Tools & Technologies

By Jon Grooms

Trello brings the kanban project management style to your digital interface. 

Trello puts kanban planning in your hand

The field of industrial engineering has been on a lean movement since the concept was made famous by the Toyota Production System. Whether at work or home, people are always trying to stay organized, eliminate waste and simplify life.

Many use daily planners. Some need more visual signs such as Post-it notes, while others track activities using email or a calendar. In the ever-growing digital world, Trello is a useful – and free – application to help daily lives.

Trello uses a kanban project management style on its digital interface. Each project, or daily activity, is broken down into its own specific “board” where the details about the activity are located. Once inside the board, users can get creative.

The project boards are broken up into discrete sections to help visualize the project’s flow in an organized way. Within each main project section, “Post-its” show what is being worked on, what has not been started, and what objects in the project have been completed.

Similar to a white board for planning purposes, Trello allows groups to assign specific parts of a project to members and see where along the process these tasks stand in real time. Unlike the white board though, Trello adds the advantages of alerts, reminders and notifications to keep every member up to date.

These notifications can be set on a personal level as well. Whether you would like to receive an email or receive a text message push notification, it’s easy for all members to know when items are completed.

Trello has a simple design to help even the most inept technology user. The cards can be dragged and dropped by the click of the mouse when starting or finishing an activity. On the surface, these cards are very general and just show what the activity is and who on the project owns that section.

Within the cards is where all the detail lies. Checklists can be created, attachments can be added, and due dates can be set all within the “Post-it” cards. Using Trello can eliminate those huge email chains and the constant exchanging of documents by holding the most up-to-date version at all times.

Many large companies and organizations such as Expedia and the University of California Davis have turned to Trello to help with projects. All the information on the site is private and secured using the same encryption technology as banks, ensuring the safety of even the most private work, whether it is your personal project or a team of more than 100. With apps for Android, Apple, Kindle products and the Internet, Trello is accessible to all who have Internet access.

Trello has more than 10 million current users. CEO Michael Pryor, who has set a goal of reaching 100 million users worldwide, recently rolled out paid business class and enterprise versions.

Jon Grooms is a consultant for West Monroe Partners in their workforce optimization practice. He is a member of IIE's Young Professionals group.