kanban.jpg
Image: Elnur/Shutterstock

Kanban boards are simply one of the best ways to manage projects of all sizes. I speak from experience: Kanban boards have helped me keep a number of my projects on track.

If you’re unfamiliar with what a kanban board is, think of it as a card-based visualization for project management that allows you to break each project into milestones and tasks. You set milestones as columns and then add tasks as rows, which is all done within a very user-friendly UI. As each task completes a phase, it’s moved along the columns.

SEE: Feature comparison: Time tracking software and systems (TechRepublic Premium)

But if you’re working on a big project, which kanban board should you choose? There are tons of kanban options, so I thought I’d narrow down the list to my five top kanban solutions capable of handling big projects. Let’s dive in.

Asana

Image: Asana

Asana is often considered one of the most powerful, user-friendly kanban options on the market. With good reason. As with most of the options listed here, Asana goes well beyond a simple kanban board to offer lists, calendars, file sharing, goals, portfolios, reporting, inbox and (of course) a customizable kanban board.

One of the best aspects of Asana is its UX is absolutely superb. With Asana, you’ll find creating new columns (aka “Sections”) and tasks incredibly simple. And, as a task is complete, you simply drag it from one column to the next. With each task, you can also add sub-tasks, due dates (that integrate with the Asana calendar), notes, collaborators, attach files and you can even make a task public. One of the reasons Asana is listed as a great option for large projects is that it also offers the ability to add custom rules, which can do things like automating the movement of task cards based on due dates. Rules are only available in the Business plan (so free users need not apply).

Asana can be used for free, but for businesses with big projects to manage, you’ll want to look into one of the three paid plans: Premium ($10.99/seat/month), Business ($24.99/seat/month) and Enterprise (contact Asana for more information). Asana also offers a free app for both Android and iOS.

Monday.com

Image: monday.com

Monday.com is another powerful kanban solution that goes well beyond simple kanban boards. One of the first things you’ll notice about monday.com is that it has one of the best onboarding systems on the market. By answering a few quick questions, monday.com will automatically generate your workplace based on your specific needs. Once generated, you can create new boards and take advantage of their very powerful workflow tool.

One thing to keep in mind is that monday.com isn’t quite a traditional kanban. Don’t let the layout fool you. Although monday.com defaults to a vertical task layout, instead of the traditional horizontal kanban style, you can easily add a new kanban view from within the Main Table. A caveat is that the kanban view doesn’t inherit the names of your groups, so even after you’ve painstakingly designed the Main Table layout, the kanban version of your board will default to labels like Working on it, Done, Stuck and Empty. Monday.com also offers integrations for several third-party services such as Mailchimp, Jira, Trello, GitHub, Slack and Gmail, as well as the ability to create automated workflows for your projects.

You can use monday.com for free (up to two seats), but if you want to get the most out of the service, you’ll want to purchase one of the four paid plans: Basic ($6/seat/month), Standard ($10/seat/month), Pro ($22/seat/month), and Enterprise (contact for details).

Stackfield

Image: Stackfield

Stackfield is an all-in-one collaboration tool for projects. Using a traditional kanban board, Stackfield allows you to create Rooms, Room Groups, Room Templates, tasks, discussions, pages, files, events, conferences and organizations. If you’re looking for a kanban solution that places collaboration with teams front and center, you could do far worse than Stackfield. Within each room you set up, you’ll have a kanban board, a discussion center, a task page, a files manager, a calendar, and more. This is truly a great tool for those large projects that have numerous team members working on related tasks for the whole.

The Stackfield kanban board is flexible enough that it can be applied to nearly any type of use case (from editorial systems, development, sales-funnel, property management, recruiting/HR and just about anything you can imagine). The thing that sets Stackfield apart is the simple integration with the other tools. Because each board has an associated chat, tasks, pages, files, and calendar section, collaboration Stackfield was designed for collaborative efforts.

You can use Stackfield for free for 14 days. Once the trial ends, you’ll have to purchase one of the three plans: Business (starting at $9.93/user/month), Premium ($15.44/user/month) and Enterprise ($19.85/user/month).

Trello

Image: Trello

Trello is another option that is almost always on the tip of the tongue of most business users. This is a straight-up kanban board without all the extra features found in the other options, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t worthy of your big projects. Trello offers plenty of features that make it possible to extend it from a basic kanban (such as multiple workspaces, automation, filters, templates, stars/labels, attachments, collaboration and more).

With minimal work, you can create a workspace that includes an easy-to-use kanban workflow to make any user happy. Of course, drag-and-drop is front-and-center with Trello, so moving cards from one column to the next is simple. Trello also allows you to customize the background of your boards and even add custom fields (which are a part of the paid product), stickers, and even watch notifications. At first blush, you might think Trello isn’t capable of helping you manage larger projects, but it most certainly can. And with the addition of power-ups (integrations with other services), you can expand the feature set with integrations like Jira, Dashcards, Amazing Fields, Time Tracking, Bulk Actions and more.

Trello can be used for free, but if you want to add even more features, you’ll need to pay up for one of the plans: Standard ($5/user/month), Premium ($10/user/month), or Enterprise ($17.50/user/month).

Wekan

Image: Wekan

Wekan is the only open-source option on the list, and it’s also one of the only ones you can install on bare metal. Wekan might be short on features, but it’s long on usability. This kanban solution is just that … a kanban board. One of the reasons I place Wekan on the list is because it allows you to create multiple boards and do so in the privacy of your own LAN. So, for those who’d prefer to keep all of the details of their projects close to the vest, this might be one of the best options.

Another great thing about Wekan is that it is incredibly simple to use. Create a board, set it up, and then get to work. But don’t think Wekan is sans features that prevent it from being used on your bigger projects. This tool allows you to create multiple swimlanes, create private and public boards, work with templates, collaborate with organizations, teams and people, view various types of reports (such as files, orphaned files, broken cards, rules and more), duplicate and archive boards, and receive notifications.

Wekan is not just open-source, it’s free to use and can be installed on Linux (either via Snap or source) via Docker, on macOS and Windows.