by Tim Conder

Agile Scrumban: the best approach for customer success

Nov 28, 2017
CRM SystemsSoftware Development

An 'Agile Scrumban' solution, a combination of the Scrum framework and the Kanban system, both associated with agile, is ideal for managing customer success.

The self-managed, customer-focused nature of the agile methodology is fast becoming the go-to approach across industries and functions. The Scrum framework and Kanban system, which are associated with agile, are particularly complimentary for customer success management – so much so that it’s clear that an Agile Scrumban solution is the ideal fit for managing the work of customer success teams.

Why’s that? To understand where the benefits of an agile approach come from, we need to start with some leading thoughts on best practices for creating systems for managing work.

Recall a guy named Dr. Edward Deming from your Principles of Management classes? He was a renowned thinker and leader in the areas of effective business organization. His thought leadership managed to bring about successful changes in the way the automotive industry worked internally and delivered to its customers, and was pivotal in Japan’s economic recovery of post World War II. Deming proffered the notion that business systems must be built on a profound knowledge, incorporating 4 basic principles:

  • Appreciation for a system: the system must consist of interdependent components that each contribute their best, and work together to accomplish a single aim.
  • Knowledge for variation: all members must understand the uniqueness in customer characteristics, what is sold and how it is implemented.
  • Theory of knowledge: theory is the way we create meaning out of experiences. It allows us to establish best practices based upon analyses of experiences. Without theory, we are unable to ask questions, challenge assumptions, and learn.
  • Psychology: both intrinsic and extrinsic motivations must be managed concurrently.

These guiding principles for adopting a system of delivery are visible within each of the components of an agile approach to project and work management. specifically how the Kanban system of visualizing tasks (a columnar/swim-lane approach to identifying tasks within a workflow) fits within the profound knowledge criteria:

  • Appreciation for a system: Understanding a system is difficult. Kanban helps by making the goals, capabilities and boundaries very clear.
  • Knowledge for variation: Variation is inevitable. The size and complexity of the work is not uniform. Kanban reduces the overall impact of variation.
  • Theory of knowledge: A culture of continuous improvement is necessary. Kanban enables metrics, operations, and retrospectives which supports hypothesizing and proving best practices.
  • Psychology: Employee engagement is critical. Kanban shows progress and demonstrates contributions of each team member.

Similar parallels can be drawn for the Scrum framework of Agile. Essentially, these core agile building blocks reflect Deming’s principles of profound knowledge, and can be applied across areas of work beyond their origins in software development. Together – Agile, Scrum and Kanban (Agile Scrumban) – form an approach which is grounded in proven theory about effective systems of work.

Consider how these fundamental tenets of Agile Scrumban are well supported in the world of work management (core to customer success):

  • Agile reflects the iterative nature of customer success, which enables relationships to build incrementally without necessarily having a singular end-goal in mind.
  • The Scrum framework, with iterative short sprints and retrospectives accommodates changes and provides more transparency into all aspects of the relationship.
  • Finally, and most importantly, the Kanban system of visualizing work is intuitive, increases flexibility, reduces waste, and maximizes customer value.

Any customer success solution (platform and professional support) that is adopted should incorporate these elements, or provide clear sight into ongoing progress. These are vital elements to a solution that encourages continued use and demonstrates ongoing value. Agile Scrumban in customer success is a relationship and approach that:

  • Focuses on the customer’s needs first.
  • Allows team members to manage their own work and organize around their roles and responsibilities.
  • Enables processes to evolve that improve customer and business outcomes.
  • Supports the creation of policies that endorse the characteristics of your delivery system.
  • Is served within a visual system that is not time bound.

Such a solution is optimal in managing work and in preserving strong customer relationships. The value of an Agile Scrumban customer success management approach does not lie in theory alone. The benefits are practical and far-reaching. There may be many more than this, but here are 8 key value propositions that such an approach enables:

  • Embrace change & increase flexibility
  • Ease of use and quick time to first value
  • Faster delivery & flow
  • Strong team interaction
  • More transparency & usability
  • Increase accountability
  • Save money & reduce waste
  • Customers are heard

If you are forming a customer success team or making adjustments to an existing team, consider the benefits of an Agile Scrumban foundation for your planning. No other approach provides the flexibility and adaptability that customer success demands.