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How to Manage Complicated Projects on your iPad with Trello!

I have been struggling to find a good project management tool at work that is better than our current spreadsheets. I have employees that are both inside of and outside of the corporate firewall which makes it difficult to share project information without the need for emailing. I have embarked on a quest to find a better project management tool that also allows for easy collaboration on the iPad. There are many options out there including Basecamp, Asana, Producteev and Flow, none of which I have tried. In addition to these well-known options I ran across an app called Trello which is a combination of a project tracker and a team collaboration tool. It appears to have equally robust web and iPad versions along with an interesting design. Will Trello solve our project management woes; read on to find out.

What is Trello About?

Trello is a free online collaboration tool that makes its money either by upgrading to Trello Gold or upgrading to Trello Business Class. Trello Gold adds the ability to have larger attachments, custom card backgrounds, card “stickers” and emoji. For an individual Trello Gold is $5 per month or free if you invite other users to Trello. In addition to Gold, Trello Business Class adds the following:

  • Additional security
  • The ability for administrators to fine-tune access and security for team members
  • Connectivity to Google Apps
  • Bulk data export to CSV and JSON
  • Easy board sharing with clients and non-members

Even with all of these additional features, I am surprised at how full-featured the free version of Trello is. With the free version, Trello has included most of the key benefits of the service including the ability to create cards on a board via email. This makes me a bit nervous on how things will evolve for Trello from a monetization perspective; i.e. will they have enough paying customers? And I worry about getting dependent on a product not backed by a larger and more established company. A perfect example of this is the closing of the Springpad service.

boards

Trello is very flexible and is organized by creating boards for major projects. Each board can then have a number of cards that represent individual tasks within a project and each card has checklists, attachments and comments. This organization is what I find most compelling about Trello. With individual rows in a spreadsheet or project plan, a project manager or team member only has very limited abilities to further break down and classify tasks. Trello provides an extremely flexible way to dig down into the details on all aspects of work. The interface works just as well between the iPad app and the web version as well as the iPhone version. The best way to think of the distinction between the versions is that the web is used for overall administration in addition to project management and the iPad/iPhone versions are used for just project management with limited administration features. The good news however is that the administration features can be accessed via Safari on the iPad; great for those users that prefer to work iPad-only.

card

After using Trello now for over a week and after having added one of our critical projects I can definitely see how powerful Trello can be as a project management tool. It is extremely easy to use for the average user and it almost makes project management fun. The difference between the web and iPad versions is minimal and as I mentioned above it is very easy to move cards between lists within a board. This is cool and makes it much easier to manage more complicated projects and absolutely more fun than using Excel or even MS Project. Plus, the ability to add endless comments on each card by team members as well as checklists and attachments makes for a very powerful work organization tool. Trello does not really replace high-end PM tools like Project as it does not do things like effort, percent complete, create Gantt Charts, etc. However, for team-based projects that require interaction across many team members Trello appears to be a very easy and fun way to keep track of projects with multiple tasks. I am ready to upgrade my organization to the Business version to show my support for this great product.

Have you tried Trello? If not, are you using an iPad-based project management tool for yourself and/or your team?

 

About the author

    Chris Lee

    I am a healthcare administrator interested in being productive. I believe that the combination of a tablet (iPad Air 32GB) and a smartphone (iPhone 5 in my case) can drastically improve how we do work without adding too much complexity. The “how” of accomplishing this productivity is the focus of this blog. Here are just a few of the topics I hope to cover. Even though I use iOS devices currently I am in no way totally tied to Apple. I have used a Surface 2 for an extended time and am currently considering replacing my HP laptop with a Surface at some point, so keep reading to find out when this happens. Heck, I may even write a post some day on getting efficient with a Kindle Fire HD given that my daughter just got one for her birthday awhile back.

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