For the past couple of years I’ve had to work with Jira. Really, it’s mostly been dreading working with Jira. At both projects I’ve had Greenhopper available, and that hasn’t really made things better. My frustrations have had to do with the complexity of setting up the right fields, to creating a new sprint to creating a new project, down to mundane things like problems with ranking. I don’t particularly enjoy spending hours just tidying up my data. I want to quickly organize so I have time to actually work. I also want to easily see how much work we’ve done, and how much we have to do. Cards and a physical board are great for this, but I end up with stacks of cards everywhere, and after several sprints I don’t know what to do with them anymore. Enter Trello!
I found out about Trello on September 14, 2011, Olle Hallin a colleague at Crisp had spotted it just a day after its release. Six days later Max Wenzin had created a board for Crisp and we were well on our way! Today we have 16 boards and counting. We use them for keeping track of assignments, internal projects and even reading recommendations. So when my client opened up the possibility of using Trello, my team switched. I knew that Trello was simpler to use than Jira, but I hadn’t realized how much it would improve visibility of what we’re working on in the team.
The development team has one board and four columns:
- Ready for Development
- In Development
- Deployed to Stage
The “Done” column is release specific. Once a release is deployed to production, all stories that are in “Deployed to Stage” are moved to Done (release x) and once production is verified the column is archived and a new Done column for the coming release is created. Since we release once a week, we get a really good view of how much work we’re doing and what is going out by just taking a look at the release lists. Since everything is electronic, there are no physical piles of cards anymore, just an archived list!
Creating the initial board and first sprint’s stories took about one hour. This included creating an organization, adding members, creating the board and moving the stories in. The body of the story was easy to style using Daring Fireball, adding attachments was no problem, and the stories were moved over in no time. A nice feature is that you can select an attachment as a cover image, and the card ends up with a thumbnail that visually identifies it.
Moving to Trello is great since we can now add stories easily, rearrange and rename columns quickly, but the biggest win for our team is that we now have one source of truth that everybody uses. It’s easy to log into, easy to move cards, easy to create cards, so everybody does it.
A few things that we can’t do in Trello but haven’t missed:
- Card hierarchy: you can link to another card in the same board, but you can’t specify that a card is a child or parent of another card.
- Different card “types”: there’s no concept of story, defect, enhancement, there are just cards, but there are also labels if you need them.
- Card visibility: cards can be moved between boards, but they can’t be viewed from other boards.
- Burndown: my whiteboard didn’t have it either, pretty easy to do that by hand.
- Complicated velocity calculations: different organizations have different needs, Trello will not measure story points or velocity.
Trello does have its limitations, but better a simple system that works well, than an overly complex one that no one uses.