Working together as a team can be a challenge at the best of times and this is why it is so important to have the right project management tools in place to best manage the workflow of both individual contributors and the team as a whole. One of the more innovative solutions is something call kanban, which literally translates as “signboard” or “billboard” in Japanese.
Based on lean principles and just-in-time production, kanban systems are configured such that each column represents a stage in development. The key here is that it is defined ahead of time how many tasks can be accommodated in each column at any given time. This reveals bottlenecks in a natural and organic way, allowing collaborators to help alleviate the bottlenecks to keep the production moving along.
At its most basic level, a kanban board can be set up in an office using a whiteboard and sticky notes. In terms of project management and project collaboration over the Internet, a number of digital kanban solutions have emerged for teams of varying sizes.
The appropriately named Kanban Tool is designed to be simple and easy-to-use, making it approachable for just about any team member from any background. Used by such companies as Cisco, Expedcia, Xerox and Riot Games, Kanban Tool has been optimized to work both on a computer using a mouse and on mobile devices with touch-enabled drag-and-drop functionality.
A number of predefined Kanban board templates are available and boards can be quickly cloned for new projects. Additional features include robust analytics, online document sharing and collaboration, and time tracking.
Kanban Tool offers a 17-day free trial with prices starting at $5 per user per month.
From more of the perspective of enterprise-class solutions, Kanbanize goes beyond the basics of task management and to-do lists to provide a scalable solution that grows with your business. As with other kanban boards, Kanbanize lets you visualize your workflow and limit your work in progress, so that you can best analyze and alleviate your workflow bottlenecks.
The Kanban board here consists of a number of digital sticky notes that “live inside your browser.” Simply create and drag the notes to where you want them to be. Tasks can be linked, time sheets can be analyzed, and runtime policies can be implemented. The mobile apps and email integration help round out the flexible package.
After the free trial, pricing starts at $9 per month for up to five users.
Boasting to provide “enterprise agility with kanban” is SwiftKanban from Digite. The overall layout of the kanban boards here is cleaner and more spartan than most while still providing the key workflow elements needed for an effective solution. The kanban cards are easily color-coded and you can provide the card with a short code of up to four alphanumeric characters.
One unique feature with SwiftKanban is something called Smart Lanes. These allow specific attributes to be associated with the different lanes so that moving a card automatically assigns those attributes to that card. These Smart Lanes can be based on priority, card type, class of service, team members or size.
The Team package is completely free with users and boards limited at 20 and 10, respectively. For additional users, boards and features, the Group package is $7 per user per month, while the Enterprise package is $15 per user per month.
Aiming to provide “lean project management, simplified” is Kanban Flow. It has been built for speed and features integrated time tracking with Pomodoro support. At its core, you get the basic columns like “Do today” and “In progress” with full color-coding support for the individual task cards. Given the increasingly complex nature of projects, it’s great to see that Kanban Flow supports sub-tasks so that collaborators can see how much progress has been made on each specific task.
Documents, spreadsheets and other files can be easily attached to the tasks, allowing contributors to access the same supporting files as the task is propagated across the board. These files can come from local uploads, as well as Dropbox and Google Drive. Mobile support comes in the form of a mobile site, rather than a dedicated mobile app for Android and iPhone.
Kanban Flow features a free version with no limits on users or boards. The more full-featured premium plan is $5 per user per month.
Used by such companies as Adobe, PayPal and Verizon, LeanKit helps your organization visualize your work and workflow with kanban boards. The core board is broken up into three main columns–to do, doing and done–the middle of which can be further broken down into sub-columns like planing, development and testing.
The kanban cards utilized in the LeanKit solution are very robust, allowing for a number of attributes not found in other kanban boards. The cards have a unique identifier based on team standards, the name of the activity, the rough estimate for how much work is needed, the inclusion of priority stickers, and the profile picture of the collaborator working on that card.
The basic version of LeanKit is free for up to 10 users and 3 boards. From there, the team and portfolio plans are $15 and $19 per user per month, respectively. LeanKit also offers a 30-day free trial.
Image credit: Dennis Hamilton / Flickr