In the most general terms, a Kanban board is known as an agile task and project management solution used in a variety of industries to help teams visualize their workflows. What makes Kanban boards so powerful is their ability to identify the most problematic stages in a workflow, based on which you can take control of your entire workload, improve various business operations, and maximize your efficiency. Without further ado, let's get down to what lies at the heart of a Kanban board.
Believe it or not, the term kanban has been around for quite a long while. For the first time, it appeared at the dawn of the 17th century in Japan, which was marked by a flourishing period of street trading in its various forms. Large and small vendors would utilize many creative techniques to attract more customers and increase their sales. One of such methods, which proved to be extremely effective was kanban. This is a Japanese term consisting of two parts:
‘Kan' or 看, which can be translated as ‘to watch' or ‘a sign'.
‘Ban' or 板, which can be translated as ‘a board'.
As you must have already guessed, the term refers to signboards used to display the logo of a business. The competition among vendors was so fierce that they had to communicate to their clients what their businesses could offer in a clear and precise manner. That's why if you'd happened to be there, you would have seen many elaborate kanbans looking like fish decorating the entrances of fishmonger's shops or artistically styled tobacco pipes for smoke shops.
In the early 1940s, the term was reintroduced to the Japanese market when an industrial engineer at Toyota developed the first Kanban system, aimed at managing work at every stage. One of the major problems the company faced at that time included overproduction. In order to meet current demands in the market, it began using paper cards to track production processes in the factory. Once a certain product was sold, the card signaling a demand for it would go back to the team working on the production line. In other words, factory workers couldn't start working on the next item before the previous one was successfully delivered to its customer. This way, the company started producing just the right amount of products, which only improved its productivity and prevented further financial losses.
These days, we don't need to use paper cards anymore to manage various stages in work processes. The Kanban system is now accessible in multiple online programs. At its core, a Kanban board includes the following components.
Kanban cards, which represent tasks.
Kanban columns, which represent separate stages of a workflow from its start to finish.
WIP Limits, or Work-in-Progress Limits that set limits on the maximum number of tasks that can be simultaneously in progress on the board of an assignee.
Swimlanes, or horizontal lanes that separate different tasks from each other based on certain criteria.
The system prevents team members from multitasking, allowing them to focus on the most relevant issues and get the job done better and faster. In most cases, you cannot move on to the next task if the previous one has not been completed. And if any mistakes happen, there is a higher chance that they won't jeopardize the entire project since you will know for sure where the problem is and find the best solution.
Another great aspect of online Kanban boards is that they can be accessed by all members of a team, which keeps people up-to-date with what is going on with various projects. No matter what industry you are in, as long as there is a continuous flow of tasks, you can use this method to improve transparency within your team and make sure nothing slips through the cracks.
Now that we know what makes Kanban boards what they are, let's take a closer look at how teams can benefit from this system.
First off, the system goes a long way in helping people to figure out how they can spend their time more effectively, which is achieved through task and productivity tracking. This way, regardless of the size of a project, you can easily identify what causes it to stall or even fail.
Another way Kanban boards help maximize resources lies in their ability to deliver a continuous flow of tasks. This not only prevents individual workers from dealing with an amount of work beyond their capacity but also helps them be more productive. The Kanban system makes it possible to achieve this balance by breaking down complex projects into manageable tasks and subtasks.
The system has also received wide acclaim for its flexibility, meaning that you can always make changes to the existing projects based on the most recent updates. This way, teams can deliver exactly what their customers want within a short stretch of time.
Another advantage of using Kanban boards is their ability to reduce the amount of wasted work and time, by helping individual workers avoid unnecessary or excessive efforts, as well as committing to doing the wrong work.
Additionally, the system offers great collaboration opportunities, allowing anyone who has access to boards to leave comments, attach files, or even create to-do lists so that everyone could stay on track with the company's goals.
At the end of the day, you don't even need to ask what has to be done next. Simply pull the next card from the queue and plunge headfirst into the project.
Trello offers a free plan and several paid tiers, starting at $10 per user per month.
Trello is one of the few programs that focus primarily on Kanban functionality. Its selling points are a user-friendly interface and the ability to share multiple boards with people outside Trello.
However, compared to other popular Kanban software, Trello falls short of its competitors when it comes to delivering such valuable features as WIP Limits or Swimlanes. On the other hand, there is a range of basic capabilities that can help users go from ideas to actions in seconds.
Marketing and Sales
Clubhouse is available for free. It also offers free plans starting at $8.50 per user per month.
Clubhouse is a cloud-based project management solution that enables teams to organize multiple projects and connect with teammates in real-time. There is nothing special about Kanban boards though, for they deliver a pretty standard range of features, enough to keep users on track with the latest project updates.
It enables teams to consolidate project planning and management from small details to comprehensive revenue reports all in one place.
The platform helps to improve collaboration across multiple hospital departments and provides visibility into employee productivity.
Clubhouse provides educators with all the tools necessary to engage students and keep track of their performance.
Asana offers a free plan and several paid tiers, starting at $10.99 per user per month.
Asana is a powerful tool that helps teams manage tasks and projects of all kinds regardless of their complexity. Although the range of features seems overwhelming at first glance, it doesn't really take much time to get an idea of how the whole system works. And speaking of its Kanban boards, Asana provides a clear and highly customizable framework that blends in perfectly with all its task management tools.
Marketing and communications
HR and Recruiting
Sales and services
Nonprofit organizations of all kinds.
Wrike comes with a completely free plan and several paid tiers, starting at $9.80 per user per month.
Wrike offers a large assortment of features to help users make sure that business operations move in the right direction. However, compared to other similar platforms on the market, Wrike turns up on the expensive side as the number of Kanban features accessible in the free plan is considerably limited. Yet, Wrike has got all it takes to make improvements to various ongoing processes, even if your team is on a tight budget and cannot afford paid solutions.
Travel and hospitality
Marketing and sales
KanbanFlow offers a free forever plan and several paid tiers, starting at $5 per user per month.
KanbanFlow is a task management solution with pure Kanban capabilities at its core. The software provides users with a detailed overview of all the processes available at hand. The interface is pretty straightforward, even though it looks a little clunky. WIP Limits and Swimlanes make a perfect addition to this already highly effective Kanban system.
Time estimate report
Manufactures of every kind
Digital and physical publishers
Sales and marketing teams
Hygger comes with a free plan and several paid tiers, starting at $7 per user per month.
There is nothing to complain about as far as the platform's interface and features are concerned. Hygger is a powerful Kanban software and a perfect fit for teams of all sizes. It can help tech- and non-tech organizations realize their full potential through WIP Limits, sprint boards, and Swimlanes. These are the features that other similar programs tend not to include in their packages.
Marketing and sales. It helps teams define and achieve all their SMART goals.
Inventory management. The software offers a wide assortment of tools to manage and control a range of processes from purchasing to warehousing.
Client management. It is an ideal solution for small and medium-sized companies looking for a way to optimize their communication with clients and start closing more deals.
Construction projects. It enables teams to schedule, track, and execute projects of various levels of difficulty.
Kanban Tool offers a free plan and several paid tiers, starting at €5 per user per month.
Another powerful online Kanban board that gives a perfect overview of all the tasks. Besides offering a flexible and highly structured framework for efficient project management, Kanban Tool also delivers detailed analytics and metrics showing the most problematic areas in each project stage. It also enables collaboration and communication among users through commenting, board and task sharing.
E-commerce and web development
MeisterTask is available for free. It also offers several paid plans, starting at $8.25 per user per month.
MeisterTask is somewhat in-between a purely Kanban software and project management software as it has a broad choice of powerful features behind its clean design. Just like any other similar software, it performs great when it comes to digitalizing multiple workflows and delivering detailed insights into your performance on an individual, team, or organizational level. Users can also get instant access to specific projects by filtering them based on due dates, statuses, assignees, and more.
Statistics and reports
Roles and permissions
Sales and marketing
Nonprofit organization management
Leisure, Travel, and Tourism
ClickUp offers a free forever plan and several paid tiers, starting at $5 per user per month.
There is a broad range of features that this project management software brings to the table. Its simple drag-and-drop interface makes it easy for users to move tasks through multiple workflows. Even more than that, with the help of the Multitask Toolbar, users can simultaneously implement a variety of changes in multiple Kanban cards.
There is plenty of room to be creative and organize workflows in a manner suitable for any team. And speaking of the platform's capabilities, here is what makes ClickUp a go-to solution in a range of industries.
Sales and marketing.
ClickUp is helpful for students and teachers looking for an effective tool to plan their curriculum and stick to their routines.
This software is a decent option for designers looking for a way to streamline their complex processes.
Hospital administration will benefit immensely from ClickUp, which will aid in the management of the entire system within a hospital community.
The software delivers a wide assortment of features entirely for free. Users can also upgrade to its more advanced tiers, starting at $19 per month.
Unlike many other service providers, Bitrix24 delivers most of its mind-blowing features absolutely free of charge. Therefore, users have an unlimited amount of time to find out how the whole system works and select the exact tools they need to take their business to the next level. Even though the number of instruments is clearly overwhelming, it doesn't take long for newcomers to onboard the software. Its agile Kanban boards blend in perfectly with all CRM and project management tools.
Billing and invoicing
Reporting and statistics
Marketing and advertising. The software helps companies increase their ROI and make better marketing decisions.
Travel and Tourism. The platform has everything a team would need to collect, handle, and store all the data regarding their clients' flights, trips, and reservations.
With the help of the platform's powerful CRM capabilities, various companies and organizations can create better and more personalized shopping experiences.
Bitrix24 is an ideal platform for managing and keeping an eye on the statutes of product delivery.