Is Kanban a better way to manage support/maintenance work than Scrum?

Hi folks!

I recently offered my thoughts to the Scrum Alliance group on LinkedIn, on the discussion thread on whether
Kanban is a better way to manage support/maintenance work than scrum. I thought you might find it interesting:

Kanban is generally a better model for support/maintenance: these tasks tend to trickle in, so trying to handle them with a conventional Product Backlog is often awkward.

Support/maintenance tasks are also usually unrelated to each other: one bug fix may have nothing to do with another.

This makes for a different metaphor than Scrum/Product Backlog where there is some presumption that user stories and tasks, while perhaps independent, are at least part of a larger product or release theme.

If you did support/maintenance tasks in a Sprint, that Sprint would have no overarching theme which I strongly believe is essential for success with Scrum teams.

And if any team doing support/maintenance with Scrum will quickly realize their Sprints are unlike those of other teams that are doing product development with Scrum.

I would view your questions about swimlanes as arising from a misfitting metaphor: instead of using swimlanes, you would be better off using tags, and then filtering your board as needed to see all support/maintenance tasks related to a particular subsystem or process or person. E.g. “show me all the tasks related to the database schema”.

We use our own product (Kerika) of course, and we do all of our new product development with Scrum Board, and support/maintenance with Kanban boards since Kerika lets you easily have both kinds of boards.

We use multiple tags on each card on both the Kanban and Scrum Boards, so we can filter and search, e.g. “show everything related to our Google Drive integration”.

These filtered views are much more effective and flexible than trying to organize your board with swimlanes, because each card can have multiple tags, whereas with swimlanes a card would be in only one swimlane at any time.

Also, this arrangement gives us flexibility to move from Kanban to Scrum and back: for example, if a support/maintenance card that originally landed on a Kanban board is later deemed to be significant enough to handle as part of product development, we can just cut-and-paste that card from the Kanban board to the Scum Board, and Kerika brings along all the content, history, attachments, chat, etc.