What is Kanban Methodology, And How Can It Help You Improve Customer Success Operations

We're introducing you to the beauty of Kanban and how it can be used by Customer Success in your B2B SaaS company.

As a species, our brains are naturally geared toward visual learning. Scientists have determined that our brains can process images 60,000 faster than other forms of media. Perhaps we can consider it a type of superpower. Now imagine what can be accomplished if you tap such an awesome capability. That's what Kanban Methodology is all about.

Visualizing workflows is an incredible way to achieve better outcomes in operations and workflows; instead of relying solely on alphanumeric data, presenting information in a way that's more aligned with how our brain naturally functions results in greater efficiency and better use of time.

Kanban started in engineering and software development, but because it's such a flexible and easy-to-use model, it's being adopted as a strategic tool in industries worldwide. In this article, we'll introduce you to the beauty of Kanban and how it can be used by Customer Success in your B2B SaaS company.

What Is Kanban Methodology?

Kanban is a Japanese word that translates to "visual card." In Kanban visualization, work items are depicted as "cards" that advance from left to right through stages of work presented as columns. Tasks are broken down, assigned to cards, and moved from column to column as tasks are completed.

The Kanban Methodology was originated in the 1940s by Taiichi Ohno, an engineer working for Toyota Motor Corporation. To optimize inventory levels to match actual demand, employees used Kanban cards to pass inventory data between manufacturing teams to ultimately signal to suppliers which inventory items were needed.

This "just in time" process was eventually adopted by agile software developers who use the method to ensure workloads match a team's capacity. In this environment, developers implement Kanban boards to improve team cooperation and reduce wasted time.

Word has spread about the effectiveness of the Kanban Method, and as a result, businesses in other industries and departments, including Customer Success, are happily exploring the benefits of Kaban. It’s been trending as a project management tool perfect for reducing waste, producing optimal outcomes, and helping companies capture a competitive advantage.

6 Main Benefits of Using Kanban for Customer Success

Better Collaboration with Customers

Kanban boards allow multiple people to track the progress of tasks and projects simultaneously. For Customer Success teams looking to better collaborate with their customers, consider adopting a Kanban tool that enables CSMs and accounts to share visibility into select projects, and complete assigned tasks. 

Better Visibility of Customer Success Processes and Workflows

Perhaps the most significant aspect of Kanban is visualization. Using Kanban boards allows all team members to easily track the progress of individual tasks within each project. Furthermore, it becomes easier to spot potential disruptions to the workflow as well as impending bottlenecks.

Reduced Waste, Better Efficiency

Once you've implemented the Kanban method, it won't be long before you notice increased efficiency due to identifying and eliminating waste. When you can quickly identify obstacles, it instantly becomes easier to remove them from your process and workflow.

Better Productivity

The direct result of better efficiency is better productivity. The two fundamental productivity metrics in Kanban are cycle time and throughput; the combination of the two allows for tracking of productivity over time. Adopting the Kanban Methodology redirects your perspective; the goal is no longer about starting tasks but finishing them.

Improved Flexibility

Businesses applying Kanban Methodology use a visual roadmap to chart the course of a project, e.g. customer onboarding, using a Kanban roadmap. This approach is innately more agile than other project planning styles since it's easier for CSMs to make changes quickly and complete tasks. This puts teams in the position to respond proactively to market changes and customers' needs.

Better Team Focus & Collaboration

The Kanban Method encourages and relies on collaboration between team members to keep tasks organized and prioritized. Collective access to team Kanban boards and roadmaps ensure that all stakeholders have the information they need to execute and stay on mission.

More Predictable Outcomes

For Customer Success Managers, setting and delivering desired customer outcomes is vital. By creating a stable system that is efficient and free of waste, Kanban ensures that outcomes are more predictable. You can set expectations based on high-quality data, and your results will be repeatable across the team

How to Implement Kanban In Your Customer Success Department

Implementing Kanban Methodology in Customer Success is simple. Below we outline several critical steps to getting up and running quickly.

  • Visualize your workflow. Create a visual control board of your current processes for delivering work to customers. Designate one column per step for adding value to a work unit (e.g. not started, in progress, completed, etc.), and include columns to represent wait times if necessary.
  • Apply work-in-process (WIP) limits. Establish WIP limits by limiting the number of work units that can exist in one column at a time. Working on a limited number of tasks at a time improves efficiency. Make sure not to allow work to move into the next stage until there's room for it.
  • Make policies explicit. Create a universal system for prioritizing work items. Common examples of terms used to assign priority include "Standard," "Expedite," and "Fixed Date." Effectively prioritizing ensures that tasks that require urgency don't get stuck in the queue and that the workflow for standard priority tasks is steady.
  • Manage and measure flow. By tracking cycle time, the average time a work unit spends in your workflow from beginning to end and throughout, or the number of work units that move through your workflow in a specified period, you can make improvements to achieve optimal speed and quality.
  • Optimize iteratively with data. Using data from past iterations, make changes to your workflow and track improvements over time. The goal is to use what you've learned to optimize your workflow continuously.

Visualization is one of the most potent tools that can be implemented by a Customer Success organization so team leads and individual contributors alike can stay focused on high-priority tasks for customers. Kanban Methodology provides a framework for visualizing processes and workflows, and as a testament to how well it works, it's been adopted across industries. If improved efficiency and productivity are your goals, you can't go wrong with Kanban.

Request a free demo of our platform today to see how we can help your Customer Success team achieve improved Customer Success outcomes.

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