Project Management

Personal Kanban - App Review Update: LeanKit and Kanban Pad

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I mentioned before that I was happy enough with LeanKit that after I had adapted to using it, that I was not going to keep testing out different apps for Personal Kanban.

What can I say...

I was pretty happy with LeanKit from a Personal Kanban standpoint. When I checked it against my original criteria a few weeks ago, it only hit 50% of my original requirements:

  • Must be available on laptop, iPhone and iPad (PASS)
  • Must be as close to my physical board as possible (meaning must allow for swim lanes) (PASS)
  • Must have some capacity for dealing with recurring tasks (FAIL)
  • Must be available online and offline with a sync capability or something as easy as capturing notes on a post it or index card (FAIL)

But that was better than none, and it let me do some stuff I felt was really important:

  • Set up my swim lanes just like I had them on the wall.
  • Define the work state columns however I wanted.
  • Establish whatever WIP limits I wanted and warn me when I tried to exceed them.
  • It let me color code the cards based on work type.

I am also part of a volunteer group that had made a decision to use it and we were able to get full access to the tool which opened up some additional functionality. Being able to attach files to card and assign them to multiple individuals is something I found very helpful when using it with a team.

And then.....

 

I went to a meeting. I sat next to someone way smarter to me. I glanced at his screen and saw that he was using a Kanban app. Since he is smarter than me, and had come to a meeting with just an iPad (an obvious indicator of superior intellect and travel skill), and his screen was filled with a lot of really bright colors, it became obvious to me that this was an app worthy of further investigation. And this is how I was introduced to Kanban Pad.

When I compare this Kanban Pad against my original criteria:

  • Must be available on laptop, iPhone and iPad (PASS-ish)
  • Must be as close to my physical board as possible (meaning must allow for swim lanes) (PASS)
  • Must have some capacity for dealing with recurring tasks (FAIL, but)
  • Must be available online and offline with a sync capability or something as easy as capturing notes on a post it or index card (FAIL)

 

http://farm9.staticflickr.com/8011/7356295658_6c8acbc520_o.jpgThe app works great on an iPad or in a web browser. It's easy to drag cards from one column to another. And technically, Kanban Pad works on an iPhone as well. They do have a version sized for the small screen. Unfortunately, in the smaller screen, you can only view one column at a time. Trying to move tasks between columns in this format left me feeling like I was wearing boxing gloves while carrying a small child, a folding chair and trying to eat an ice cream cone at the same time.

 

Kanban Pad does allow for customizable, swim lanes, but not in exactly the same way that you'd set them up on a physical board. It allows you to establish multiple columns and within each column the Type setting allows you to establish Queue, In Progress or Queue and In Progress workflows. By using Queue and In Progress and editing the labels, I found an easy solution to my recurring task issue.

Another great feature is that the Product Backlog and Backlog of work that has moved past Accepted (meaning it no longer needs to be seen), can be maintained off the main task board.

Kanban Pad also allows you to establish WIP limits for your queues and it warns you fairly incessantly about your flagrant violation of them should you choose to venture off the path. (I ended up not using this feature because my frustration over the warnings became more significant than my desire to maintain WIP limits.

The app includes a feature where you can customize colored tags which can be applied to each task so that you can tell what type of work you are looking at.

There are a number of additional features that Kanban Pad offers, but those are the ones that have proven to be most valuable to me from a Personal Kanban perspective.

By way of a final verdict/opinion on the app, I offer this... I've been using Kanban Pad for about 6-8 weeks now. It has become my primary tool for managing my work using Personal Kanban. After all my efforts at trying to find a way to use Things as a tool for Personal Kanban, I've all but stopped using Things and only open it (or Reminders) now when I have to capture something that I will add to my task board later.


 

A Tip for Embracing Dysfunction

One thing I have noticed about my use of Kanban Pad is that I've begun using the screen on which I am looking at the work as my way of limiting WIP. If there is so much on the board that I have to scroll up and down to see all the work, then there is too much on the board. This means that some tasks have to be A) Cleared on the right so I can keep moving items over B) That I've got to remove some work from the active columns into the Product Backlog (which is not visible form the main board) or C) I need to consolidate and/or delete some items. This may not be the "right way" to do it, but at the moment, it is working pretty well for me, so I am okay with that.

Posted on: July 05, 2013 12:24 PM | Permalink

Comments (5)

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Anonymous
What would you say was the key in making you switch from LeanKit?

Anonymous
Hi Andy,
Thanks for the question.

I have only switched over for my practice of Personal Kanban. I still use LeanKit every day for the volunteer work I do for the Scrum Alliance. I am a big fan of both, and as I mentioned in my earlier review of LeanKit, I really like the flexibility you guys offer. The ability to add attachments which has been a lifesaver for the project I am working on.

I think, for me, and my practice of PK, I was able to work out a solution for my handling of recurring tasks that felt a little more natural in the Kanban Pad interface than in LeanKit. I also (shamefully) am a sucker for the ability to apply bright colors to cards because I used different colored post-its to identify categories of work on my physical board.

Thanks,
Dave

Anonymous
Thanks for the info.

(Just for the record, in LeanKit you can customize the colors used for Card Types on each Board).

How are you handling recurring tasks? One thing I've used with success is Zapier.com. I used the schedule trigger and the "Create Card" LeanKit action to build a "zap" that creates a Card every week. It's not native inside LeanKit, but it works.

Anonymous
Hey Dave - I'm looking for project management software that addresses the criteria you mentioned in this article from 2013. I like the kaban approach behind LeanKit but travel a lot to areas with poor connectivity so really need something that can work offline and be synched easily. Any software that you've found in recent months that fits the bill that you can recommend me checking out? Thanks. ~kate.

Anonymous
Hi Kate. Thanks for your comment.

I haven't fully tested it out yet, but I know that Kanbana (http://kanbana.com/) just released an update that offers offline access as well. If I do find anything really strong, I'll post it here and send you a message as well.



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