I'm part of a research team and we do different tasks. For example, we might research tasks(i.e. read literature, implement algorithms,etc) or development tasks (e.g. set up server, deploy website, etc) or administrative tasks (e.g. process procurement, payroll, get equipment quotations etc). My problem is that the different task types have different flows and having to accommodate them on one board makes the board confusing.

Would we be better off having the three different categories(research, development, administrative) in different boards? Team's composed of five people by the way (one admin staff, two researchers, one developer).

EDIT: Here are some sample flows


Literature review > Design > Prototyping > Presentation


Analysis > Design > Dev > Testing > Deployment


Preparation > Signing > Accounting > Technical Review > Procurement Office > Bidding

  • Can you give an example of how different those workflows are? Commented Jan 25, 2016 at 10:07
  • It depends on team size and also velocity of that particular task
    – PrashantG
    Commented Jan 25, 2016 at 11:17
  • @BartvanIngenSchenau Just added sample flows.
    – R.K.
    Commented Jan 25, 2016 at 11:56
  • 1
    Can you provide more info around your actual goal? What is the reasoning behind starting with something like kanban? Commented Jan 25, 2016 at 14:39
  • 1
    Are people dedicated to the workflow steps you've listed or do people work across all steps of the workflow? Commented Jan 26, 2016 at 17:31

8 Answers 8


I would stick to one board, but use swimlanes with different flows.

Example swimlanes where each swimlane has a different flow. (in LEANKit) Leankit


If you would like to see the whole flow keep the one board approach, but have a policy that certain tasks can skip certain phases. You may use swim lanes just to make it more clear and understandable. For example:

enter image description here

Separate boards can work, but it is expensive, because it has a communication, synchronisation, and maintenance cost. Since you are one small team, stick with one board.


In my experience it is best to keep the ration of boards to teams 1 to 1. One board per team. It makes it easier to have planning and status meetings if you do not have to constantly shift between boards. Also, if you use Jira, you can use quick filters to show specific categories of tasks if you need to focus on one particular type of task. HTH.


It really depends on why you are using Kanban - and what you are trying to improve.

Of course, Kanban is applicable to all the work you have mentioned. But, each of them are quite different in nature from one another - and in business impact/ value. Research is typically long lead-time, dev is medium, admin could be quite short. So for example, the lead or cycle time for dev tasks vs. research tasks vs. admin tasks will be quite different - and business-wise, very heterogenous. When you do cycle-time analysis, it would make no sense to mix dev and admin tasks.

enter image description here

If you are doing blocker-clustering (or blocking analysis as it is called in SwiftKanban), of why cards get blocked on your board, the reasons why work gets blocked in Dev work (customer dependency, unclear specs, unavailable test infrastructure) maybe quite different from work gets held up in Admin tasks (management approval, budget constraints, vendor dependency, etc.) - and doing blocker clustering for these two sets of tasks would not make sense.

enter image description here

In general, since it is a single team, it is definitely a good idea to use one board for the team. But you should make sure that your board design (and the tool you might use to implement it) should enable you to analyze the work completely independently. The swim-lanes should be completely independent of each other (not have common columns) and you should easily be able to do lane-wise analysis. Having a common board can also help you visualize and manage your team's Personal WIP limits (how much work is each team member handling at a time) more easily - since you want to discourage multi-tasking and overloading of people.

Again, depending on the key motivations to use Kanban, your board organization and design will vary.



Depends on the tool that you are using (not an ideal answer). I hate modifying my process around my tools, but if your tool doesn't do what you want it to, sometimes you have to make accommodations.

Ideal Situation

  • Your Scrum/Kanban board can accommodate multiple workflows without having to share columns
  • All teams exist on the same board to improve cross-team visibility

Tool Restricted Situation

  • Each unique workflow has it's own board
  • Workflow steps do not share columns, providing a clean and clear window into the workflow

Tools & Categories

  • JIRA - Tool Restricted Situation
  • LeanKit - Ideal Situation
  • Rally - Tool Restricted Situation

I wish I had more experience with more tools. Hope this helps!


Ultimately, you should design a workflow that works for your team, only you and your team can know what works for you.

Your board should follow your workflow as closely as possible and, in my opinion, should be as simple as it can.

The best workflow is one that a) gets the job done. and b) avoids as much overhead as possible.

I would suggest trying both for a week or two, as long as your team knows that there might be some changes and disruptions.

At the end, ask them team which they prefer.


This is where you see the power of Kanban. No matter the tool used, it's all about the methodology.

That said, the best way to do so would be to have a system to switch between the category or sorting you want to make.

You could, for instance, keep the columns there and change just the label. One solution among others...

If you want to dig deeper into this subject, may I suggest an article about swimlanes, written by our team at Zenkit? Hope it helps! https://blog.zenkit.com/dive-into-better-task-management-with-kanban-swimlanes-8a190a65471a


It really depends on the scope of categories. A true Kanban Board usually solves that with so called kanban swimlanes which help classify work by:

  • Type of work
  • Class of service
  • Priority
  • Any other business property

Now regarding different flows, again swimlanes can help with that, but then it depends if you are using the right tool which can accommodate such setup. If flows are significantly different and as you say board becomes polluted with mixed items by using swimlanes, then separate boards it is. You just need to see if there will be overlaps between flows and if tasks can travel between boards?

Lastly, I would still suggest checking articles for examples of kanban swimlanes and how to use them.

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