Ideas for fulfilling customer needs can be generated much faster than they can actually be realized. This is the source of much tension between the organization and its customers, but also, in the organization itself, between those that represent the customer and those that deliver to the customer. Business agility requires quite the opposite. It requires that those that suspect needs closely collaborate with those that fulfill needs. Central to the success is the ability to tune the fast paced idea/request/requirement generation to the slower paced idea/request/requirement fulfilment.
In the old days, decisions only needed to be taken once in a while; we all remember the annual business cycles linked to a yearly budgeting exercise or the annual release cycle. Decisions were taken infrequently and in isolation. This often resulted in customers or customer representatives that were pushing (big batches of) requests to an order-taking delivery team that was pushing (big batches of) products back to customers that were not ready to receive or do something meaningful with it. The collaboration between the end customers, the representative of those customers (such as a Product Manager, Product owner, or Key business user) and the delivery team was pretty hands-off.
Today, as the pace of business is picking up and uncertainty is rising, decisions need to be taken much faster and in joint collaboration. Many organizations already have made – or are making – the transition to (a combination of) agile development, lean kanban, and continuous delivery, thereby increasing their speed and frequency of delivery. What they find out, however, is that faster and more frequent delivery in itself is not sufficient. Unless proper mechanisms are put in place to tune the speed of demand with the speed of delivery, a tension will remain. Customer kanban together with Upstream Kanban are mechanisms to overcome this tension and engage the whole organization (not just the delivery team) in the move towards Business Agility.
Download our white paper to discover a unique approach, called Customer Kanban, and learn how to start thinking in terms of Business Agility (on top of your agile development).