Trello Guide for IT Project Management

I’ve been a Trello user and fan for a long time. The intuitive interface provides a powerful platform for managing any project in a Kanban or Scrum methodology.

People ask me how to use Trello for managing their own projects, so here are some tips and tricks that I’ve learned from working with Trello.

Remember, the important thing is to do what works for you rather than follow arbitrary rules. Maybe this will save you some trial and error that I’ve gone through.

One board per team

Don’t create a separate board for each project. Use labels to organize tasks among projects.

Record all work on the board

You won’t use Trello if you don’t trust it
The board is the official system of record

Start with these lists

Backlog, WIP, Blockers, Done
I’ll explain how to use these lists, and when to create additional lists

Use the Backlog list

New cards are usually added to the backlog list.
If you organize work into sprints, create a separate backlog for just this sprint Backlog: this sprint.

Use the WIP list

The WIP list shows everyone what you’re working on right now.
Avoid rabbit trails—if you identify a new task, add it to the backlog so that you can keep working on WIP right now.

Use the Blockers list

When you get stuck on a card for any reason, move it to Blockers.
Add a comment with the latest info, what you’re waiting on, etc. When the boss asks, you want to have this info handy.

Use the Done list

If you would like to plan your work a week at a time (AKA a sprint) then create a new list every Monday morning as follows: Done: yyyy-mm-dd
The date format helps with sorting these lists together.
Don’t archive completed cards, just move them to Done.
If working in sprints, you can archive the previous Done list when you start a new sprint or whenever the board gets cluttered.

Use comments and descriptions

Comments work well as an activity log. Only you can edit your own comments.
Descriptions work well for summaries, and when multiple people need to edit.

Use labels

Labels are very powerful for identifying and organizing tasks in the ways that matter to you. Label ideas: 

  • for each line item in a statement of work
  • when many cards depend on a person or other limited resource
  • for each work stream (operations, upgrades, proof of concept, etc)

Create Additional Lists as Needed

You may outgrow these lists. Here are some additional lists that I use often:

  • Stakeholders. When I’m working on multiple projects, it’s good to know who is involved and their roles.
  • Reference. This doesn’t replace a wiki or other forms of documentation, but it’s nice to have quick access to diagrams, the statement of work, etc.
  • Notes. When I want to record random ideas that aren’t ready to be moved to the backlog or WIP.