Kanban Roles: The Right Work, Done Right
From ideation to delivery, work flows through the value stream until it reaches the end customer.
The Kanban Method is designed to optimize the flow of work as it moves through the value stream. It’s a system that works upon the speed and efficiency of your delivery by minimizing waste and team overburden, outside of the value stream.
To manage this approach, two Kanban roles have emerged – Service Request Manager (SRM) and Service Delivery Manager (SDM).
Both SRM and SDM have surfaced as add-ons to existing responsibilities, with a purpose of strengthening customer value and satisfaction.
In essence, the SRM ensures that the customer is being heard while the SDM is in charge of overseeing the quality of response. This, of course, is only a glimpse into these highly-versatile Kanban roles. Let’s explore them in more detail.
The Art of Listening: Service Request Manager
The primary function of an SRM is to bridge the gap between the customer and the business, to listen in order to deduce value.
The role normally involves the following responsibilities:
Uncovering value to aid the decision-making process
Prioritization of work involves feedback from the team, stakeholders, and customers. The work, before all, is prioritized by value.
There could be various factors in play, such as cost of delay, complexity, or technical risk, but the chief responsibility of an SRM is to create a palpable sense of what brings value to your customers and to your business.
By underpinning value with a predefined set of criteria, the SRM promotes transparency and consistency in the decision-making process while enabling the team to become more self-managed.
Defining and maintaining process policies
Every successful project has a clear set of objectives. The SRM ensures this scenario by introducing and managing Classes of Service (CoS) to rank work items by priority. Each class of service should serve to promote the business value.
SRM is also responsible for establishing sequencing policies that define how each CoS interacts with each other. The sequencing policies should support the priority level of different CoS.
The SRM makes sure both CoS and their sequencing policies are in place so expectations are aligned and the team can make independent decisions on what they are working on next.
Who is Suited to this Role?
The SRM takes potential risks to delivery into consideration and ensures the business is moving in the right direction by aligning expectations of all parties.
Usually, the role is taken on by a person who interacts with and understands the end customer very well, such as an account manager or sales engineer. This person will carry out their SRM duties that aren’t directly involved with the delivery process; rather they pave the way for its effectiveness.
It’s best suited to an employee who is deeply intertwined with the delivery team, customers, and the company’s value stream.
Refining the Response: Service Delivery Manager
Every Kanban team needs an SDM to oversee the quality of their service delivery. In other words, the SDM ensures an appropriate response to customer demands.
Effectively, the person in this role helps the team do their work right. They focus on increasing delivery speed, reducing costs, and shortening the response to market demand.
The SDM is expected to:
Optimize workflow efficiency
The SDM is responsible for the smooth flow of task execution; on eliminating blockers and keeping the focus on finishing work instead of starting it.
As a catalyst for positive change, the SDM ensures a fit for purpose service delivery in which work items flow as quickly and smoothly as possible.
The Cumulative Flow Diagram (CFD) is one of SDM’s most powerful tools when it comes to spotting bottlenecks. It displays all process states as colored bands. If the bands start expanding, this means the SDM needs to pay closer attention to the increasing WIP trend hindering the workflow efficiency.
Lead the daily standup
Daily standups are a great opportunity for the SDM to gather the team around and help maintain a streamlined, obstacle-free workflow with a focus on delivery.
Typically standing in front of the Kanban board, the SDM will focus on the work that’s nearly done, figuring out the ways of completing it as soon as possible. When there’s a task that’s been on the board for a long time, the SDM investigates and communicates the reasons behind the delays.
The Aging Chart is an indispensable tool when one needs to track how much time current work spends in progress. Acting quickly is vital as older tasks that haven’t been dealt with generate flow debt, rendering the workflow unstable and unpredictable.
Ensure smooth, punctual delivery
SDM encourages teams to make data-driven delivery forecasts, stemming from their past performance.
This is where the Cycle Time Histogram (CTS) fits in place. Not only does the CTS show the probability distribution of cycle times along with how many days different tasks took to complete, but it also reveals the probability of that commitment being met.
SDM coordinates work that needs to be ready for release and escalates those items whose fixed delivery date is approaching.
Nave’s powerful data-visualization toolkit helps you optimize your flow and take your team to a whole new level. Try our analytics for free on your favorite project management tool.
Who is this Role Suited for?
The role of SDM is typically taken by a person with deep knowledge of the team’s service delivery processes.
A champion of continuous improvement, they will track the flow metrics and translate them into actionable knowledge. Additionally, any side requirements or training activities for the people involved in the delivery pipeline are guided by the SDM.
Embracing Kanban Roles in Your Organization
Both of these Kanban roles are vital for improving the flow of value you deliver.
Ideally, you should aim to introduce these roles when your team is well-accustomed to the Kanban Method.
If implemented and carried out successfully, both SRM and SDM will have a strong effect on your value stream, ensuring the voice of your customer is being heard and duly answered.
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.