Digital vs Physical Kanban Boards
The physical vs. digital debate has been around since the internet was first conceived. If using Kanban cards to improve business efficiency, you can choose to use either a digital or physical board to speed up operational processes and encourage workplace productivity.
The decision to use either digital or physical boards should not be taken lightly. Although both work to track tasks in much the same manner, each have their own distinct set of advantages and disadvantages for business.
Here are some of the main things to consider when choosing between a digital or physical Kanban board.
Pros of Digital Kanban Boards
In today’s digital age, it makes sense to ensure that your business is up to date with all the latest technologies. So, if you’re using the Lean Six Sigma methodology, one of the most obvious ways to do this is with a digital or online Kanban board.
Digital Kanban boards can be made quickly using everyday software packages such as Microsoft Excel, or, you can download specialized software to design and keep track of Kanban cards, such as Trello, Kanban Tool, or Cardsmith. Since tasks can be easily updated in real-time online without the need to hunt around for board markers or sticky notes, choosing this option can create better efficiency for your business and significantly streamline tasks.
Another advantage to consider when opting for a digital Kanban board is that they can usually be accessed from anywhere, providing the user is connected to the internet. Using a cloud solution such as Google Drive, you can save your Kanban cards easily online where any employee with login credentials can easily get to them. This can help to improve workplace efficiency by giving employees access to progress data before the working day even begins. This works especially well when you have a remote team that cannot easily meet in person.
Cons of Digital Kanban Boards
There may be an assortment of great benefits to be had by using a digital Kanban board, however, that’s not to say they don’t come without their drawbacks. Since digital Kanban boards require a computer screen or device to be viewed on, they can often have your team squinting at the monitor. Additionally, it can be difficult to ensure the constant visibility of a digital Kanban board when using it to monitor progress in the workplace, for example, if the user is automatically logged out after a certain time period.
That’s not all, either – before you choose a digital Kanban board, consider the possibility that it could slow down your employees, rather than motivating them to work harder. This is especially true in an office setting, where a digital Kanban board could have the opposite effect and minimize communications. This is because workers can simply stay in their seat and pull up the Kanban board online rather than heading over to discuss their idea with a colleague.
Since digital Kanban boards are so easy to update and expand, they can quickly become an ‘idea dump’, overloading your workforce and making it harder to determine which ideas are worth the pursuit.
Finally, the discipline of updating and discussing changes on the board is best learned in person, so in the long term, the kanban boards may fall apart when the discipline hasn’t been established.
Pros of Physical Kanban Boards
Unlike their online counterparts, a physical Kanban board does not require an internet connection. An ‘old-school’ way of doing things (physical boards, racks and card holders) have been used for Kanban cards successfully since they were first invented back in the 1950’s.
Physical Kanban boards utilize items such as colored magnets, sticky notes, and push pins to represent tasks at various stages of to do, doing, or done. Physical Kanban boards can be used to encourage communication in the office. Since employees need to get up and walk to the board to update it, this facilitates more conversations between employees. You may even notice an improvement in workplace morale as your employees get away from their desks regularly, improve their productivity, reduce ergonomic issues, and strengthen workplace relationships.
Physical Kanban boards are highly customizable, and there are many examples of them being used to improve employee satisfaction. For example, some businesses have their employees pick their favorite color or even a cartoon figure to represent their tasks on the board. A small gesture, with big results!
Cons of Physical Kanban Boards
Perhaps the main problem with physical Kanban boards is that unlike digital boards saved to the cloud, they are not indestructible. Accidents can happen, and if your workplace is damaged by a natural disaster or break-in, damage or loss of your physical Kanban board could set your business’ productivity back even further.
Additionally, it is more difficult to expand a physical Kanban board. When working digitally, it’s easy to add new cards and tasks to the board with little effort. On the other hand, physical Kanban boards must also be added to physically. For a business that uses physical Kanban boards often, a magnetic board is ideal, since this will help to reduce paper waste.
Lastly, consider the number and type of tasks that your business carries out. If the workload is very high, an interruption or restart often means making the effort to tear the Kanban board down and start all over again.
Regardless of the type of business you run, there are many ways that you can benefit from using Kanban cards and boards to track your tasks, improving efficiency and productivity. Keep in mind the pros and cons of each Kanban board type to make the right choice for your workforce.