Better for Kanban: LeanKit or Trello?

When researching Kanban tools, you’ve probably come across both LeanKit and Trello. Which is better? It depends. Each tool has its place, and luckily, if teams in your organizations have different needs, there’s an integration for that. Read to learn what factors to consider when choosing a Kanban tool and determine whether practicing Kanban with Trello or LeanKit is right for you.

Visualization

Visualization is the bread and butter of Kanban. The ability to convey information visually through the face of a card is an important feature for any Kanban tool. Research shows that images convey information significantly more efficiently than words - and customized visualization on your board might help you keep your thoughts - as well as your work- organized.

In LeanKit, you can convey information about a card through the card’s color, visual icons, due date icons, and the text displayed on the card face. The board background color and general structure stay consistent across all boards, which can help reduce confusion between boards in larger organizations using a hierarchy of boards.

Trello allows for a more customized card face - you can display images on a card face to convey information. You can also customize the background of your board. This is a great way for teams to make their board personal, branded, and fun - which might result in a productivity boost when practicing Kanban with Trello.

Organization of Project Tasks

When practicing Kanban, the goal is always to break work down into manageable tasks, to avoid scope creep, limit communication breakdowns, and keep work moving. In LeanKit, you can create a task board for each card, if it has small, distinct tasks within it. LeanKit also allows you to connect all the tasks in a project across multiple boards, so you can track progress and quickly identify issues. This is critical for larger organizations who want project portfolio visibility, and can be helpful for any organization with cross-functional teams.

Trello does not have a card hierarchy capability. Teams committed to practicing Kanban with Trello can make it work, as long as the team is not distributed across too many boards (or the task breakdown is not too complex). If board hierarchy is important to you, LeanKit is a better option.

Organization of Project Information/History

A major benefit to Kanban is that it allows you to keep all information related to a piece of work in the same place, instead of distributed across various emails, spreadsheets, notes, and documents. This level of organization makes it easier to keep everyone on the same page - if they need to understand the context of a piece of work, then can look into the card’s history to get up to speed.

While both LeanKit and Trello have room for attachments, notes, links, and other project documentation - Trello also lets you use images to share information, which is helpful for people in creative/visual fields or who are using the board to organize information (not represent a workflow).

Analytics

If your goal with Kanban is to improve productivity, analytics are pretty important. You can generate your own analytics with Trello (or LeanKit) by manually counting how many cards your team completes in a given time period. That’s a great exercise in learning Kanban, but you’re more likely to stick with it if your tool has analytic capabilities built in.

LeanKit’s analytics can give you valuable information about the productivity and efficiency of individuals, teams, and your organization as a whole. While there are integrations with Trello that can provide productivity analytics, they might not be as accessible to your team members as built-in, self-service board analytics.

Horizontal Swimlanes

If you analyze the flow of work through most team’s processes, they don’t move smoothly from one step to the next. Most teams actually have several concurrent value streams that have unique steps associated with them - for example, within one marketing team, some team members might mostly work on campaigns, which involve consistent work over time, while others might create deliverables, which go through distinct steps from beginning to end.

Teams get the most value out of their Kanban boards when they reflect the team’s actual process.  In LeanKit, you can create horizontal swimlanes to represent different parts of your process. Horizontal swimlanes allow you to represent multiple related value streams on one board - so work can flow through the actual process it follows. Trello only allows for vertical lanes.

Which Tool is Right For You?

When choosing a Kanban tool, it’s important to consider your goals for practicing Kanban. If you’re a team or small organization of teams looking to increase visibility and communicate more effectively, Trello could be a great fit for you.

If you need a tool to support a larger organization, or would like to rely heavily on data to drive your Lean/Kanban initiative, LeanKit might be a better option. It’s also worth considering which integrations would create the greatest value for you - LeanKit’s integrations are built to support enterprises, whereas Trello’s integrations are built to provide the most value to teams.

And if your organization can’t seem to decide which to use, there is an easy way to integrate the tools, so everyone can use the tool of their choice. Learn more about LeanKit’s integrations here.

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