If you manage projects, you know how challenging it can be to stay on top of everything. With Trello, it doesn’t have to feel like that. Whether you need help organizing tasks or managing a team scattered across different departments, Trello has got you covered. At Blue Cat Reports, we will show you how easy it is to get started using Trello for your company and outline some benefits that come along with it.
Before we get to the process of actually managing projects with Trello, it's important to understand why project management is important.
The reason is quite simple: systematic project management is a prerequisite to successful projects. When systematic project management techniques aren't utilized, project failure rates sit somewhere around 67%. When almost every aspect of business establishment and growth relies on successfully implementing projects, that just isn't sustainable.
Project management allows teams to stay on the same page when working together towards a common goal. It ensures that everyone involved understands what to do and when, as well as how their work contributes to the project overall.
Trello is a Kanban-based project management tool that can be used to organize almost any project you need to complete. It allows users to organize projects through a series of structural levels:
Trello boards offer an overview of a project in its entirety. They house all the project’s tasks, goals, team members, and materials in one place. Each board you create can be customized around the specifics of the project. For example, you could create a board around the launch of an email marketing campaign, an expansion, or a product launch. Whatever the motivation, the board can be used to organize tasks, deadlines, and documents related to the project
Here’s an example of a project management board.
Lists are essentially organizational containers for cards (more on them later). Projects are infinitely diverse in terms of their complexity, and lists are designed to reflect this. For example, a board created to launch an email marketing campaign board might have separate lists for tasks related to audience research and content creation. A board created to manage a product launch might have lists dedicated to planning distribution or keeping tabs on prototyping. The possibilities are endless.
Each list you create can contain multiple cards with information about tasks or deadlines related to the list's overarching goal. Under the scrum board below, you can see different lists for bugs, new features, nice to haves, and other things related to product management.
Cards are the most basic organizational unit within Trello. Each card represents an individual task. They're highly customizable in the sense that they can be used to store almost any piece of task-related information imaginable (i.e., assignees, due dates, reference materials, checklists, etc.).
Cards can also be dragged from list to list. This allows you to keep related information together, prioritize information in order of importance, and keep track of tasks based on their completion status.
Trello offers a suit of powerful features that are designed to take your projects through every stage.
Planning: Trello offers a ton of organizational tools that make researching and planning your project's overall strategy simpler.
Setup: Trello is great for filling in the blanks in your strategy with specific tasks and goals, involving your team in their relevant capacities, and systematizing the project in general.
Implementation: Part of bringing any project to fruition is tracking progress and adapting to setbacks. Trello is a great solution in both regards.
Closeout Once projects are completed, Trello's data can be used to generate beautiful, insightful reports using third-party apps like Blue Cat Reports.
Let's take a look at how Trello works in practice:
The first step in your Trello project management journey is creating an account. Obvious, but important!
Creating a Trello account is easy and should only take you a few minutes. All you need to get started is an email address and a password, though you'll need to add a payment method to access some of Trello's extra features.
Once you're logged in you're ready to create your first board! You can do this one of two ways. The first is by clicking the "create new board" button in the centre of your workspace. Doing this will open a prompt which asks you to name the board, choose a colour palette, and set the visibility (i.e., who on your team will be able to interact with it).
The second option is to choose from Trello's pre-existing templates. You can do this by clicking the "browse full template library" link. Trello has a huge selection of templates for everything from Editorial Calendars to CRM Pipelines, so you should be able to find something that suits your purposes.
The beauty here is that the experience is as customizable or templated as you want. Whether you want full control over the board's appearance, behaviour, and content, or a quick and easy solution it's up to you.
Once you've created your board, it's time to add lists. If you selected a board from the list of templates you'll notice that Trello has created some for you. While these are often useful, you might find that your specific project needs a few custom lists. It's important to think about the level of organization you'll need at this stage.
Again, the possibilities for list configuration are endless. There's no right way to go about it. However, there are some common configurations that might make a lot of sense for your project. One is setting up lists that correspond with the completion status of the tasks within them (e.g., "To Do", "Doing", and "Done"). This setup makes it easy for you and your team to visually assess the status of different project-related tasks.
Goal-based configurations are also common. In practice, that usually means creating a list for each distinct stage of a project's rollout to house the tasks required to bring the stage to fruition. If the first stage of your project is acquiring the funds to make it happen, you could create a list titled "Stage #1: Funding".
One final point that's worth mentioning is that lists don't necessarily need to be aimed at an accomplishment or goal, per se. If you want a place to keep track of your notes, thoughts, or ideas, create a list!
Your next step will be adding cards within these lists to break down large projects into smaller tasks. You can do this by clicking the "add card" button at the bottom of any list on your board. Clicking this will open a dialogue box that asks you to name the card. Once it's named it will appear within the list you created it from.
Cards are so much more than just names, though. Clicking on a card will open up a customization menu. Here, you'll be able to do things like write a description for the task, add comments, and so much more. Here's a full list of customizable card characteristics:
Vanilla Trello has a lot to offer, but it does lack a number of features that many people find useful. If you find yourself missing a feature, power-ups are the solution.
Power-ups are independent tools and integrations that can be added to cards to improve Trello's functionality and ease of use. Missing a chat feature? The Slack power-up allows you to communicate with different channels directly from the Trello app. Wish there was a way to easily share documents? The Dropbox power-up offers an easy solution.
Trello is a fantastic source of data and project insights… if you know how to access it and analyse it!
Trello relies heavily on power-ups and independent apps for its reporting and analytics capabilities, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Reporting power-ups on Trello like Blue Cat Reports are purpose-built to extract, organize, analyse, and visualize project data in a way that facilitates increased efficiency and actionable insights.
There are a number of ways data can streamline project management. One key area is in resource allocation. Through data from previous Trello projects, managers can quickly assess whether their resources are being used optimally. They might find that manpower and funds are being invested heavily into one section of a project at the cost of another. This data can be used as the basis for a resource restructuring that benefits the project by reducing its overall timeline.
Another area where data is invaluable is in the planning stage. Using Blue Cat reports from previous Trello projects, project managers can see how long certain tasks and project stages took to complete. This data will allow them to better estimate project and task completion timelines when outlining their strategy.
Once you've set up a board for your project, populated it with lists and cards, and chosen your power-ups, it's time to get your team on board. An easy way to do this is by clicking the "invite" button next to your profile photo. Just enter your team's email addresses and wait for them to sign up!
Once they've signed up, Trello will recognize them as members of the project. That means you'll be able to assign them tasks, tag them in comments, and include (or exclude) them when setting visibility.
Once your team is on board the collaboration can begin. As various people start making headway on various tasks, it's important to have a system in place to measure progress. Trello offers a few methods for this. You could use checklists, comments, or labels within specific cards. Or, you could opt for a system where cards are designated lists based on their level of completion.
When a project is concluded - regardless of whether it was a success or a failure - it's important to reflect on the experience. The goal here should be to work out what went well and what went poorly.
Were certain team members struggling? Did task completion start poorly and slowly ramp up? Were certain tasks easier than others?
Asking these kinds of questions will help you get a holistic sense of the project that will be invaluable the next time around. As you try to answer then, you might find yourself missing a feature that helps visualize data from the project. This is another occasion where a reporting app like Blue Cat Reports might come in handy.
Overall, Trello is a great tool for anyone who happens to find themselves in a project management role. It offers deep functionality and fills in its few significant gaps (e.g., reporting and analytics) with incredible third-party power-ups and integrations. The app has all the tools you'll need to take your projects from plans to success stories.