What Is a Kanban Board?
A kanban board is a project management tool that lets project managers track the completion of tasks and visualize project workflow. Kanban boards can be used for task management in a variety of industries such as software development, manufacturing, marketing, engineering and many others. Kanban boards consist of two main elements, cards and columns.
Kanban cards represent project tasks. Each kanban card should describe details such as who the project task is assigned to, its requirements, the due date for its completion and any other information that’s relevant to the project management team.
The columns of a kanban board indicate the level of completion of tasks. For example, a basic kanban board might have three columns to group project tasks: to-do, in progress and done. The individuals responsible for executing those tasks will move their kanban cards from one column to another as they complete their tasks. Kanban boards don’t have a specific requirement when it comes to columns, so each team can create as many columns as needed to manage their workflow.
Kanban Board Example
Here’s an example to better illustrate what a kanban board is and how it’s used as a workflow management tool. In the image below, you can see a kanban board with four columns: to-do, in design, in production and ready. There are also kanban cards showing tasks on each of those columns.
Now, let’s review the origins of kanban boards and how they’ve evolved over time to become one of the most important project management tools there are.
History of Kanban Boards
Meaning billboard in Japanese, kanban was codified at the Toyota automotive company in the late 1940s. The concept, however, dates back a bit earlier to WWII. English factories that were manufacturing fighter planes called Spitfires used something called the “two bin system,” which was a precursor to kanban.
But it was Toyota that founded kanban as we know it. To do so, they studied supermarkets. They noticed that supplies matched demand, but didn’t exceed it. These stock techniques were applied to the factory floor, where workers required certain parts at specific times in the production schedule.
The idea of taking what you need only at the time you need it, no more and no less, was revolutionary for Toyota. Kanban as a process was used to keep inventory levels balanced with the consumption of that inventory. A signal would alert suppliers that more stock was needed.
Evolution of the Kanban Board
Since that time, kanban has matured and abstracted into a board and cards that represent workflow. This helps to increase efficiencies by highlighting points in the production cycle where waste can be eliminated. This has led to kanban being applied outside of the manufacturing of automobiles and into just about any industry you can think of that has a production cycle.
Kanban was embraced by software developers who used an agile approach to their projects, as it aligns with Scrum in many ways. Once the process was digitized, its use became even more widespread and now can be found in more progressive project management software.
Project management software like ProjectManager, allows you to create robust kanban boards that let you assign tasks to your team members, collaborate in real time, share files with unlimited file storage and keep track of costs on each kanban card. In addition, ProjectManager offers multiple project management tools such as Gantt charts, project dashboards, timesheets and workload charts so you can track project schedules and budgets. Get started for free today.
Types of Kanban Boards
There are two main types of kanban boards, physical kanban boards and digital kanban boards.
Physical Kanban Boards
When kanban boards were first invented, kanban software didn’t exist, so they had to use physical tools such as wooden frames and paper sheets to represent kanban board columns and cards. Even today many organizations use sticky notes and physical boards to create their physical kanban boards.
Digital Kanban Boards
Most project management teams use software to use kanban boards. For example, ProjectManager allows teams to create and customize kanban boards. Here’s a video that will help you better understand what a kanban board is and how it can be used as a project management tool.
Kanban Board Template
We’ve created a free kanban board template for Excel for those who are just getting started with the kanban method. While this free kanban board template might be a good choice for beginners, you might want to use a kanban board software like ProjectManager when you’re ready to manage projects and teams.
Here’s a quick overview of some of the benefits of creating your kanban boards with a project management tool like ProjectManager.
How to Create Kanban Boards in ProjectManager
ProjectManager has online kanban boards that take the rudimentary physical kanban method and supersizes it. While other software programs might have similar tools, few have the robust and dynamic project management platform that ProjectManager offers to serve all your project needs.
Each kanban card can be assigned to one or more team members, who then can use that card to communicate through a comments window. When a comment is added, the assigned team members are notified by email and if they want to alert someone who isn’t assigned, they can simply @ them in the comments and they’ll get an email notification. This facilitates collaboration and keeps everyone on the same page.
Furthermore, any supporting documents and images can be attached to the card. This keeps conversations about the task and the various documents about the subject are in one, easy-to-find place. This takes the kanban process, one with the mandate of increased efficiencies, and makes it even more efficient.
ProjectManager also gives you the flexibility to adapt the kanban board to reflect your work. If the three-column template is too simple, add as many columns as necessary. If team members want to set up their own individual kanban board to track their tasks, they can do that.
Multiple Project Planning Views for the Same Project
With ProjectManager, kanban boards are just one tool in a larger toolbox. Once a task list is uploaded into ProjectManager it creates a project that can now be viewed through many lenses. Project managers might prefer the online Gantt chart view, but team members can visualize that workflow at a glance on the kanban board view.
Teams have the option of also looking at the online Gantt chart, but can also see their individual tasks laid out in a task list on the calendar view. However, the kanban board is more than simply a bird’s-eye view of the project. It’s a collaborative platform that makes teams work together for greater efficiency.
Because ProjectManager is online project management software, all status updates immediately populate in the software. There’s no delay. Changes show up instantly, and updates can be done anywhere and at any time, which is a boon for remote or distributed teams. Now, teams can collaborate in different time zones, in real time.
ProjectManager is more than just a kanban tool. It’s a suite of powerful project management features that work together and seamlessly integrate with other software to give project managers and teams greater control over their projects. From planning, monitoring and reporting, no matter what stage of the project you’re in, ProjectManager has your back. See what it can do for you by taking this free 30-day trial.