Successful project implementation depends on many factors, such as budget, team size and skills of its members, time for work, and many more. However, for everything to run smoothly and without disruptions, effective management is essential. The ideal solution is the Kanban method, an efficient framework that will guide you through the entire process - from the first idea to the final project. But what exactly is Kanban, what to use it for, and how does work in this visual system look like?
Kanban is a project management methodology, often referred to as agile methodology. It first appeared in the 1940s, just after World War II, when the Japanese company Toyota Motor Corporation, to catch up with its American competitors and solve problems with inventory management, introduced a working method aimed at visualizing processes and tasks. The word "kanban" in free translation is a combination of the words: "visible" and a "piece of paper" or "visual signal". The Kanban methodology is based on the slogan "7 x none": no shortages, no delays, no stocks, no queues - anywhere and for anything, no inactivity, no unnecessary technological and control operations, no movements. From its manufacturing roots (using Kanban in the production process), the Kanban method was adopted by software development teams when it was popularized by David. J Anderson in his book, Kanban: Successful Evolutionary Change For Your Technology Business. Paper cards were replaced by computer programs and then by online tools.
Kanban framework is a unique work methodology due to the increase in productivity and focus it facilitates. The main idea of the Kanban system is to finish tasks, not just start, with particular emphasis on the principle that you can only work on one task at a time. An important element of the Kanban method is the WIP limit (work in progress limit). It aims to increase quality and maximize efficiency, helps to optimize performance, allowing you to start a new task (Kanban card) only if your work limit allows it.
This agile method uses Kanban boards that are divided into lists (columns), also known as statuses. Each list is made up of cards that you can read more about in the next paragraph. Kanban cards on the digital Kanban board are moved according to the status of the task, informing at what stage they are; usually, there are three: to do, doing, done. However, each project requires its statutes and, depending on the specifics of the industry, they are matched by the entire team or project manager, to satisfy not only the management but also the clients.
The Kanban cards on the board are tasks that the team has to complete after allocating responsibilities. In the traditional method, these are usually paper cards, in different colors, corresponding to different categories, such as in the marketing department: yellow - research, pink - social media, blue - copywriting. In the task management apps, cards are identical, except that they are virtual and usually tagged with specific tags. The second version is more effective because the virtual card has unlimited space for notes. Usually, a Kanban card contains:
You can easily add a checklist to the card or add links and files taken from virtual discs. Thanks to this, there is order, and employees are not irritated by the lack of access to data.
Psychologist Albert Mehrabian in his book Silent Message proved half a century ago that visual information is processed by the human brain much faster than text. Our brains are used to processing images, 90% of the information that is picked up by visual communication. However, this is not the only reason for the success of the Kanban method. So what are other Kanban values? In addition to the fact that it is absorbed faster, it helps to organize the work of the team. By visualizing tasks and processes and keeping tasks up-to-date, every team member knows what to do. Such task work and real-time communication improves transparency, reduces unnecessary activities, ensures a smooth flow of work in any enterprise, allows you to follow the digital Kanban boards at a given moment without distracting colleagues - in one word: it improves the flow of information. It helps to respect the current role of every member, their responsibilities, and job titles. What's more, working with the Kanban method shortens the time needed to complete the project and deliver it to customers, which is named "lead time".
Kanban is for everyone, regardless of what project they are working on, whether they want to plan the team's work on a new product, press conference, event, or wedding. However, it is best suited for companies that need to improve information flow and work efficiency. The introduction of the Kanban system to IT, scrum teams, or production departments has prompted other industries such as marketing, development departments, logistics, e-commerce, startups with software teams, and many others to use Kanban boards more and more often. Virtually any organization that wants to avoid negative consequences of unplanned work, such as the feeling of inactivity among employees or performing unnecessary activities, can work based on Kanban. It's worth saying too, that as a manager you can encourage acts of leadership at every level - from individual contributors to senior management. This is a team process, so the first thing your team should do is get together!
To manage the work of the team as efficiently as possible and set requirements accordingly, the Kanban boards should be well adapted. Arranging them in such a way as to replace the sheet of paper, which is often the starting point for Kanban work, will give you immediate results and boost your business process.
There are several of the most popular methods of arranging boards you can work with to eliminate workflow errors.
The first way of control (and at the same time the most frequently used one) is the above-mentioned division into TO DO, DOING (in progress), and DONE.
The second method used in sprints (by agile or development team) is the division into SPRINT BACKLOG, IN PROGRESS, TESTING, and DONE.
Another example from a printing company is: TO BE MADE, GRAPHICS PREPARATION, FOR PRINTING, IN PRINTING, COMPLETED.
And the division into TO DO, TEXTS, PHOTOS, PRICE, PRODUCT DISPLAY is a method used, for example, by employees and management in e-commerce.
You already know what a Kanban system is and how it works. However, if you want to implement Kanban to improve collaboratively, first think about the needs - yours and your team's. Talk to them to get a better overview, then see a list of the best Kanban-powered apps.
HeySpace is a two-in-one application that combines task management and team communication functions. Forget about a few different apps and constantly switching tabs because HeySpace gives you everything you need in one place. Each workspace comes with five features: chat, board, to-do list, calendar, and the timeline for a wider view. Thanks to this solution, you have a clear overview of tasks in the Kanban board view, you communicate quickly and conveniently with your team and control deadlines.
HeySpace allows you to organize your Kanban boards. You create and name lists, add assigned people to cards, track progress, add start and end dates, attach files, chat - everything you put there is entirely up to you. Kanban boards are easy to use, do not require long training, so your employees will intuitively adapt to working on them.
Moreover, HeySpace has just introduced a new feature to make working on the Kanban board even more effective. This new feature is WIP limit - work in progress limit, which, by showing the workload, motivates to complete tasks in accordance with the idea of the Kanban methodology.
Kanban Tool is a tool that, in addition to many functions that facilitate work, offers a clear and user-friendly interface. The Kanban board allows you to visualize work, track several projects simultaneously, and collaborate with your team members in real-time. You also have the option to get additional upgrades whenever you need them. Kanban Tool also offers automatic charts to visualize team performance, which helps plan activities and streamline work. The last extremely useful feature is a time tracking, which conveniently helps you focus on one task at a time.
Kanban Tool is an application designed for large and small teams from various industries: from agile teams to programmers, through marketing, design, to accounting.
Trello is one of the most famous applications associated with ease of use and simplicity. Trello uses Kanban boards to prioritize and control its responsibilities. Even though the interface is user-friendly and seems easy to navigate Trello offers many advanced features to organize your work and increase your productivity. Trello's Kanban boards have email addresses that are used to create cards and send attachments to specific locations. Trello also has filtering and labeling functionality, making it easier to search through your apps and cutting down on time. This scheduling system is perfect for an agile team, working on a Kanban project for continuous improvement.
Trello is considered to be one of the best Kanban-based apps thanks to its many useful and advanced workflow management features.
Monday.com is a Kanban-based app that offers many customizable templates. This complex task management program offers the Kanban board as one of the options for project management. Tasks can be easily tracked in terms of time and progress. Monday.com visualizes your progress on a Gantt chart and gives you a weekly overview of all tasks for the coming week. Returning to work after the weekend will no longer be associated with catching up and remembering details. The main goal of Kanban teams after free days will be to take cards from the commitment point to the delivery point as fast as project managers require, without concern that something would be forgotten.
Monday.com is a flexible tool for work, thanks to the ability to switch between Kanban boards and other views.
Kanbanize, as the name of the application says, is a project and task management tool that not only helps you organize your work but also tracks progress in real-time. It is considered to be one of the best applications also because it eliminates the need for progress reporting. Kanbanize visualizes card dependencies, automates existing processes, interactions, and always shows the exact status of the task. A clear interface makes it easy to control, and the analytical module helps in tracking progress on charts and planning work based on the results.
Kanbanize works with various integrations, such as Google Drive, Dropbox, and GitHub, which makes it the number one choice for users.
Asana is another very popular solution based on the main Kanban and used by software teams. For project management systems with many extras such as a calendar, a list, or a timeline. You can connect Asana with integrated applications to make it easier for you to work with. Kanban boards in the application are easy and quick to configure, divided into tasks, intuitive in the organization. Even though Asana has no chat, but you can fast comment on quests, informing about quest info or problems. Asana is a tool that provides multiple templates to operate while allowing you to create your templates.
LeanKit is a lean management application that offers work visualization, flow improvement, and constant preview functions. LeanKit also has reporting and data analysis options to help you draw conclusions and create easier solutions for the future.
LeanKit can be integrated with Kanban boards, making it easier for users to stay in control and stay up to date. LeanKit can boast of such functions as online Kanban boards, work planning, WIP limits, cycle time reports and flow analytics, custom fields. You can create all this on your own or ready-made templates.
ProofHub is an application that you can customize according to your needs. It works based on Kanban, so you decide for yourself what number of stages is appropriate for your project. Even though it seems to be a very simple tool, it offers many advanced features such as Gantt charts, chat, calendar, forms, time tracking, and of course kanban board. All this allows users to constantly monitor the progress of work and efficiently plan work. ProofHub allows you to assign responsible persons to specific projects as well as assigning roles and related access.
ProofHub is an application designed for those less and more demanding teams (i.g. agile teams like agile software development teams or returning to the roots - teams working on the production line) because its functions can be easily adjusted.
Zoho Projects offers an amazing amount of features that can be used in a variety of ways by kanban teams. It is one of the most advanced applications on this list - it allows you to manage work using a Kanban board, but also helps in planning and automating projects. This is possible thanks to the functions of time tracking, task automation, Gantt charts, graphics, and cycle time reports.
Due to non-standard functions and extensions, it may seem difficult to use and more complicated than other tools, however, it gives many more possibilities to manage tasks or increase the team's productivity.
We hope that you will use the presented knowledge and tips on choosing the right application in practice and you will enjoy the chosen Kanban method by implementing wonderful projects.