In the context of software development, Kanban is an approach based on Lean that tries to limit waste and work in progress to the actual capacity of the software development team. The aim of Kanban is to create a context that balances capacity and demand through a value stream. Thus the work is not “pushed” to developers by project managers, but “pulled” by the development team according to priorities. Kanban is the Japanese word for visual card and visualizing the current situation is very important in Kanban. If collocated teams can use simple dashboards and cards to track the work in progress, this is not the same for large or distributed Kanban teams that need to use tools.
As for Scrum, a certain number of software tools have been developed to help team manage their Kanban flows. This article presents a list of “pure” online commercial Kanban tools that can be used for free, even if there are limitations regarding this free usage. We also tried to select tool that integrate some of the actual Kanban concepts like WIP or swimlanes and not tools where you can just “move cards on a board” in a Trello-like style, even if you might certainly find value in these tools for simple visual project management. Some commercial tools that provide both Scrum and Kanban features have already been listed in our “Using Commercial Scrum Tools for Free” article.
The tools listed in this article are: Clubhouse, Kanbanery, KanbanFlow, LeanKit, Kanban Tool, Online Kanban, SwiftKanban
Clubhouse is a visual project management tools for software development teams. Its workspaces enable users to jump across projects, epics, columns and filters in a single keystroke. Clubhouse offers a strong backlog definition and management systems with Epics and user stories. The tool is integrated with GitHub where you can deploy the developed stories.
Limitations: Up to 3 users, Unlimited projects, Unlimited integrations, API access
Kanbanery is a commercial online Kanban tool that provides highly customizable board to let you organize the way you want with content rich cards. With its GitHub Integration, you can track changes related to a task card on the card with automated links to GitHub commits. Kanbanery offers also a board templating system, advanced reporting features, free iPhone and iPad applications, simple CSV import and export of data.
Limitations: 2 users
KanbanFlow is a commercial online Kanban tool that offers unlimited boards for free and mobile support for most smartphones. Its boards allow to customize the workflow for tasks and subtasks and to set WIP limits. You can also use the Pomodoro techniques with the free version, but some board features like swimlanes and all the integration capabilities are reserved to the paid version.
Limitations: limited features
LeanKit is a commercial online visual project and process management tool that allows organizations to visualize and manage the flow of their work. LeanKit allows you to use vertical lanes to visualize each step in your flow and manage your backlog. Its mobile apps for iOS and Android let you check status, make updates and add comments while you are away from the office. Advances board functions like templating and horizontal lanes, reporting and integration with other tools are available only in the paid versions.
Limitations: 3 users, 2 Kanban boards, limited features
Kanban Tool is a commercial online visual management application that provides online Kanban boards with templates, insightful Kanban analytics and seamless time tracking. Kanban Tool allows limiting work in progress to prevent bottlenecks and track multiple projects on one board using horizontal swimlanes. On the reporting side, you can use breakdown charts to get quick insight into project status and measure cycle time using cumulative flow diagram. Kanban Tool is also available as an onsite installation.
Limitations: 2 boards, 2 users for free, no file attachments
Online Kanban is a commercial online Kanban tool that is currently in its beta phase. It lets you create boards, but even if the website promised to limit WIP, the current actual features seem very limited.
Limitations: personal plan, limited features
SwiftKanban is a commercial Kanban tool that helps you visualize your workflow and define WIP limits. You can define different type of work cards (User Stories, Issues, …) to create a backlog, which can feed work into the Kanban board. SwiftKanban provides smartLanes that add flexibility and visualization to the Kanban board. SmartLanes can be associated with various card attributes such as Class of Service, or Team Members, or even your own ad-hoc labels. This tool offers analytic tools like the Cumulative Flow Diagram and the Cycle Time Analysis report.
Limitations: 10 Users, 4 Boards, Basic Metrics, 5 Card Types, Standard Templates, limited features