Kanban for Managed Service Providers

The Agile MSP introduced Kanban to Engineering, Marketing and Sales! Find out how they did it.

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In the age we live in, computers and the internet have become such vital parts of our lives, that some of us have trouble remembering how we could ever function without them. Although they provide us with a great number of amenities, computers require maintenance and constant upgrades in order to meet our growing demands.

Liberty Technology is a managed service provider, one of the companies that makes sure all of our IT concerns, such as infrastructure, cloud solutions, connectivity and the wide variety of potential hardware malfunctions, are met. Based in Griffin, Georgia, the company provides solutions to all kinds of technology problems. Having seen that the number of software development organizations using Agile methods for production were on the increase, Liberty decided to apply these principles in their growing MSP business as well.

In 2015, Liberty’s CEO Ben Johnson and COO Nathan Jones came up with a new service meant to help other MSPs implement the Agile method in their work. This is how The Agile MSP was born. The Agile MSP consists of members from Liberty Technology and is dedicated to discovering better ways of providing IT services. They provide consulting to other MSPs and give them practical examples of how to leverage the Agile methodology in their practices.

In order to be as effective as possible in its process, Agile MSP has adopted the Kanban method for visualization and organization of its own workflow. The group shared with us their fascination for the simplicity and flexibility of some of the features that make up the Kanban method, such as ‘stand-ups’ and ‘Kanban boards’.

The company understood the comfort that web-based tools bring in applying Kanban and eventually chose Kanbanize in order to bring their productivity to an even higher level. They adopted Kanbanize in 2015 and have managed to apply it to their entire organization in record time. They currently apply Kanbanize in their Engineering, Marketing and Sales departments.

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Engineering

At first, their engineers used Kanban to visualize progress on work that they could access and update from anywhere. Using our API, they managed to loop their business management platform and ticketing system, ConnectWise, into the Kanbanize workflow, thus visualizing work became a lot easier for them. This is an example of the structure of their IT Board featuring an integration with ConnectWise:

 

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New Tickets: Service Tickets are received in here.
Assigned Tickets: When cards enter this column, resource is engaged and the customer receives a response.
Onsite Dispatch: Requires location visit. The card remains in this column until resource is available to begin work.
In Progress: A Technician or an Engineer is actively working on the task contained within the description of the card.
Waiting: Block waiting on external party, which might include missing information from customer, pending receipt of parts on order, after hours scheduling, etc.
Done: Ticket is complete and is awaiting a review.
Archive: The ticket has been reviewed and invoice is issued if applicable.

Marketing

The marketing department’s boards are split into the basic “Requested, In Progress, Done” columns, with no swimlanes. One of the members of the marketing team further explained that they “… color-code tickets based on the nature of the task – event tasks are blue, social media is orange, company branding initiatives are green…” based on the nature of the task. Below is an example of the structure of The Agile MSP’s board.

Sales

In a recent article on the topic of how they are making use of Kanbanize in their Sales department, The Agile MSP’s team share, that “Sales is finally able to visualize work comprehensively. Project boards make it a snap to keep track of sales opportunities and progress on client projects. Tickets that move along in one project board, however, sometimes have counterparts in other boards that need to be moved or updated simultaneously. This is exactly the kind of scenario where we apply some of the sophisticated Kanbanize runtime policies.” Their Sales Opportunity Review Board is structured in the following way:

Backlog: This area contains leads on possible clients.
Wishlist: The column is designed for engaged prospects and beginning conversations. It is an early stage of negotiations.
To-do: In this column are placed the current call lists, email engagements and follow ups.
In Progress: Upon reaching this column, the tasks are in the form of configurations/quote creations and submissions.
Completed: Once the opportunities are won or lost, the cards reach this final column before being archived.

Among their most favored features are the runtime policies, which enable automations and allow them to spend less time moving cards across the project boards manually.

The Agile MSP’s team gave us examples on how they utilize Kanbanize in their Sales and Marketing departments via the runtime policies.

“Marketing email newsletters, blog posts and social media maintenance are important parts of what the team does and they all adhere to a regular schedule. It adds up to a lot of work and the responsible people can’t spend time punching in the exact same cards for this week’s batch of posts and tweets. Luckily, we’ve been able to automate the process and save that time with the recurring cards policy.” This is a great choice of a policy for any board that includes lots of tasks with а short cycle time, because keeping order manually becomes time-consuming and, with more boards, may become nearly impossible and a cause for errors.

Their Sales department utilized the “card is updated” policy. It enables them to cut out the routine of adding or updating cards on different boards that are dependent on changes to a parent card. For example, a card on the opportunities board represents a potential client that becomes an actual client. With this policy, all it takes to represent their progress in picking and ordering equipment on another board is to move a card forward on the opportunities board. “Card is updated” provides relief of the often annoying task of manually updating cards upon action that occurs with linked cards.

This team is a testament to the fact that Kanban has the potential to be applied in every aspect of business, thanks to its simplicity and efficiency. The Agile MSP clearly knows how to apply the method and their use case can help you get to know the nature of Kanban, Lean and Agile, so you can apply it to boosting your own productivity to a whole new level.