How we realised we were using Trello the wrong way

We all know the Sprint trip: Backlog, To do, Doing, Follow-up, Released. But somewhere along the way, by working for clients from different industries and with different needs, our Trello process kept becoming blocked and bumpy. Our team was not using Trello at its full potential and the results were beginning to be seen. So what could we do?

So how were we using Trello?

Each High Contrast project had a different board, with its almighty SCRUM Sprint. Sounds easy, doesn’t it?

Well, it was good, at least in the beginning. However, people started getting distracted by too many cards and lost interest in the process. And there you go, forever alone project boards checked only by project managers or at the end of the day for adding hours. We were even joking around trying to find names for the spider inhabiting them with cobwebs.

Trello was our project managers’ favourite tool that they kept organizing and reorganizing, but somehow our OCD method wasn’t useful for the entire team.

Three Google searches later (one of them about managing to live with our OCD problem, of course) and one determined project manager to change our mistakes, we were almost ready to give up on Trello. Other tools caught our attention, but still didn’t conquer our hearts and needs.

When revelation finally strikes

It is easy to assign a project manager to a project, to let him create boards and cards and endless lists of tasks. But what about the other team members? How are they using Trello, how do they interact with the boards and what would they change? This is exactly what we did. We left our Project Manager sneakers at home and tried to think like a developer or designer. What would work best for them? How would they organize their tasks, prioritize and make sure the deadline is respected?

So what’s up for today?

How do I know what I have to do for today? How many tasks are urgent from the endless Backlog and how many hours do I have for a certain task? It was easy to see how our team got frustrated by the need to navigate within boards to find their tasks, add hours and to keep up with the constant feedback loop.

Meet the Master Board

So how can we keep the entire team happy? Let’s divide and conquer. Each creative process received one single board containing all the tasks coming from the client, attachments, checklists and estimated time.

Labels, colors and humans

But how can we make it easier? Use those vibrant colored labels for each project, set due dates and estimates. Each card should be assigned to one person and he should be responsible for moving the cards to the Doing, Blocked or In review Stage. Don’t worry, they will start enjoying it and even ask you “What task is next?”, “That sounds cool. Can I start with it today?”

6 Lists and you are ready to go

You should adapt the lists to your process and workflow. Not too many, not too few. The lists that we are using are following our creative process. Let’s start with the beginning.

First comes the “Backlog”, where all tasks or ideas are added.

Then comes the “Sprint” or “To Do” list where tasks are organized based on their priority. Do not crowd this list, but try to add only the tasks for the current day.

“Doing” is the playground of our team, the place where tasks are moved as they are being handled, where questions are asked and hours added.

The next logical step is the “Blocked” list where tasks that need additional material from the client or feedback from our creative director are moved and waiting for a solution.

“In Review” is the place where the client and his feedback is required.

Then finally the “Released” section, when the task is finished and ready to archive. Just like a game of Monopoly. Now it’s your move.

Long live Slack

We still had a problem. How to make sure the team sees the newly added checklist or the client’s feedback? How to know that Bogdan has a blocked task and how to help him? Here is where Slack comes in. We were already using dedicated channels where we were exchanging ideas and discussing tasks, or post ocasional memes, but that wasn’t enough. So we connected Trello with Slack and made sure each move from Trello got a notification in Slack. This way no one could say they didn’t see the task, change, request or problem.

How did you know it works?

The good part? The results were almost immediate. Two happy project managers that didn’t have to keep reminding people to do a task and check Trello, followed by a more engaged creative team. People actually started tagging each other in cards, asking for more details, feedback or why a task was in Blocked. And it all happened in a single simple and compact Trello board.

What’s next?

We have already created a similar board for our marketing and design team, testing the same approach on our creative process and igniting a more engaging collaboration. And we are even thinking about implementing this method for all our other processes. Let’s see what happens next!