LeanKit Kanban: Visualizing Your Team’s Work

Taiichi Ohno is considered to be the man that made Toyota a supremely efficient organization, boosting it to worldwide success. Ohno’s secret was the Kanban (Japanese for signboard) project management system. Since then, the Kanban system has become extremely popular in organizational resources, and there are several Kanban-oriented web apps already out there.

LeanKit Kanban takes the system and infuses it with the benefits of the digital world, from analytics to team-sharing. If you often have trouble keeping a track of what projects need to be delivered, or which member of your team is up for a new assignment, this is what you need.

Getting Started

Signing up for LeanKit Kanban is an easy process, although for some reason, it asks for your mobile number when signing up. It apparently only works with a US phone number, as in our tests several other phone numbers were rejected, though oddly a dummy US number worked fine.

There are three types of accounts you can go for: Professional, Team or Personal. The Personal Edition is free, but allows for only three users, is limited to a single board, and has limited options, missing out on the best part of LeanKit Kanban, the board templates.

The Professional Edition offers the most options, and if you are looking to use it to better manage your office life, then it makes sense to go in for that. Not only do you get unlimited attachments, but the additional Charts will help you get a better understanding of your productivity.

Let’s Create A Board

To create a new Kanban board is an extremely simple process. Usually, a Kanban is divided into simple vertical bars, within which you ‘tack on’ different tasks – in the offline world, think of it as a pinboard with vertical lines demarcating different areas, and each having a bunch of sticky notes in it. The only problem is, the Kanban system is so different from what most of us are used to, it can be difficult to figure out how to get started with most Kanban systems. Perhaps you’ll get some stuff added, but it’ll be tough to know what to put, where, to keep your team productive.

Where LeanKit Kanban excels is in the readymade templates it offers, letting you really get the most out of a Kanban system. It’s not just about a few vertical lines now. LeanKit offers complex organizational templates intended for different uses, such as a Sales Pipeline, Project Board, Personal Kanban, CEO’s Kanban, System Administrator, and many more. Of course, the default vertical and horizontal boards are available too, and you can customize any board however you want. These are a great way to get started working with the Kanban system.

Add Users, Add Tasks

Once you choose a template (I went in with the Project Board for this example), it’s time to start filling your board. I would advise you first add all the users that would participate in your board. It’s a super-simple process; just fill in the blanks and you’ll be done in no time.

Now, start adding to the board. The New Card button is going to be your best friend. It comes with all the options you could possibly want: Name, description, priority, deadline, who to assign it to, hyperlink, and even Card Type, which gives you different colours to easily identify what type of assignment it is.

There is one issue I had here. The cards take up a lot of space, given that their names are so small. I’d have liked it a lot more if my Kanban board could be customized so that the cards take up lesser space, giving me a cleaner interface and a better idea of what’s happening in my work world.

Once a card is added, it’s a simple drag-and-drop mechanism to place it in whichever column you want. The cards snap into the borders intelligently and it’s a smooth process. You can also right-click a card for a bunch of shortcuts to customize it, including who to assign it to, set its priority, edit tags, etc.

Tags are a great way to get one-glance views of anything related to an activity. For example, say you were editing a book while doing a bunch of other writing and editing assignments. Your Kanban board is used for all activities, so by just tagging each item related to the book, you can view all of those tagged items in one glance through the ‘Configure Card Filters’ option. It’s extremely efficient and I highly recommend you get into the habit of tagging cards.  Of course, the Filters also let you view your board by user, card type, title, or due date.

Analytics

Where LeanKit Kanban shines is in its ability to take all the data you are keying into your board and analyze it for the project manager. You want to know which of your workers is doing the best job, or perhaps you want to know how long a certain assignment is taking, so that you can fine-tune it further. Isn’t that the whole point of an organizational system, after all?

LeanKit Kanban’s exhaustive Board Analytics feature is a godsend. You can get diagrams for Cumulative Flow, Cycle Time, Card Distribution, Efficiency and Process Control, along with enough options in each to customize the data however you need: by date, by card type, by priority, by user or any other additional criteria you deem necessary.

So Is LeanKit Kanban Worth It?

I’ve used quite a few Kanban systems and here at Appstorm, we have even reviewed a few before, such as Trello and SmartQ. But LeanKit Kanban shines because of two important aspects: the ready-made templates it offers, and the analytics. The former helps a lot in getting you started with a Kanban system, especially a complex one; and the latter is fantastic to get an idea of how to refine your workflow for maximum efficiency. Those alone make it worth trying out. It does have a dated interface, but it offers enough features to make the Kanban more approachable than ever.


Summary

An awesome organizational system that helps you get started with more complex Kanban boards, and provides useful analytics on how to refine your workflow for maximum efficiency

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  • Graeme

    What’s wrong with most of the Kanban apps available on the market? They look so ugly. The exception is trello.

    Release a kanban app with UI of Asana and I’ll use something this on a daily basis

  • Jon Terry

    We’re glad you like LeanKit. Thanks for the thorough and very fair review! You’re quite right that our UI has room to improve. The founding team are strong developers and we know Lean-Agile project management. But we’re not designers :-) We’ve just now added a great new creative director, who _is_ a very strong designer. So you should expect a lot of improvement. We have also just changed our pricing model. If you look a the website now you’ll see that our Free version allows you up to 25 users and 10 boards.

    • Ed

      We just started using LeanKit and love it!

      It actually looks and feels great contrary to the previous poster’s comment.

      We (25 developers and 3 managers) spent the past six months evaluating LeanKit, Trello, Asana, Assembla, Pivotal Tracker (and a few others that have since faded from memory) but LeanKit was by far our favorite so we purchased it.

      It’s intuitive, effective and fun to use. I highly recommend it and hope the folks at VersionOne/LeanKit don’t try to make it look like the others!

  • Mary

    LeanKit Kanban is a very nice tool. I can’t find anything wrong about it, except the design. I prefer simplicity. My favorite tools are Kanbanize (http://kanbanize.com/) and KanbanTool (http://kanbantool.com/). Also, it’s not true that only LeanKit “has the ready-made templates it offers, and the analytics”. Kanban Tool has them as well.

  • mike

    Leankit is too expensive. More or less the same functionality for a friction of price I found in http://kanbantool.com

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