Can Trello’s workflows be improved?
Trello is, in many ways, one of the original kanban software. Designed to remember a board with post-it notes, Trello’s been employed as the go-to board solution by companies and students alike, and sometimes is a favorite even for personal use.
However, Trello has also remained relatively unchanged over the years. With loads of other workflow solutions, some flaws have become more apparent nowadays than when it was first introduced to the market. In fact, as your company grows in size and complexity, you may find yourself wondering if kanbans should be just a way of viewing data, and not the main way of storing it.
In this article, we list some reasons Trello’s boards may not be enough for you, and how jestor can be the best way to build your processes.
A brief summary:
But first, let’s go through the main positives of Trello and how it can be a useful tool for your team.
A low learning curve, bustling community and overall familiarity makes starting a breeze
As we’ve said before, Trello is one of the original and most popular kanban solutions out there. It’s very focused on what it wants to be: a digital version of a physical kanban board, and it nails it. If your team has done work on boards before, jumping from post-it notes to Trello cards is an almost effortless next step.
Even if there are still some features that you don’t fully understand at first, the longevity of the app itself also means a lot of people have mastered it, shared their opinion and put in some time to help others understand how to use Trello efficiently.
This is also not limited to strangers online only. Chances are if you decide to use Trello for any sort of workflow, someone in your team will probably have used it before, or at least had some casual experience with it.
This makes jumping on the Trello wagon one of the easiest steps for any team searching for a kanban solution.
With that said, while it may be one of the easiest tools to start using out there, it has some limitations that may make it rather hard to scale up as processes and teams grow. Here are some of them.
Weak spot 1: Data is not a priority
Trello comes with a range of customizing options: from changing the background of your board to adding stickers to individual cards, you truly feel as if this is a board in your own office that you’ve added your own personal flair to.
However, while Trello has a ton of cosmetic customization options, this doesn’t translate into the structure of the board itself. Title, description, labels, team members, attachments, dates and checklists: most of this structure remains largely unchanged across any board you may have in your account.
There are some ways to circumvent this, such as using the Custom Fields power-up (Trello’s version of plugins to add new features to your account). This power-up will let you create new fields for a board, but they are very limited in type and will always be grouped under the same section, “Custom Fields”, which may feel somewhat lacking in organization.
That’s because Trello’s focus is not on organizing data, but visualizing workflows: looking at cards and seeing their statuses and deadlines quickly, and commenting or attaching things fast.
This kind of focus can work well when dealing with small projects or tasks, or when using Trello much like a physical board (such as having daily, weekly and monthly tasks where all you need is to have instructions in each card), but can be a problem when you need more structured information. Though Trello has recently added a Table view for premium plans, you can’t fully take advantage of a table without more advanced customization options. In essence.
In jestor, things work on a different logic: everything that holds information is at first a table. Every table is customizable with an array of different types of fields, such as formula or date with time, so you can store any kind of data you need. And then, if you need to see this table as a workflow, you can activate a Flow view using any list type field to generate the columns.
This ensures that you’ll have full flexibility to create workflows that hold all the data that is important to you and keep them organized as a true database. Also, your workflow will have only the information that you deem important: by not having a static structure, not only will you be able to create more when the need arises, but you may also trim down what you’re not using and is cluttering your process.
Finally, one important feature of having a data-first approach and treating kanbans as a way of viewing that data is that you can activate more than one view per table. So, if you want to see the Projects table as a board of stacks by status, you can. And, if you want to change that view to stack by priority, you can do that too without having to create a separate board.
Keeping data organized is one of the most important things for growing companies, and you can understand how to build scalable structures with our Scalable Process course.
Weak spot 2: Trello doesn’t connect information
When you think about complete processes, you usually have information that can be used repeatedly. For example, let’s imagine a company that manufactures chairs. A specific chair may use specific material, and have specific steps of assembly. This is information that will be constantly reused: you’ll follow the same instructions every time you build that specific chair.
Trello is not a relational database and, as such, doesn’t allow you to connect information in that manner. Every card is self-contained, which means that you’ll have to copy and paste instructions every time you create a request on the kanban. You could create a board of instructions and then copy the URL onto the request description, but that is far from an elegant solution.
The same logic could be applied to a CRM, for example. If you can have more than one deal per client, there’s really no way to create a database of clients and link cards to them to quickly check up on contact info or team size. By treating each card as an island, if you want information somewhere, you’ll have to copy it there.
Jestor, in turn, is a relational database. That means information is grouped together as records, and you can create connections between records for ease of access or even improving automations.
In practice, each record on a table, or card on kanban, may point to a different record, and you can even check which records are connected to the one you’ve opened by looking at the Connected panel on the right side of the card.
Not only does that keep information more organized and save you from having to manually copy information, relational data is the backbone of scalable processes and growth oriented companies. Think of how many areas of the company will have to share the same information (such as Sales and Finance teams looking up Client information) and you’ll realize how important it is to centralize and connect data.
To find out more about why using true databases are vital to scaling up, check out this article.
Weak spot 3: Permissioning is too shallow
Trello has some ways of handling who can see or edit information:
- You may set a board as Private, Public or accessible to anyone on your organization or workspace;
- You can define users as members or observers, then subsequently change each class permissions accordingly (such as having the power to invite new members or comment on cards).
If you’ve controlled processes on spreadsheets befores and you’ve already felt the inherent problems imposed by the three level permissioning, chances are you’re going to face similar challenges when dealing with Trello’s permissioning system. That is: it’s not customizable enough to cover all the needs of a complex process.
For example, should you need that a specific user has full access to a board except being able to edit, or even see, a specific field, there’s no way to do this. Another example would be a shared board between you and your clients: unless you want a client to see other clients’ data, you’ll have to create a separate board for each one. In this scenario, your team would have to juggle between dozens of different boards instead of having a centralized one.
In jestor, you can create access levels with whatever rules you want to. A specific access level may have access to the Projects board, for example, but not be able to see certain fields (such as Budget), edit others (such as changing the Deadline) and even have a filtered view of the information (like only seeing cards attributed to them, or that are marked in the status “In Progress”).
As jestor allows structural customization such as creating new tables or fields, permissioning extends to those kinds of power too: you can define if an access level can create, edit or delete records or even fields on a table.
So while one user may see this:
The other may only see this:
This level of control allows you to create the best possible structure and then mold permissions accordingly. In the scenario of a shared board with clients, for example, you can set up permissions so that clients have access to the same board, but each one only being able to see their own projects. This way your team only has to deal with one workflow, greatly improving productivity.
To find out more about why permissioning is so important, you can check out this article.
Weak spot 4: You may need more complex automations
Trello has its own sort of no-code tool for creating automations called Butler. You can use it to create rules which, when satisfied, will automatically perform certain actions, such as changing a card name or changing a set date on the card.
This is a cool feature that can really save some time when dealing with repetitive tasks, and can ensure certain obligatory steps in the process are automatically executed, preventing human error.
However, from our previous points it should come to no surprise that this allows you to create automations that operate only inside the same board. You can’t, for example, set up an automation that creates a card on a different board when a card reaches the end of the board you’re in. This makes it so you can have very efficient self-contained workflows, but no way of automating a chain of different processes. For example, by not being able to create a Client record when a Lead reaches “won” status, there’ll be a gap between Sales and Billing process that will have to be abridged manually, increasing the chances of something going wrong along the way.
In jestor, you also have no-code automations and integrations in the way of tricks: an easy way of setting up rules/triggers and actions. Not only can you create automations that work inside the same workflow, but you can create automations to connect different tables and flows in any way you’d like, effectively being able to automate chains of processes across your entire organization.
Also, besides having tricks to quickly create automations, you can develop your own code to create any sort of automation or integration you want to. This means it doesn’t matter how complex or intricate your solution is, with a bit of code you can do it on jestor.
By having both no-code and low-code options, jestor allows companies of any size and complexity to bring their processes aboard. It doesn’t matter if you triple overnight: jestor is flexible enough to adapt to you, so you don’t have to adapt to a rigid structure. This also empowers your team to automate their process on their own, effectively giving them the power to be their own software houses—sometimes without a single line of code.
To find out more about why integrations and automations can boost your company to the next level, check out this article.
Trello is a fine tool for creating simple workflows or accompanying simple tasks or projects, and has a structure that is very effective to this. However, this structure is rigid, and should you need something a little bit more flexible, it may not be able to keep up with your processes.
Jestor can become anything you want, which means you can create structures that mimic exactly what you’d get from Trello, as well as things that you wouldn’t have there. The combination of structured data, relational information, robust permissioning and complex automations will bring your processes to the next level, and be flexible enough to keep up with increasingly complex processes you may develop as you grow.
If you value rigid structures and off-the-shelf solutions for its simplicity and low learning curve, or if you want more cosmetic customization options, you may want to give Trello a shot. However, if what you need is a better way of organizing data and automating processes, jestor brings a lot more to the table on that front.
As a final note, you may also want to consider integrating both platforms so that you get the best of both worlds. So, if your team wants to use Trello for managing tasks or clients’ projects because it already has everything they need for that specific purpose, or because they are already familiar with the tool, integrating jestor and Trello so that your projects’ data is organized and centralized can be an excellent move. This way, your team will have everything they love about Trello, but your company will benefit from everything else jestor brings to the table.
If you need more flexibility and organization, jestor has everything you need and more.
When your company grows, you need a platform that is designed for growth. If you need full control and data reliability, why don’t you give jestor a spin?