"The Escutcheon Workshop" - PART 2 : Kanban Journey for the Infrastructure Operations Support and Service Teams
By Badri N Srinivasan
In my previous post, I had explained what is Kanban and how to view it in the context of Infrastructure Operations Support and Service .
Before we start the implementation of Kanban for a specific Operations Support and Service Team, we need to identify the team composition and work out its team structure. This will help us to implement Kanban effectively for the team. This process is known as team design and it is considered as a part of the organizational design (OD).
When we identify and form a team, we generally identify different support/service skills that the team should possess so that they can undertake the complete support/service for the customer. For e.g. if a single team is expected to provide network support services to the customer, the team should ideally have skills in L0, L1, L2, and L3 support. This ensures end-to-end support for the customer as a single ticket that can be resolved by one team instead of the customer depending on multiple teams (L2 – one team, L3 – another team and other multiple teams, where applicable) to complete his ticket and request. Each member identified at a particular level of support is skilled in their job and the skill level increases as the level move up. Each level has more experience and education. The different service levels are –
L0 – Basic resolution of issues through call resolution. Take the help of knowledge base to manage issue resolution.
L1 – Product Demo and basic troubleshooting including specific call resolution. Deal with physical connections and hardware. Basic network design - from about 30 to about 500 network point design. Basic project management skills.
L2 – Resolution of Technical problems. Focus on medium to large network design. 500 to about 2000 network point design. Intermediate project management skills.
L3 – Resolution of Major problems. Root cause analysis of problems with updations to the knowledge base. Design Experts and Data Center specialists with project management skills. Focus on 2000 to 30000+ network point design and familiar with high-end network equipment (CISCO/JUNIPER/Other Brands).
The network support services could be in the form of network design, installation, support and maintenance. Additionally, the levels – L0, L1, L2, and L3 could vary in different organizations depending on the type of services being offered by the organization to the customer and the type of terminology used. We may also have additional or fewer levels depending on the focus of the organization. However, at a broad level, the above classification could be used to categorize different types of operations support and services in an organization.
There are two types of team design that can be observed in an organization – teams that are exclusively made up of only one type of skill level, e.g. L2 support, L1 support. This is the component type team design.
Teams that are made up of the complete stack of support services provided – A single team having L0, L1, L2, and L3 skills. This is considered as the feature type team design where like a feature team, the operations support/service team provides complete end to end support to the customer (A feature team is a team that has all the skills needed to support the customer requirements and delivers the features to the customer). As organizations focus on agile and Kanban implementation for their teams and also emphasize imbibing the aspects of Spotify Engineering Culture (a culture that focuses on not having a hierarchical structure and which focuses on host and servant leadership), the attention is on forming teams that have end to end skills to resolve all the customer issues. Hence, the focus on full stack operations support/service teams.
Earlier, a team member used to have specific skills and built his skills in that area only, e.g. L2. This was the T type skill focus. Now, we have the PI type skill focus where a team member is expected to be an expert in at least two areas – e.g. L2, L1 and also have knowledge in other areas. It is acknowledged that there are constraints that need to be overcome to reach this level but it is expected that in the future, the demand will be for full stack skills (L0, L1, L2 and L3) from a single team member. This implies that a team member has all the skills necessary to deliver the service/support to the customer without having to depend on another member or wait to seek help from another member. There are multiple constraints that need to be overcome in order to reach this state and organizations are facilitating this transformation that may happen over a period of time in the future. This will further strengthen the Operations support / service teams structure and delivery to the customer in the future.
After the skill matrix and the team members are identified to form a team, one of the members of the team is identified as a Kanban Master. He is responsible for facilitating the implementation of the Kanban practices and process for the team along with the help of other non-team members like an Agile Coach, Center of Excellence, Continuous Improvement team and other teams (e.g. training), where applicable.
Generally, we have an initial kick-off workshop for the newly formed team which I call as the Escutcheon workshop. An Escutcheon (as per the Oxford English Dictionary) is defined as –
An emblem or shield bearing a coat of arms or
a flat metal piece that is used for protection and also ornamentation around a keyhole, door handle or light switch.
The analogy with Escutcheon reminds us of the concept of the team subliminally forming a protective boundary for the team members and which helps the team members to undertake their daily work and take the help of other team members when stuck and ask for help when they are not able to resolve any issue. The team is also having a team name which gives an identity to the team, improves team bonding and which is similar to the coat of arms on a shield that bound fellow kinsmen during the olden times. The output of the workshop is also a diagram in the form of an Escutcheon. Hence, the term Escutcheon. This, of course, implies that the team members exhibit team member characteristics like trust, courage, transparency and other traits so that the concept of a team can be established and sustained in the future. Additionally, this does not mean that the team members can only ask for help from any other member within the team. They are free to also ask for help from any other member in the organization for additional ideas for issue resolution.
A typical output of an Escutcheon Workshop for a Network Operations Support / Service Team is given below -
Are you interested in learning more about Lean manufacturing? April 5th kicks off our Pull / Kanban System and Total Productive Maintenance Workshop! #TPM #PullKanban #Lean
Learn more at https://t.co/I0gGUIU4UP pic.twitter.com/c6cfFI7WYx
— IMEC (@IMECillinois) March 12, 2018
This network operations team is tasked to support network usage and monitor the performance of the network apart from other routine support / service activities. Hence, this becomes the important tagline or punchline of the team. The key words of the team focus on data, usage and performance (with respect to the network). The team emphasizes collaboration and creativity as key focus areas which will help them in their day to day activities related to network support and service, apart from other focus areas. The team calls themselves as “Network Tigers” and which is ready to support any network issue end to end within their scope of operation pertaining to network support and service. They adopt the logo of a Tiger Face which gives the team an identity to focus, bond and celebrate their successes and wins and support each other during lean periods.
Thus, the Escutcheon workshop helps the team to establish a facade (principal front face) to the customer as a single point of contact to help them for all their issues related to their network and help to resolve them end to end in the shortest possible time and with the highest quality. The team members keep improving their skills to meet this commitment to their customer and learn from their mistakes, adopt continuous learning and implement the lessons learnt from their projects to further strengthen their skills to match and exceed the customer expectations.
Hence, we have now established a full-fledged Operations Support / Service team having all the skill sets that are needed to address the queries, issues and tickets raised by the customer related to their network. Now the team needs to implement, establish, nurture, sustain and institutionalize Kanban values, principles and practices in their team to enable and facilitate the team to enhance customer delight and improve the quality of delivery.
In the upcoming Posts, I will focus on the next step in the Kanban journey as we learn how to implement Kanban for the Infrastructure Operations Support and Service teams – both at the team level and at the scale level (when we integrate multiple teams at scale to deliver support services to the customer).
based on 1 customer reviews
"What Is Kanban" -PART - 1 :Kanban Journey for the Infrastructure Operations Support and Service Teams
By Badri N Srinivasan
In my previous post, I had initially started by explaining why we should implement Agile practices and then talked about the benefits of implementing Agile practices for Infrastructure Operations Support Teams.
Now when we know that by implementing Kanban, these teams can become more Agile and deliver more value to the customer, the next question that we need to focus on is – How do we implement Kanban for infrastructure operations support and service teams.
In the upcoming series of posts, I will be highlighting step by step the complete Kanban journey for Infrastructure Operations Support and Service teams and explain how to implement Kanban for these teams.
However, before we start on our Kanban journey, we need to initially understand clearly what is Kanban, Kanban is basically a method for organizing, managing and delivering work and in this case – infrastructure-related operations and services support work. Kanban can also be used for a lot of other types of work including software product development but in these series of posts, my focus will be primarily on how to implement Kanban for infrastructure operations support services.
The word “Kanban” can be broken down as “Kan” meaning visual and “ban” meaning card, thus Kanban meaning visual card (in Japanese). Hence, Kanban is a visual indicator that is used to trigger an action or activity. Toyota Corporation introduced Kanban in the automobile sector in relay systems to standardize the flow of auto parts in their just in time (JIT) production lines in the 1950s and subsequently, the method was adopted by other organizations and across other industries. Kanban is basically a Pull System where the customer demand pulls the work item from the upstream processes.
It is a method that is used to help teams work together more effectively. It is a visual system for managing the workflow as it moves through a process and the focus is both on the process (workflow) and the work product passing through that process. The emphasis is on identifying the bottlenecks in the process and address them so that the work can flow through the process in an effective manner thereby optimizing time to market (speed), cost and quality (ensure that the work item is having minimal defects). The Kanban method thus helps to visualize the work and control the workload.
Any method, framework or system has key tenets or pillars that identify and characterize the method. Similarly, in order for Kanban to be implemented effectively, we need to understand the key tenets behind Kanban.
The Kanban method consists of a set of principles and practices that have been proven to be effective for managing the workload and deliver professional services to the customers (external and internal) appropriately. These key tenets have proven to be effective in successful Kanban implementations worldwide. These tenets initially derived from Lean principles were further developed by David J Anderson and the worldwide community of coaches, trainers and practitioners and they were published in 2010.
What is the kanban agile methodology? How can you use it?https://t.co/y4WtbhEoJ2
— HEFLO (@WeAreHEFLO) 30 December 2017
The Key Principles are (also derived from the Lean principles) –
Start with what you do NOW – The focus here is on the present. The main aim is not to disturb the current state of the process and identify, focus and study the existing process and bring in incremental changes to the process to manage evolutionary change. Hence, while implementing Kanban for the service teams, many of the team members initially felt they were not doing any change in their current process and everything appeared to be the same. They felt the changes occurring over a period of time in an evolutionary manner as incremental change is introduced in the process.
Encourage acts of LEADERSHIP at every level – Leadership is a very important concept that needs to be encouraged at every level, right from the team member to the Head of the department. Kanban focuses on building leadership skills at every level of the hierarchy so that decisions can be taken by empowered individuals. This is very important as team members cannot take appropriate decisions even if they are empowered if they are not having strong leadership skills.
Agree to pursue improvement through EVOLUTIONARY CHANGE– Improvements are undertaken in small, incremental steps which lead to the changes being implemented in an evolutionary manner. This leads to very less pain on account of changes and team members embrace these changes as they occur in an evolutionary manner. Evolutionary changes give team members a feeling that everything is the same and there is not much change that they feel in the new process as the change is gradual and it is implemented over a period of time.
Policies control SERVICE DELIVERY – Service delivery to the customer requires strong discipline to maintain a steady cadence of work delivery and it also improves predictability of the service delivered. As there are multiple service level agreements to be met for undertaking different types of service support (e.g. L1, L2, L3, L4) and priority of service (e.g. P1, P2, P3, P4), it is important that key policies are defined very clearly by the team and it is understood by all the team members and the customer. This ensures that the expectations related to service delivery are mentioned clearly before the start of work and the customer and the team members are very clear about the service delivery guidelines and rules. This improves trust and transparency and the team members are able to meet the expectations of the customer in a planned and managed fashion.
Manage the WORK, let people self-organize around it – A key principle which focuses on managing the work and allowing the people to self-organize around the work. Historically, the Managers used to manage the people and ensure that the work is undertaken accordingly. However, in this case, the principle focuses on highlighting that the work needs to be managed appropriately. The people who do the work have the maximum amount of information available about the work and this information is always kept current. Hence, they are in the best position to take a decision regarding the work to be undertaken. This can be possible only if they are given autonomy and they self-organize themselves around the work. This principle is derived from the Lean principle which also focuses on the work and allows people to self-organize around the work.
Understand and focus on CUSTOMER needs and expectations – The focus here is on identifying, building, designing and delivering the right service to the customer. The customer needs and expectations are identified and studied and the service delivery is then designed to match the work capacity and the customer need so that appropriate services can be delivered to the customer.
The Key Practices are –
Visualize – The service/process workflow is visualized on a board and also electronically using tools. The human brain has a capacity to understand visual items better as compared to non visual items. Hence, visualizing the work brings a big change in the minds of the team members and they are able to identify bottlenecks quickly and suggest steps to resolve them. Blind spots which were present earlier when the workflow was not visual are now addressed easily in the visual management tool/board.
Limit WIP (work in progress) – Work in Progress (WIP) is an important practice in the Kanban method. WIP Limits are identified for each step and managed appropriately to deliver work in the shortest time possible. When WIP is more, work output gets delayed and queuing of the work items increases. By working out the suitable WIP limits, the work is balanced with the team capacity and the bottlenecks are removed or reduced substantially. This leads to improved cycle time and lead time for the customer.
Manage Flow – Flow is defined as the complete path in the value stream starting from the customer requirement to the work item being delivered to the customer – i.e. from concept to cash as in Lean methodology. By implementing the above practices, the flow in the process can be maintained as a single piece flow, i.e. only one or more work items (considered as a single piece) moving forward at a particular point in time as per the capacity of the process. This ensures that there are no bottlenecks and the work item moves ceaselessly from concept to cash (till it is delivered to the customer). This reduces delays and improves the lead time to market. Hence, the team is able to service the tickets for the customer in the shortest time possible. Theory of constraints is one of the techniques that is used to manage flow in a process.
Make the Policies Explicit – In order to implement the process changes in an evolutionary manner, the team will need to create the policies governing the process (service level agreement, classes of service, cost of delay, WIP Limits, swim lanes and other factors) explicitly and share it with all the stakeholders so that trust and transparency are built into the process. Making the policies explicit ensures discipline and the team members need to manage the process as per the policies and the governance meetings are also set up to ensure that the policies are adhered as per the requirements. However, the setting of the policies is a dynamic exercise as the market conditions, team maturity, customer expectations, and the work environment keep changing and the policies need to be updated as per these variables so that they are always current and all the changes made to the policies as per the requirement also needs to be communicated to all the stakeholders periodically.
Manage the feedback loops – All Agile methods including Kanban focus heavily on feedback loops to measure and validate the work undertaken and the Kanban method builds in a lot of feedback loop mechanisms which need to be managed appropriately. Examples of feedback loops in Kanban are the policies, WIP limits, Kanban events like daily Kanban meeting and other meetings which validate the work undertaken through feedback. The validation confirms the confidence that the work undertaken so far is verified and is correct.
Improve and Evolve – Continuous Improvement is a part of all the process models/frameworks and methods. In the case of Kanban, the focus is on continuous improvement of the processes over a period of time to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of the process. The emphasis is on constantly improving and evolving the process over a period of time to ensure that the time to market or time to delivery is constantly reduced for the customer.
By understanding the principles and key practices underlying Kanban, we are now better prepared to implement Kanban effectively for the Infrastructure Operations Support teams. In the upcoming posts, I will continue to highlight and explain each step in the Kanban journey as we learn how to implement Kanban for the Infrastructure Operations Support and Service teams – both at the team level and at the scale level (when we integrate multiple teams at scale to deliver support services to the customer).
based on 20 customer reviews
Benefits of Implementing Agile Practices for Infrastructure Operations Support Teams
By Badri N Srinivasan
Agile methodologies have become mainstream and more than 90% of the organizations had indicated that they are practising Agile in some form or the other (Version One, State of Agile Survey, 2016). In this post, I will highlight how a specific Agile methodology is used in the infrastructure space to manage routine operations work.
In the infrastructure domain, there are not many organizations which are using Agile as it is not easy to implement the scaled Agile framework (Scrum) as the nature of work is more from the operational perspective as compared to the product development space where the focus is on knowledge work. However, in large enterprise organizations (> 5000 members), if an organization has to become agile, all the divisions will sooner or later need to focus on Agile. The organization does not derive much benefit if only one division in the organization is focused on Agile and all the other divisions are not being agile. Hence, initially as part of the Agile transformation, the product development division adopts Agile and subsequently, other support divisions also focus on exploring Agile and how to implement Agile for their activities.
With this background context, I would like to explain how the Infrastructure teams which are engaged in operational activities focus on implementing Agile in their projects/activities. Taking the specific example of a Unix Server Support team which is offering support for L1, L2 and L3 activities (L1, L2 and L3 – different and increasingly varying and higher levels of support where the team focuses on providing support to the customer, e.g. – L1 – call center support, L2 – Basic configuration and minor changes, L3 – Deep Dive and resolution of problems). Generally, the Infrastructure teams follow the ITIL Best Practices to ensure that their services are providing optimal support to the customer (24*7 support – also enabling follow the sun approach). In this case, when we are implementing Agile practices for these teams, I have observed that Kanban practices and a good Kanban framework help the team integrate ITIL with Agile practices.
These teams are focused on operations work which is routine and is undertaken daily through the implementation of a help desk support system (Service Now, Impulse, Jump, Remedy and other tools) utilizing tickets that are raised by people and non – humans (computer programs). The tickets are raised automatically by computer programs (incidents), raised by humans (mostly requests), problems (raised by humans), change requests/ctasks (change tasks) by humans. Hence, ITIL implementation provides a good focus on the key areas – Incident Management, Problem Management, Change Management, Help Desk and related areas. In such a scenario, the implementation of Kanban helps to integrate ITIL and Agile and the team does not feel the extra burden of the Agile implementation. Kanban easily dovetails with the existing ITIL framework and the team is able to implement both Kanban and ITIL at the same time. This ensures that the team is meeting the organizational requirements and at the same time, the team is also able to implement Agile as per the requirements.
The routine operational work of these teams is considered as one big project focused on delivering operational support and meeting the service level agreements for the customer. Kanban is basically a framework for managing the process flow and change in a visual manner. It starts with the as-is state and slowly builds on incremental improvements to improve the process over a period of time. Hence, it becomes easier to start with the already existing ITIL processes which the teams are already following in their day to day work. The Kanban system focuses on visualizing the process flow and identifying the bottlenecks in the process and how they could be eliminated so that the process becomes faster from concept to cash. In this case, it derives the basic inspiration from Lean principles which are also focused on identifying and maximizing value, while minimizing waste at the same time.
The focus on implementing Kanban frameworks for the Operations team in the Infrastructure domain leads to the following benefits–
The team can manage its process flow with the already existing systems in place (e.g. lean, ITIL and other process models/frameworks).
Workload Management, Capacity Adaptation, and Capability/Competency Improvement in the teams.
It is easier for the team to implement Agile practices as Kanban focuses on starting with the existing processes instead of making any drastic changes in the basic process.
The team is able to visualize the basic work through the technique of value stream mapping (VSM) and it is able to eliminate bottlenecks using the Theory of Constraints (ToC).
The team is able to identify the core values and focus on how to enhance customer delight.
Implementing Agile practices leads to improved team motivation and team morale.
Focus on working at a sustainable pace instead of working in death march projects which leads to quicker burnout and increased attrition.
It helps the team to visualize the workflows which enables the team to focus on out-of-the-box thinking and innovative techniques to improve lead times of their processes.
Simple metrics like – lead time, cumulative flow diagrams and Yamazumi charts help the team to focus on their processes and check how they could fine tune their processes further.
Lessons learnt as part of the Kanban meetings and workshops enable the team to focus on continuous improvement.
The focus on Kanban practices enables the team to set up a robust ecosystem in the organization that engenders continuous learning and enables the organization to build the skill level of its employees.
Assimilation of new processes by the team through design thinking and other techniques for providing operational support helps the team to improve customer satisfaction.
Thus, we can observe that the choice of selecting Kanban as an Agile implementation methodology for the Operations Support Teams in the Infrastructure domain is a prudent option as it helps the team to continue following its existing processes and at the same time also implement Agile practices in their projects with minimal conflicts. In future posts, I will highlight how we could go about implementing Kanban and Agile practices in the Infrastructure Operations Support teams, providing support to the product development teams in the organization.
based on 20 customer reviews