Free Agile Task Tracking with Trello

TrelloThere are a ridiculous number of tools out there to help track tasks, but of all of them, Trello has been my favourite for cheap agile task tracking.  It’s has no cost, unlimited boards, real-time collaboration, and a UI so intuitive it makes adoption across the team dead simple.

First priority in selecting a tool has to be that it accomplishes what is needed by the team with as little overhead as possible.  Second priority is that the team has to be willing to use it. Trello meets a lot of needs for specific types of projects, and the free cost helps!

Boards, Lists, and Cards

Like most of the task tracking tools, everything starts with a board, followed by creating columns and tasks.   Columns in Trello are referred to as Lists, and the tasks are referred to as Cards.  They can be used to help you plan and monitor almost any series of tasks, be it related to software development, organizing a retreat, or sizing work packages.

Cards let you do a lot of things: categorize them with labels, add checklists of sub-tasks, conversations between collaborators, attachments, votes, and assignments of board members.

Trello Board Sample

Agile Software Development with Trello

One of the obvious places where Trello can be used is with any team that is running a lean agile software development project with something similar to stories.  Trello developers use Trello themselves to track their development tasks.  The Card in Trello can be easily adapted to a requirement work item:

  1. Work Item Types: Work item types can be implemented by tagging cards (such as Bug, Feature, Impediment, etc.).  This is accomplished via the Labels feature, which also supports filtering by these labels.
  2. Acceptance Criteria: Card descriptions and conversations allow for distributed teams to work in real-time on building up the details of a work package.  Support for file attachments allows for even more granular details on the card beyond the description.
  3. Prioritization: While the concept of ‘story points’ or ‘effort levels’ are not directly represented, priorities can be determined in a few ways.  A voting system allows for stakeholders to provide input into the features that are most interesting to them.  Additionally, Cards can be re-ordered within Lists to provide relative priority within a given List.
  4. Task Owners: Board Members can be dragged or directly assigned onto a Card.  Unlike some tools, assignments of multiple users to a card is supported so that all developers involved in a card can find their work.
  5. Sub-tasks: Checklists can be added to a card to identify any specific sub-tasks like creating test cases, writing documentation, building functionality, deploying to environments.

Agile Project Management with Trello

Other than development, I’ve found a need to track a lot of tasks that aren’t necessarily development tasks.  Keeping on top of documentation, project plan creation, meetings that need to get set up, resources that need to be booked, reports that need to be created.  All of these things need to be tracked, prioritized, distributed to the team, and executed on time.

  1. Deadlines: Cards support Due Dates, which change in colour as the deadline approaches.  This helps for a quick visual to identify upcoming tasks that need to be completed.
  2. Resources: Much like with a project plan, you can associate multiple resources to a given task.  However, Trello doesn’t detect resource conflicts, or support percentage allotments.
  3. Status: Instead of percentage complete as would be seen in a project plan, Lists can be used to give a better status by creating proper states for each Card.  At a glance, project task status can easily be determined by seeing which List the card is in.

Other Cool Stuff

This isn’t an exhaustive list, but there are a few neat things that the Trello team has done:

  1. Export to JSON
  2. Short IDS and links to cards
  3. Card Covers
  4. Trello API
  5. Google Drive Integration


  1. You can also check out Brightpod for managing your projects, marketing campaign and todos. It has got pre-built social media workflows.

    1. Thank you for the suggestion Himali. Brightpod does look very usable, but does not appear to offer a free option for task tracking. $20/month doesn’t really break the bank, but that’s still $20 a month more than what you need to pay the folks at Trello for what seems like a very similar task board. I’m sure the other features make up for it, but those seem to be outside the needs of most software teams.

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