Kanban, which means billboard or signboard in Japanese, is a work management system developed by Taiichi Ohno, an industrial engineer at Toyota. The kanban method is executed with a board and a collection of cards that move across a series of columns, which indicate progress and state.
While kanban boards can be physical boards with cards on them, this agile project management and lean manufacturing tool has migrated to the digital realm where kanban software’s usefulness has grown exponentially in a range of industries. The project management world took note, and a number of kanban software tools were born.
But first, to place the tool in context, let’s explore kanban boards, what they are and how the best kanban software of 2023 takes the tool to the next level.
Using Kanban Software
The kanban methodology is a great way to manage workflow. It helps to define, manage and improve how work is delivered. By visualizing the workflow, efficiencies are discovered and the production process can be optimized. The effectiveness of kanban boards is baked into its process: the ability to constantly be looking at how to improve the workflow. Kanban is ultimately about productivity and continuous improvement. As a lean manufacturing tool, it seeks to eliminate waste and bottlenecks to keep the work flowing steadily.
Using kanban software visualizes your workflow clearly and offers transparency in an online setting. Traditional, scrum and agile teams can use it to manage their work, and managers get a window into that work. Depending on how robust the kanban software is, they can use this clarity to catch issues and reallocate resources to keep them from becoming problems.
Who Can Benefit from Using Kanban Software?
Kanban software is a very versatile task management tool that is used in many different industries. Here are some examples of the most common uses for a kanban system.
- Scrum and Agile Teams: The kanban methodology helps scrum and agile teams to plan their sprints.
- Project Managers: Project managers use kanban boards to manage work items, work-in-progress limits (WIP limits), recurring tasks and the product backlog.
- Agile Software Development Teams: Most software development teams use an agile framework to plan and execute work. Kanban boards are perfect to control their user stories, backlog items and WIP limits.
- Scrum, Lean and Agile Project Management Teams: Project management teams can use a kanban framework to manage their projects. Project managers oversee the process while team members can easily manage their tasks with their personal kanban boards too.
So, which is the best kanban software to use? That depends on what your needs are. Some provide a bare-bones electronic version of the kanban board and cards, while others integrate kanban into their full feature set to expand its benefits. To narrow down the field, we tested several of the more interesting kanban software on the market. Here’s our ranking of the best kanban software of 2023.
2023 Best Kanban Software Rankings
ProjectManager is a project and work management software that tops our best kanban software ranking because it’s a powerful tool with all the must-have kanban software features that’s also easy to use with intuitive kanban boards and a full suite of planning, tracking and reporting features. This dynamic kanban software brings teams together to work more productively with custom workflows and task approval features. It organizes everything in one place and provides transparency into the project.
Make Workflows With Kanban Boards
ProjectManager is the best kanban software because of how easy it is for you to create custom workflows and set up automation for task approvals and more. Drag-and-drop functionality makes the kanban easy to use, intuitive and even fun. But more than fun, kanban teams are always up-to-date as data is instantly updated across this project management tool so there’s one source of truth. Those real-time updates give managers transparency to reallocate resources and avoid bottlenecks. Meanwhile, kanban teams can manage their backlog items and collaboratively plan sprints, staying up-to-date with email and in-app notifications. Each kanban card is not only a task but a communication hub, where comments and attachments are kept in one place. Teams get email alerts and in-app notifications as comments are added or tasks updated—anywhere, any time. Set priorities and customized tags make for easy sorting.
Integrate Kanban With Interactive Gantt Charts
The kanban board is only one of multiple project management views letting you work how you want. What really makes ProjectManager great is how its kanban tool works hand-in-glove with the rest of the software. For example, one of the other project views is a Gantt chart, which is the workhorse of project management. Managers prefer to plan their projects on Gantt charts, which can link dependencies, set milestones, fiter for the critical path, set a baseline to track project variance and provide a visual timeline of the entire project. All that data is reflected on the kanban board view, which is more suited for teams executing those tasks.
Track Real-Time Progress With Kanban Software
Another feature that syncs with the kanban software is the real-time project dashboard. With the dashboard, managers get a high-level view of the project plan: It’s like an instant status report. Other lightweight kanban software make you configure the dashboard (if they have one at all), but ProjectManager’s is embedded and ready to use. Track costs, tasks, your team’s workload, time and more.
Unlike the other options on this list, ProjectManager is a full-service project and work management software. This best kanban software has resource management tools, planning and time tracking all integrated with kanban boards. ProjectManager is diverse enough to function in a waterfall, agile or hybrid environment. See how ProjectManager can improve your project management today with this free 30-day trial.
- Team: $13.00 user/month
- Business: $24.00 user/month
- Does ProjectManager offer a free trial? Yes, ProjectManager has a 30-day free trial
- Does ProjectManager have a mobile project management app? Yes, it’s available for Android and iOS
Trello is a flexible kanban software that helps teams work collaboratively as they manage tasks with boards, lists and cards. This kanban software puts all of its eggs into one basket in order to better prioritize projects. It offers automation, custom kanban cards & boards, buttons, calendars, due date commands and rule-based triggers to its workflows.
However, Trello is not great for large-scale projects. Also, if you’re looking for a kanban tool that helps you manage task dependencies, Trello is not what you’re looking for. Surprisingly, for a kanban software that prides itself on collaboration, communications could be better, as it’s easy to lose track of conversations. But Trello really excels at offering a straightforward kanban planning experience. If that’s what you need, give it a try.
- Standard: $5 user/month
- Premium: $10 user/month
- Enterprise: $17.50 user/month
- Does Trello offer a free trial? Yes, Trello has a 14-day free trial
- Does Trello have a mobile project management app? Yes, it’s available for Android and iOS
Related: 5 Best Trello Alternatives in 2023
3. Kanban Tool
Kanban Tool is another kanban software that focuses solely on kanban boards for real-time collaboration, so teams and clients can work closely together by sharing tasks, comments and more. Most users have found the interface relatively intuitive and easy to use. It does offer some flexibility, and its kanban swimlanes are nice for group-related tasks. It has task tracking and WIP limits to avoid bottlenecks, reports and a cumulative flow diagram.
On the downside, the boards can get unmanageable if they’re holding too much data. Even if there’s not much information to manage, the search function is not great: it’s not quick nor in-depth. Kanban Tool is really a task management tool at heart, which leaves many other aspects of project management behind, such as resource management or long-term planning. But, its kanban boards are pretty dynamic and can make up for the absence of other kanban project management features.
- Team: $5 user/month
- Enterprise: $9 user/month
- Does Kanban tool offer a free trial? Yes, Kanban tool has a 14-day free trial
- Does Kanban tool have a mobile project management app? Yes, it’s available for Android and iOS
Kanbanize defines itself as an agile project management software. Like other kanban software, it’s a kanban tool that is simple and easy, so users can onboard quickly. However, one of it’s unique benefits is that it helps you see the big picture, breaking down key initiatives into multiple levels of hierarchical work items. It also has collaborative features, automated triggers and time tracking to keep tabs on the hours spent on a single task or the entire project.
Unfortunately, there is no traditional resource management feature: there is no easy way to display all the tasks that are assigned to a team member or properly prioritize their daily workload. Additionally, there have been complaints about the reporting feature not being dynamic enough, so users may have to report using external software. Therefore, smaller companies may love Kanbanize, but larger companies may need something more substantial.
- Team: $149 15 users/month
- Pricing goes up depending on the feature set you choose.
- Does Kanbanize offer a free trial? Yes, Kanbanize has a 30-day free trial
- Does Kanbanize have a mobile project management app? Yes, it’s available for Android and iOS
MeisterTask is a kanban software that is customizable for various workflows. It can be used in an agile framework by software development teams for sprints, but it also serves other industries, such as marketing and publications. A simple-to-use collaborative software with reporting features, it collects feedback, prioritizes and has milestone tracking and product roadmapping. It will also import from other kanban software.
Although it’s great at importing, it’s not so great with integrations, where your options are limited. It’s not easy to set reminders that aren’t deadlines either. However, kanban software needs to be collaborative, and this software delivers on that promise. The fact that you can customize it is neat, too.
- Pro: $4.19 user/month
- Business: $10.39 user/month
- Enterprise: custom pricing
- Does MeisterTask offer a free trial? Yes, MeisterTask has a 14-day free trial
- Does MeisterTask have a mobile project management app? Yes, it’s available for Android and iOS
Blossom is trying to corner the market on distributed teams that work within an agile framework. For example, its kanban software was designed with stand-up meetings in mind, whether your team is in the same room or phoning in from a remote location. This kanban tool provides insights for continuous delivery with its performance analytics and tends to skew towards this type of team.
Like many similar kanban tools, it can’t be considered one of the best project management software because it doesn’t offer a lot of other project management features, such as budget management, Gantt charts and time and expense tracking. While it could be used for more traditional methodologies, the software focuses on teams working with lean or agile frameworks. But if you’re heavily into agile, and compatibility with that style is solely what you’re looking for, then Blossom can help you set up your kanban system.
- Custom pricing
- Does Blossom offer a free trial? Yes, Blossom offers a free trial
- Does Blossom have a mobile project management app? Yes, it’s available for Android and iOS
ZenHub is a kanban software that focuses on team collaboration using kanban boards in tandem with plan roadmaps, task boards and the ability to create automatic reports. It has been created to work with GitHub, so it is ideal for kanban teams that are working in that environment. Workspaces can be automated once defined and sync with pull requests. The kanban software can help identify blockers and is a good fit for developers, already familiar with GitHub with which it can connect to help with burndown charts, velocity tracking, etc. There are also reporting features.
Of course, if your team is not using GitHub a lot of the advantages of this kanban software are not going to benefit you. The kanban tool is also limited only to kanban project management and even so, you can’t have different boards for different teams. Everyone is working off the same board. If there is a way to do this, it’s not evident and can frustrate users. Customizing boards for, say, agile sprints isn’t easy. However, for agile teams that are tethered to GitHub, this is better than enlightenment.
- Growth: $7.95 user/month
- Business: $12.45 user/month
- Does ZenHub offer a free trial? Yes, ZenHub has a 14-day free trial
- Does ZenHub have a mobile project management app? Yes, it’s available for Android and iOS
Asana is a kanban software that helps you plot workflows and supports collaboration for agile teams, who can manage their tasks by seeing them all in one place. Project managers oversee the kanban planning process and make sure that tasks are being executed on time. Workflow stages are addressed with label columns and kanban cards are packed with details, such as due dates, assignees and subtasks. All this is viewed in real time to keep scrum, kanban, agile and hybrid teams working together and allow managers to avoid bottlenecks. The kanban boards have rules that automate workflows. But Asana also has other project management views, such as a Gantt chart, list or calendar in which to manage work.
As far as kanban software goes, it’s not all clear sailing. One problem that users have faced with Asana is that its kanban tools and UI can be overwhelming, especially for new users. There are a lot of features that might be useful to experienced project managers but newbies will need to set up training in order to best use the app, which of course is a financial and time commitment. That’s why Asana is overkill for small kanban teams or single projects. Far worse, is that there can only be one task owner and there’s no time tracking. There is more functionality when integrated into third-party apps, but that’s hardly an ideal solution.
- Premium plan: $10.99 user/month
- Business plan: $24.99 user/month
- Does Asana offer a free trial? Yes, Asana has a 30-day free trial
- Does Asana have a mobile project management app? Yes, it’s available for Android and iOS
Monday.com is kanban software that helps scrum, kanban, agile and hybrid teams manage their tasks and workflows. It has a modern UI and is highly customizable, which is a plus for many users. There are also automations that add efficiency and templates to help new users get started. The kanban board is but one project view. There is also a chart and timeline, but that’s not a real Gantt, which is missing from the software.
That might be the biggest negative about Monday.com. It has kanban tools, but the timeline is just a shadow of what a Gantt chart is. It’s a surprising omission considering Gantt charts are almost DNA for project managers and project management. The app is seemingly disdain for Gantt charts is even more confusing when considering the high cost of using this kanban tool. Add to that a difficult-to-use navigation, no iOS mobile app and a short trial period, it’s understandable why people don’t like Mondays.
- Basic: $8 user/month
- Standard: $10 user/month
- Pro: $16 user/month
- Does Monday offer a free trial? Yes, Monday has a 14-day free trial
- Does Monday have a mobile project management app? Yes, it’s available for Android and iOS
10. Zoho Projects
Zoho Projects is a task management software with kanban boards that offers multiple ways to communicate in the app. There are also many configuration options and strong time-tracking, which are big selling points for kanban and agile teams. In addition to the kanban boards, there are Gantt charts and task lists. But it’s the kanban boards that draw in users with customizable columns. However other kanban software key features such as resource utilization reports (only for upper-tier subscriptions), bug and issue tracking and integration with other apps, are also big pluses.
The minuses are pretty big, too. For instance, there are no premade kanban planning templates, which can be a very useful entry point for those not familiar with kanban software. Those who work in an agile or hybrid methodology will not find much to like in Zoho Projects, as it has no agile or scrum capabilities.
- Premium: $5 user/month
- Enterprise: $10 user/month
- Does Zoho Projects offer a free trial? Yes, Zoho Projects has a 10-day free trial
- Does Zoho Projects have a mobile project planning app? Yes, Zoho Projects offers a mobile app
Now It’s Up to You: Which is the Best Kanban Software?
The top kanban tools out there have been put to the test. You’ve read what they can and cannot do. There are some that only give you a board and cards, while others sweeten the deal by adding other project management features.
Which one is right for you? Probably one that is cloud-based, in order to keep your team connected and your data up-to-date. If you’re working on almost any project, you’ll also want to have a tool that gives you the power to plan, monitor and report on your progress. Don’t subscribe to dozens of tools when one can do the job.
ProjectManager is the ultimate kanban board tool. It has everything a project manager and their team will want in kanban software and adds all the other features key to managing a successful project. ProjectManager has one-click reporting, a real-time dashboard, a collaborative platform for teams, resource management, planning, scheduling and so much more. Try our kanban tool now by taking this free 30-day trial today.