Trello for the Jira Snobs

Atlassian, Jira, Trello

I have been using Jira since 2004, I know the ins-and-outs and feel like it's the hammer I can hit any problem with!  Suffice it to say that my love for Jira runs deep.

When Atlassian announced Trello was joining the family, my initial reaction was...Why? Jira can already do everything Trello does, and it does it so much better.  I now realize that I was the Jira snob and I just didn't understand Trello! My goal here is to try and cut through some of your preconceived notions about Trello and help you open your mind (and your heart) to Trello!

What I love about Trello

Trello is:

  • Lightweight - I don't have to get wrapped up in permissions, workflows, custom fields, etc.
  • Easy to Share - I don't need to worry about who has access to what and possible data leakage.  If I want to collaborate with somebody, I just invite them to the board and they can sign up for a free account, if they haven't already.
  • Easy to visualize loosely related information - A card on a Trello board can represent whatever you want, a task, a thought, a piece of information, whatever. Cards on the same board can all be something conceptually different, what binds them all together is the context of the Board!

Trello is not:

  • A workflow engine - Yes, the Trello zealots will want to hit every problem with the Trello hammer, but if strong workflows are needed, look to your old friend Jira.
  • A state machine - Related to workflows, but slightly more abstract.  A Column/List does not have to represent the status of the card. It can, but doesn't have to.  It's easy to spot the Trello noob coming from Jira. Their first Trello board has the following Lists/Columns: To Do, In Progress and Done.  Now there is nothing wrong with this, but if this is the only way you are thinking of a board, it's time to open your mind!
  • Simple - Well it is, but there is so much power and flexibility that you can bring through standard features and power-ups.  Don't think that just because it is easy it isn't powerful

Some Examples

Planning the family trip

My wife and I have two teenagers and every time we travel as a family we create a Trello board to plan the trip.  It works something like this:

  1. Create the board.  Each List/Column represents a day or if we are going to multiple cities then we do a List/Column per city.
  2. Everyone gets to add as many cards as they want to the board.  If you choose to add nothing, then you don't get to complain about not seeing something.
  3. At some point before we leave (or on the airplane) we'll pull up the board and everyone gets to discuss/debate/shrug-and-whine (teenagers) what they want to see.  The higher voted items are dragged to the top of the list it is.

This generally works out great and keeps some of the teen angst in check.  Also, it's not too rigid to deal with changes on the fly, which we can do on the board or just on the fly.  It's not uncommon for us to discuss the board in the evenings. The cool thing is that everyone is engaged and has an active say in what we do.

Regular Meeting Agenda and Action Items

Time to take the card concept to the next level!  This is the Trello board we use to run our EOS Level 10 Meeting.  I can hear you now: "Wait, we run meetings in Confluence and now you want to bring in Trello?!?"...yes!  Stay with me and hopefully you will see that this is a problem that Trello is uniquely positioned to solve. Here is the breakdown of the Lists/Columns:

  1. Agenda - Exactly what it sounds like. This is the same agenda we have every time we run this weekly meeting.  The individual cards can have more details when you click into them, like more details about this part of the meeting and links off to relevant topics, like the Scorecard.  These cards never move, are never resolved, and just help us to run an effective meeting!
  2. Rocks - These are larger scaled initiatives, something that is meant to be completed in a quarter.  We can link these off to Jira issues if we like, or just keep all of the relevant information in the card.  These cards are longer lived and will be archived off the board as new Rocks are prioritized the next quarter.
  3. To Do List - These are captured after each meeting, assigned out and everyone knows the expectation is for these to be done before the next weekly meeting.  If they can't get done in that timeframe, they are pushed over to the next column, the Issue List
  4. Issues List - This is the ad-hoc part of the agenda, every meeting invitee can and should be adding to the Issue List in between the weekly meetings.  Issues are then prioritized in the meeting (group vote) and addressed in order.  An individual issue can result in To Dos or added to the next column (VTO - Long Term Issues) if they can not be solved with minimal effort.
  5. VTO - Long Term Issues - Think of this as the backlog.  The goal of this meeting is to keep us focused on our Rocks and also resolve any ad-hoc issues that come up.  If the ad-hoc issues are too big to solve, they go to the backlog to be solved next quarter.

Wrapping it all up

Hopefully you are warming up to the idea that Trello has home in your organization, right along with Jira and Confluence.  Stop trying to hit all of your problems with the same hammer, time to learn some new tools that might work better for some use cases.

TAGS: Atlassian, Jira, Trello

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