As a project manager, you wear many hats and juggle one too many balls in the air. You could consider yourself a modern-day jester. But sometimes the depth and weight of your responsibilities are not something to laugh about. Building a project from A to Z requires you to:
- Manage a boatload of information
- Track task statuses
- Pull in the right stakeholders at every phase so bottlenecks don’t inhibit progress
Basically, you have to ensure projects are moving forward with minimal hiccups, all while keeping a smile on your face.
So if you feel like pulling your hair out, you can refrain (and hopefully prevent a nasty headache). With a strong project management process and help from some powerful Power-Ups, you’ll be able to put on a show that won’t go unnoticed.
The Four Phases Of Project Management 🌑🌒🌓🌕
Before we dive into the processes and tools you can use to become a PM powerhouse, let’s take it back to the basics. Whether you’re developing a new product, re-designing your company website, or planning the annual offsite for your team, your project will go through the same four phases: planning, build-up, implementation, and closeout. Here’s a quick overview of what work is involved at each phase.
The planning phase is exactly what you would assume – the step in which you map out your project. In this phase, your key activities will include doing research to determine the goals and requirements of the project, identifying stakeholders, defining project objectives, determining scope and resources, and mapping major tasks. This is one of the most important phases, as you need to combine many expectations and requirements for the project into one coherent plan.
2. Build Up
Now that you have the blueprints, it’s time to start constructing the project. Before you can begin though, you need to assemble your team and give them clear direction on schedules, budget, resources, expectations, and requirements. A great way to start any project smoothly is to host a kick-off meeting in order to explain the project plan, review processes, and to answer any questions from your team.
The implementation phase is where the magic happens. It’s the action stage — when the work actually gets done. This is when your project plan is firing on all cylinders. It’s crucial for you, as the project manager, to monitor tasks, timelines, and budget, to report progress, and to maintain open communication with all stakeholders on the project.
Ta-da! You can wipe your hands clean and call it a day at this point. But not so fast. Even though the closeout phase marks the end of a project, you still have some work ahead of you. The closeout phase is the time to evaluate the project performance and to discuss areas where the team exceeded and areas where you could improve in the future.
The most successful projects involve a variety of decision-making at various points along the roadmap. Trello gives you and your team a clear view into the status, progress, and success of projects. And Power-Ups bring new perspectives to a board to make the right decisions. Not only that, they help you work across boards, which foster cross-team collaboration.
Let’s apply this phased approach of project management to a robust Trello workflow:
Putting Your Ducks In A Row: The Planning Phase 🐥
How do you go from a blank board to a powerful workflow? It all starts with a plan. In the project planning phase, you will perform research, set goals and requirements, and scope out your resources and major tasks.
Trello will help you and your team easily track project plans, tasks, and progress. Of course, you can use the classic “To-Do,” “Doing,” and “Done” workflow, but it doesn’t give you a robust process or flexibility to put all your ducks in a row.
The Trello board starts with a General Information list that has important information in cards about the launch date, the project overview, rules on how to use the board, team member responsibilities, Metrics and KPIs, and the company roadmap. The next list is Market Research, followed by the Inbox. The Inbox is for you, the project manager, to easily field incoming requests, questions, and feedback.
The subsequent lists are the backbone of the project management workflow: Backlog, In Progress, Blocked/Paused, Ready for Launch, and Live. The tasks are placed on cards and team members who are assigned to that task are added to the card. The card moves through the workflow as progress is made on completing the task.
Get Your Priorities In Order
Depending on the project, you’ll probably have a lot of cards on the board. At times, it could be hard for team members to decipher which tasks are top priority. Luckily, your team won’t have to do any more guesswork with the airfocus Power-Up.
The airfocus Power-Up empowers you to prioritize your Trello cards and build more effective roadmaps. You’ll be able to see your priority scores (the score you give a task to rank its priority level) and roadmap visualizations right on your Trello board to get your team aligned and focused.
With the airfocus Power-Up you can display the airfocus priority scores on Trello card covers so your team can determine what’s most important at a glance. You will also have quick access to an item table, priority chart, Kanban board, and Gantt roadmap, so there’s no need to switch between your tools constantly. This will help you and your team save time at your next stand up meeting when you’re deciding what to work on next.
Planning Pro Tips
- To create the right lists in your board ask: "What are the different steps of our process? What problems do we want to solve?" and create the lists based on your answers.
- Create a general information list with cards to give context to someone who doesn't know the project details and was just added to the board.
- When tasks are completed, arrange cards into lists that are based on who completed them. This way you can easily refer to these cards and get relevant information on workload when preparing future tasks or projects.
If You Build It, They Will Come: The Build-Up Phase 🔨
Now that you have your plan in place and the Trello workflow created, it’s time to invite your team to the party. At this phase, you will assemble your team, assign the right tasks to the corresponding stakeholders, and create a timeline for the project. It’s a good time to review the rules, process, and expectations of your Trello workflow and board with the team so everyone is aligned on how to get work done cohesively. You can get the ball rolling on this by adding people to the board, assigning cards to team members, and setting deadlines.
How To See The Big Picture With Multiple Deadlines
It can get confusing when you have multiple deadlines and timelines for a project. You can easily combine timelines and view your cards from the board (and other boards!) in one chart with the BigPicture Power-Up. BigPicture displays Trello cards in a form of tasks, which can be easily allocated on the Gantt chart accompanied by the WBS (Work Breakdown Structure) panel.
This Power-Up dynamically gives you a new perspective on your project by displaying selected data the way you want to see it. If your team uses a Waterfall Model, they can choose to view all of the planned steps and their associated deadlines in the Work Breakdown Structure module. If you prefer a Gantt table and being able to highlight dependencies, this is a just a click away. With BigPicture, you and your team can evaluate your project timeline at a glance.
Build-Up Pro Tips
- When assigning cards to team members, clearly define what this means. Is the person the owner, the executor, or the reference of the card?
Identifying the roles and responsibilities before assigning cards will help prevent bottlenecks.
Time To Ship: The Implementation Phase 🚀
This is probably your favorite part of any project – when the work is getting done. With the plan in place and tasks assigned, the project is underway and moving through your beautiful workflow.
Even though these are exciting times, they can also be stressful. It’s important as the project manager to keep tabs on project progress and to monitor, control, and report on that progress. With Trello, you can keep communication on the board by commenting and providing updates to team members directly in their respective cards.
At this phase, team members can easily use the drag and drop functionality in Trello to show the progress of their tasks and the overall project. But what about those tasks that seem to stay in the “In Progress” list for too long? How can you ensure bottlenecks don’t hold up your project progress? The answer is the Time in List Power-Up.
The Countdown Is On
The Time in List Power-Up automatically tracks how long a card has been in a current list. It gives you insight into which tasks or team members are becoming blockers to performance. This Power-Up shows the time on the front of every card, so at a quick glace you can spot slow cards, track performance against SLAs, and see which tasks need to get moving in order to stay on track to your timeline.
The Time in List Power-Up is great for retrospective meetings if you want to learn where you could have worked more efficiently during your latest project.
Implementation Pro Tip
- Add labels to cards in order to filter your card when looking for specific information. For example, add a “High Priority” label to your cards and then filter by this label in order to only see tasks that are high priority.
Closing Time: The Closeout Phase ⏰
Congratulations! You shipped your project and your team can do a collective happy dance for completing the work on time and on budget. But before you all toast to your success, you still have some work ahead of you. The closeout phase is crucial for documenting the project’s success and hiccups and to aid in future planning.
You can simply drag all the cards on the project board to the “Live” or “Done” list, but this doesn’t make a perfect closeout process. You will want to make sure you can easily refer to all your project pieces in the future and review the wins and woes of the project when needed.
You can use two Power-Ups to organize your project plan and reports for next time:
Automation And Planning For The Future
Instead of dragging every card over to completion, you can automate the clean up of your board with the Butler Power-Up. With this Power-Up, you can create rules, schedule commands, and create custom buttons in order to automatically perform actions on your Trello board and cards. For example: when Joyce from QA adds a green label to a card, you can set a rule in Butler to move this card to done as soon as the label is added.
Once your project is completed, it’s important to capture the success and performance of the project. You can easily create a final slide presentation with the Slide Power-Up. It allows you to turn your Trello board into a Google Slides presentation with one click.
Closeout Pro Tips
- In your Information List on the board, add a card to describe what success looks like for your project. You will be able to reference it for your project retrospective and compare expectations with reality.
Organized Processes: A Project Manager’s Best Friend
Project managers are the glue that keeps teams together. From planning, communication, and reporting, it’s essential that you are organized and detail-oriented in order to keep your team moving in the right direction towards launch.
At any given moment, you’re balancing a multitude of tasks, meetings, and expectations, but with this organized process and advanced workflow for project management you can ensure success through every strategy, sprint, and shipment.