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April 26, 2018

Revolutionise your software development lifecycle with Trello (Part 1/4)

Evan Golden 6 minute read

Firstly, I need to be upfront about something.  I have held a conscious bias for over ten years now.  I love Jira.   I have used it for more use cases than I care to remember, for software-related projects, business projects, and many more important things.

While I love using Jira for just about everything, I have also been an avid fan of Trello for about the same length of time.  I have happily used it for managing basic day-to-day tasks, and have even leveraged it for a small software development team.

I never shy away from telling customers that Trello is missing a bit of the functionality Jira has when it comes to managing products, and software development.  For example, Trello does not have the built-in reporting (without a power-up), custom real-time dashboards (without a power-up), the backlog view, swimlanes, and easy traceability of stories up to their associated epics (without a power-up) that Jira has.

However, what Trello does offer, that Jira does not, is a lightweight easy-to-use tool to manage all your software teams planning and execution.  It is easy to configure, administer, and use. With a little creativity, you can have an application that works quite well for almost any business process.

The steps we will focus on in this series are:

  1. Feature Requests
  2. Requirements Management
  3. Development with Scrum and Kanban Teams
  4. Release Management

The purpose of this blog series is to walk through the software development lifecycle to describe how teams can use Trello.  This first part will focus on feature requests.  It will answer questions like:

  1. How do we collect features from our customers?
  2. How do we identify what features are most important to  customers?
  3. How do we make decisions as to what features will be selected for development?

Trello Feature Requests

Trello is powerful, but also so lightweight that it can be shaped into just about anything.  A team can have a customer-facing board specifically designated for feature requests that can be used to add, edit, comment on, prioritise, vote, and make decisions on features. This saves a lot of communication time outside of Trello like reducing emails.  

An example Feature Request board in Trello could look like this below:

trello board sample feature request

Notice there are three (3) basic lists that represent a workflow of sorts.  One to collect new features received from customers, one to show features that are selected for development, and one to show which features are on hold for any number of reasons to include new api calls needed etc. When a feature is ready to be assigned to a development team, in theory it would be decomposed, if required, and then moved to a development teams board for development and release.


One great Trello power-up for your feature request board is The Voting power-up. This power-up allows members of a board, team, or the public to vote on cards.  In this case each card is a feature. The votes are tallied and displayed on the card, and you can even see who voted on a particular card. This is valuable for teams to best determine which features are most important to their customers.

sample feature g card

Custom Fields

Another great power-up is the Custom Fields power-up.  With this power-up you can create basic custom fields to add to your trello card.  Text, drop-down, number, date, and checkbox lists can all be created.  They display on the front of the Trello card.  A use case for this is creating a field for priority.  When a customer submits a feature request, they can add their priority to it. Another interesting use case is to document a version on a feature that is selected for development in a text field.

sample feature b card

powerups card

selected development card


As product teams, we receive our features in many different way.  They will not come directly from people going to our Trello boards. Some customer live in social media, and some prefer going to a website and using a communications tool from there.  Some still even use email.  We have to be prepared to receive features from all mediums, but also to be able to place them in a common place where they can be voted on and where decisions can be made.


One neat power-up that helps with this is the Twitter power-up. With this power-up, we can add tweets that are requesting new feautres to our Trello cards.

trello twitter overview

Check out the full gif on the Trello blog


What about if you company uses Intercom?  There is a power-up for that as well. With this power-up you can determine the priority based on seeing how many customers have requested a specific feature, better understand the feature by seeing the conversations that triggered it, and see which customers requested the feature.  Additionally, you can follow-up with them once the feature is live!

trello card feature

Check out the full gif on the Trello blog


Even internal customers may not request features in Trello, and perhaps you use Atlassian Stride.  You can use the marketplace application to integrate these two tools.  With this integration, cards can be created from Stride, linked to Stride, and custom alerts can be created.

stride screenshot bike orders



No matter how much we try to get out of email, some customers prefer this method of communication.  Trello can create cards from emails.  Each board has its own email address, so that can be advertised to customers who are emailing feature requests.  Comments must be enabled on the board in order to use this feature. From the "Email-to-board Settings". you can select where on the board the new card will be created. You can click on the current list name ('None' in the below example) to change that to a different list. 

email to board trello card

Check out the full gif on the Trello blog 


You just might be a Slack shop.  Slack also integrates nicely with Trello with a power-up.  You can create cards from Slack, and also create custom alerts to be sent to Slack from Trello.

feature requests trello

Check out the full gif on the Trello Blog

Decision Making

Now that we have received our features from many different places, and they are all neatly in our feature request Trello board, it is time to decide which features to select for development.  Making decisions is always interesting.  Sure we could do it directly from the Trello board.  That is, in fact, most common, but what if we wanted to leverage some power-ups to assist the decision making process?


Mindmapping is a great, and powerful way to help with the decision making process.  One power-up that integrates with Trello to do mind-mapping.  The first is Smartdraw for Trello.

SmartDraw Pup Attachment



Confluence has always been a great tool for collaboration.  There is also a nice blueprint specifically designed for decision making.  This and the Confluence power-up now give you the power of collaboration and decision making integrated with your feature request board.

Confluence CardBackFull


Stay tuned for part 2!

Feature requests are critical to all software teams.  Without feature requests, the team cannot creatively innovate to give the customers what they want.  In this blog, we showed you how to use Trello to manage feature requests with out of the box functionality and power-ups.  Stay tuned for part 2, where now that we have selected features for development, we will discuss how to use Trello to manage your software teams requirements.