Planview LeanKit is a kanban-based project management platform that offers more in the way of features than some of its competitors. Its clients include PayPal, Adobe and Verizon, so it is trusted by some large companies. In this LeanKit review, we’ll see if it belongs among best project management software.
There’s a lot of marketing speak on its website and its support material is business-focused, too. Managers that like to talk the talk will be at home with LeanKit. It is an excellent tool for managing projects on many levels.
Look beyond the management speak and you’ll find a strong application at its core. Its presentation isn’t always what it could be, but its tool set is strong once you get to know it.
To summarize, it is an excellent kanban-like platform that’s more complex to use than Trello but with several useful features. It looks intimidating at first, but isn’t hard to get into and does a good job of teaching you how it works. If you’re interested in trying another kanban-based tool that’s so simple you barely need the manual, take a look at our Trello beginner’s guide.
Alternatives for LeanKit
Strengths & Weaknesses
- Detailed control over tasks, subtasks & dependencies
- Easier to use than it looks
- Excellent templates provided
- Unlimited storage (but limited file size)
- Lots of developer-friendly features
- Lots of marketing speak
- Dated look
LeanKit is centered around its boards, which contain items sorted into columns. The columns run from left to right, with work you haven’t started on the left and archived items on the right.
Items on boards usually represent a task, but you are free to use them as you need. Clicking an item brings up a detail view.
Cards can be given a start and end date, assigned to a user, categorized and given a priority level. They can also be tagged for easy sorting. You can add a lot of information to each item, and as you add more, you will get more ways to sort and filter it.
You can add comments and attachments to each one, too, allowing you to keep a record of discussion and track useful information about items on your to-do list.
You can also assign parent and child cards to each item, which lets you set up dependencies. Each item has its own task list, complete with a mini-kanban board of its own.
Its three-column approach (to-do, doing, done) is one of the best approaches to subtasks we’ve seen and makes LeanKit an excellent choice if you want to manage things at the top level, but allow those responsible for each task to sort out the nitty gritty details.
If you want to avoid assigning too much to a person or team, you can set “work-in-process” limits for areas of the board. That way, you can see if a team is at or approaching its limits. If you assign work after the limit you set is reached, a pop-up will warn you, but you can override it if you provide a reason.
If you override it, the whole area will be marked as red on your board, showing everyone that the pressure is on.
You get unlimited storage space for attachments with every plan, but the individual file size is limited to 75MB, which could be restrictive if you’re working with large files, such as video. If you need to store larger files, take a look at our best online storage for teams article for alternatives.
You can filter cards using any of the details you like. An especially useful feature is that you can view what tasks are blocked by others, so you can see what is holding back other work.
When creating a board, you can build it yourself or choose from a set of templates. If you don’t choose a template, the default board is a simple five-column layout that you can use as provided or modify according to your needs.
It offers many integrations, so it caters well to those looking to use data stored on other platforms. There are a lot of software development-related choices, including Bugzilla, GitHub, Visual and Jira, as well as integrations for requirements management, test management and dozens of options for DevOps.
With those options, it is suited well for deployment in many situations, but developers, especially, will find plenty to like.
Its activity stream is effectively a list of the most recently completed actions and is handy for keeping up with what other people have been doing.
It has a useful chart generation feature that can be used to analyze your team’s performance. For example, you can get an image showing your card completion speed.
You can also track the flow of tasks with the flow analytics. There are nine total, including a timeline and a chart showing how many tasks are assigned to each user. All will have their uses in different kinds of projects.
It has lots of options to track activity. For example, you can export .csv files showing different kinds of information, which can be shown by user.
Mobile browser support is offered, but it doesn’t seem to have mobile apps. A blog post on its website suggested it did, but the links didn’t work for us and we didn’t find anything when searching the app stores, so we assume they’ve been retired.
Its communication options aren’t the strongest, so if you’re looking for a tool that encourages team chats, check out our Basecamp review.
LeanKit has a strong selection of features that work well together. It can be customized easily and gives you many options to keep tabs on what’s happening with your project. Its biggest weakness is the limited storage, but, even taking that into account, it scores well here.
Leankit Features Overview
- Dependency management
- Free Trial: 30 days
- Ticket-based support
- Live chat
- Phone support
Signing up is quick and easy. After you fill in a registration form, LeanKit sends you straight to its tour.
After it shows you a few controls, you can look at the sample board. The first help pop-up talks about interpreting the layout. That’s all well and good, but most kanban-based applications are intuitive enough to do that without assistance.
The descriptions of how vertical and horizontal parts of the board work were not as clear as they could have been, either. We also found typos in the tutorial text, which doesn’t help. Things improved from there, though.
On closer inspection, we found that all the items on the board had suggestions and explanatory text, and working through them was helpful. If you’re using LeanKit, we recommend taking a look at them instead of creating your own project straight away.
Whoever designed the introductory board deserves a round of applause. It takes you around many of the user interface elements and features and does a great job of teaching you how to use the platform quickly.
Leankit Kanban Board
After introducing you to the kanban board, it gives you a link to its quick reference guide, which is full of good tips, as well as links to other learning resources.
The presentation is dated and it doesn’t look at slick as many similar products. Functionally though, it works well. We didn’t run into major bugs or issues while using it and things generally worked as it expected
LeanKit isn’t bad, but project management is a crowded marketplace and many of its competitors have nailed usability. Read our monday.com review for an application that makes complexity seem easy.
The typos and minor errors in its tips and advice can also be confusing. That said, it isn’t too hard to work through those mistakes and figure out what needs to be done.
LeanKit’s web-based resources are provided by Planview, which recently acquired the platform. Many critical pages are shared with other products. As a result, they feel crowded and it’s hard to find what you want. It is also sometimes unclear whether what you’re reading or the links you’re following are relevant to the product you are using.
At times, it feels like it uses more complex language than necessary. For example, a video on integrations talks about “bidirectional integration,” which seems more like an attempt to sound impressive than to give a useful explanation of what’s available.
That said, if you are a manager and want to impress your peers in meetings, you’ll find plenty to tell them about. Regardless, we’d prefer to see things kept simple in the tutorial videos.
You should be prepared for a learning curve with LeanKit. It feels disjointed at first, but if you look carefully, you’ll find excellent learning tools to help you.
If you want something that makes things easy from the word go, and don’t need too many advanced features, read our Asana review.
If LeanKit cleaned up its website and tutorials, it would score well here. There are missteps, but also positives, including its excellent sample board. Crucially, LeanKit isn’t hard to use, so it gets a decent score.
Like most similar tools, LeanKit offers a tiered pricing structure. If you sign up to the cheapest plan, Teams, you get unlimited boards, access to collaboration tools and filtered work views, as well as metrics and reports, access to the LeanKit API and several other features.
At $19 per month, it costs more than many tools, but you get plenty for the price.
The next level up, Scaled Teams, adds custom fields, personalized work views and advanced reporting, as well as more security features.
The only extra feature for Enterprise customers is Planview Enterprise One integration, which we didn’t test, but should be of interest to those who want to optimize their business strategy.
There’s a 30-day trial if you want to explore what LeanKit can do for you. It gives you the features of the Scaled Teams plan. There’s no need to register a credit card when signing up for the trial, either. If you choose to sign up, you can pay by credit card or, if you pick the annual payment plan, purchase order.
We have to give special mention to its master user agreement page during sign-up. It includes links to over a dozen documents, sorted by plan and region, and boggled our mind when we saw it. We looked at one of the documents, but closed it soon afterward. Aside from that, signing up was a breeze.
LeanKit isn’t cheap, with its entry offering being more expensive than most of its rivals’. It does offer plenty, though, and you can try it free for 30 days without a credit card, so it gets a decent score here.
Security & Privacy
LeanKit is a mixed bag when it comes to security and privacy. It has good options for users, but lacks features.
If you’re on the Scaled Teams or Enterprise plan, you get enhanced security administration that allows you to set your account lock policy.
You can lock out users for a few minutes or days at a time. We prefer the latter because it gives you time to investigate potential security problems. Not all tools offer that and those that do don’t always allow you to lock users out for long.
You can also decide what password rules to impose on your team and manage what file extensions are allowed. If you’re having trouble managing all those passwords, read our best password manager article to help bring some order to the chaos.
It doesn’t provide much detail regarding its own security, though. Even after contacting support, we only learned that it uses some form of TLS for data in transit and encrypts stored data, but attachments, which are stored in Amazon S3 buckets, are not encrypted.
The lack of encryption is a big drawback because encrypting files is standard and included on most, if not all, platforms in this area. Not encrypting files means they can potentially be read by other people.
If you’re concerned about people snooping on your data, our how to protect your privacy guide will help you avoid prying eyes online. Unfortunately, two-factor authentication is not available. If you need it, have a look at our Wrike review for a top-quality alternative that offers the feature.
LeanKit offers strong options, but loses marks for its lack of attachment encryption and two-factor authentication, giving it an average score here.
Service & Support
LeanKit’s service and support are big strengths, with quick response times and lots of learning material available.
You are given a support number to call during its tour, which is another plus. Many platforms keep their numbers tucked away or hide them. If you prefer the human touch, LeanKit is a good option.
It also has a contact form if you want to get in touch that way. We sent a test question and got a response in five hours, which is a respectable time given that we asked a tricky question about encryption.
It also gives you an ebook, which is well-written and full of useful information. It is only around 30 pages, but gives you a good introduction to using the platform.
Its learning center is full of materials to help you get to know the platform and move beyond the basics. Its website is all over the place, though, and the design seems to change almost every time you follow a link. It is worth persevering, though, because there is a ton of useful, free content.
The help center icon in the app gives you a few options, including links to articles and a help page that has more options. They include many videos showing you how to use most of LeanKit’s features.
There is an FAQ, but it is limited, with brief responses to a narrow range of questions. LeanKit also offers training and consulting if you want hands-on assistance with getting your team up to speed. There’s a good text and video-based tutorial that takes you through the platform step by step, as well as links to in-app walkthroughs that use pop-ups to show you around.
If you are using its API, there is plenty of documentation for it, which is another reason for developers to like the platform.
LeanKit offers excellent support, giving you multiple ways to get in touch, plenty of options for learning the platform and quick response times. There is a disjointed feel to the way the support material is presented, but what’s there is good, so we rate it highly in this area.
The more we used LeanKit, the more we liked it. At first it looked overly complex, but it didn’t take long to get used to and, as we dug around, we kept finding useful features that worked well.
Aside from the presentational missteps, LeanKit gets a lot right. It isn’t much to look at, but it will surprise you with its quality if you give it a chance.
It isn’t the cheapest project management tool around, but does have a long, free trial and is well worth taking a look at if you’re looking for something to manage your business. Its subtasking system makes it especially useful for those wanting to delegate and let people self-manage.
If you’ve used LeanKit, please share your thoughts with us in the comment below. Thanks for reading.