents operating in growth markets. They manage a global network of hands-on and creative workers and partners that are driven to make content flow according to their concept of Mastering Liquid Content.
With the extreme focus on customer satisfaction, it is not a surprise that the company strives to continuously improve its services. This is how their motivation for exceeding expectations led them to Kanban and Kanbanize. We talked to Sara Van Espen – Team leader Technical Communications to understand what has her team achieved during the last 4 years with Kanbanize.
Organization and challenges
Let’s dive deeper into the use case of the Technical Communications team. They manage the content for new large customers, create automated tools and handle translation of the manuals. The team was always interested in finding better ways for managing work and improving efficiency. This curiosity has led them to Kanban and this was an approach they all liked, a perfect fit for their culture. Initially, they started with a physical board and post-its.
Although it worked well at first, soon some challenges started to arise and the team had to start looking for ways to overcome them. Once they had their process mapped and streamlined, and all the tasks were real cards on the Kanban board, it turned out that they were wasting time to manage it!
The work became too much for the physical space and the glue didn’t stick anymore. As trivial it may sound, these common daily issues soon became irritating and even harmed productivity. Moreover, there were remote employees who couldn’t participate in the process when using a physical board.
The team didn’t want to give up the Kanban model, so it had to find a better alternative to the physical board. This is how they started researching Kanban software solutions and found Kanbanize. What made them choose it out of the many tools available on the market, was the user-friendly interface, the flexibility, and the value for money proposition.
The Digital Kanban board
Kanbanize allowed Blondé to digitize their process and make it more Lean by removing the waste generated by the physical board. Let’s see how they mapped their workflows in Kanbanize and how some of their actual boards look like today. Some of the most used features in Blondé include:
- Business Rules – automating the workflow
- Comments – used to add clarifications, mentions, and updates to the cards
- Templates – allowing easier creation of cards in the occasion of recurring tasks
- Email Integration – facilitating centralized communication and tracking
- Color code – used for differentiating between the types of tasks
In Fig.1 we see the structure of their general board. They have a dedicated swimlane for each of the big customers they work with. This board functions as a Portfolio master board for the team where all the work is displayed.
Fig. 2 represents the Blondé ticketing board. It groups all questions concerning their Content Management System. This board is also shared with the software developer, who is a remote employee. This solution allows both parties to communicate clearly in real time without waiting for emails or schedule calls.
On Fig.3 we see the translations board called Integrated Language Services Mothership, which handles all translation needs. Here are all the stages of the translation process divided into two main groups – translating and proofreading. The swimlanes are again per customer divisions.
In order to ensure smooth and automated flow connecting all boards, they have created business rules. When a card from the main board needs translation, it goes to a specific column, which triggers a business rule that makes a duplicate on the translation board. This way the connection between tasks is not lost and there is better accountability.
Benefits for the team
Among the improvements that followed, they can stress 5 main points that proved most beneficial for them.
- Fewer emails
With the number of emails decreased dramatically, there was less ping pong regarding the tasks and therefore faster execution. Using the comments, mentions, and email integration allowed the team to communicate only through Kanbanize and eliminated the context switching between tasks, Kanbanize, and emails.
- Clearer overview
With Kanbanize, the team managed to get a clearer overview of all customer projects. Having all the requested work visible allows them to prioritize better and avoid overburdening. They have improved their process as they were able to spot bottlenecks and take action to prevent them.
- Better time management
The technical communications team has noticed that since they are using the digital Kanban boards, they have better time management and execute tasks faster. Working on one thing at a time and not pushing too many things to in progress at once has increased their productivity and made them more predictable.
- All information in one place
Another thing that they value is that all the information regarding a project or task is located at the same place. They use comments and attachments to keep cards updated and make sure that everyone is on the same page.
- Better communication
The team claims that communication improved within the team and with external parties. As they have the option to share a board with customers, it is easier for them to show the status of all projects live without constant email communication back and forth.
In conclusion, it is worth mentioning that digitalizing the Kanban process of the technical communications at Blondé significantly increased the team’s motivation, productivity, and efficiency. They kept all the benefits that a physical board was providing and built upon them with the capabilities of a powerful and flexible Kanban software.
We see how the waste of supporting a physical board is being transformed into a smooth automated process, which serves a central point of reference for the status of all projects. There is greater accountability, history of performance. These options are vital prerequisites for establishing Kaizen culture of continuous improvement.
With the results that the team has acknowledged, they are eager to present their solution to the rest of the departments in Blondé and implement it in at least one other team in the company during Q1 of 2019.