Lists on a Trello board

Using Trello for Process Management

Earlier this week, I mentioned using Trello as the core of a system to manage processes. Today I’m going to cover how to set up Trello in a way that helps you manage processes.

If you want a refresher or need to catch up on this week’s topic, go here.

Before You Open Trello

You’ll hear me say this over and over because it’s a common mistake businesses make all the time. Don’t ever start with the technology! Spending a bit of time upfront doing some thinking is going to make the technology really work for your business and give you much more value.

I’ll ask you first to pick the process you want to facilitate with Trello. It really can be anything in your business, but the better candidates are processes that have a longer duration and several steps that you want to track.

In an example I gave earlier in the week, I talked about new Client onboarding and I’ll use that again as the example to talk through in more details today.

Define Your Desired Outcomes

Think through what you’re trying to get out of the process. You should have that clearly defined upfront and ensure that your desired outcomes fit within the context of the system and your business. This will help you ensure you are doing what’s needed (and not a bunch of extra stuff) to get the outcomes your business needs.

In the case of Client onboarding, I might define my desired outcome as new Clients that are already getting loads of value and have the information they need to be highly successful with my products.

Define Your Process Steps

Again, we’re still not even at the point of needing to open Trello. This prep work will make setting up Trello very quick and easy once we’re ready.

The next step would be to define the steps in your process. Define a clear start or trigger to your process. This could be a certain event happening or a certain time/date. In the case of onboarding a new Client, I might define the trigger as the Client making their first payment for a product.

Define the end point. When does your process finish? In the case of Client onboarding, let’s say our last step in the process is when we transition them into “normal operations” and we’ve completed all of the new Client tasks.

Next you’ll want to walk through the major steps to get from the start of your process to the end of the process. For this part, think of the major milestones that need to happen. You don’t need to call out every single detailed task at this point. When we get to Trello, these major steps will become the lists/columns that show up on the Trello board.

For Client onboarding, I’d define the following steps

  • Collect Payment
  • Schedule Intake Call
  • Send new Client package in the mail/post
  • Complete First Session
  • Schedule Follow Up Call
  • Complete Follow Up Call
  • Move Client to Normal Operations

Levels or Dimensions

When you think about the process running, do you have levels or dimensions you want to see and understand? For example, in our new Client process, let’s say there are three different packages a Client could come in at: Premium, Plus, or Standard. This is what I mean by levels or dimensions. It’s a way to categorize an individual instance of this process being run.

Other examples – If I was building a process to map ad creation, I might include the intended platform as a dimension I want to see: Facebook, YouTube, Google, etc.

If I was tracking an article publishing process, I might include topics as a dimension.

If I was tracking projects in my business, I might use project size as a dimension.

Secondary Tasks

We’re almost to Trello, but one more step before we get there. The last thing to do is to think through all of the secondary tasks that you want to make sure get done throughout the process. These don’t have to be sequential and should include anything else that needs to get done that’s important to the process.

In the case of new Client onboarding, we’ll say some secondary tasks we might include are

  • Complete the new Client survey
  • Set Client goals in CRM
  • Provide Client a secondary level product review

With secondary tasks identified, we’re now ready to set up Trello and get tracking on this process!

Workspace Organization in Trello

When you’re in Trello, you’ll first want to consider how you organize your workspace. This is going to be totally up to you and what makes sense in your head. You’ll also probably do it differently if you’re already using Trello in your business and have a bunch of defined workspaces already.

Two common ways to organize workspaces would be around functional areas of your business (Product Management, Marketing, Operations, etc.) and you would create process boards within the functional areas. You could also add a workspace specifically for process management and put all your process boards in there regardless of functional area.

Add a New Board

After you’ve decided on how you’ll organize your workspace, the next step is to create the board. There’s no real magic here – create the board, give it a name, and set any of the other board properties that you want for the board.

Create a new board

Add Process Steps As Lists

Add a list to the board for each of the major process steps you defined at the start. These should be in chronological order since you will move each card “through the process” as work is completed.

Lists on a Trello board

Create a Card Template for Each Level

Next, create some card templates for each of the levels or dimensions we defined earlier. It will be easier to track these if you give each template the name of the level it will represent.

Add new template

Once you’re into the card template editor, go down the right hand side and add things you want to track with each card (process instance).

Make sure to add a label to the template and name the label the same as the level or dimension. This will give you a color coding when you look at the board that allows you to easily see what level each card matches to without having to open the card.

You also want to add a checklist that contains all of the secondary items you identified at the beginning of this exercise. You can add multiple checklists here if you have secondary tasks that you want to keep separate.

Make sure that “template” is checked in the bottom right of the card (5th up from the bottom).

Again, go through each of the levels/dimensions you defined and create a template for each level.

Completed Trello Template

You’re Ready for Action

Now you’re all set and ready to start using your board to manage processes in your business. Anytime the process begins, add a new card to represent a new instance of that process. You can then move the card through each process step as it’s completed and check off secondary items as they are finished.

This will give you a way to manage your process, train others on how it works, and see in real time what’s running through the process.

Trello board in action

Once you have it locked down, you can start to automate things with Trello itself (requires the paid version) or other tools like Zapier. Here are some of the common automations that Zapier has ready to go. You can create a new card –

  • from Google Calendar events
  • from new rows on a Google Sheet
  • at a specific time of the week
  • from Evernote notes
  • And many more!

As usual, reach out if you have any questions.


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