Kanban for Service Teams – Easy Way to Take Control

Dovile Miseviciute ·

Passionate content marketer looking to bring better solutions to the project management space. 2020 - Present Marketing specialist at Teamhood. 2014 - 2020 Marketing manager for Eylean.

kanban for service teams

Service teams are a crucial part of any business. They fulfill customer requests and ensure a positive end-user experience no matter the circumstances. However, managing such teams can be tough as there is a need to control a vast flow of customer requests and ensure they are dealt with in a timely manner.

Utilizing Kanban for service teams presents an effective approach to establishing a consistent workflow and guaranteeing reliable delivery.

Curious about the specifics?

Let’s explore.

Typical service team

There are various service teams out there – we have help desks, infrastructure teams, consultants, and even car services that operate similarly. They register all customer requests, prioritize them based on specific factors, and provide the customer with a solution.

Depending on the team specifics and industry, these requests differ in size and difficulty, but no matter the differences, each service team has to accept and answer them promptly.

Traditionally this is done through a single manager.

Whose responsibility it is to review all requests and then assign them to the team members. This means a single person is responsible for reviewing the whole queue and deciding what will be done and by whom.

This is a lot of work and responsibility for the manager as they are almost solely responsible for ensuring the team runs effectively. While the team members focus on completing the tasks that are assigned to them.

push principle

Issues with the Push approach

Since the manager prioritizes and decides all assignments, this can be called a Push approach (Where tasks are pushed on the team members). Without the immense responsibility faced by the manager, this approach suffers several other issues:

1 – Separate backlog for each team member

By reviewing and assigning new tickets to the team members, the manager creates a separate backlog for each team member. Instead of having a single queue of requests, there are now as many queues as there are people on the team.

This makes planning and assigning new items more difficult, as the manager must go through all the backlogs and evaluate each workload.

2 – No clear full backlog view

Since each team member operates in an individual backlog, there is no shared backlog to oversee. Meaning that it becomes more difficult to prioritize urgent requests. By assigning new items, the manager has to check each backlog for urgent requests and assign them to someone who can do it the quickest.

This opens a possibility that a new urgent item gets assigned to a team member that only has other urgent items in their backlog, and thus it won’t be completed in a timely manner.

3 – Long wait for new tickets

Having multiple backlogs means there is a longer wait for new tickets in general. As it is harder to prioritize not only the urgent items but all items. Imagine having 15-20 people on your team and 100 new requests coming in daily. Sorting the work items by urgency and then assigning them to your team by reviewing 20 different backlogs, there is a lot of room for error.

4 – No team collaboration

By having everyone focus on their own tasks, there is no real team spirit within such service teams. The team members are not interested in what their colleagues are doing or if they can help solve an urgent request, all they worry about is their own workload.

This means that the full team potential is not utilized, and operating at full capacity is more difficult.

5 – No clear bottleneck identification

Lastly, having such separate workflows for each team member makes it more difficult to identify and solve bottlenecks. Spotting a task that has been in progress for longer than usual is much easier if the team works from a single backlog instead of several separate ones.

These 5 issues bring a lot of waste to the service team processes. It becomes harder to notice issues, prioritize the most important work, and collaborate when the team members have no control over what they are working on.

If you have an experienced manager who is great at workload management, some of these issues can be dealt with. But what if there was an easier way to manage service teams?

Kanban for service teams

I have mentioned the Push system before for a reason – many issues service teams face in their process management can be fixed by implementing an opposite Pull system. Let me explain.

Contrary to the Push, the Pull system lays more control in the hands of the team. Here the manager is responsible for reviewing and prioritizing the requests, but the team members decide which of them they will complete. So, the whole team works in a single backlog and can take on the most important requests first based on their availability.

One of the best-known Pull systems is the Kanban system. Kanban works by visualizing the team tasks on a physical or digital Kanban board, prioritizing the most important tasks in the backlog, and then limiting the work in progress to create a continuous flow.

time tracking item details

What this means for service teams is that all of the customer requests are visible in a single backlog that is managed and prioritized by the team manager. The board can be divided into several rows to differentiate urgent, regular, and non-urgent requests, and the backlog usually features several priority columns letting the team know which tasks are the most important.

Once the team manager prioritizes the requests, it is up to each team member to go and pick which item they will be working on. Moreover, each team member can only work on one item at a time to ensure team effectiveness. Meaning they are completed quicker, and it is easy to spot any issues preventing the request from completion.

By giving the team members control over their tasks, the team manager can focus on task prioritization and ensuring urgent requests are delivered in a timely manner.

issue tracking
Kanban board support team example

Get more familiar with the framework by reading what the Kanban board is or get inspired with these Kanban board templates.

Benefits of the Kanban System for service teams

If you are still unsure if introducing Kanban for service teams is worth the effort, let’s look at the benefits of this change.

  • Support for continuous flow. Instead of waiting for the team manager to review and assign tasks to the team members individually, they are responsible for pulling tasks independently. Which means there is a continuous flow of work going on. By implementing Kanban for service teams, the managers can prioritize work and be sure their team will deliver the most important work items on time.
  • Easier to spot issues. Having all requests visualized on one board and all team members working on one request at a time makes it much easier to spot any issues. The team members can no longer switch back and forth between tasks and instead must focus on completing what they have already started.
  • Team collaboration. Having a single backlog for the whole team also creates more collaboration opportunities. All team members can now easily see if someone is struggling to complete a work item and offer help when needed. Implementing Kanban for service teams nurtures team spirit and shows everyone they are working towards a shared goal.
  • Better capacity management. Implementing a pull system also means there is no more need to worry about managing workloads for all team members. Everyone works one task at a time and takes on the most important requests first. So there is equality amongst the team.
  • Overall, it is easier to plan. Lastly, Kanban brings easier and more predictable planning. Kanban for service teams is no different. The team members can see their many requests and their importance and difficulty. This allows us to make more accurate estimations of when each of those requests will be solved. Making clients happier as they get a reliable service.

Using Teamhood for your service team

If you want a tool to implement Kanban for service teams, Teamhood can be a great fit. Built to visualize the team’s processes and easily track progress, Teamhood offers a variety of project management and Kanban features. Add in various task details, monitor progress in live reports, track time, and improve your process with Agile productivity metrics.

Choose the template from this issue-tracking Kanban board example to use Kanban for service teams, and you will immediately get a task board calibrated just for you.

Rows will help you determine the severity of the request – high, medium, or low.

The backlog columns will allow you to sort work items into blocked or ready to be solved. This way, it will be easier for the team members to know which requests should be taken on next and which can wait a little longer.

The In Progress section will let you keep track of the status of the work items – whether the team is resolving them or waiting on confirmation. The Output section will mark which requests were resolved and which failed.

Starting with the built-in template, you can immediately use Kanban for service teams and then improve the digital Kanban board in any way your team needs. With Teamhood, request tracking and solving become visual and easy.

Wondering if another Agile framework could be a better fit? See this comparison of Kanban vs Scrum vs Scrumban to make your choice.

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