A Beginner’s Guide to Kanban Board Software

• Agile

What is the Kanban method?

The Kanban method is a visual system for organizing workflows. It helps prevent bottlenecks, encourages incremental improvements, and balances demands against available capacity. Originally created in a Toyota Motors manufacturing plant, the kanban methodology takes its name from a Japanese word meaning ‘sign’ or ‘billboard’.

Kanban method based on agile project management utilizes a simple board and card system, allowing everyone on a team to have visibility, not just on individual tasks, but on the larger picture of team activity.

How do I use a Kanban board?

Kanban board can be analog in the form of sticky notes placed on an empty wall, or you can go digital with online workplaces shared around the globe. The method operates the same, simple way no matter what the platform.

Here’s how to use an online kanban board in Project Management:

kanban board

  • First, identify the steps or phases of your workflow. These can be few and generic, such as “To Do,” “Doing,” and “Done.” Each one of these labels is assigned to a column on the kanban board. You also can create several columns with labels specific to your team’s processes.
  • Second, create a card for each task or project element that needs to be completed. As new tasks arise, each is given a card. The data on the card doesn’t need to be comprehensive, but it should have all the essential information needed for anyone on the team to instantly understand what it is. This may include a customer name and project number, a product ID, and who the point person is for the task.
  • Third, put your cards into the columns that represent where each task or project stands in the workflow. As tasks move from one phase to the next, move the card to the next column until it has passed through all the phases of your workflow.

WIP limits in Kanban

WIP limits are “work in progress” limits and are an important feature of the Kanban method. The WIP limit is determined by assessing the capacity of your team. In the Kanban Method, it’s enforced by limiting the number of cards that are allowed in particular columns.

If your team can feasibly work well on five tasks at a time, the WIP limit will only allow five cards in the “Doing” column of your Kanban board which helps to manage tasks.

If someone tries to move the sixth card to the Doing column, there won’t be space. (In digital systems, a dialog box or other warning will alert the user to the WIP limit.) Then that team member can assist others in completing some of the tasks in the Doing column, creating space for new items to progress through the workflow phases.

Popular kanban board software you can find right now

There are well over a dozen (and counting) software options for utilizing kanban boards. When choosing one for your organization, look for project management software that has both web and app-based platforms for maximum flexibility. An attractive, intuitive interface goes a long way toward making sure you and your team consistently utilize the board and realize its potential.

Beyond these essential features, there are dozens of variables that differentiate one Kanban board software option from another, and it’s important to pick one that works well for you.

Here’s a short summary of some of the most popular digital kanban boards to manage projects.

1. Airtable

Airtable is database software that includes a Kanban view. It’s customizable and easy to use and works well for businesses of all sizes. It lacks robust reporting features and doesn’t integrate with accounting software, which is problematic for some users. Users love the versatility of data organization that’s possible with Airtable’s spreadsheets.

2. Asana

Asana allows users to create templates for use on similar projects in the future. It’s good for all size businesses but not ideal for freelancers.  Their “Limited” version is free for teams of up to 15 people, and paid plans start at $9.99/user/month.

3. Clarizen

Clarizen is a highly rated project management software meant for mid- to enterprise-sized businesses. The system is web-only, so the lack of a mobile app may limit usefulness for some teams. Users love robust reporting features and the ability to track resource use. Plans start at $45/month and come with full customer support.

4. Kanban Tool

Good for businesses of all sizes, the Kanban tool offers enterprise users the ability to host the software onsite. It’s not geared towards freelancers, but there’s a free plan for up to two users, and paid plans start at $5/user/month.

5. Kissflow Project

Kissflow Project is an ideal project management option for teams and businesses of all sizes. Kanban is just one of many modules in the Kissflow Project. Designed to be a hub for every aspect of your project management, Kissflow Project has integrations with everything you need from procurement to accounting.

Custom forms, rule-based WIP limits, and personalized boards meet the unique needs of your project and organization. The “user swimlane view” gives you a holistic view of what each project participant is working on.

6. Monday.com

Monday.com offers full support and is good for freelancers as well as businesses of all sizes. They offer great security, robust features, and easy customization. Some users feel the interface gets too cluttered when multiple assignments or comments are on a single board, but overall the user experience is intuitive and simple. Plans start at $39/month.

7. Proofhub

Starting at $50/month, SaaS-based Proofhub is good for freelancers and businesses of all sizes. It’s user friendly and offers plenty of customer support. With an emphasis on simplicity, Proofhub has very few integrations, and some users feel it’s short on features.

8. Trello

Trello is a low-cost tool for collaboration within businesses of all sizes with paid plans starting at $9.99/user/month. It’s free for individuals or freelancers who want to manage their projects solo. There’s no customer support available, but there are a knowledge base and video tutorials.

Trello doesn’t support hierarchies showing relationships between cards/tasks, and it’s not meant for managing extremely complex projects.

9. Zenhub

Zenhub is a project management tool designed to work in tandem with GitHub.  It’s web-only, so some teams may find the lack of a mobile app limiting. Zenhub was built specifically for software teams. Paid plans start at $5/month.

Takeaways

All of these project management apps are highly rated and work well for many teams. Of course, no matter how great the ratings are, you should always check to make sure software has all the features and integrations you and your team need before implementing a new kanban system.

Implementing Kanban boards using Kissflow Project

Here’s how Kissflow Project handles project management with a visual Kanban board. By default, you see four columns representing steps in the workflow:

  • Not Started
  • To do
  • In Progress
  • Done

These are customizable with whatever labels you choose, and you can add additional steps if needed.

In Kissflow Project, each card appears as an item that can be expanded to show a complete form with all the information necessary to complete a task. This keeps the visual uncluttered while still providing a space to include all the relevant details team members need to access.

Within each step, Kissflow Project has built-in stages to aid in reporting and monitoring. The In Progress state is how Kissflow  Projects incorporates the Agile Kanban principle of WIP. You should only keep one item in this state at a time. Each step also has stages called On Hold and Done.

Visualize Success using Kanban board with Kissflow Project

Kanban Boards are a simple, proven method to stay organized and help your team visualize its work. If you’re looking for a Kanban software that offers powerful, intuitive features to help teams collaborate from anywhere in the world, start using Kissflow Project for free right now.

With Kissflow Project, you can integrate the Kanban Method with a suite of powerful project management tools to help your teamwork successfully.