Trying out Trello

At sometime over the Christmas break I followed a link from Twitter (sorry I don’t remember who from) to a blogpost by Joel Spolsky about the new product, Trello, his company Fog Creek was releasing (and also some very interesting anecdotes about his time at M$ working on the original Excel team.)

Trello aims to be a “super simple, web-based team coordination system” and while it certainly shares some DNA with tools like Pivotal Tracker (and even Basecamp) it is aiming for a wider audience than the usual agile software teams and is wonderfully easy to use for the most part. It is also free!

Essentially it allows you to create ‘cards’ for activities and assign them to team members. The ‘cards’ are moved from to-do, to doing, to done and can collect comments, deadlines and checklists along the way. The ‘board’ can be filtered by team members or labels (though I haven’t really used labels yet).

Discovering this came at an opportune time for me as it had become clear by the end of 2011 that I was doing a p*ss poor job articulating to my team the bigger picture I was trying to get us to work towards and was taking on too many tasks myself rather than delegating them – mainly because I was holding it all in my head and had never taken the time to plan it all out properly.

So I took the opportunity last week to brain dump everything out while it was just me in the office and over the last day or two I have taken that chaotic outpouring of ideas, plans, tasks and projects and turned them into cards which I have then assigned amongst the team. The initial feedback has been good. It certainly demonstrates just how much we have to do but also empowers the members of the team to prioritise their own work activity without having to ask me all the time (which I wasn’t managing well by Nov/Dec) and everyone was able to get to grips with Trello quickly and started adding cards and comments.

What we aren’t doing is using it in any kind of standard ‘agile’ way – for us it is basically a shared ‘to-do’ list and we will take our time to get a feel for what scale of activities we add and how we work out deadlines and timings (what I don’t want is an endless list of ‘doing’ cards with no outputs in ‘done’.)

It is clearly an experiment but I have my fingers crossed as I think it has already exceeded my expectations in getting everyone thinking about the year ahead and adding their own ideas to the mix.

So I’d like to thank that mysterious Twitter user for pointing me in this direction!