If you are familiar with Kanban, you most likely know that the market for Kanban tools is quite large. Thus, picking your next solution can become a daunting task. Especially, if you are doing so for the first time or are unsure of what to look for.
To help you out, I wanted to overlook the most common and more advanced Kanban features. As well as to point out which of them are crucial for specific situations.
Ready to make your list of requirements? Let's begin.
1. Visual interface
While this goes without saying with such a visually based practice as Kanban, I think it is still worth mentioning. One of the biggest benefits of Kanban is being able to visualize your process and understand the status from a glance. As such, the Kanban software you decide to go with must meet this initial requirement.
Most kanban tools will provide you with the traditional kanban board out of the box. However, you can find some examples like Miro, that are created like a whiteboard. Thus you are free to draft your own board in any way.
Additionally to liking the visual layout of the tool, also think about what information you would like to see on the task cards. Is adding the title and assignee information enough? Or would you like to visualize subtasks, tags, preview images, and add hyperlinks? Different Kanban solutions offer varied options and having your priority list will help in understanding which of them are your favorites.
2. Kanban features
Moving on from the board itself, you will want to understand which of the Kanban-specific features you need. I am talking about WIP limits, lead and cycle time reports. If you use such features daily, you will want to ensure the new solution also supports them. Otherwise, you will be stuck doing calculations manually which is a counterpoint to even having a Kanban tool.
This will be a requirement for more advanced Kanban teams or for those that are looking to expand their practice and knowledge further.
Now, this is a big one. If you are working in a small team that is not likely to grow or expand, scalability may not be a concern. However, most businesses tend to grow and at some point, certain Kanban solutions become just too limited.
You will most likely feel the Kanban board becoming too crowded or having to dedicate separate boards for separate processes to keep them manageable. To avoid such struggle, look for tools that support larger processes or allow scaling. Features such as Kanban swimlanes or secondary process columns to track subtasks, provide a great sense of structure even for the largest teams.
4. Inclusion of other practices
Another feature set you may want to look out for is related to more traditional project management tools such as time tracking, workload management, and Gantt charts. Many Kanban solutions now offer such features out of the box or as add-ons. So, before you make the final decision, ensure to check what is available.
If you are used to planning out longer periods of time with Gantt, a tool that can seamlessly switch between Kanban Gantt chart will do wonders. By considering this step, you are minimizing the tooling needed for your process and boosting productivity.
Lastly, pay some attention to the customization features each tool offers. No two teams practice Kanban the same. Which is natural due to different processes, products, and even goals. And working in an environment that is optimized for you helps achieve better results.
Pay attention to things such as creating templates, creating custom fields, and customizing the available reports and views to show what is important to you.
At first, it may seem there's an endless choice of Kanban tools out there. But by creating a clear priority list, you will soon be able to see which of them are the true contenders. You may soon find yourself quite surprised that the market favorite is far from the best for you.
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