From the beginning, Trello as a tool has been used to fuel Trello as a company. As a company that operates via a large remote workforce supporting 17 million users globally, it’s truly impossible to tell how Trello as a company could function without its own tool supporting collaboration and so much more.
By dogfooding our own product, we’re at the front line of testing, fixing bugs, and exploring the ins and outs of new features. We’re able to do so easily because using Trello is a core part of our company culture.
In the words of Canadian intellectual Marshall McLuhan, for us, “the medium is the message.” What we do, how we do it, why, and where… these are all intertwined in Trello as a tool, a company, a team and a way to work.
Recently, our friends at Zapier took some time to speak with different Trellists about all the ways we use Trello to collaborate, plan, and communicate as a team. Here are some highlights from their illuminating interviews, plus some additional tips and tricks straight from the source!
As we told Zapier:
"By running our entire business in Trello, not only does every team member benefit from our own product, but we each have a comprehensive understanding of it. Our users' pain points are our pain points, and their delights are ours, too."
- Lauren Moon, Content Marketing Manager
We Manage Workloads With ‘The Incoming List’
We care a lot about team communication, whether it’s over Slack, across time zones, or between departments. Using Trello boards across the whole company keeps our communication transparent and easy to manage.
Over 65% of the Trello team is remote, making digital tools more imperative for great communication.
Because we’re a remote-first company, Trello is the perfect tool to support asynchronous communication about ideas and tasks. One common characteristic of most team boards at Trello is an “Incoming” list that anyone at the company can use to submit feedback, requests, or questions to that team.
When Support needs to request help from an engineering team like iOS or Android, they always know which board and which list to head to: “That way, a support agent can drop a card in the 'incoming' list about a possible bug. We know the team will go through that list at least once a week," says support specialist Michelle Earhart.
Marketing also uses an “Incoming” list to welcome content ideas for the blog’s editorial calendar. "When someone drops a card in our 'incoming' list, the marketing team discusses the content," Lauren explains. "Even if we decide it's not a fit for our blog, we like to think about where else the content could be published."
The “Incoming” list gives our whole company a similar task assignment process that respects each individual’s schedule and workload. Rather than having the requestor attempt to assign someone to the task, putting the request to the whole team means the best person available can pick it up and address it. The “Incoming” list also keeps the information exchange transparent and encourages solution-oriented collaboration—which is just a fancy term for team spirit. (Go team go!)
We Personalize Productivity Methods
Distractions can derail a productive workday faster than you can say “silent mode.” We’re always trying to manage constant context switching between tools and the barrage of distracting notifications from team activity online.
Working on a variety of different projects across email, Slack, Trello, and other team-specific tools is part of a typical workday at Trello (and, really, at most companies these days). When Zapier asked some of our team members how they manage their time, their answers showed all of us just how varied the path to personal productivity can be:
- Anna Lewis, Director of Recruiting, uses a personal “To-Do’s board to stay focused on what’s most important for her each day. Three lists are all she needs to prioritize tasks: “Daily,” “Pop-Ups” (which handles random incoming tasks throughout the day), and “Done” for that ultimate feeling of accomplishment. “It's less about an exact schedule or to-do list, and it's much more about just having a daily rhythm. I am a big believer in rhythms. Otherwise, I would be dividing my attention way too much.”
- Our CMO JD Peterson manages the demand on his time by having “Slack off” hours where he disconnects from Slack and phone calls to focus on project and idea development: “I take two-hour blocks of my day to just turn it off. Otherwise, I definitely find myself getting trapped in too much noise.”
- Michelle manages her Support workload with a time technique she calls “chunking” where she organizes her day by morning, afternoon, and evening categories: "I can easily get into the weeds over-scheduling my day by the hour, so instead I just ask myself: 'What do you work on this morning?'" Earhart says. "Then I tell myself: 'Do your emails, and then work on these two articles.' 'Then what are you doing in the afternoon?' 'Well, I'll answer my emails, monitor Twitter, then work on this project.' I keep track of this loose schedule on pen and paper. That way, it's not too intimidating."
We also manage digital distractions and notification overload by integrating our tools as much as possible. A big productivity win for us is the Trello app for Slack, which allows us to make, manage, and subscribe to cards and boards without ever leaving our chat channels.
We also use different Zaps from the Trello Zapbook to automate tasks like filing support tickets, submitting requests for swag, and reviewing editorial requests.
When an employee wants to send swag to a contact, they fill out a Wufoo form that goes to our Community Manager. A Wufoo-Trello Zap then automatically submits the request to the (you guessed it) “Incoming” list on the Swag board.
Wufoo to Trello
Our content marketing team loves to source pitches and stories from guest writers both within and outside the company. A few different Zaps are set up to ensure none of these incredible ideas go missing. Whether the pitch is submitted via our blog’s Jotform submission page, or directly via email, all of them go to a dedicated editorial board for consideration.
Jotform to Trello
Gmail to Trello
Our support specialists love to work fast (like, lightning fast) so they combine Trello’s Help Scout Power-Up with a Slack Zap to respond as quickly as possible.
When new conversations about Trello Enterprise are assigned in Help Scout, those assignments are sent to a public support Slack channel as notifications. This Zap keeps the whole team in the loop regarding priority cases.
Helpscout to Slack
All this to say… if you ever need Trello support, they’re all over it.
We Plan For Simple Project Workflows
As our company changes and grows (and it’s growing quickly), we are constantly updating our workflows to be both task- and team-friendly. When something works, we stick with it for as long as it continues to be the optimal way for us to work together successfully on tasks.
Our HR team recently built a new “Recruiting Hub” process in Trello to help managers across the company keep track of hiring needs and requirements in one central location. For each open role (which is made into its own card on an “Actively Open and Posted” list), the recruiting team adds a checklist that details the full interview process and documentation.
This checklist is copied over to each new role, and the progress can be seen at-a-glance on the front of the card. "The checklists within the cards help us make decisions early on," Anna explained in her interview. "It prevents us from getting to the interview stage for a role and still be discussing what exercises to give candidates. At that point, we're already ready to go."
We also make a point to reuse board workflows that have worked really well for us. For example the Marketing team creates a new board for every launch of a new Power-Up feature. Every Power-Up launch board is set up in the same way:
- The first list on the left is for “Helpful Info,” which lays out the launch date, timeline and assets the team might need. This information is kept front and center to save time and effort asking and locating these must-have details.
- Launch tasks are then piled in a “To Do” list, and team members assign themselves accordingly.
- As the launch prep progresses, cards are moved through “In Progress,” “Ready for Launch,” and “Launched”.
As JD puts it: "We like the structure of these lists on our Power-Up launch board, so we just clone it for the next launch." In fact, we recently wrote an entire ebook detailing how we run successful marketing campaigns in Trello, and includes using workflow templates to save planning time. Download the ebook and sample boards here.
Trello Is The Way We Work
In short, every day we work on Trello right inside of Trello. It’s the way we plan, communicate, collaborate, brainstorm, organize, collect, share, and connect. The product is growing and so are we. This constant evolution continues to be an epic journey, and we are excited to take it right alongside our users.