Design Agency Hits Deadlines 95% Of the Time Using Continuous Forecasting
John needed a more reliable way to forecast delivery times. After searching around, he discovered Kanban and Nave. “I don’t think I’m ever going back to any of my previous practices. It transformed us into an organization that looks at metrics that matter, and that can tell where things need improving.”
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Frost Design and Consulting Group is a Manila-based design agency on a mission to create compelling digital experiences at scale.
‘’What sets us apart is the fact we do things well and we do them fast,’’ John Paul de Guzman, the agency founder, said.
‘’We’re very data-driven and everything we do is calculated. I don’t subscribe to the idea of design being chaotic. I think that, if you have the discipline to really observe your process, you can measure and predict a lot of things. In this sense, design isn’t much different from manufacturing.’’
This is the realization that brought John to Kanban, and subsequently, Nave.
‘’At first, we were using Trello thinking that we were doing Kanban. Of course, that wasn’t the case. Then I dove deeper into the methodology and read books on both the manufacturing and software side of Kanban. I saw that there are dashboards we can use to track our key workflow metrics, and stumbled upon Nave in the process. And from there, everything changed.”
The Challenge: Making Accurate Delivery Forecasts
One of the most important questions John wanted to answer is ‘’when can we get this done?’’. His team had been using sprint estimates to forecast delivery times but for the most part, this method failed to produce reliable results.
‘’A sprint timeboxes us to a specific number of days, which is a problem because design requests will sometimes come in the middle of a sprint. That’s just the unpredictable nature of our stakeholders, especially clients, who change their minds every single day.’’
Once the team shifted to Kanban, John was determined to replace guesswork and subjective estimating with data-driven forecasting.
The Solution: Probabilistic Forecasting
‘’I did some searching around before I found Nave. I signed up for a free trial and right away, I could see that there’s a way to make reliable delivery commitments using past throughput data – which we had plenty of in Trello. Nave instantly built charts over our entire board history, and gave us a ton of insights into our performance as a team.’’
After adding Nave to their Trello board, Frost project managers, spearheaded by Leigh – John’s wife, Frost’s CEO, and Project Management Practice Head – started looking at delivery times in a new light. Using the Monte Carlo method, they were able to work out delivery dates for entire projects, along with a probability percentage of hitting that deadline. This was a game changer in committing to client requests as it reframed the question from ‘’when will we get it done’’ to ‘’how much risk are we willing to take?’’.
Besides negotiating delivery times, running Monte Carlo simulations helps John ensure his team is on track to hit fixed deadlines. ‘’I really like the fact Nave charts are updated as soon as there’s a change on our Trello board. This lets us keep a finger on the pulse of the project and adjust resources when needed. Using continuous forecasting, we’re able to deliver at our promised dates 95% of the time.”
Unblocking Work and Running at a Healthy Pace
There are two more reasons John uses Nave on a daily basis: identifying blocked work and figuring out when to slow down or pick up the pace.
”Looking at the Aging Chart is very important for us as it allows us to uncover bottlenecks that are preventing work from moving on. Work that’s been stuck in progress longer than usual is a trigger for me to ask the project manager what’s causing the delay.
”Another tool that I look at on a daily basis is the Flow Efficiency Chart. This one is great when I need to verify we’re moving at a certain momentum. For example, I’m expecting to see a higher flow efficiency when the team is in full-blown delivery. On the other hand, I would only find it humane that the curve would flatten every now and again when the day is quiet.’’
When asked to summarize the transformation his agency went through by adopting Kanban and Nave, John said: ‘’I don’t think I’m ever going back to any of my previous practices because Kanban works for us in so many ways. It transformed us into an organization that looks at metrics that matter, and that can tell where things need improving. I think this is the way a design practice should be run.’’
Curious to see what Nave can do for your team? (John’s success story, by the way, is just one of many).
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I hope this story inspired you and helped you realize that meeting deadlines every time is not only possible but way more likely once you’ve got the right tools under your belt.
If you know someone who’s struggling to meet deadlines or spending too much time on guesswork, please share this article with them on your favorite social media channel.
Thanks for checking in with me this week and I look forward to seeing you again next week, same time and place, for more managerial goodness. Bye for now!
Meet the Author
Sonya Siderova is a passionate product manager and a driving force behind Nave, a Kanban analytics suite that helps teams improve their delivery speed through data-driven decision making. When she's not catering to her two little ones, you might find Sonya absorbed in a good heavyweight boxing match or behind a screen crafting a new blog post.