Making Trello Work For UsJanuary 12, 2017
Managing hundreds of tasks for each online project, with responsibilities spread out across multiple individuals of a web team can be challenging at best–occasionally turning to hair-pulling, head-banging-on-the-desk hard work.
At Electric Citizen, Trello earned its place among our tools of choice for managing project tasks among team members. Using a series of online “cards” that can be dragged and dropped across different task queues or project phases, it makes it easier to visualize progress, exchange internal questions and feedback, and track team members as they complete their work.
Like most project management tools, Trello does some things well and requires workarounds in other instances. Let’s take a look at what we’ve learned so far, and how we’re using Trello. If you use Trello in your work, or a similar tool, chime in through the comments below! I’d love to hear from you.
The “meh” stuff
Trello isn’t for everyone. The lack of structure and process can be maddening and result in more work for a project manager. Plus, you won’t find built in reports or charts to help visualize progress or forecast project completion.
- It ain’t pretty. You can to swap out a background color on Trello’s boards, but overall Trello isn’t a tool that my design team likes to look at all day, every day.
- I can’t hide comments from clients or keep some cards private unless I move them to a different board that the client can’t see.
- Long streams of comments become cumbersome to read.
Our task lists
- New ideas and tasks (all tasks, modifications, and updates to the website)
- Prioritized tasks (the 3-5 tasks the client wants us to tackle)
- In progress (a developer is actively working on cards in this column)
- Blocked (the current developer is stuck and cannot make progress)
- Internal QA on DEV
- Client QA on DEV
- Accepted, push to PRD
List 1: New ideas and tasks
Nothing is impossible -- yet
The first column is “New ideas and tasks” and it stores the improvements and fixes that the client would like to see made to the website. Examples might include modifications to content types or view, responsive behavior improvements, design needs such as color palette updates or layout changes, or content assistance. Clients can add cards to this list at any time, and I enjoy seeing their new ideas flow into the Trello board.
List 2: Prioritized cards
What should we make happen next?
I ask clients to move cards into the Prioritized column, maintaining a total of 3-5 cards in that list at one time. This column allows our team to immediately focus on the tasks that are most important to the client. We’ll review the tasks, add hours estimates, confirm priorities as needed, assign a developers to cards, and move forward with the requested work.
Depending upon the hours estimated for a task, we might have to face the realities of budget and hours constraints. If we realize that a task is too big and complex, the card is moved to the Abandoned list.
List 3: In progress
Let's make some magic!
When we start working on a card, it is moved to the In Progress column on the board.
List 4: Blocked
We're churnin' mud and gettin' nowhere.
When a developer can’t complete a task, the card is moved to the Blocked column. We discuss blocked cards internally and try to identify a path forward. If cards are reassigned to a different developer, they stay in Blocked until work begins again. If we need to redefine a task and discuss with the client, cards are assigned back to the Project Manager (me!).
Lists 5 and 6: Internal QA and Client QA
“So...whadda ya think?”
After developers push up their work to the dev or test environment, we conduct an internal review and fix issues as needed. When internal QA is complete, we move cards to the Client QA column and solicit their feedback.
List 7: Accepted, deploy to PRD
“Make it so, Number One.”
If our work is approved, the client move cards to the Accepted column.
List 8: Completed
Cards are moved the to Completed column after code is pushed to production, features are reverted, and any manual configuration is done.
Depending upon the project and the client, we’ll set up lists for cards that we want to track but are not going to complete at this time. Examples of these type of lists include:
- On hold/in client’s court
- Save for future phase or project
Trello and larger projects
We use Trello for our larger projects as well. However for these projects, I organize the board and lists slightly differently.
- Tasks and user stories
- Current sprint (tasks we want to complete in this sprint)
- In progress
- Internal QA
- Client QA
- Accepted, push to Stage (or test)
For a large website design project, the number of cards under "Tasks and user stories" is overwhelming. To protect the team from Trello overload, I manage a separate board with all user stories, typically organized into anticipated sprint lists. When we're ready, I move cards or entire lists over to the main project board.