Moving from Trello to Clubhouse

We’ve doubled our team at Float over the past twelve months, and with that, we ran into some limitations with our use of Trello. So we set out to see how we could improve this.

image: http://startupstockphotos.com/

We used Trello at Float to try to answer the following five key software delivery questions and make that visible across the company. As our team grew and we delivered more work each week it became harder to answer those questions.

The five key questions software teams need to answer

There are more opinions on how to manage software delivery than there are successful projects, with as many approaches as there are project teams! Yet at their core each approach is trying to answer five simple questions:

  1. What is the plan? — The high level pieces of work (epics) we need to deliver and by when.
  2. What work do we need to complete to deliver the plan? — The stories that make up the epics.
  3. Who is doing the work? — Who is working on each story?
  4. How is that work going? — How is the work progressing through our workflow?
  5. How are we doing against the plan? — Are we on track against the roadmap?

Where Trello was failing us

Our increased team size meant there was more and more information to keep track of. While Trello is excellent, it is not designed to condense and communicate that much information. It was becoming increasingly complex and unclear what our priorities were. We needed a bigger boat.

We revisited the usual suspects (Jira, PivotalTracker, etc) and trialled some newer solutions before we came across Clubhouse. A new web-based solution designed specifically for software delivery teams. Clubhouse focuses on making the big picture clear whilst still allowing you to manage the details, which makes it better for projects that are growing in scale with larger teams.

In comparison, with Trello we were finding it increasingly difficult to maintain a big picture overview as we created more and more detail.

The Clubhouse difference

Clubhouse has four top level sections that make it easy to answer the five questions:

Epics

Lists all our epics in order of priority. Provides an overview of the number of stories in each epic and shows the progress on each epic.

Stories

Provides the detail of the day-to-day work the team is doing and where each story is in our workflow.

Milestones

Makes managing our roadmap simple. We create quarterly milestones and assign epics to each milestone. We use this feature to show what quarter we aim to complete each epic. This helps us to focus our discussions and organise our workload. Stories are assigned to epics, and this view shows how we are progressing against each milestone.

Status
Shows the stories each team member is working on and where in our workflow they are. It provides a great way to see what everyone is working on without disturbing them. The team also doesn’t need to declare what everyone is working on at standups. Instead, they discuss what they need to do to move the story forward in our workflow.

Clubhouse adds the secret sauce

Based on a features list, Clubhouse offers most of what you’d expect from a similar tool. Yet, there are a few things that set it apart for us:

  1. It is fast. Not as fast as Trello, but it is good enough.
  2. It is clear, and well laid out with a few high level sections. No endless navigating around the app to find what you’re looking for.
  3. Configuring our workflow is simple. Managing it is not so complicated that it becomes someone’s full time job. I’m looking at you, Jira.

Finally, Clubhouse has a few features that we haven’t used much yet, but I suspect they could be very useful to us in the future.

  • The Status page’s ability to filter by projects, epics etc. means it can work for separate team standups.
  • Estimating can be done in story points or by number of stories completed. We prefer the latter.
  • Various reports, including burn downs.
  • An API.

Summary

If you’re a software team, and Trello is starting to feel cumbersome, Clubhouse is definitely worth a look. Trello is still a great product, and one we use in other areas. However, we’re definitely seeing the benefits of increasing clarity, reduced complexity, and a more streamlined approach to product and project management.