8 Must-Have Features of a Personal Kanban Tool

It´s hard to find a good Kanban tool! In 2014 I started to search a tool cause I wanted to swich from my physical board to a digital one. That is harder than I thought …

I need a tool to organise my private life which is usually pretty busy with several private projects ongoing.

First I started to use LeanKit, then switched to Trello, tried some other tools and even tried Jira. A few weeks ago I – again – decided to search for something better. Nothing so far. Why is it so hard? I have some requirements for my tool but so far none of the tools was able to provide them all. So here they are …

Personal Kanban Tool Features

Swim Lanes

That is the big disadvantage about Trello. With several projects running in parallel I need a board that supports horizontal clustering of cards in swimlanes. LeanKit and SwiftKanban provide a super flexible way. That is what I really need. I especially like how this is handled in Leankit because it is possible to arrange the cards horizontally. So instead of having the cards prioritized from top  to  bottom it is possible to prioritize them from right to left. Even with a lot of cards I don´t loose oversight.

Create a Card where it Belongs

The one big disadvantage of several tools like Leankit, Jira, Swiftkanban is that you  can not create the card right  where it belongs. In Trello I can just click in the list and create the card right there. With the other tools I need to either create a card, select the list  in a sort of drop down or the card is initially created in an inbox like column. After that I then have to search for the right place. This is an absolute no-go because this is a real disruption of my flow!

Checklists & Next Step

To reduce that number of cards on my board I need a checklist feature. The Trello checklist is super. The only thing I missed until recently is that the checklist is hidden. This chrome extention solved that problem: Next Step For Trello

Views

No Kanban tool so far provided the possibility to switch between these views:

Project Planning View

I want to have a “project planning view” where I can see my projects, plan tasks and arrange them on a time line. Each Project is a column and I can create cards right there, move them vertically to set priorities or just order them in a meaningful sequence. The coolest thing I have seen so far regarding this is the Jira Story Map view: Easy Agile User Story Maps for Jira (for me each epic was a project).

Magic Estimation View

I can not remember which tool it was, but once I came across a Kanban tool that had its own view for Story Point estimation. So what I want to have is this:

  • I can define my estimation scale
  • then I can switch to a view having a column for each category of my story point scale
  • i can here move cards across the board and story point field is updated automatically

Calendar View

The Trello calendar power-up is more or less what I am thinking of. If I move cards across the calendar, due date field should be updated automatically.

Context (GTD) View

Similar to Class of Service or Issue Type in Kanban I want to have context information in my cards like introduced by David Allens “Getting Things Done”. Most Kanban tools provide issue type or class of service features that can be adapted as context information. Trello has noting like that unfortunately. It is though possible to use tags or labels as a workaround. Not perfect but somewhat feasible.

So what is needed here is this: when I am on the go I need to know all tasks that I can now complete. When I am with my learning group I need to know all things that I wanted to discuss with them. When I am working on my PC I want to know all tasks that need to completed on the PC.

It would be sufficient to attach a context label to each card and then have a context view where each context is a column and respective cards are arranged in those columns.

FDD Handling

I also need some way to handle cards with a fixed  delivery date. I have several solutions for this in mind:

  • having a swim lane FDD cards (like kanban class of service)
  • having a column for FDD cards (like an own backlog having all cards with due dates ordered from top to bottom)
  • a filter that hides cards that are not due “soon”

The main point here is that I dont want to see cards that are due in 4 month from now while I am in “working mode”. I only want to see them when I am in “planning mode”.

More about Kanban

This blog is a digital memory for me. I store nuggets of information, ideas and resources on these pages so that I can access and share them easily at any time, from everywhere. I always felt a strong passion for continuous improvement and that is why I am now super happy to be a professional Scrum Master. Scrum, Kanban, Agile Project Management, Coaching, Learning and Self Management are my passions and that is also what my blog is about ...