Moving our team task board online to Trello

20111104-taskboard

For the last few years the Web team have been using, and adapting, a form of Agile/Kanban board to manage what tasks need to be done and by whom. It has served us very well, but this week we moved it online to Trello, a free, hosted service from Fog Creek Software.

Why we went digital

When we started using the board the Web team consisted of three people: Steve the Web Manager, me (Gareth) the Assistant Web Manager, and Chris the Web software developer.

We all sat in the same room together, and the board was just a few steps away from our desks. It was handy, and quick, and accessibly. But as the team has grown we’ve now spilled out into an office on another floor of the same building.

It’s not quite so easy now for all five members of the team to add to or move tickets around the board. Occasionally some of us work from home too.

The main catalyst, however, was in response to a recent crisis in which our intrepid leader, Steve, fell of a ladder and broke his foot (you can see photos of his recent x-rays on TwitPic). He could be working from home for some time now and we wanted to make him feel included so we moved to Trello.

Trello

20111104-trello

It was pretty painless to set up and add users to our newly created organisation and board. I then spent a couple of hours migrating our open tickets over from the whiteboard into Trello.

Labelling and assigning tasks to users was simple thanks to Trello’s excellent keyboard shortcuts.

I did wonder if I’d miss physically moving cards from one column to the next, but Trello has a neat little trick whereby when you ‘pick up’ a card it rotates it a little to indicate that it’s been picked-up. It’s really effective and surprisingly satisfying:

20111104-trellomove

We’ve decided to trial working with Trello for a few months, certainly while Steve is recovering and may have to work from home.

So far the response from the rest of the team has been very positive (after we switched off email notifications). It’s attractive, it’s simple and it’s intuitive. No doubt we’ll report back in a few months with our thoughts on how the move from analogue to digital has gone.

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14 thoughts on “Moving our team task board online to Trello

  1. Have you looked into the trelloScrum plugin for chrome. It adds the ability to put point badges on a card and sums all points in a list.

    It’s as simple as puttin (3) in the title of the card to show a 3 point badge.

  2. I’ve been using Trello for some none Uni stuff and have raised it an option for our web team to start using
    The big absent for me is the lack of effort and priority field
    Order is an obvious hack for priority
    And it looks like you are using [n] to indicate effort in the title?

    I’m with the Kent web team btw

  3. @Paul – great tip. Wishing that I’d put our story points in (parentheses) rather than [square brackets] now. Easy enough to update, I guess…. just done it. That looks great! Thanks for the tip.

    @Matthew – I’ve been using Pivotal Tracker for home projects. Now, it *is* a dedicated Agile tool and it manages priorities by list order: the further up the list the more important it is. To be honest, I’m considering moving my own projects to Trello, although I do like how Pivotal Tracker manages bugs, chores, and milestones (which I guess you could do in Trello using labels).

  4. @Nicola –

    LABELS
    We use the labels to designate the TYPE or CATEGORY of task that it is. We transferred the following colours, like-for-like from our physical board where we had been using different coloured Post-it® notes (other brands of sticky notes are available):

    Green = ordinary task
    The majority of cards are green as these relate to ordinary tasks to progress various projects forward.

    Yellow = bug
    Yellow cards relate to bugs – ideally these should be prioritised when discovered, but colouring them a friendly shade of yellow makes them pretty easy to spot, and cheers you up before you attempt to fix them! 😉

    Red = T4 (CMS)
    We use TERMINALFOUR Site Manager, and the colour of their logo and application is red, so we always used red (or deep pink) tickets on our physical board to track T4-related tasks.

    Purple = iSaint (our staff and student portal running on uPortal)
    The reason I chose purple was the ecclesiastical connection with purple: it seemed fitting for something called iSaint. iSaint is such a major project that it deserved its own colour — we also work a lot with Java developers on this so it helped them to spot the iSaint-related tickets on the board.

    That left us with two colours: blue and orange.

    Blue = web team
    There are a number of maintenance tasks that we need to do as a web team, such as clearing out caches, emptying the recycled content in our CMS; as well as internal meetings to discuss strategy, planning, etc. So it made sense to keep those tasks separate rather than letting them mix with the general, green tasks.

    Orange = blog
    Since we’ve been trying to plan our blog writing, and keep on top of it, it made sense for us to tag those cards with a colour. And we had one left: orange.

    PRIORITY
    Regarding priority, yes, vertical position: the nearer the top of the list the higher the priority. At the moment we’ve still to reorder the cards, I’ve simply moved them over from our old whiteboard.

  5. Would you be able to expand how your normal workflow works, and how you progress through work with the lists you show in the screenshot? For example, how do you define and use the This Week, Next Week, and In Progress lists? Can the same task span all of these lists?

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