Kanban for project management goes as far back as the early 1960s, with Industrial Engineer and Businessman Taiichi Ohno creating a simple inventory planning system for Toyota automotive. What pushed him to develop such a system is the fact that effective mass production requires them to focus on streamlining all the processes that make it. And while the kanban tool was originally conceptualized for Just-in-Time inventory, it remains a tried, tested and trusted concept that almost all industries have adopted.
The struggle Taiichi went through is fundamentally similar to the challenges faced by Managed Service Providers or MSPs. Keeping track of multiple projects, tasks, and deadlines can be overwhelming. It's easy to get lost in a sea of emails, spreadsheets, and sticky notes, but way harder to get out of them. More often than not, managing your many priorities leaves you feeling disorganized, unmotivated, and unproductive.
This is the very reason to adopt kanban for project management.
What is a Kanban?
In its simplest explanation, a kanban tool or system is a visual project management method that aims to provide a clear and concise overview of any tasks and initiatives in your pipeline. At its core, it involves the creation of visual representations of your projects and organizing them into columns to indicate status and priority.
Typically, you might have columns for "To Do," "Doing," and "Done." Each task is then represented by a card that is moved from column to column as it progresses through the workflow. The great thing about using kanban for project management is you have the liberty to customize it to fit the mold of your current processes- the way you utilize the columns can easily change and grow with your operation- you can add “For Revision” and “For Approval” for instance, if your work requires input from different stakeholders.
7 Reasons to Use Kanban for Project Management
If you are looking to introduce kanban to your team and already anticipating skepticism from them, here are seven advantages you can discuss to help them get “on board.”
Kanban provides a visual representation of the work process, making it easy to see the progress of tasks and projects. Additionally, it can help identify bottlenecks and areas for improvement as it provides visibility on capacity, delays, and revision requests.
Using kanban for project management allows for real-time adjustments and changes, making it ideal for projects with unpredictable or constantly changing demands. This is especially true for MSPs who manage both people and tools- both of which are constantly evolving parts of operations.
A kanban tool can help facilitate collaboration and communication between team members, ensuring that everyone is aware of the status of tasks and projects. Aside from structuring your kanban columns by status, you also have the option to design it by assignee, so all team members have visibility on each other’s bandwidth.
By clearly showing the priority of tasks, kanban helps teams focus on what is most important and urgent, reducing the risk of missed deadlines. Adopting kanban for project management can also ensure that resources are used effectively, which is key to successful priority management.
5. Kaizen or Continuous Improvement
Kaizen is a Japanese term that refers to continuous improvement. While in itself, it’s also a management strategy; kaizen can also be a by-product of using a kanban tool. The continuous flow of work and the ability to visualize progress make it easy to identify areas for improvement, allowing teams to refine and optimize their processes continually.
Employing a kanban system makes it possible to streamline work processes, evaluate the average time of task completion, and evaluate project lifecycles. This data will then be helpful in gaining actionable insights designed to determine phases that may require additional manpower or even automation for improved efficiency.
7. Better alignment
Kanban helps to align team members and stakeholders around common goals which then minimizes the instances of miscommunication, overlaps, and counterproductive redundancies.
Using kanban for project management is an easy and empowering way to manage people, projects, and processes. With its focus on visualizing work and prioritizing tasks, a kanban tool has proven to be an effective method for improving productivity and efficiency.
4 Factors to Evaluate Before Using a Kanban Tool
Just like any other project management system, there are key considerations you need to think about before its implementation. This will ensure that you will be able to use kanban effectively and get the most value from it. Here are five factors to asses for kanban tool adoption:
Introducing new tools should always come with a clear goal and rationale. Any change in current processes can have its own challenges, but the best way to get your team on board is to make them understand why. The answer to “What are you looking to achieve?” should be aligned with everyone involved.
Given that you are looking to use kanban for project management, it only makes sense to take a hard look at your current processes and see how they will fit in. This entails understanding how tasks flow from one stage to the next, so you can design your kanban to address the specific needs of your organization.
As an MSP, it is only expected that you already have a set of existing tools with different purposes. Consider how the kanban tool integrates with other systems in your operations, like business management tools ConnectWise and AutoTask.
4. Team Structure
Consider the structure of your team and how they interact with each other. A well-designed kanban system should support the way your team works rather than dictating a new process. Of course, you also need to take into account any stakeholders like clients or upper management who may need to approve or provide feedback.
In conclusion, Kanban boards are a powerful tool for managing your workload as an MSP. They provide a clear and concise overview of your work, from conceptualization to completion. By really evaluating the people, products, and processes that make your operations, using a kanban for project management can take your productivity to the next level. If you wish to learn more about this methodology, our experts here at TopLeft can walk you through it! We’ve developed a kanban tool specifically targeted to MSPs looking to make multitasking manageable. Get in touch with us today to schedule a demo.
Looking for help on how to transform your MSP? Here's an our Agile Bootcamp session with Scott. Taylor about comprehensive and detailed analysis of his company's journey towards developing an Agile mindset, showcasing the impact it had on various aspects of the business, and highlighting the benefits it brought to the company's operations, customer satisfaction, and profitability.
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