Kanban Excel Template Overview

The number of tools available to manage agile projects exploded in the last few years. However, Excel remains one of the preferred project management tools. Make use of the Kanban Excel Template process in this post to organize your information and manage your projects efficiently.

I want you to accomplish three things by reading this post.

  1. Understand how to setup a Kanban system for your team using the familiar features of Excel.
  2. Learn the knowledge and master the tools needed to become a Kanban process Ninja.
  3. Deliver results better than you ever have before

If you achieve these goals, you will have set yourself apart from the crowd as the go to person for project management and delivery.

The Kanban System

Start with a plan of how to organize your Kanban system. Every system will have some differences but three basic components make up every Kanban system.

  1. Backlog
  2. Kanban Board
  3. Ceremonies

Let's explore and plan each of these components.

The Kanban Backlog Template

The backlog houses all of the work that needs to be done. When you receive a request for new work, capture it as a User Story and place it on the Kanban backlog.

I've created an easy Excel Kanban Backlog Template you can use to get started.

Once you've captured a user story you must groom it. Grooming adds acceptance criteria that explain how to determine that the user story meets expectations. You also add level of effort estimates and the anticipated value of the user story during grooming.

After grooming, you sort the backlog according to value, most valuable first, which shows you which user stories to work on first. By working on user stories in order of value, your organization receives the highest possible return on investment of effort.

The Kanban Board Template

The Kanban board represents what most people think of when they think of Kanban. It stands at the center of all Kanban activities to communicate status consistently and accurately. The team gathers around the board daily to re-group and report.

Without an effective Kanban board your team will not succeed.

Physical boards work well for teams that reside in the same physical location. For those teams a white board, physical Kanban cards and sharpie markers work well. If you need a template for physical cards I've created an Excel Kanban Card Template that you can use for free.

Virtual boards work better for distributed teams.

Many virtual tools now compete for customers in the Kanban marketplace (Jira, Rally, Trello). They provide access to apps or websites to manage Kanban boards and come with a per user license fee. However, if you have simpler needs Excel delivers some powerful capabilities.

Instead, I recommend creating a virtual Kanban board with Excel and sharing it with your team via a common file server. This way, you are working with a familiar tool that doesn't require a monthly fee per team member.

My Kanban Board for Excel template will let you get started creating your own board quickly.

The Ceremonies Template

Kanban ceremonies include grooming, stand up, demo and retrospective. These align with the ceremonies in most other agile methodologies. You will do well to define a template for conducting these ceremonies for your team.

The Grooming Ceremony

As discussed above, grooming accomplishes fully defining user stories in terms of acceptance criteria, level of effort and priority. Use the Excel Kanban Backlog Template for this kanban ceremony.

The Stand Up Ceremony

Gather your team every day, physically or virtually, to review the Kanban board, report on status and announce plans for the day ahead. The template for this ceremony consists of three questions.

  1. What have you accomplished since the last stand up?
  2. What will you accomplish before the next stand up?
  3. Is there anything standing in your way?

The team should answer with quick, high level summaries. If anyone needs help the team should swarm into problem solving immediately after the stand up.

This focuses the team on keeping work moving and keeps progress on track.

The Demo Ceremony

You must demonstrate that all acceptance criteria of a user story function as requested before declaring a user story complete. This happens during the demo ceremony in Kanban.

Follow these steps to complete the demo ceremony for a user story.

  1. Assemble the team and the user responsible for approving the user story.
  2. Read the user story to the team.
  3. Read each acceptance criteria and demonstrate that the functionality performs as requested.
  4. Ask for approval of the user story from the approving user.
  5. Consider the user story “Done”.

Typically, you batch multiple user stories into one Demo ceremony. Combine all user stories completed in the last one to two weeks into a single demo. This way you convene the approving users frequently enough to keep demos short but not so often that the demo meetings become frustrating.

The Retrospective Ceremony

Some teams refer to the Retrospective as a Post Mortem. In this ceremony you analyze the performance and outcome of the team over a given period of time typically referred to as a sprint. You identify what went well and what you want change going forward.

Do not point fingers! Look for root causes of problems and identify action items to eliminate them.

Praise positives! I recommend that you start the Retrospective asking for positive outcomes and speaking to why they benefited the team. This improves morale and gets the conversational momentum going.

The best template for this ceremony is a large flip chart or white board divided down the middle with positives on one side and things to change, or deltas, on the other.

Kanban Template Resources

I want to leave you with some additional resources that you can use to expand your Kanban knowledge and skills. These resources enable you to develop your own process templates and tools tailored specifically to the needs of your team.

Please note, some of the links to these resources are affiliate links. If you use them and make a purchase I do receive an affiliate commission. That being said, these are resources I use myself and feel will be useful to you as you seek to learn more about Kanban.

Kanban Books

Kanban by David J. Anderson is one of the first books I read when I began my investigation of Agile in general and Kanban specifically. It gives you a solid foundation of both theory and practice. Start with this book and you won't go wrong.

The Goal by Eli Goldratt doesn't name Kanban outright. However, it is the best book to introduce someone to the concepts of Agile and Kanban without drowning you in technical detail. It is a fictional narrative, a parable, that tells the story of how a manufacturing team changed their thinking and turned their business around. No agile library is complete without this book.