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Why Trello Instead of Alternatives For Large Teams? Edited

Hi everyone,

I should first state that as an individual user, I've used and loved Trello for a long time; it has enabled me to manage and optimize my professional workflows for many years.

However, I'm now starting to transition into a project manager role at my company and that means choosing the right tool to use across my team, and I'm having serious doubts about Trello.

I'd like to pose the following question and would absolutely love to hear any insight other users can provide...

Why should I try to cobble together multiple 3rd party apps to create a process that fits my team, when there are competitors out there that already provide this functionality out of the box? Functionality like...

  • Gaantt Charts
  • Task dependencies
  • Multiple workflow views (kanban, list, timeline, etc)
  • Custom project templates
  • ...and more

It just seems like it's a hassle and more expensive to go with Trello (when you factor in business class + paid apps).

I'm really hoping someone could shine some light because I want to continue using Trello.

Thank you!


1 answer

1 vote
Iain Dooley Community Leader Oct 07, 2019

@Daniel I work as a consultant systemising business workflows and every other system I've ever worked with runs into intractable problems. Like, if you do a feature list comparison, sure, those applications win, but "oils ain't oils", just because something says it has task dependencies, doesn't necessarily mean that it has an implementation of that feature that is going to suit your business.

So often, what happens is you have something that more or less does what you need, but has lots of gaps, that are filled with email, txt messages, phone calls, slack, Zapier plugins to other apps, and/or endless meetings.

Trello is the only platform that I've worked with that can be a hub for orchestrating all other systems and processes in a business (without being Oracle or SAP), and can replace email as the "system that drives all other systems".

Where you have the goal of having one system to rule them all, that system is usually so complicated that it has it's own set of consultants to set it up and configure it for you even though you're supposed to be able to do it yourself (and even then, people end up using slack/email/txt messages/whatsapp etc. to fill in the gaps in implementation). Things like simpro, Jira, SalesForce, Microsoft Dynamics, Microsoft Project etc. So even when a thing says it has all those "features" the reality is that they don't just jump out of the box and start doing what you need.

With Trello, what they have done is created what is essentially like a box of Lego, that takes very little opinion of how it's supposed to be used, and with a focus not on building features but on being an incredible API/platform.

That said, I think there are some considerable flaws in the out of the box Trello system:

1) The notifications are far too voluminous and most people end up turning them off, mostly because you automatically "watch" any card you're added to and are subsequently notified whenever someone sneezes in the vicinity of that card. Not only that but the email notifications don't get sent if you read them somewhere else, and because they're so voluminous, Trello tries to group them but you end up with this weird soup of notifications that people frequently ignore

2) The "Cards view" doesn't allow you to move cards around, so you can see cards you're added to across all boards, but can't easily reprioritise them

3) The power up architecture doesn't play nicely with lots of different boards, mostly is unintuitive and complicated to set up for lots of different users unless you're an entire team of power users

4) Power ups are mostly window dressing, don't work on mobile, and the best power ups are actually those that are provided by Trello anyway (with the exception of Butler which was acquired by Trello) so the value for money in paying for all these power ups is pretty minimal

HOWEVER, when Butler Bot first came out, I think it really showed the true power of the Trello API and how Trello can be a "swiss army knife" of interfaces to provide structure to workflow and communication across an organisation on a wide variety of devices with the flexibility to cater to virtually any business requirement.

To that end, I've really doubled down on systemising Trello as a platform, coupled with Google Apps Script I think it's insanely powerful. I created Benko Board which integrates Gmail with Trello and fixes the notifications/cards view:

and Trellinator which is an all purpose automation tool similar to what Butler Bot used to be prior to acquisition by Trello:

Having worked with many different companies in many different industries using many different systems (including building custom software), Trello + automation with Google Apps Script is the combination of platforms that has allowed me to consistently deliver the most value for money to customers and create the most comprehensive "all of business" automations (rather than just marketing or sales automation which is the process automation focus du jour) with a low ongoing subscription cost.

Coupled with the ability for people to do their own automations with Butler, it's poised to dominate the space, almost like being "wordpress for back office".

I think it's true that Trello has a number of flaws, and their paid plans are weird, and the power ups don't generally deliver what everyone expects them to, BUT because it's such a good platform, it's one where you can create custom automations that will compensate for those flaws. I've never run into a hard limitation that I couldn't overcome in 4 years of specialising in Trello automation with dozens of companies in a variety of different industries.

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