The biggest problem that many of us had with Trello, was its lack of cross-board / cross-project planning and scheduling functionality. Tracking a single project across several boards seemed like an impossible undertaking. But with managing multiple projects, Trello left us high and dry. Luckily, these times are over.

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.

cross-board functionality in Trello

Creating Cross-Board Functionality in Trello

Let’s be pragmatic.

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?

To put Trello boards together in such a way that they can exchange information, we are going to use an external tool. It is called Butler for Trello.

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.

cross-board functionality in trello

Take them as a basis and begin to think about what actions are needed for your cross-board workflow.

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

The importance of picking the right actions for creating an awesome workflow is self-evident.

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

 

If you have never seen any command examples for Butler for Trello, I encourage you to first check out this article of mine, where I introduce 11 command examples to automate the most time-consuming tasks in Trello. They will give you a first idea of what’s possible and how to begin with automating your Trello boards.

pink arrow inspirITingCross-Board Example 1: Multiple Project Boards – 1 Master Board – 1 Archive Board

cross-board functionality in Trello example 1Let’s say you are having a bunch of boards you use for different projects. Now, checking back and forth on all these boards is cumbersome. Without a doubt. Sometimes you miss out on a board and open tasks are falling through the cracks.

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.

With this setup, you can create a web of boards and gain control over all your tasks again.

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 Workflow Kit for Master-Project Board System allows you to set up an unlimited number of (project) boards that are all reporting into one central Master board in Trello.

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 functionality in Trello Workflow Kit Master Project Board System

For a long time, Trello was lacking the ability to add cross-board and cross-project planning and scheduling features. This made managing multiple project boards a hard undertaking. By using Butler for Trello, this is now definitely possible. And with this Workflow Kit, you will have that set up in no time!

pink arrow inspirITingCross-Board Example 2: Email Hub Board

Let’s assume you want to escape the tyranny of your email inbox. By setting up a label system, you could forward emails with the labels of your choice into a Trello board. This can be set up with IFTTT, for instance.

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.

cross-board functionality in Trello

This can be achieved with relatively low effort by using Butler for Trello. The best way to do this is by using a command with Action Multipliers. For instance, when a card is emailed in, for each label, copy the card to “{labelname}”. This would perform the same action (= copying the card to the list with the right label), whilst at the same time adjusting the variable (= the list’s name).

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 …

pink arrow inspirITingCross-Board Example 3: Dashboard

cross-board functionality in Trello dashboardDid you know you can create Trello cards from checklist items?

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.

cross-board functionality in Trello dashboard feature

Over to You

The digital age requires from us to work with more and more resources and handle immense amounts of information. Being able to keep track of that in Trello with a well-designed and reliably working network of boards, is now a necessity and no longer a nice-to-have.

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?

Here are some other Workflow Kits that might be right for you:

cross-board functionality in Trello workflow kit classic 3
cross-board functionality in Trello workflow kit master to-do
cross-board functionality in Trello workflow kit rolling calendar

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