Project Management with Trello

At InGenius we typically have quite a few projects on the go, and a lot of very busy developers.

One of the difficulties we face is project tracking. Making sure that:

  • every developer is working on the most pressing items,
  • our QA department knows what to focus their testing efforts on, for each build,
  • our sales people know when new builds, with new features are coming out.

We’ve tried many tools for keeping track of our projects, including:

  • Complicated spreadsheets, with a grid showing each developer, and all projects, saved in a common directory,
  • using Yammer.com and asking developers to yammer about what they’re working on,
  • Daily meetings, making sure everyone’s focused,
  • Online tools like Basecamp.com,
  • Using our Wiki to say what developers are up to, and should be doing,
  • Whiteboards at each office, with individual developer priorities,

And, none of it worked very well. Developers don’t like meetings, don’t like yammering, don’t like anything that gets in the way of what they should be focused on.

Last fall, we started using Trello.com, a new FREE online product from Fog Creek Software – the same people that build the terrific Fogbugz bug tracking system we use here at InGenius. We’re all thrilled with the results!

Trello is a deceptively simple application. It presents you with a page called a “board”, and the board contains multiple lists.

Each list can have a title, and multiple entries, known as cards. You can learn how to build a website, and you can re-order lists by dragging them as well.

Cards are the basic unit within Trello. Cards generally move up and down in a list, and from list to list, within a board.

Each card has a title, and when you click on it, it flips over to reveal a description, and a set of notes. People can add comments to a card, assign labels, assign a card to a particular worker, or vote on a card.

At InGenius, we use a similar setup to Fog Creek’s development board – we have a main board for all the development in our company, and have lists for:

  • Known Issues,
  • Ideas,
  • Next Up,
  • In Progress,
  • Implemented,
  • a list for each release.

Items generally move across, from left to right as they progress from ideas, to being implemented, to getting moved to a release.

Using Trello has been a godsend for both the developers and senior staff at InGenius. We can now easily see, in a single view, everything that’s in progress in the company, and can easily move cards around to indicate their priority.

Developers can easily make notes about their progress, which we review in a once-a-week meeting to make sure everyone’s on track. Each card contains a description of the bug or feature. Developers can easily add notes about their progress, and can move a card to the “Implemented” list when they’re done.

And, our QA staff can easily look at the lists for each release, to see which new features have been implemented, so they know where to focus their testing efforts.

Trello has become the focus of our developer meetings, allowing us to keep the meeting to 15-20 minutes and make sure everyone is on the right track.

We’ve learned a few tricks as we’ve used Trello.com:

  • Don’t overload Trello with too many items. In our case, we keep the “high level” items in Trello, and leave most of the detail work in FogBugz. The items we track in Trello are generally the things that we’ll highlight in each product release, and major, customer-affecting issues. The balance between Trello and your bug tracking tool is hard to determine.
  • make sure that card titles are succinct and descriptive
  • Make sure that developers update the cards regularly
  • Use labels to show which cards are bugs, and which features have been tested, or need documentation updates,
  • Assign cards to developers by dragging developer icons over to a card,
  • Use Trello in developer meetings as a focal point, and to show the team how the tool should be used,
  • Encourage higher management and sales to use Trello too.
  • Have a look at Trello’s development board for ideas and tips – and it’s fun to watch features move across, and out into a release!

Of course, Trello is not yet perfect, but new features are being implemented every week.

Our wish list includes:

  • Ability to move lists from board to board,
  • Better functionality in the iPhone and iPad applications,
  • Better management of company members, and management of which company members are allowed access to a board (this is already much improved)
  • Tighter integration with FogBugz

 

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