Since the acceleration of Trello’s Power-Up features, the list of external tools integrating useful applications into Trello is getting larger every month. Now, that the developer team behind Trello jumped on that bandwagon of connecting more and more web apps into Trello, there is a strategy becoming visible, where this flexible project management tool is heading to. I am relieved that it is finally possible to create workflows across boards. Multiple project boards can be handled more effectively. And we can now find new ways to scale our business’ requirements within Trello.In this article, I want to explore and highlight a few ways of how Trello can expand into a web of tangentially connected boards that transfer information between boards and depict how information flows in a business’ process. Cross-board functionality in Trello was a feature that was missed by many of us.
Today, this is possible. It is possible to let information flow across boards in many, many ways. Some ideas I am going to introduce to you here, and hopefully, you can use them as an inspiration to build your own web of boards.
Creating Cross-Board Functionality in Trello
Trello is a flexible tool with a solid foundation for self-organization and managing projects. There are many ways how cross-board activity can be set up. The more boards are involved, the more complex the setup can become.
Have a look at the options below. Which one(s) look most interesting to you?
Butler comes in two versions: as a Bot that needs access to your boards as a member, and as a Power-Up. Both options have advantages and disadvantages.
As a rule of thumb I’d say, if you are just starting out and want to create some basic workflows in your board, the Power-Up is the one to go for. However, if you are planning to build something impressive, like a web of boards that exchanges information in multiple ways, you better stick to the ButlerBot. It might be a bit more difficult to handle at first, but it comes with more features which enable you to build better workflows. The best part about Butler is that you can create commands in plain English. No need to learn a programming language to use this tool.
In order to assemble cross-board functionality in Trello, you need to think in terms of triggers and actions.
Actions … what do you want to achieve? What do you want to happen between your boards?
Have a look at this overview of available actions that the ButlerBot can use.
What are musts, what are nice-to-haves?
You can have multiple actions executed by a single command. How many actions, depends on the pricing plan you are on. But with a free account you can stuff at least 10 actions into one command.
To learn more about what’s possible and what’s not, you may want to enroll in my free online course.
The Importance of Picking the Right Actions
From my own experience, I can tell you that I adjust commands multiple times until I am happy with the result.
It usually goes like this: I set up a command with a bunch of actions, and then I do a test run. I see if it works how I want it to, and if not, I look out for what the problem is. When everything is fine so far, I have another look and question:
- Is this how I wanted the workflow?
- Does it really make sense, or is there maybe a better way to set up the process?
- Could I eventually add something else? Or, remove something (simple is sexy)?
- If I am setting up a cross-board feature, do I need to have some actions executed on the target board as well? – If so, I need to incorporate that into the command on the board of origin. Because of the possible problem of command chaining, I cannot stack commands together like shoeboxes. I need to think ahead and consider the issue that the ButlerBot doesn’t react to its own actions.
- Often times, I have new ideas how to improve a command later during the day. When I come back, a new round of iteration is happening to the command. New ideas flow in, new pathways open up. New workflows are built.
This is normal.
Building workflows is an iterative process.
Even though you may know exactly what outcome you want to have: the granularity of how goals can be achieved, can be sometimes astonishing! When you stay open and flexible and allow yourself to be surprised about things can play out, you get to your goal!
Now, let’s have a look at 3 examples for cross-board functionality in Trello. These are 3 ideas. If you cannot apply them to the board structure you have set up, simply take them as an inspiration for what can be achieved.
3 Cool Examples for Cross-Board Features in Trello
Cross-Board Example 1: Multiple Project Boards – 1 Master Board – 1 Archive Board
How about if you could set up a Master board that holds all your open and actionable tasks? This way, you could see at a glance what’s on your plate and what needs your attention. Because each and every card in the Master board is linked to the card on its board of origin, a constant syncing can happen between these related tasks on all boards.
Think about it this way: You can work on the card in the Master’s board. Comment on it, add URLs, attachments, and deadlines. But you could also work on the card in its individual project board. When you finish the task, its card will be moved to an Archive Board that works like a library of done tasks. The corresponding card on the individual project board gets also archived, but inside the board, not externally.
Nothing can be forgotten and with the addition of a few extra features, like I have created for the Workflow Kit – you will be much better organized and feel good about it.
That’s a really nice way to build a dashboard or control center. I can imagine that this could be a nice option for remote or interdisciplinary teams that collaborate on larger projects. Such a dashboard could significantly reduce the effort of coordination in the team.
The basic feature of this Workflow Kit ism, that cards from an individual board are copied into the Master board. These cards are then linked to each other so that they can be synced back and forth. No longer do you need to open board after board to check your different tasks. By using a Master board (or a dashboard, however you want to call it) all tasks are immediately visible and can be taken care of right from the Master board.
Cross-Board Example 2: Email Hub Board
When those emails arrive in your Trello board, they can be automatically moved to new lists (based on the label they have, for instance) and from there they could be copied to boards where they belong.
From there, you could either distribute the cards further, to another board. Or, you could set up some sequences that inform other members of the existence of a new task. Or, you could have the card scanned for a certain phrase(s) and then copy it to another board. Or, … so many possibilities …
Cross-Board Example 3: Dashboard
This Trello feature is actually limited to work in a single board only. But, with the help of Butler for Trello, you can extend this functionality to work across boards!
Imagine, having cards with checklists in one board whose items are bi-directionally linked to cards on other boards.
The moment these cards are marked as completed, the checklist item is also checked off. It’s also easy to add new tasks. Just create a new checklist item, and it will initiate a new card being created from it in the location you specify.
Over to You
I would love to know how you are planning to use Trello workflows yourself.
Are you using multiple board setups – and if so, in what ways? It would be awesome to create a resource for like-minded people, how boards can be scaled. Do you care to share?