Dimitar Karaivanov, CEOWhat are some of the trends that you expect to have an impact in the Project Management Solution arena this year and how is Kanbanize planning to leverage these trends and evolve?
It’s more than certain that Lean and Agile will continue to spread across industries, making businesses more competitive and resilient. We see unquestionable trends that Kanban is gaining a lot of traction and is one of the most popular methods for managing IT work. A second trend is showing that Kanban is growing outside IT. This is a promising indicator that Agile will stop being “nerdy” and will finally be accepted by the business people.
These trends will continue to develop and probably even excel in the coming years. Consequently, the demand for high-quality Kanban solutions will rise. Please note that we’re speaking about software covering 100+ Kanban practices and not just visualization. All the evidence that Kanban is much more than sticky notes on the wall is presented in the Kanban Maturity Model (KMM).
As a leader in the Kanban space, Kanbanize covers the majority of practices described in the KMM. Currently, Kanbanize can take you to a transition level 4 (most companies out there are levels 1,2 or 3). Our plans for the near future are to add new capabilities that will entirely cover level 4 and even go to level 5, which is the equivalent of a Formula 1 team.
In your interactions with CIOs of leading companies, what sense do you get of the challenges they face now in the Project Management Solution space and how is Kanbanize effectively addressing these issues?
There are two major challenges that come to my mind immediately:
• The leadership in a company lacks visibility into the actual state of affairs. Most senior managers don’t have any idea what is actually going on in their organizations. This is a huge issue for more than 90% of the companies.
• Execution of the projects and key initiatives is slow. Often, the reason is fast growth, leadership change or misalignment between the needs of the customer and what is actually being delivered.
Kanbanize allows managers to track every aspect of their projects in real time, across the hierarchy. The platform provides complete transparency by visualizing and tracking every aspect of the project starting at the top and going to the smallest individual assignments you can deem worthy enough to mention.
With respect to speed and productivity, they are naturally improved as a result of the Lean principles codified into the Kanban method. When you visualize your work, limit work in progress across your organization, start managing flow and learn through experimentation, you will imminently become much faster and productive. Improvements are usually close to 100% or even more than that.
A critical thing to mention is that the software will help you manage what you’re already doing. It won’t force you to do something else. Actually, this is a core principle in Kanban - start where you are. In that regard, Kanban is a very humane approach as it respects the current roles and processes.
“Built with scale in mind, our Kanban software helps you visualize the key initiatives in your company or department and break them down into multiple levels of hierarchical work items.” Please elaborate on the statement and walk us through your Project Management Solution on the basis of its methodology, features and benefits involved?
Kanban is a lot more than sticky notes on a wall. What more and more managers are discovering is that they can scale it across their entire organizations to provide company-wide transparency and end-to-end agility. This is possible thanks to an approach of the method called Portfolio Kanban, which has been rapidly growing in popularity over the course of the recent years.
For the past couple of years, we’ve been evolving Kanbanize to become the best Portfolio Kanban software solution in the world.
With Kanbanize, you can break down projects and strategic initiatives across all levels of your organizational hierarchy. For this to happen, we have developed an advanced system for visualizing dependencies. It allows you to create multiple levels of project boards, break down your projects into smaller assignments at each level, and connect all aspects together with various tasks relations.
For example, you can make any task a parent or child to another, or specify the processing order by using a predecessor-successor connection. The status of each connected card is visible at a glance, so you can react to problems in a timely fashion.
To build on that, Kanbanize is equipped with an automation module in the form of business rules. With their help, you can manage dependencies and make sure that cards on the boards are at their exact position.
For example, if a card is moved, and it has a parent on a higher-level board, the system can automatically move the parent card to a next stage of the workflow.
To close the loop, you’ve got a powerful arsenal of workflow analytics at your disposal to gather process data such as information about blocked time, cycle time of assignments, aging work in progress and plenty more.
Could you please cite one or two case studies on how you have enabled clients to overcome hurdles and attain desired outcomes with your innovative array of solutions?
One of the most memorable success stories that come to my mind involves a Spanish product development company called Somabe (Soraluze Makina Bereziak SLL). Before adopting Kanbanize, the company was facing a number of problems like:
• Tasks were assigned verbally and there was no transparency about their states.
• There was a lack of awareness of the actual capacity of each department.
We’re true leaders in our space, and that has been acknowledged by David J. Anderson, who is the creator of the Kanban method
• Planning was based on ad-hoc effort estimates, fixed in the budget.
• Work was moving through the departments as a wave of large batches.
• Problems were resolved thanks to heroic personal efforts, which, at some moments, created tension between people.
Kanbanize brought a number of benefits to the organization:
• Easy creation of boards that visualized work at different levels and also facilitated the understanding of the work types at а team level and between departments.
• Visualizing task dependencies made people take care of the workload of their colleagues in addition to their own.
• The statistics, generated out of real data, became very helpful when planning new projects.
• Having a clear idea of the real capacity of each department was essential for resolving workload and planning issues.
• Obtaining an objective, data-based understanding of issues demonstrated that problems were due to processes, not people.
There are a number of companies out there that are vying for the top position. What are the strategies employed by Kanbanize to thwart the market competition and what according to you are the distinct features of Kanbanize/differentiating factors that give it a competitive edge?
The first and most important thing is that we are entirely focused on Kanban and effective, non intrusive ways to scale it across the organization. This means that we are spending 100% of our energy delivering the best Kanban experience and we will certainly continue to do so.
Another important area is support. We resolve 70% of the cases on the same day, 85% within 2 days and 95% within 3 days. We have real people talking to customers and a total backlog of zero open customer issues. There are very few companies in the world that can claim such numbers. In other words, we’re fanatical about support.
Delivering new features every single month is not to be overlooked as well. We’re constantly innovating by enhancing the existing functionality or adding new capabilities. What sets us apart is that we’re not following trends or cash-cow frameworks. We experiment internally and when something works, we make it available for our customers. We’re true leaders in our space and that has been acknowledged by David J. Anderson, who’s the creator of the Kanban method.
What does the future hold for your organization? Any footprint expansion plans or platform enhancement strategies that you can shed light upon?
• We believe that a company can be successful if three conditions are met:
• The workers are efficient and effective on a personal level
• The teams are efficient and effective and can collaborate seamlessly
• There is a connection between strategy and execution
To help individuals be more productive on a personal level, we’ve created a brand new product called Flow-e. It applies the principles of Kanban directly in your Outlook or Gmail inbox. In other words, with Flow-e we Kanbanize your email. We will be integrating Flow-e with Kanbanize to make the personal-to-team communication even smoother.
Thousands of companies are using our software to manage and optimize teamwork. We will be providing more integration capabilities so that teams can connect Kanbanize to other tools they’re using and ultimately make their lives easier.
Our focus for 2019 and 2020 will be to bridge the gap between strategy and execution. This is a very challenging and complex task, that’s why we’re working on a machine learning module to optimize the flow of work throughout the entire organization. We call it MaxFlow. As of now, we’re in the very early stages but this is the future and we’re definitely getting there.
Is there anything more that you would like to add or highlight?
There’s one thing that I’d like to share with all those managers who are considering Lean & Agile practices for their teams, departments or companies. Please do not look for recipes and shortcuts to Agile - there aren’t any.
Many will try to sell you this framework or that framework, as if they were panacea. Don’t fall for this trap. The only real thing is the good old Plan-Do-Check-Act (PDCA). Plan an improvement, run an experiment, verify the result. If it was a success - standardize the results and repeat the cycle.
Kanban is by far the most appropriate method to support this way of thinking as it doesn’t force you into anything. As mentioned above, it respects your current roles and processes and only helps you improve from where you really are.
So, evolve your organization with the help of Kanban. This is how you will set yourself for achieving true Business Agility in the long run.