Kanban is a popular framework used to implement agile and DevOps software development. It requires real-time communication of everyone’s capacity and full transparency of what’s being worked on. Work items are represented visually on a Kanban board, allowing team members to see the state of every piece of work at any time.
Kanban is a visual system where you get to visualize both the process and the actual tasks in that process. The main purpose of Kanban is to visualize progress and manage work in a cost-effective way at a steady speed. It follows a set of principles to improve the flow of work and streamline tasks.
Kanban Software Comparison Criteria
Here’s a summary of my evaluation criteria. These are things I look for when I evaluate tools, and they’re also things to consider when you’re trying to find the right one for your team:
- User Interface (UI): Are the Kanban cards easy to read, manipulate, edit, search, and archive? Is the project roadmap obvious at a glance with real-time details, due date, and drill-down capabilities where needed?
- Usability: Does the project management tool offer training, support, and wikis specific to lean work management and Kanban task cards specifically? Can you easily employ work-in-progress limits to keep users focused on what matters most?
- Integrations: Kanban apps tend to work in conjunction with other workforce software, as they may not support every element of a team’s day-to-day. Is the tool easy to connect with other tools using an API? Does it work with common PM apps like Jira, Slack, Asana, GitHub, Google Drive, and LeanKit?
- Value for $: Does the Kanban tool pricing cover the features you would expect like a detailed board view with powerful filters and sorting? Does the tool cover the Kanban method as well as going above and beyond in additional features needed by agile teams? Is the pricing structure flexible, transparent, and scalable?
Kanban Software Key Features
- WIP limits – Can managers limit the number of work in progress items users can have to help prioritize tasks and focus their team?
- Identification of bottlenecks – Whether its a ROG system or customizable alerts, we want apps that don’t let task management lag.
- Automation of dependencies – Does the board automatically reflect changes in dependencies when you change dates, add subtasks, or adjust milestones?
- Backlog metrics – Is it easy to measure what has been pinned for later to reactivate or delete old work items when appropriate?
- Workflow management templates – Are there different types of Kanban style cards that can be set-up quickly per differing needs?
- Time tracking functionality – This is a bonus but it’s helpful to know how much time is being spent on each card (and by whom).
Overviews Of The 10 Best Kanban Software
Here’s a brief description of each of the Kanban project management software on my list, showing what it does best and including screenshots to showcase some of the features.
1. Kanbanize – Best Kanban software for software development teams
Kanbanize offers flexible, web-based Kanban boards and built-in business rules so that you can automate all your team’s existing processes, dependencies, and interactions. PMs will especially enjoy the ability to forecast the end dates of any initiatives based on the flow of child cards anywhere in the Kanban card hierarchy. Software development teams will appreciate their focus on user stories and epics with transparent cross-team dependencies.
Kanbanize costs from $149/month for up to 15 users and offers a free 7-day trial.
- Nicely visualizes complex projects and processes
- Easy to follow communication trails
- Clear cross-team dependencies
- Can’t fully hide unneeded swimlanes
- Not tailored to large enterprise needs
- Limited ability to change a card’s historical data
- Free to use for up to 5 users and 2 projects
- From $10/user/month for up to 300 projects
2. Teamwork – Best stakeholder/client access controls
Used by Spotify, PayPal, Disney, and Netflix, Teamwork is a Kanban project management solution that empowers you to manage multiple projects with ease. Users can break down complex projects into multiple levels of tasks and subtasks. It’s great for giving clients or stakeholders a view of your progress—you can customize each stakeholder’s access permissions for everything from adding comments on tasks all the way through to adding tasks, milestones, and even logging time.
Teamwork is free to use for up to 5 users and 2 projects. Paid plans cost from $10/user/month for up to 300 projects.
- Features can be turned on/off (tasks, messages, time, risks, billing)
- Easy zoom in/zoom out on project plans
- Easy to communicate task status with clients or team
- No CSS template option for advanced customizability
- No industry-specialized project templates or formats
- No way to measure your team’s capacity
3. Kanban Zone – Best cross-portfolio Kanban board
Kanban Zone is designed to allow teams to visualize their entire agency and organization by connecting teams and processes. The tool offers a highly flexible Kanban board editor that does not constrain users to perfect grids and instead allows them to truly map their ideal flow of work.
The tool also includes a timeline view for increased planning capabilities, as well as templates and a Portfolio Kanban for traceability across projects. Also available are project and Kanban metrics, collaboration features such as comments and notifications, and workflow management capabilities.
Kanban Zone has a simple interface that helps teams focus on the work at hand, and a team of support experts to help with onboarding and ongoing questions.
Kanban Zone pricing starts at $5 per month for a personal plan and $7 per month for enterprise plans. A free 30 day trial is also available.
4. Wrike – Best project template selection
Wrike’s versatile and easy-to-use web-based platform adapts to however your team organizes their work—it doesn’t just have Kanban stuff, but you’ll find standard Kanban boards along with other project management features. The built-in proofing and approvals help to accelerate your activity stream and multiple reporting views keep you abreast of developments as they happen. Wrike offers many different types of project templates, including Kanban project templates to get you started quickly.
Wrike costs from $9.80/user/month and offers a free 14-day trial.
- Users have access to a variety of fully customizable dashboards
- User-friendly and intuitive for all skill levels
- View projects and tasks in different views (list, table, Kanban, Gantt)
- Shareable dashboards are limited to paid plans
- Only 2GB of storage space with the freemium plan
- Time tracking is included in Business and Enterprise plans only
5. ProjectManager – Best for project portfolio management (PPM)
ProjectManager is an award-winning Kanban software and project management system that boasts an impressive suite of project portfolio management (PPM) tools. Real-time dashboards, all-in-one roadmaps, and multiple project views are just a few of the features available to users to organize their portfolio, so this goes way beyond Kanban boards. The PPM reporting system is useful, too, giving you a birds-eye-view of data.
ProjectManager costs from $15/user/month and offers a free 30-day trial.
- Excellent high level view of project
- Customizable schedule templates
- Time and expense tracking
- Multilingual and very flexible
- No mobile app
- No way to update partially complete tasks
- Doesn’t output schedule files to .mpp
6. Mavenlink – Best Kanban software for team collaboration
Mavenlink’s M-Bridge connects your tech stack so that all of your apps work together for the best project management experience, so it’s a good fit for collaborative teams that use a lot of tools. Their Kanban cards have room for tons of communication and collaboration features, like messaging, attachments, scheduling, and preview/feedback links.
Mavenlink costs from $19/user/month and they offer a 10-day free trial plus free demo.
- Aesthetic, simplistic calendaring
- Various scheduling data views
- Drag-and-drop Gantt chart timeline
- Improved task tracking since older versions of the software
- Lack of global search function
- No schedule sharing without log-in
7. Monday – Best Agile workflow
Monday.com is a scalable, flexible, and secure web-based project management tool that sports some of the most user-friendly and engaging interface graphics around. The bright colors, gamification of task completion, and easy drag-and-drop mechanisms can encourage software adoption by even the least techy team members. PMs can easily establish Agile sprints using Kanban-style cards for every step in the task completion process.
Monday is free to use for 1 dashboard and unlimited boards. Paid plans cost from $14/user/month and you can try them out for 14-day for free.
- Color coded status great for resource overviews
- Easily create boards dedicated to operational resource tracking
- New features being rolled out regularly
- Quick learning curve
- Requires manual resource forecasting (no automation)
- More expensive compared to similar products
8. Smartsheet – Best Kanban + Gantt chart hybrid tool
Every Smartsheet subscription tier has access to hundreds of project templates sorted by industry or type. Here you’ll have access to Gantt charts, construction estimators, legal contract management, customer lifetime value (CLV), team productivity documents, performance evaluation sheets, and anything else you can think of. Anyone who uses Kanban schedules as well as other common calendar views like Gantt will appreciate the ability to flip back and forth between them!
Smartsheet costs $14/month with free additional users and offers a free 30-day trial.
- Easy to pull data from multiple sources
- Great alternative to Excel spreadsheets
- Well-communicated prepared-by-client (PBC) requests
- Advanced training recommended
- Paid plans start at a higher pricing tier
- Free to use for unlimited users with a 100MB storage maximum and offers a free trial
- From $5/user/month
9. ClickUp – Best for customizing your own set of features
ClickUp’s flexible project management app offers over 100 proprietary features to choose from, letting power users highlight what they want and hide what they do not use. Choose simple task lists or more advanced workflows (called “Statuses”) to track updates and progress remotely. Their Kanban boards benefit from this vast feature set, allowing users to customize their boards and workflows according to the unique needs of each project, task, and subtask.
ClickUp is free to use for unlimited users with a 100MB storage maximum. Their paid plan starts at $5/user/month and offers a free trial.
- Choose from 50+ widgets to customize your dashboard
- Great interface on both web and mobile app
- Healthy variety of project views and dashboard reports
- Read-only guest permissions are limited to paid account
- Reporting suite is limited to paid plans only
- Granular customization options results in a time consuming set-up
10. Clubhouse – Best free Kanban software
Clubhouse is a collaborative project management system that transforms workplace communication into something easy and engaging with drag-and-drop UI, dark mode, and emoji support. PMs can set weekly priorities and the tool will run the schedule based on their input. Clubhouse’s freemium version is quite generous, offering 1-10 users, all core features, and access to community support forums, and iOS/Android app data syncing.
Clubhouse is free to use for up to 10 users. Paid plans start at $8.50/user/month and offer a free 14-day trial.
- Iterations lets users to easily group stories (ie. into sprints)
- Good system for ticketing
- Robust searchability for managing multiple teams/workflows
- Dashboard occasionally stops updating and needs a refresh
- Lack of customization options compared to peers
- Time estimation by point values instead of intervals
Summary Of The Best Kanban Software
Other Kanban Software Options
Here’s a few more that I didn’t include in the top list, but these are still great tools to check out:
Which Kanban Software Do You Use?
I hope you found the perfect Kanban system for your team members’ flow of work.
Which Kanban board from this list is your favorite to use? Do you have a Kanban tool in mind that you would add to this overview if you could? Is Kanban your preferred agile project management organizational technique? Do you have any tips to maximize effectiveness of swimlanes? I’d love to hear from you in the comments.
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