Update – I advise you to take a look on how the Trello team manage Trello.
When I initially read about Trello, I wasn’t over excited (much like my first thought upon hearing of Stack Overflow was “oh no, yet another Q&A site”). Trello, if you haven’t had the pleasure, is a simple List Management App. No more, no less.
Then, we happened to want a little bit more order in our task management back at <Unnamed Hot New Startup I Recently Joined>. After considering several tools (somehow, always, Excel rears its ugly head in such discussions), we agreed to give Trello a shot.
So far, we’re about three weeks into the process, and while I can’t yet speak for everyone, personally I’m liking the experience a lot.
Trello is a member of the “let’s keep everything simple” family of tools. It is certainly not fully featured (at least not as a project management app), but as a simple tool to manage 1-6 people, it’s really a no overhead, no bullshit tool that gets the job done (we’re currently only 3 people, so I can’t testify to how it scales yet). After a bit of tweaking, we arrived at the follow scheme of working with Trello:
- Keep a “current week/sprint” list
- Keep three lists for Small, Medium and Large features
- Maintain a “deployed, not yet reviewed” list, and another “done, not yet deployed list”
That’s it. This is how it looks like:
Our “sprints” are 1 week long, mostly because of the stage we’re at – we’re only three people at this point, and our priorities are very dynamic (remember, a sprint is just a unit of planning – it doesn’t correlate to how many deployments we do).
At least every week, we review the board together, and see what we’ve done in the last sprint. Any tasks that we haven’t completed, we move to the next sprint (or to the appropriate backlog if its priority has decreased). Completed tasks usually just get archived – well, rather the entire “Sprint X” list gets archived. Sometimes, when there are features that are especially relevant for review, we move the features to the “Code Ready” list, and when deploying, to the “Deployed, ready to review” list. When the features are reviewed, we then archive them individually.
We pick features for the next sprint by looking at the three buckets or backlogs. First we see if there are any “Large” features we want to accomplish or make progress on this week (usually there are). Those gets picked first. After that, we might fit in a few Medium or Small features. Small/Medium features are also useful to fill in gaps in planning – sometimes, I have an hour or less free, and I don’t want to start working on a Large or Medium feature … I know that just getting into the state of mind will often take half an hour, so I pick one of the Small features from the current sprint or from the backlog, drag it to the current sprint, and execute it quickly.
We also have little icons on the cards that show who they’re assigned to (not shown in this image). A feature can be just a headline, or can be very detailed with a description, checklist of sub-tasks, and other shiny items. Most features are simpler, but sometimes you just need to conduct some kind of conversation about the feature, and the best place to keep it is on the card itself.
What I like about our system is that it’s really ultra simple, gives us the ability focus to on what’s important right now, and to plan a bit for the future. It will not scale to long plans or huge teams, and it won’t give us any “smart conclusions”, like Evidence Based Scheduling in FogBugz. But it’s simple, it’s free, and it works (for now).
What are you using to manage your projects? (And please, “Excel” is not a good answer)