Is Agile Website Support & Maintenance Possible?

Tags: devops, Technology


Agile website support and maintenance is a goal for many: can support and maintenance become agile?

Agile software development frameworks have allowed efficiency, adapting to changes and keeping customers at highest priority from the very beginning. And ultimately, what do customers want from a business' customer service department? A rapid response to answering their questions, to solving their problems.

Agile Website Support & Maintenance Should be Agile

From website maintenance and support agencies, customers want their sites to grow and scale with their business and change in response to technological advances and shifting customer demand.

Therefore, there has never been any conflict between the website support and Agile methods. Instead, there's a large overlap that for a long time nobody paid attention to.

Now kanban is not an agile methodology. Kanban can blanket any agile framework being followed, like Scrum as well. As an approach, it can be used to manage flow and can be used as a catalyst and an enabler to bring efficiency through teamwork—the collaboration and removal of early blockers.This is why it works well for support and maintenance. You don’t lock your backlog and you can more easily respond to information from the customers.

What is Kanban?

Kanban is the technique Toyota came up with in the 1950s to reduce the cost of manufacturing and storing their cars. They modeled the way supermarkets supplied foods to consumers. Toyota lets demand, buyer consumption, determine how many new cars they made. Other companies just made as many cars as they thought they could sell. Toyota gained a significant advantage over Detroit and the rest of the world's automobile industry by lowering their inventory costs. In English, it was first known as just-in-time inventory.

Now Agile software teams use the same concept of Just-in-Time inventory to match the team's capacity to the Work in Progress. Toyota put cards on products, parts, and inventory. To use Kanban to track tasks, companies use either paper cards on a board or electronic versions.

Kanban Card Boards

The team's board maps its duties. They always include To Do, In Progress and Done. For a team working on website support, they could include such tasks as fixing bugs, responding to customer complaints and redesigning important pages.

Each card includes the particular task, the person responsible and an estimate of how long the work should take to complete.

Advantages of Using Kanban for Agile Website Support

1. It handles small projects coming in on an irregular basis. That describes how most website support issues come in, on a random, irregular basis. That makes website support and maintenance unsuited for the other Agile methodology often used by developers, scrum. Scrum uses fixed-length sprints for user stories that are parts of one larger, single projects.

2. The boards pretty much run themselves.

3. Kanban calls for teams to deliver work to customers frequently. It's Continuous Delivery. Customers want their customer support tickets completed as quickly as possible.

4. The website support issues in the queue usually have no relationship with each other. Fixing one bug does not affect the entire website. Each card could be for an entirely different website.

Getting Started With Agile Website Support & Maintenance

What is your current process for dealing with customer support tickets? Map it into a flow chart. Then look for bottlenecks.

Of course, teams maintaining and supporting websites must pay attention to the Service Level Agreement or SLA with the customer. This usually spells out the turnaround time (TAT) within which the agency has agreed to solve particular types of problems. Regarding Incident and related Incident Management, customers that have their websites completely down must also get top priority. Every minute their website is down, they’re losing money.

Look at current job divisions. Can you "tear down" internal walls between agency departments so website support teams have easy access to the skills and tools they need? Set up Kanban boards for your own teams.

These teams must work closely with the team taking the actual calls. They are on the front line, in direct communication with the customer. They must know how to obtain all the necessary technical information that defines the problem and its scope. And they define priorities. A customer with a website taken over by hackers is in greater need than one complaining about how slowly their pages load.

According to the developer in this video, his team assigns one member to take calls. They also put the most urgent jobs into a fast-track "swim lane," but suggested using the Expedited class.

What’s this all mean?

Agile website support isn't just possible, it's what should be done. Yes, a tracking and workflow organization technique developed by a Japanese car company is now the best practice for a website support agency to maintain its customer work and respond quickly to any problems. And our team of skilled and experienced developers use Agile methods to keep your website up and running, minimizing downtime.

Nathan Roach, Content Director
Posted by

Nathan Roach, Content Director

Japan-based consumer of old world wine and the written word. Offline you can find him spending time with his wife and daughter or soaking in a local onsen.