Is Productboard your next project manager?

Productboard offers an outstanding Kanban option. Jack Wallen explains what the service is and shows you how to customize it to fit your projects.

Image: Gorodenkoff/Adobe Stock

Over the past year, I’ve tested a lot of project management tools and have come away impressed with nearly every platform. But not every project management tool is created equal. Some are very basic, while others are extremely complex. There is, however, a small collection of those platforms that sit right in the middle where the sheer amount of features doesn’t make for overly complicated workflows.

One such platform is Productboard. This paid service offers roadmaps, feature prioritizing, centralized feedback, idea validation, seamless integration and easy insights to get the most out of the tools. One of my favorite types of project management tools is the Kanban board, and Productboard offers one of the finest I’ve used.

In fact, I tend to judge how good a project management tool is by its Kanban offering. Why? Because I find Kanban to be one of the simplest and most effective project management tools available. So if a service offers a solid Kanban option, it bubbles to the top of the pile. Such is the case with Productboard.

Let’s dive into the Productboard Kanban feature. I’m going to walk you through how I set up my Kanban board, so you can get an idea of how it works.

Before we start, know that Productboard isn’t free. They offer two plan tiers: The first is for teams and includes the Essentials plan for $20/month per maker (billed annually) and the Pro plan for $60/month per maker (bill annually). There are also plans for organizations, but you must contact Productboard for more information. There is a 15-day free trial, which does not require a credit card, so you can test the service to see if it’s a good fit.

Yes, it’s pricey, but it includes:

  • Unlimited products, features and roadmaps
  • Free contributors and viewers
  • Jira & Azure DevOps integration
  • GitHub, Trello and Pivotal Tracker integrations
  • Backlog import
  • Custom swimlanes
  • Google Apps SSO

So, if you can afford the price of entry, Productboard is definitely an option you should seriously consider.

With that said, let’s take a look at setting up those Kanban boards.

SEE: Hiring kit: Project manager (TechRepublic Premium)

How to create new statuses

When building your Kanban board with Productboard, one of the first things you’ll want to do is create custom statuses, which will serve as the columns you use in your Kanban boards. The thing about custom statuses is that creating and managing them isn’t exactly intuitive.

To create your custom statuses, log into your Productboard account and click Add Status near the top-right corner. From the resulting popup menu (Figure A), click Status Customization.

Figure A

Image: Jack Wallen/TechRepublic. Accessing the Status Customization in Productboard.

In the resulting window, scroll down until you see the Status Customization section (Figure B).

Figure B

Image: Jack Wallen/TechRepublic. The Status Customization section for Productboard.

As you can see, I’ve already added the following statuses:

  • Idea
  • First Draft
  • Beta
  • Edits
  • Published

To create a new status, click Add Status and type a name for it. Hit Enter and the status will be saved. Once you’ve added all of your new statuses, you must click the ON/OFF slider for each to make it available to your Kanban boards.

You might also take a moment to disable the default statuses if you don’t want to use them. You can enable/disable them for both the Roadmap and the Feature Board.

Once you’ve added and enabled all of the statuses for your board, click on the Roadmap icon to view your Kanban board. The next step is to add the columns with your new statuses. The first thing you’ll want to do is delete the default statuses. Do that, click the three-dot menu button associated with a status, and click Remove From Roadmap (Figure C).

Figure C

Image: Jack Wallen/TechRepublic. Deleting a status from the Productboard roadmap.

After removing the default statuses, click Add Status and then, from the popup list (Figure D), select the new status to be added.

Figure D

Image: Jack Wallen/TechRepublic. Adding a new status to the Productboard Kanban.

Keep adding your statuses until you’re satisfied. With that taken care of, let’s add a second swimlane. Swimlanes can be very handy when you want to use the statuses for multiple projects. For me, I create swimlanes for both fiction and non-fiction. To create a new swimlane, click Swimlane at the left edge of the board (Figure E) and give the new swimlane a name.

Figure E

Image: Jack Wallen/TechRepublic. Adding a new swimlane to my Productboard Roadmap Kanban board.

At this point, you can start adding cards to your statuses and swimlanes (Figure F).

Figure F

Image: Jack Wallen/TechRepublic. My Fiction/Non-fiction Roadmap Kanban board in Productboard.

Having the ability to add multiple swimlanes to a single board is just one of the features that help to make Productboard stand above its competition. Even better, the more you dig into Productboard, the more features you’ll find that make this platform an outstanding project management option.

Is it worth the price of entry? That depends on your needs, team sizes and budget. But I highly recommend you kick the tires of this service for 15 days to see if it’s something that might help your teams be more productive and better managed.

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