From Jira to Trello

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
  • Done

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.

Get in touch via my homepage if you have questions or comments!

13 responses on “From Jira to Trello

  1. Trello rules! Swimlanes would be nice though. But no big deal, I still use Trello as default for most of these kind of things now a days.

  2. Love Trello, haven’t used it for scrum tracking, use for personal kanban & retrospectives but may sometime soon track too. I used Jira for years and I totally agree to the complexity of administering that beast.

  3. Check out Target Process. We use it to run software implementation projects and are very happy with the tool.

  4. Hi Yassal,

    I’m wondering which versions of GreenHopper and JIRA you might have been working with?

    In GreenHopper 6.0 and JIRA 5.1 we have greatly simplified all of the areas you found challenging,

    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

    In the latest versions we have a simple ‘Getting Started’ page with a simple link to create a project and an Agile board for that project in one go. We’ve also implemented the new Simplified Workflow which allows you to build workflow based on the columns on your board (no need for heavy administration).

    If you’re more familiar with older versions I think you’ll be shocked with how easy it is to work with, it’s as beautiful and simple as Trello but it provides all of the things you’re missing: Burndowns, Estimation, Velocity etc.

    I hope you’ll give it another look.


  5. Great sharing Yassal!

    We are using Trello for everything! Within the company and at clients. I think it’s strength boils down to its simplicity and lack of business rules. We’re free to choose how to work and to adopt Trello. It’s brilliant!

  6. Good article. We’ve also just decommissioned all of our Atlassian apps and replaced them with Trello and Glip for development and Joomla for documentation. We’ve also migrated all our git repos from Bitbucket to Github.

    Working with Jira was painful; it was bloated and setting up a project was a thankless task. Our devs hated using it and we found it difficult to convince them to use it properly. Using Trello and simplified task and workflow management and I find it much more pleasurable to work with.

    We investigated similar software to Jira but found these other apps to be just as painful to use. I don’t think Jira will ever be able to provide small dev teams to easily manage fast moving dev projects; it is flawed by design and no matter how many iterations it goes through it will never be as efficient and effective as a couple of trello boards hooked up to glip.

    As for documentation; Confluence is just too bloated and lacklustre. Again, moving to Joomla gives us everything we need; we can document using markdown and easily categorize our docs in a hierarchy. Also, managing user access is very straightforward (we found Confluence needed several rounds of testing and debugging just to make sure we were outputting the right content to the right users) and we have version history just by turning this feature on in the Article Manager.

    1. Thanks for the comment! I hadn’t heard about Glip before, I’ve used HipChat and Slack at different projects as well as Google Hangouts and GoToMeeting. What do you think about Glip? Have you used the video conferencing capabilities?

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