Zen is a brand new Kanban tool for lean project management. In contrast to PivotalTracker, which concentrates on automating iteration management for SCRUM like projects, Zen’s main view is a story board. The funny thing is, that I preferred the stroy board view in Mingle over the list view provided by PivotalTracker before I started to use Pivotal. I used to dream up a tool only featuring a great story board. Now it’s reality.
A Short Walk Through
In Zen, you can manage multiple accounts each with multiple projects. Each project has a backlog of upcoming stories and an archive of old stories. The main view is the Kanban or story board, which enables you to add stories right away:
Zen enables you to come up with your own columns – steps in your process. You just advance a story from one process step (column) to the next by drag and drop. Of course, it’s possible to limit the WIP for any column as it is common in Kanban.
It often happens, that a story get’s blocked anywhere in the process. You are waiting for some specs or your legal department to check something, etc. In Zen, you can easily mark stories as blocked. You can enter a comment, why the story is blocked. Zen will display such stories in red on your Kanban board to indicate that there is a problem
Often, a feature consists of multiple stories. In Zen (as well as in PivotalTracker and Mingle) you can assign labels to stories. And you can color the cards to separate bugs from features, etc.
In addition to the board view, there is a tabular view where you can slice and dice your stories as needed. To track your performance (and, hopefully, your improvements) over time, Zen offers reports for lead time, cycle time, work time, and wait time. And it calculates your efficiency, too. Very nice. Of course, Zen offers all kinds of notifications using various channels like email, IM, etc.
What’s Still Missing?
In comparison to most other agile project management tools, Zen is currently missing a few features:
- No Attachments – but markdown formatting of story details (including links to external URLs)
- No Comments for stories. In PivotalTracker we use comments to refine specifications for stories. In Zen I would set a story to blocked to indicate that I wait for additional clarifications. This should work, too.
All in all Zen already looks extremely promising. It has a great, simple UI and well thought through features. If you’re using Kanban for your lean project management, you definitely should have a look. It offers a limited free plan, but if you want to manage a team you need to pay a monthly fee between $9 and $99.