In Curated Content, Project Management

Microsoft Excel is incredibly useful for tracking data, but if you’re looking to build a Kanban board, you may want to check other options. The article below explains why Excel may not be the best application for your board, and where you might have better luck building something to suit your needs. CK

Article written by Greg Jacobson originally appeared in KaiNexus Blog on August 16, 2018.

Microsoft Excel is one of the most widely used applications on the planet. I know exactly why. It’s amazingly flexible, most people know how to use its core features, and almost everyone already has it installed on their computer.

What’s not to love?

When it comes to digitizing your Kanban board, there is a lot not to love about Excel.

Here are the main problems with using Excel for Kanban:

  • No matter how expertly you’ve designed your spreadsheet, it is still a passive artifact. It won’t notify your team when tasks or due or deadlines are missed.
  • Spreadsheets are easily broken. If you lock it down enough to protect it, it loses value. If you don’t, formulas can be messed up or data can be lost.
  • Version control is a nightmare.
  • There’s no support for collaboration.
  • Using a tool that you already have doesn’t signal a commitment to improvement.

So if for these reasons or others, you’ve decided to dump the spreadsheet approach to Kanban, good for you! Now what? When you start your search for an alternative to your Kanban board in Excel, we hope you’ll start with KaiNexus, but no matter what solution you consider, make sure it has these key capabilities.

Visual Management

Kanban is all about presenting information visually so that people process it quickly and gain important insight into the progress of improvement work. Make sure the solution allows your team to set up boards in a way that makes sense for your organization and that information is visually appealing and useful. If the data collected by your Kanban solution is difficult to manipulate or understand, people won’t use it. Look for software that provides helpful charts and graphs and is easy to use.

How Leading Companies are Improving Visual Management

Alerts and Notifications

Notifications and alerts via email help keep people engaged with the Kanban board and on track with their improvement projects. Alerts help managers stay on top of each project by letting them know when due dates are missed so they can take action and ensure forward progress is maintained.

Strategy Deployment

Kanban boards don’t exist in a vacuum. They should be tied to the strategic goals and objectives of the organization, each department, and every individual. The best Kanban software alternatives to Excel allow the strategy to cascade throughout the organization.

Major Strategy Dashboard

Role-based Dashboards

The needs of employees vary based on their role. Executive leaders and front-line staff have different information needs and permissions. That’s why you want software that tailors the experience to the various types of users, so everyone gets the insight they need quickly and easily.

Real-Time, 24 x 7 Access from Anywhere

Modern, cloud-based Kanban software makes it easy for employees to access their boards whenever they like from wherever they happen to be.  Because there is only one version of the truth, information is always available in real-time with no out-of-date versions floating around.

Impact, Activity & Engagement Reports

Another problem with Excel-based Kanban boards is that they don’t give leaders any insight into how engaged each team member is with continuous improvement. Kanban software, however, makes it possible for leaders to assess the health of improvement in the organization. They get a view into the people, teams, and departments who are most engaged. What’s more, they can report on the impact of that engagement and broadcast successful innovations. Learn more about those reports here.


Configurable Improvements & Projects

There is no one-size-fits-all for improvement projects. Your organization has a unique approach to improvement work so you should be able to configure your improvement software to match your processes. See what that looks like here.

Support for Cross-Functional Collaboration

Many of the Lean improvement projects that have the most significant impact involve cross-functional collaboration. That’s because process breakdowns often happen when work is moved from one team to another. Choose Kanban board software that supports collaboration across functions and unifies the organization on one common platform.

Mobile Applications and Device Independence

Another big problem with Kanban boards in Excel is that Excel is very difficult to use on a mobile device. Improvement work is not confined to the desktop and your Kanban software shouldn’t be either. Look for a solution that offers Android and iOS apps and will work beautifully on tablets or phones. That way your team can enter opportunities for improvement or check the progress of a project when they are on the go.

Expert Support

do you call when your spreadsheet breaks or you can’t figure out how to make it do what you want? There probably isn’t a dedicated resource to help. Kanban software features are important, but so is the vendor’s ability to help you get the most out of it. Make sure that you pick one with expert support services available.

Once you get out of the spreadsheet management business, you’ll find that your team achieves more improvements faster and with less friction.

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