Trello for Software Development

Managing complex software development projects using Trello

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Trello, as a simple but very approachable project management tool, can be a convenient asset in software development projects. That is why we extensively use it at DevsData. It offers some powerful functionalities, making it effective at what it is designed for – project management and facilitating its delivery. The key to achieving the best effects lies in the initial workflow setup and well-defined workflow rules. Otherwise, if errors would be made at the earliest stage, it may result in impeding the project development, instead of making it easier to expand later on. A proper setup at the beginning ensures that as the project goes on, things will not be messed up.

Trello first meeting

To start getting benefits from Trello you need to create a new board first and specify its name.  Additionally, you can fill it with named lists, such as To Do, In Progress, Done, where your cards (tasks) will be stored. Your newly created board becomes your workspace and you can store there named groups of your highly customized tasks. You can freely specify tasks due dates, labels, members, attachments and move them between groups for the maximum organization in your project dashboard. Also, Trello has color-coded labels you can turn on for your cards, which is a handy way to visually differentiate your tasks.

Each task can be customized (due dates, persons responsible for delivery, attachments, labels) to further improve organization. The workflow in this setup is simple: upon completion of a task from the To-Do list, you can move it to the Done list, for example.

Project case

Mistakes made in the workflow setup may not be noticeable at the beginning of project or software development. Moreover, it might seem that the setup has no drawbacks, but eventually, the mess will undoubtedly occur as the project grows. This can lead to an unwanted situation of changing workflow in the middle of software development. Thus, the key to success lies in preparing the proper structure which will last throughout the whole project development cycle.

Taking a look at the case of a custom website, its development could be split into two parts:

  • Front-end development and design to make sure the website satisfies the client expectations
  • Back-end and integration to make sure the website works perfectly as a unit

The simple Trello design pattern in such a case would be to create two lists for the two parts mentioned above. Each list would be filled with cards, each one is a task with a specific deadline, description, etc.

Completing the task would only require moving the card to a separate “Done” list. Sounds simple and efficient, doesn’t it? It might seem this way, but only for the first stages of the project. Problems start to appear when developing the second part.

The growing number of cards and their complexity might result in making navigation of your Trello board a nightmare. What to do when you have 30 tasks waiting for you? How could you define which tasks are in progress or which have a priority over another? This is not the situation you wanted and you instantly realize that something went wrong at the stage of the initial workflow setup. Now it is time to clean things up.

The fix

The decision one might want to make is trying the Kanban approach. The Kanban Method is the most flexible approach to managing work effectively, relieving team overburden and delivering customer value in a fast and predictable manner. Today it is used by businesses ranging from small start-ups to world-renowned enterprises that aim to improve their service delivery, decision-making abilities, and team collaboration.

Firstly, reorganize your lists with a few new ideas:

  1. Backlog – the place where new cards are created and discussed. After everything is clear about the job that needs to be done the task can be move.
  2. To-Do – the place where the in-progress highest priority tasks land.
  3. To verify – the place where tasks are waiting for the approval of the client.
  4. Done – the place where verified tasks are moved after being verified and merged into the product.
  5. Future – the place to store the tasks for future development

What is more, there could be a list containing some data that should be available project-wise.

When our workflow board is reorganized, there is a need to create some rules making sure it is clear how to manage the workflow:

  1. There is a Trello manager that takes the responsibility of managing the tasks (cards).
  2. Everyone on the team has access to all lists.
  3. Trello managers can assign only one person per task.
  4. Trello manager is responsible for moving the cards between lists depending on its status.
  5. The client is not only responsible for creating tasks but also he is supposed to provide descriptions and visualizations if needed to make sure the task is correctly understood.
  6. Every client PDF becomes a task, if there are more tasks included in the PDF, they land in the tasks checklist.
  7. The person assigned to the task by Trello manager is supposed to create his To-Do checklist.
  8. The person assigned to the task by Trello manager is responsible for defying its priority and moving to To-Do list from Backlog
  9. Tasks do not have due dates
  10. If the client makes a wish to specify task high priority it is specially labeled

Laptop with a text Trello on it Trello is an incredible web-based project management and collaboration tool, perfectly designed to help individuals and teams collaborate better and keep their projects organized.

The golden principles of using Trello for software development

One other important principle we should keep in mind is that everything related to the project should stay within the Trello. By doing this, we are certain that every arrangement is available to everyone and the whole team is on the same page. Once I read a line – “Company doesn’t need backups until it does” and Trello developers seemed to understand the sentence, allowing you to create backups of your workflow board and restore it.

Summary

Without a doubt, Trello, with a total number of users exceeding 50 million, is an incredible web-based project management and collaboration tool, perfectly designed to help individuals and teams collaborate better and keep their projects organized. Such simple collaboration allows entire teams to participate in important discussions, send notes, share files and comment on individual tasks. It is incredibly visual and highly adaptable, making your life easier when you have several people working on your project, especially when they are scattered across different physical locations.

We believe that the Trello for software development workflow should depend strictly on the project it was created for. Naturally, projects differ from each other, thus they require different, individual approaches. The key to success is to understand the project requirements and keep them in mind while designing the workflow. Well-thought setup of work will surely pay off in the future, making task management a breeze. Using Trello for software development is one of the best decisions you can make for your business!

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“I interviewed about a dozen different firms. DevsData LLC is truly exceptional – their backend developers are some of the best I’ve ever worked with. I’ve worked with a lot of very well-qualified developers, locally in San Francisco, and remotely, so that is not a compliment I offer lightly. Their depth of knowledge and their ability to get things done quickly."

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