Tool Review: Zenkit

I wonder if I'm like most PMs in that I am constantly on the hunt for the next snazzy new tool that can transform my project from "blah" to "boo yah", energize my team, and coax progress out of the doldrums and into the stratosphere. Most times, in a client environment, I recognize that not everyone is an early adopter like me, so I am more careful about which new products I recommend for implementation. I've worked with colleagues who are all about trying (and then abandoning) the latest new thing. That's all well and good, but it can be confusing to clients (not to mention other colleagues) to bounce between different project management techniques. Therefore, I've decided to confine my new tool forays to the pages of this blog.

Today's tool review: Zenkit--another PM tool that promises to be everything to everyone. List, Kanban board, spreadsheet, calendar...you name it, Zenkit has got it. My thoughts as I began to play around with the beta version of this promising new platform:

First, Zenkit handily links with Trello, so you can import your existing Kanban boards. No muss, no fuss.

Kanban Board in Zenkit, imported from Trello

Kanban Board in Zenkit, imported from Trello

Bonus: you also get to pick your own patterned background, which isn't available in the free version of Trello. I'm obsessed with prints, so this is a great feature for me. You can also upload your own image to use as the background. (Update: as with Trello, this feature is not available in the free version of Zenkit, but it is available in beta.)

Switching to the list view autopopulates all your tasks in list format.

Add task in Zenkit

Add task in Zenkit

I like the tags that readily identify how your list relates to the categories in your Kanban board. You can also add new items to your list, tag them, assign them to members of your team, and specify a due date. You can also filter your list to display certain items only, such as upcoming deadlines or tasks in a particular category. Unfortunately, I couldn't readily identify a way to sort by due date. WHY IS THIS NOT A STANDARD FEATURE ANYWHERE. [end of rant]

The tabular view displays your project level data in a spreadsheet format. You can add formulas to help you sort and view your data in different ways. The tool even suggests formulas you might want to use, like sums, averages, minimums, or maximums.

Finally, you can view your data in a calendar format. This is where my choice of loud background made things exceptionally hard to read. Once I switched back to a white background, however, I was pleasantly surprised to find that the calendar display was everything I'd been looking for (and failing to find) in MS Project calendars. The boxes are sufficiently large to view your data, although it does get a little crowded when you try to stack multiple deadlines on the same date. A handy scroll bar appears in this case, so that you can see how everything shakes out.

Zenkit calendar view

Zenkit calendar view

Best of all, you can drag and drop the boxes from the left side of the page onto the calendar squares in order to assign deadlines. Very cool.

All in all, the free version of Zenkit seems like a pretty good deal. You can create an unlimited number of collections (projects) with up to 2000 items per project, use 1 GB of attachment space, and share with up to 5 members. In addition to the views that I outlined above, the company is currently testing out additional analytics features, mind maps, and Gantt chart views. These capabilities are shared with premium users first and then will trickle down to the free version.

 I like that Zenkit allows you to progressively elaborate your project from the seeds of an idea (the list) to categories and responsibilities (the Kanban board) to scheduling (the calendar) to reporting (the spreadsheet.) When I initially created my personal Trello account, I think I could have benefited from Zenkit's list feature to help me figure out the elements that needed to go into my Kanban board. Now that my project has matured, that calendar feature alone may be enough of an incentive to get me to switch. In short, I found Zenkit to be a very impressive product, especially given it's free of charge.