First, let me say I had no idea there were so many agile board solutions out there.
It is ridiculous.
The market is completely saturated with contenders. This probably happened because software devs have a particular way they like to work and when they can’t find something they like, they build it themselves.
However, out of the myriad of contenders there are some that clearly rise to the top. FYI: I am not being paid by any of the software companies mentioned here and this post is entirely my own opinion. Another FYI: I definitely lean towards the Kanban side of the fence as opposed to Scrum. I much prefer simplicity and ease-of-use over an enterprise-level kitchen sink featureset and and this preference has flavored my rankings here.
So without further ado I give you my personal list of agile development boards (in annoyingly descending order):
Scrum Boards/Agile Planning Boards Roundup and Reviews
Cost: Free, $9/user/month, $25/user/month
Ease-of-Use: Moderate to Difficult
Supports Scrum, Kanban, QA and custom workflow processes
Supports plugin integration with Subversion, Git, Bugzilla, TFS, Mercurial
Several analytics reports available
Adjustable WIP limits
Highly detailed audit history thread
Extensive email notification settings including customizable email templates for each notification
I could not find a way to simply add a task to the default Kanban board without first tying it to an existing user story. This left me with the feeling of being forced into a Scrum/Kanban hybrid methodology instead of a minimalist Kanban approach which is my personal preference. I have a feeling this requirement might be configurable in the custom workflow screens.
The sheer number of options and boards available is a little overwhelming if all you want is a simple Kanban board. This is another enterprise-level offering with all the bells, whistles and gadgets.
This one has a learning curve to understand the vast array of features. Plus the heavyweight nature of this kind of offering automatically entails more setup, training & ongoing maintenance work to make sure items are being entered & tracked correctly.
I really didn’t want to like DropTask. It just seemed too easy and too simplistic to be of any serious value for anything other than a simple task list. But I kept coming back to it and I actually found the process of entering tasks and moving them around to be ENJOYABLE. I simply can’t explain it.
The product doesn’t offer some of the advanced options available in other solutions in this list, but what it does, it does really, REALLY well. DropTask has huge potential and might well become the next evolution of agile development. I could easily see it outperforming other methodologies for specific use cases (although admittedly, no use cases spring to mind).
That’s why I’m ranking this one as #3 on my list.
Extremely easy to get going
Allows nested groups
Different views allow you to see tasks arranged by category, tags, deadline.
Requires a re-think of the traditional Kanban To-do/Doing/Done columns into a “Groups” mentality
In many ways, Leankit is the de facto standard of Kanban boards. It’s quick to setup, easy to understand and yet has huge complexity within reach if you need it. No other board on this list was able to cover both angles: the simple & complex, combined in one easy-to-use product.
Lots of helpful templates available when you upgrade to the paid service
Options galore – highly scalable to create very powerful boards
With great power comes greater complexity – the more advanced settings are a little more difficult to figure out
Has the ability to split swim lanes both horizontally and vertically
Several board analytics reports are available with options to filter by card type, priority, etc
Board history audit trail
Can create “board relationships” such as taskboard and drill-down relationships
As I wrote this blog post, I didn’t have a clear winner in mind. In fact, when brainstorming specifically about physical boards, I was surprised how many disadvantages there are.
Even so, I can’t escape a few simple facts that make a physical whiteboard my favorite. You have complete control over the design of your board. You see immediate visual cues without logging in or bringing up a webpage. You experience the inexplicable satisfaction of moving “done” post-it notes across the board and “archived” ones into a physical trash can.
But physical boards are chock-full of deal breakers for some people. No remote access. No audit trail. No automated analysis reports. Yet even after acknowledging these deal-breakers, physical boards are my firm favorite.
Total design flexibility
Immediately visible to anyone within line-of-sight
Seems more gratifying physically moving tasks to the trash when they’re done
Open accountability/transparency to management
No login/URL/computer required
Has myriads of collaboration/ diagramming/ note-taking uses, not just an agile board
Physical boards FAIL when working remotely
Sometimes sticky notes don’t stay “stuck”
Possible to run out of room on the board
Whiteboard notes can be accidentally erased
No audit trail
All notes are handwritten – reduced legibility
All data for analytics reports has to be entered into an additional tracking system manually.
Agile boards that didn’t make the cut
As I mentioned before, there are a LOT of agile board solutions out there. Here’s a handful of honorable mentions that didn’t make it onto the list: