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Smartsheet logo
 
Smartsheet is a project management application with a spreadsheet-like interface to help teams collaborate, plan projects and manage tasks. The software offers a suite of project management applications, such as document management,... Read More
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Smartsheet is a project management application with a spreadsheet-like interface to help teams collaborate, plan projects and manage tasks. The software offers a suite of project management applications, such as document management,... Read More
 
Workfront logo
 
Workfront (formerly AtTask) is a cloud-based project management solution that helps teams  to prioritize, route, manage and report on their work. It is suitable for businesses of any size and industry including IT, architecture and... Read More
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Workfront (formerly AtTask) is a cloud-based project management solution that helps teams  to prioritize, route, manage and report on their work. It is suitable for businesses of any size and industry including IT, architecture and... Read More
 
Wrike logo
 
Wrike offers a cloud-based, scalable project management and collaboration platform. Key features include social collaboration tools so users can organize their projects using a single dashboard. Users can assign tasks, track deadlines... Read More
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Wrike offers a cloud-based, scalable project management and collaboration platform. Key features include social collaboration tools so users can organize their projects using a single dashboard. Users can assign tasks, track deadlines... Read More
 
Sciforma logo
 
Created using English and Latin derivatives, Sciforma means “the science of planning”. In 1982, they introduced the first project management solution to the market, a Project Scheduler, and for the past three decades, they have... Read More
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Created using English and Latin derivatives, Sciforma means “the science of planning”. In 1982, they introduced the first project management solution to the market, a Project Scheduler, and for the past three decades, they have... Read More
 
Easy Projects logo
 
Easy Projects is a cloud-based integrated project management solution for businesses of all sizes across the globe. The solution helps project managers plan projects and create a collaborative platform for engaging multiple users. Project... Read More
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Easy Projects is a cloud-based integrated project management solution for businesses of all sizes across the globe. The solution helps project managers plan projects and create a collaborative platform for engaging multiple users. Project... Read More

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One2Team logo
 
One2Team is a project and collaboration management solution recommended to enterprise companies in industries such as construction, retail, telecommunications, healthcare, finance, and food & beverage. One2Team’s software includes... Read More
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One2Team is a project and collaboration management solution recommended to enterprise companies in industries such as construction, retail, telecommunications, healthcare, finance, and food & beverage. One2Team’s software includes... Read More
 
KPI Fire logo
 
KPI Fire is a cloud-based collaboration tool that provides team members with a dashboard view of shared company objectives and key performance indicators (KPIs). It is suitable for large and midsize companies in all industries. The... Read More
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KPI Fire is a cloud-based collaboration tool that provides team members with a dashboard view of shared company objectives and key performance indicators (KPIs). It is suitable for large and midsize companies in all industries. The... Read More
 
Targetprocess logo
 
Targetprocess is a cloud-based, modular project management solution that allows users to visualize and manage projects using any combination of Kanban, Scrum or the user’s own preset work solution.  The solution features an array... Read More
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Targetprocess is a cloud-based, modular project management solution that allows users to visualize and manage projects using any combination of Kanban, Scrum or the user’s own preset work solution.  The solution features an array... Read More
 
SmartCore logo
 
SmartCore from Ninth Wave is a Web-based project management solution designed to allow users to collaborate and share information in an adaptable environment via dashboards and reports. Within SmartCore, users gain access to several... Read More
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SmartCore from Ninth Wave is a Web-based project management solution designed to allow users to collaborate and share information in an adaptable environment via dashboards and reports. Within SmartCore, users gain access to several... Read More
 
Trello logo
 
Launched in 2011, Trello is a visual collaboration tool for planning tasks and projects. While commonly used by agile software development teams, the solution is also used in other departments such as marketing, sales, support and... Read More
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Launched in 2011, Trello is a visual collaboration tool for planning tasks and projects. While commonly used by agile software development teams, the solution is also used in other departments such as marketing, sales, support and... Read More

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AgileZen logo
 
AgileZen is a Web-based project management solution that organizes tasks visually to provide a holistic view of an entire project. The AgileZen project management system is based on the lean concept of Kanban, which consists of a... Read More
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AgileZen is a Web-based project management solution that organizes tasks visually to provide a holistic view of an entire project. The AgileZen project management system is based on the lean concept of Kanban, which consists of a... Read More
 
VersionOne logo
 
VersionOne is a Web-based end-to-end enterprise agile life cycle management tool that can be used by teams across all levels, portfolio and programs. The software is suitable for organizations of all sizes. VersionOne features agile... Read More
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VersionOne is a Web-based end-to-end enterprise agile life cycle management tool that can be used by teams across all levels, portfolio and programs. The software is suitable for organizations of all sizes. VersionOne features agile... Read More
 
LeanKit logo
 
LeanKit is a cloud-based visual management tool based on Kanban. The soltuion is suitable for organizations of all sizes, across all industries. LeanKit allows organizations to connect project boards at the project and team-level and... Read More
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LeanKit is a cloud-based visual management tool based on Kanban. The soltuion is suitable for organizations of all sizes, across all industries. LeanKit allows organizations to connect project boards at the project and team-level and... Read More
 
CA Agile Central logo
 
CA Agile Central is a cloud-based project management software system. It is suitable for organizations of all sizes. Key features include team collaboration, project management, product and portfolio management, analytics and metrics... Read More
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CA Agile Central is a cloud-based project management software system. It is suitable for organizations of all sizes. Key features include team collaboration, project management, product and portfolio management, analytics and metrics... Read More
 
JIRA Core logo
 
JIRA Core is a project management and task management software solution for business teams. It is designed to cater to businesses across a variety of industries, including marketing, legal, finance, human resources (HR) and operations. JIRA... Read More
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JIRA Core is a project management and task management software solution for business teams. It is designed to cater to businesses across a variety of industries, including marketing, legal, finance, human resources (HR) and operations. JIRA... Read More

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YouTrack logo
 
YouTrack is an issue tracker and project management solution that allows software development and testing teams to collaborate, track and resolve bugs and manage project workflows. YouTrack’s Issue Reporting feature enables managers... Read More
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YouTrack is an issue tracker and project management solution that allows software development and testing teams to collaborate, track and resolve bugs and manage project workflows. YouTrack’s Issue Reporting feature enables managers... Read More
 
KanbanFlow logo
 
KanbanFlow, provided by Swedish company CodeKick AB, is a project management solution that allows real-time collaboration between users and coworkers. It is suitable for businesses of all sizes and can only be deployed in the cloud. KanbanFlow... Read More
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KanbanFlow, provided by Swedish company CodeKick AB, is a project management solution that allows real-time collaboration between users and coworkers. It is suitable for businesses of all sizes and can only be deployed in the cloud. KanbanFlow... Read More
 
GitLab logo
 
GitLab is a cloud-based project management platform that allows software developers to develop and manage codes collaboratively. The platform can be deployed either on-premise or in the cloud. GitLab helps developers manage the complete... Read More
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GitLab is a cloud-based project management platform that allows software developers to develop and manage codes collaboratively. The platform can be deployed either on-premise or in the cloud. GitLab helps developers manage the complete... Read More
 
Kanban Tool logo
 
Kanban Tool is a project management platform that enables users to visualize and organize their workflow. The solution offers real-time team collaboration tools and helps organizations to manage project tasks, track deadlines and allocate... Read More
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Kanban Tool is a project management platform that enables users to visualize and organize their workflow. The solution offers real-time team collaboration tools and helps organizations to manage project tasks, track deadlines and allocate... Read More
 
Helix ALM logo
 
Helix ALM is an application lifecycle management (ALM) suite that enables organizations to scope, design, execute and track the application development process. Modules and key features include issue management, project collaboration,... Read More
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Helix ALM is an application lifecycle management (ALM) suite that enables organizations to scope, design, execute and track the application development process. Modules and key features include issue management, project collaboration,... Read More

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Buyer's Guide

by Eileen O'Loughlin,
Market Research Associate


Kanban is a prominent method used to implement agile project management (PM). It is less rigid and prescriptive than other agile frameworks (e.g., scrum), and is popular among teams that require the flexibility to reprioritize tasks as needed to accomplish project goals.

As the agile PM movement gains momentum, vendors are increasingly developing products designed to support scrum and kanban PM processes. Add these to the wealth of traditional PM tools already on the market and it can be difficult to know where to start.

In this guide, we’ll review the modern kanban PM method and explain how it fits within the larger PM space. We’ll also breakdown the kanban software available to you, so you can make a more informed purchase decision.

Here’s what we’ll cover:

What Is Kanban Project Management?
What Is Kanban Software?
Common Features of Kanban Software
What Type of Buyer Are You?

What Is Kanban Project Management?

Before we dive into kanban, here’s a short comparison of agile and waterfall project management:

Agile PM helps teams address and respond to change over the life of a project. Teams start with an overarching project goal and break work down into incremental phases, completing high priority items first. By incorporating more opportunities for inspection and review as the project is in progress, teams reduce waste and strive to deliver the most value to the end user/customer.

Waterfall PM is the traditional model of project management and is change averse. Requirements are agreed upon before the start of a project and benchmarks are set for scope, budget and timeline. Teams work sequentially, and work flows from one phase to the next until the project is completed. Success is measured by how closely the project adheres to the initial plan, i.e., “on-time and on-budget.”

The Kanban method is designed to reduce waste and improve team efficiency. Although less prescriptive than scrum, there are four key principles that define the kanban PM methodology:

  1. Manage work visually. Kanban teams create a visual representation of their work and workflows by using a kanban board. The board is broken down into several columns that represent the team’s different workflow stages, and users move cards with task information across the board to represent where the task is in their workflow.
  2.   
  3. Limit work in progress. By limiting the amount of open work items on the board, teams can reduce the time it takes to complete a single task. Ultimately, this helps them complete work at a faster pace because they don’t suffer productivity losses due to context switching and juggling multiple tasks at once.
  4.   
  5. Work in a “continuous flow.” Whereas scrum is iterative and teams complete work in timeboxes, kanban teams complete work in a continuous flow. Users pull work through the system a single piece at a time and work on that task until it is complete. Then they pull the next highest-priority item from the backlog. Work-in-progress limits help to regulate the flow of tasks and eliminate bottlenecks, so teams work at their ideal pace and do not overextend themselves or get burned out.
  6.   
  7. Focus on “continuous improvement.” Continuous improvement is a cornerstone of agile project management. By embracing change and increasing opportunities for inspection and review over the course of the project, agile teams strive to maximize the value delivered to the customer and/or end user. This is why kanban allows for the re-prioritization of backlogs, so users work on and complete the highest-priority items first, i.e., balancing demand against throughput. This is also why teams track their flow, throughput and quality, and why they limit their open work items, so they can experiment and find their ideal pace and optimize their performance.
  8.   

What Is Kanban Software?

Kanban software supports the above principles in several ways:

Helps teams visualize work and workflows. Digital kanban boards act as a team’s centralized project hub, helping to relate task and project status at a glance. Users can see instantly where a work item is in their workflow, meaning they know what stages it has already passed through and where it needs to go next.

Places actual limits on the number of open items. Kanban software allows teams to set work-in-progress (WIP) limits on a specific phase of work (i.e., column) or on the number of open tasks allowed for a specific user. Managers can put a “cap” on the number of open items permitted, and set up notifications to alert themselves and the user when they have reached the maximum number of open tasks permitted.

Easily reprioritizes work in the backlog, or “to-do” phase, as needed. Items in the backlog can be reprioritized as needed and placed at the top of the “to-do” column or prioritized in another way, either by marking the task as urgent or assigning an agreed-upon color-code (e.g., red for urgent, yellow for needs attention soon etc.).

Tracks the progression of work items and measuring performance. Kanban teams have two defining methods for tracking the flow and progression of work and measuring team performance: lead and cycle time and cumulative flow (more on these in the next section). Kanban software helps automate these reports, allowing managers to schedule them to run on a recurring basis. The findings can be mirrored onto a dashboard or collated into a project status report for stakeholders. Tracking these items helps teams make more informed decisions about their rate of throughput and how to effectively use tools such as WIP limits, so they can work to continuously improve their efficiency.

Kanban board in LeanKit

Kanban board in LeanKit

Common Features of Kanban Software

Look for the following features as you evaluate and compare kanban software solutions:

Kanban boards A visualization of a team’s workflows. The boards are broken down by columns which represent different workflow stages. Tasks are represented by cards that workers pull from the backlog according to highest priority and then move across the board (drag-and-drop to different columns) as the task progresses through the various stages.
Work-in-progress (WIP) limits A “cap” on the number of open tasks allowed in any one column or by any one user. WIP limits can help reduce bottlenecks between stages, such as those that can pile up when projects require specialized personnel resources, e.g., a certain type of programmer. In this example, a manager might set a limit on the number of tasks the programmer is working on to ensure they don’t get overloaded.
Cumulative flow diagrams (CFDs) CFDs are charts that show the status of work items over time. The x-axis plots time and the y-axis shows the number of tasks within a project. Colored lanes represent the workflow stages on the board. CFDs are used to track the flow of work and identify problem areas, e.g., bottlenecks or scope changes, that could impact completion.
Lead and cycle time diagrams Lead and cycle time diagrams are charts that measure the time elapsed from when a task is placed on the board in the “to-do” column until it is completed. Lead time encompasses the entire time elapsed, while cycle time refers to just the time spent actually working on a task (e.g., when it is pulled from the backlog). The goal is to shorten cycle times, enabling teams to improve lead time as well (i.e., if you’re working at an ideal pace, you’ll get to more of the backlog items more quickly).

What Type of Buyer Are You?

Kanban works well for teams within fast-paced industries, such as marketing and communications, who have a backlog of continually evolving commitments. Kanban provides them the flexibility required to re-prioritize their backlog as often as needed.

Conversely, scrum teams work in fixed sprints, and changes and re-prioritization are not allowed mid-sprint. Scrum is still more accepting of change than traditional PM, but not as flexible as kanban.

Additionally, kanban doesn’t call for prescribed roles the way that scrum does, which means that it requires fewer organizational and team changes to get set up. If you’re interested in implementing agile PM, but receiving resistance to an entire agile overhaul, consider kanban as an easy stepping stone.

Furthermore, VersionOne found in their 11th annual State of Agile report, that a hybrid or blended kanban process is more popular than “pure” kanban. Again, this may lower the barrier to adoption for your team and/or organization, so consider flexible tools that allow for custom workflows, fields etc. so your teams can mold the tool to their exact needs.

For tips on how to successfully implement a new project management solution, check out this infographic.

 

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