In Scrum, it all starts with a wishlist of product improvements.
But for agile product development to be successful, you need to transform that list into a clear sprint plan. Without one, you won’t know if you’re on track. And a visual representation of the plan makes it easy to organize and update, which is why most Scrum teams use a Scrum board.
The type of Scrum board you use means everything to your productivity. It needs to be clean, quick to create, and easy to use. Lucky for you we’ve handpicked 10 of our favorite boards that tick all those boxes, and they’re affordable—or completely free—to use as well.
Before I get into those: what is a scrum board, how does it work, and how do you choose the right solution? Let’s run through everything you need to know to get started.
What is a Scrum board?
A Scrum board is a visual snapshot of work to be done as a team. Not to be confused with Kanban boards, which are designed to track workflow, Scrum boards are for teams that plan their work in sprints: timeboxed periods of time to create a shippable increment of work.
At a minimum, Scrum boards are organized into four columns:
- Stories: User stories in the current sprint backlog (a list of work to do and experiments to try managed by the team’s product owner). These backlog items are written as user experiences with your product: “As a <user role>, I want to <action> so that <benefit>.”
- To do: Subtasks of stories for which the work hasn’t started yet. These are displayed as cards or sticky notes and include important details like owners and due dates.
- In progress: Subtasks the team is currently working on.
- Done: Completed subtasks, removed from the board at the end of the sprint.
Here’s what that looks like:
More experienced Scrum teams might include a few extra details on their board—for example:
- Sprint goal: Sometimes helpful to begin with to keep planning tightly focused.
- Burndown charts: The total number of sprint hours expected against actual hours worked. Helps identify sprint efficiency and make bandwidth projections.
- To verify: An additional column for tasks that involve testing. Test cards indicate how the task will be tested and are left for the product owner to review.
What if they don’t use a board at all?
Well, a simple list of to-dos doesn’t indicate progress. Scrum needs more context: to group to-dos by priority, keep an up-to-date record of their status, and make responsibilities and timelines clear.
And Scrum boards do just that. They serve as a single source of truth that helps build transparency and accountability among teams and all stakeholders, ensuring no ideas or action items get overlooked.
You don’t have to be a software developer to use one either. Teams of all stripes find them helpful for planning complex projects. I’ll show you how easy it is!
Using a Scrum board: How does it work?
From idea to raw data, the task cards follow a simple journey:
- Before getting started, the team prioritizes items from the product backlog (the product owner’s full running list of ideas) and moves them to the sprint backlog (the handpicked list of items the team estimates they can complete within the sprint). Reframing items as stories helps decouple top priorities from the product backlog.
- The team splits stories into individual tasks. Any task that’s too big should be broken down further into steps. All tasks start in the leftmost To do column.
- As the sprint progresses, the tasks move from left to right. The team updates the board, adding new tasks as needed, during daily scrum meetings. The product owner reviews progress as needed.
- When someone moves a task all the way to the finish line, they move back to the leftmost column to choose the next task to work on. By the end of the sprint, all tasks from all stories should be in the Done column. (If not, the sprint is considered unsuccessful.)
- Finally, the team holds a retrospective meeting to analyze the efficiency of tasks and success of the overall sprint. Then resets the board for a nice sense of closure.
Your Scrum master might be the guy in charge of setting up and maintaining the board but shouldn’t act as gatekeeper. All team members should be able to access and update it.
That’s one thing to keep in mind when choosing your board type: a software solution or your own. But there’s more to consider, starting with whether to host your board digitally or physically. Here’s a quick comparison to help you decide before you check out the top 10 options.
Choosing a Scrum board: Physical vs digital
Neither option is better—it all depends on the team. For example, a simple physical board might also be more intuitive for beginners, whereas a feature-rich digital tool might make more sense for technical or fast-paced teams.
The first step in Scrum should be to isolate the team’s needs, strengths, and weaknesses so you can decide how best to organize the work. Next step: choose your weapon.
Top 10 Scrum boards
Here’s a good mix of our favorite software tools, templates, and formats for Scrum boards.
1. Jira Software
Cost: Starts at $10/month. Try free for 7 days.
Jira Software is the de facto solution for agile software development, since it can integrate with developer tools like Confluence and Bitbucket. But it can work for any kind of project with lots of moving parts to track. It includes tabs for your board (the individual sprint), release status (to track different versions), and reports for all key Scrum KPIs like burndown and velocity. You also get Sprint planning capabilities like estimating stories and adjusting scope.
Cost: Free. Paid plans start at $9.99/month.
Trello was designed to be a Kanban board but can be easily adjusted for Scrum because you build the board from scratch. Unless you use one of its handy templates. What’s great about using Trello for Scrum is it encourages breaking tasks down into granular stages with features like checklists and labels. If you want to get even more advanced, you can use agile Power-Ups like planning poker, an agile planning technique. One Power-Up included in the free plan.
Get more Trello Scrum templates here.
Cost: Starts at $9.99/month. Try free for 30 days.
Asana, a comprehensive project management tool, includes templates for Scrum teams. The tool makes it especially easy to prioritize tasks (with voting), collaborate (with conversations and document attachments) and stay up to date (with notifications and daily updates). A great option for centralizing tasks and communications in one place. You can also save your own templates and add custom fields like priority and cost to keep projects focused and on budget.
Check out this helpful article on translating agile practices into specific Asana features.
Cost: Free. Paid plans start at $10/month.
If it can be organized, it can be organized in Airtable. And like Asana, Airtable includes dedicated templates for Scrum planning and agile workflows. This one, for example, includes all the essentials plus multiple views and a cost overview. Nothing groundbreaking, but if you’re already an Airtable user and want to keep everything in one place, this option makes sense.
Get more Airtable Scrum templates here.
Cost: Starts at $25/month for 5 users. Try free for 15 days.
Monday.com is a productivity tool. Also similar to Asana, but while Asana lays out projects on a timeline, Monday.com organizes work in spreadsheet-like format and also includes sprint planning, its default template. What else is different? I like that you can track the time spent on each task. You can also import data from other tools like Trello, Excel, or Basecamp.
Cost: Free for up to 12 people.
Bitrix24 is your jam if you’re focused on client work. For a free solution, it integrates a surprisingly intuitive CRM, plus the ability to invite clients to check progress, and even its own file server for organizing projects with lots of docs. And like Monday.com it includes time tracking, which I haven’t seen in any other free tools.
The catch: it’s only good for small teams. More than 12 and you’ll have to sign up for the Unlimited Users plan at a relatively pricey $99/month. But at FYI we can’t help but love this tool for its kindred document management capabilities.
7. Zoho Sprints
Cost: Starts at $10/month. Try free for 15 days.
Zoho Sprints is an agile project management tool part of Zoho’s suite of productivity software. Like Jira, it includes tabs for your backlog, board, and Scrum-related analytics. What sets it apart is its Timesheet feature, which provides you or clients with time estimates and tracks billable hours. You can also schedule retrospective meetings from within the app.
Customizations can help or hinder depending on the team. If yours would rather keep things simple, Apa is the tool for you.
Its goal is to simplify things down to the bare bones for Scrum teams: just create columns, drag and drop stuff around, and check your progress. Besides the extensive range of charts you can use for the latter (burndown charts, cumulative flow diagrams, lead/cycle time diagrams, etc), it basically has the minimum viable functionality needed to manage everything efficiently.
9. A virtual whiteboard
Apa aside, digital tools are generally best for remote or expert teams, as I said earlier. But what if you’re a remote team that wants to keep things simple? Behold the virtual whiteboard.
Scrumblr is a good option. No-frills, free to use. And no registration required! Get started straight away or have a click around on this demo. You can add and edit limitless columns, post stickies in three colors, and add additional color tags for more visual information.
If Scrumblr isn’t for you, there are plenty more virtual whiteboards available to sign up for. Miro is another that’s free for smaller teams and basic features, and starts you off with a template.
10. A good old fashioned physical whiteboard
The OG Scrum teams used them and some still do today. I know our team prefers them.
As I mentioned, physical whiteboards are best for local or small teams, for encouraging facetime, or for those who just prefer manual updates—as long as it doesn’t slow you down. Because Scrum relies on tight-knit, regular communication. If you can keep it up digitally, great! If not, take it to the whiteboard.
The Scum board grid is by far the most popular way to set up a whiteboard. It’s your average grid with enough rows for each story, and at minimum, columns for stories, To do, In progress, and Done. Allow plenty of space for updates.
Remember, each sticky note represents a task. Use different colors or shapes to quickly locate information like task type. And don’t forget to include details like owners or due dates.
There you have it—you’re ready to get started with a Scrum board.
Now it’s a case of making sure all boards, archived and present, are easily available for your team to access any time. I’d suggest posting current boards on the main page of whatever collaboration tool or intranet you use and organizing the rest into cloud storage. Make sure folks can find their work quickly without having to search around.
And remember that Scrum boards are flexible enough to adapt to your agile practices as they change. Regular check-ins to the board might even mean you need fewer or shorter daily scrum meetings and you get even more efficient. And that’s great. Efficiency is the goal!