JIRA and Kanban vs. LeanKit

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JIRA, Kanban Boards, and LeanKit

Kanban is used across many types of organizations to visualize work, limit work in progress, focus on flow and create an environment of continuous delivery. If you’ve ever used or considered using a Kanban tool, you’ve probably encountered Kanban in JIRA. While JIRA technically provides Kanban functionality, it doesn’t support some of the key principles of Lean and Kanban.

In this post, we’ll compare JIRA Kanban with LeanKit, the leader in enterprise Kanban. We’ll then provide use cases for integrating the two systems, to allow everyone in your organization to use the tool that is purpose-built for them.

Scalability for Enterprise Teams

Kanban in JIRA works well for individual teams that work in silos based on their functional disciplines. The JIRA Kanban workflow enables teams to plan, manage, and track their work across a board. However, it’s critical for teams with cross-functional work to be able to connect work items across multiple Kanban boards. These connections make mapping and managing value streams across the organization possible, while allowing boards to stay organized at each level.

Keeping work connected between Kanban boards like this is not possible in JIRA. With LeanKit, you can easily connect cards distributed across multiple teams on multiple boards.

Purpose-Built for Lean

At its heart, JIRA is a tool that was built to support scrum. Kanban boards in JIRA enable teams to move work through a basic workflow, but they lack the full flexibility needed to mirror complex enterprise workflows. In order to truly practice Lean, teams need the ability to split lanes on their Kanban boards to show steps within their process; implement horizontal swimlanes to represent concurrent workflows on the same team; utilize Lean metrics to improve their flow efficiency; and the flexibility to visually manage and measure their work.

While some scrum teams may find success with Kanban boards in JIRA, teams trying to practice Kanban in a Lean way will experience greater success with a Kanban tool purpose-built for Lean.

Easy to Set Up, Use and Adopt

Two common themes we hear from customers regarding JIRA are that it has a steep learning curve and that it’s cumbersome to use. Most teams using JIRA choose to have a dedicated administrator responsible for maintaining the system, with few team members willing to tackle the learning curve required to interact with the tool on a daily basis.

Teams find it difficult to map their workflows to the complex processes that are common in enterprise environments, and do not find JIRA Kanban board layouts helpful in the process of creating boards.

On the other hand, LeanKit customers often tell us that they can set up a board quickly — often in less than five minutes — allowing teams to immediately begin adding cards, adapting their boards to mirror their workflows, and begin improving the way they work, instead of spending time learning how to use the tool.

They enjoy creating boards from scratch or using board templates to quickly get started. In addition, we often hear LeanKit provides a visual product that is extremely quick to adopt, intuitive to use and simple to scale.

LeanKit Integrations and JIRA

By integrating JIRA and LeanKit, teams across your organization can collaborate more effectively. LeanKit Integrations eliminate the need for dedicated spreadsheets to track work housed in different systems. No spreadsheet maintenance means fewer handoff delays, less friction, and better communication between teams.

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Tracking Bugs in Kanban

Many teams use JIRA as a bug-tracking tool, and they collaborate with other teams, such as IT Operations, to resolve bugs quickly. JIRA doesn’t, however, support the continuous workflow needed by these other teams that require more flexibility in managing work. Integrating the two systems can help in many scenarios.

A common use case we see is that when there is a bug in deployed software, a JIRA user can create a ticket and assign it to the appropriate team to work that ticket. If the ticket is assigned to a team that practices Kanban in LeanKit, the integration triggers the creation of a new card on that team’s LeanKit Kanban board. With this approach, the entire value stream benefits from better communication, smoother handoffs and clearer visibility into the status of the bug fix.

Kanban for Executives

Many executives find JIRA to be cumbersome because they are unable to get the right level of detail on the key portfolio initiatives that matter most to them. Clarity on project status, progress, and blockers can be difficult to find when multiple teams that use multiple tools are all working together on one major initiative.

By integrating LeanKit and JIRA, executives can house their major initiatives on a portfolio-level board in LeanKit, and department leads can then break down the work to the teams needed to make it all happen. The work remains connected to the portfolio initiative, regardless of where it is housed.

Although scrum teams may choose to use Kanban in JIRA, while Lean teams may choose to use LeanKit, integrating the portfolio board with team boards across systems can help executives can track the progress of these initiatives in LeanKit, without ever leaving the tool.

Find Your Solution

If your organization is making the move towards Kanban, consider how flexibility to support Kanban and Lean, ability to scale, and ease of use of a product would affect the success of your Kanban initiative.

For organizations struggling to scale JIRA across multiple teams, integrating JIRA with LeanKit offers a flexible solution. This enables your team to augment your existing system with the Kanban capabilities you need to optimize your processes, increase organizational visibility, and deliver value faster.

If your organization is still in the process of selection a Kanban tool, see how LeanKit is helping some of the world’s largest companies implement Lean principles with Kanban. Try LeanKit today.

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