Process Mapping - Why and How we went Lean at AKOS - AKOS
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Process Mapping – Why and How we went Lean at AKOS

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The Japanese automaker, Toyota, coined the term ‘Lean’ in 1990 from the management philosophy derived from their production system. While it was originally referred to as Lean manufacturing or lean production, its use and adoption is now widely accepted in the world of Software Development since much like manufacturing, Software Development generally follows a definite process with clear start and end states.

Here at AKOS, we had adopted the Agile Manifesto a little while ago, and had been following the Scrum process for building out our design and development projects. The issue, however, was that no two projects were alike. So, the time-boxed sprints didn’t work out well for us and it would eventually lead to an organized chaos of progression within a project. Recognizing our hurdles we had to come up with a more agile Agile system that helped us get better, deliver well, and stay sane. And, like a data analyst with a serious bias for desired end-result, we cherry-picked the best parts and made it our own.

Before we get into how we implemented lean, let’s quickly review what our desired outcomes was before we went down this journey.

The Why – Our Desired Outcomes:

  1. Eliminate Waste of resources and time.
  2. Consistency in deliverables regardless of project size, scope, or stack.
  3. Have a framework of process maps on how our team operates, interacts, and evolves – we called this: The AKOS Way.

With the desired outcomes in our collective minds, we decided to map out all of our processes for all of what we do. But, before we went on that interesting journey of process mapping, we needed to establish how we will get there.

The How – Process to Process Mapping:

  1. Build Transparency for end-to-end processes: A unified understanding of what’s next and how to get there across the whole team. 
  2. Elucidate processes with clear definitions: Make it simple to understand with examples, there can’t be any room for different interpretations.
  3. Proactive Approach to Problems: Being Agile, the risks to a project progress are eminent with each pivot. But, uniform processes help lessen the delays and damages through risks and roadblocks.
  4. Enhance Team Collaboration: Not one, but All. For a practical solution, our processes needed equal input from everyone in the team. Use post-its, white-boards, yelling, and hugging to get it done among all team members.
  5. Macro and Micro Views: The process maps need to be comprehensive enough for a project manager, and concise enough for our founder to get a quick update on each project.
  6. Establish Foundation for Future Analysis: The process maps are to be a foundation of continuous improvements we will implement with deeper investigations and analysis as we grow together.

With these in mind, we gladiators of the digital world, huddled in our colosseum (conference room) with our weapons of valor (post-its and markers) and hearts bigger than lions (our stomachs – there was coffee, food, and snacks) to carve out our unified legacy – The AKOS Way.

The What: The AKOS Way

For our processes we chose to use the Swimlane Diagrams to account for the non-linear sequence of projects and multiple job stakeholders and executors responsible for each phase.

The processes we mapped out are:

  • Business Development & Sales
  • Contract & On-boarding
  • Discovery
  • Design
  • Development
  • Quality Assurance
  • Maintain & Nurture

Each process comprises of its own Swimlane Diagram with respective swimlanes, one lane for each job owner. Each swimlane is made of Nodes, jobs to be completed. Each Node corresponds to a documentation of HOWs, tasks documented to the job done and verify its completion through checklists.

It was exhausting; arguments happened, markers were thrown, post-its were ripped, bathroom breaks had to be taken but we came through. We had unified way of how we will progress through projects and milestones with all in the know.

Now we lay in the Phoenix heat enjoying fruit of our labor…Well, not really, our work has just started. We have simply moved on to a happier and healthier workflow to follow our passions of delivering digital awesomeness with increased efficiency and satisfaction. Back to working!

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