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Create a project issue log in Trello

Trello is a collaboration tool that organizes projects into boards and cards. Andrew Makar describes how to create a project issue log in this innovative PM tool.

Project managers are always looking for innovative solutions to manage the administrative glut associated with project management. Managing a project log to track issues, risks, change requests, and action items is a common process for seasoned project managers. Issue logs, risk registers, and change request logs can be stored in multiple documents or integrated into a single spreadsheet with multiple tabs. As more project managers move to web-based tools to support project management processes, the need for effective tools increases, without having to check in and check out a Microsoft Word or Excel document to add a new risk, change, or issue to the log.

In this tutorial, I show how to create a project issue log in Trello, a collaboration tool that organizes projects into boards and cards; I previously wrote about Trello and the benefits of a self-managing status report. After setting up a Trello issue log, you can apply the same structure to track risks, approve change requests, and track action items by simply glancing at the respective board (Figure A). Let's get started. Figure A

Trello issue log (Click the image to enlarge.)

Step 1: Create a new board

1. Click the Boards icon and select New Board.

2. Specify the Organization and Visibility settings (Figure B). In Trello, you can create multiple boards and allow them to be publicly viewable, restricted to your organization or only board members. Figure B

New Board
3. The new board will appear with three default lists: To Do, Doing, Done (Figure C). Rename each list by clicking the list name. I prefer to maintain three issue statuses: Open, In-Progress, and Closed. If your issue management process is different, add a new list to the board and rename it accordingly. Figure C

Default board (Click the image to enlarge.)

Step 2: Create an issue card template

In Trello, every issue will be recorded as a card that is assigned to the appropriate list. Since a project will have multiple issues, you'll want to create an issues template that you can copy and edit for every new issue.

The card name follows the format [Issue Number] Issue Name Template. The card description will include a detailed issue description as well as an impact assessment. I use the brackets [Issue Description] and [Impact] as reminders to complete key information in the card.

The individual card status will adopt a traffic light approach using the following color scheme:

  • Green - Open
  • Yellow - At Risk
  • Red - Attention Required
  • Blue - Closed

I used this color scheme to quickly identify the key issues that need immediate attention while continuing to work the issues list. You know the value of focusing on the top issues when the project team is constrained on time to review the issues log.

Click Labels - Edit Labels and rename the specific colors (Figure D). Figure D

Create an issue template card (Click the image to enlarge.)

Step 3: Copy the issue card template for the new issue

Click the upper right arrow in the issue template card and select Copy (Figure E). Copying a card will create a duplicate entry that you can edit. Figure E

Copy the issue template card (Click the image to enlarge.)

Step 4: Edit the new issue

Once a template issue card is created, project team members can copy and edit it to create new issues. Trello's card details provide a lot of useful functionality that you don't find in your typical project log (Figure F). Figure F

Issue detail (Click the image to enlarge.)

Follow these steps to successfully edit the issues and leverage Trello's collaborative features:

  1. Click a specific card and click the card name.
  2. Enter a new name.
  3. Click the Edit Card Description link and enter a new issue description (remember to provide the Issue Impact as well as a complete description of the issue). Click Save.
  4. Click the Edit Labels button and assign a green status for the new issue. If the issue is already late or at risk, assign the appropriate label.
  5. Click the Members Add/Remove button and assign a resource to resolve the issue. (Multiple people can be assigned to an issue.)
  6. Upload any relevant documents to support the specific issue.
  7. If you want to receive updates specific to the issue, click the Subscribe icon to receive notifications.
  8. Assign a target due date for the issue. As time progresses and if the issue isn't resolved, the card will display an indicator for appropriate action.
  9. Click the X to close the card.

If you want to track issue submission dates or issue close dates, there are no additional fields in the card; the history of the issue is captured in the activity stream for each card. Every activity is time stamped on the issue card, including list changes as the issue moves from Open, In-Progress, and Closed. As team members interact with the issue, all the comments and issue changes are tracked for history and audit purposes.

In an issue log, the sense of priority or severity is also an important characteristic. Instead of assigning a high, medium, or low status, Trello can support the issue severity by raising its position in each list. Since each issue is like a card, project teams can prioritize their deck of issues for a meaningful discussion. If project teams want to deliver a democratic issue severity list, each team member can use the vote icon to indicate their higher priority issue. As more team members vote for the important issues, the log can be prioritized.

Step 5: Manage the issue list

As team members update the issues board, the threaded discussions and status changes are updated on each card. The automatic tracking helps provide an audit trail as each card progresses from an Open to a Closed project status. The project team can archive individual cards once it is agreed the issue will be archived from the issues log and can be retrieved for a future lessons learned session.

Step 6: View by card

You likely prefer a project view of all the issues on a project; however, individual team members prefer a view that identifies all of their assigned issues. Trello recently implemented a new card view that each user can access by clicking their profile icon and selecting the Cards view (Figure G). Figure G

Individual assigned issues (Click the image to enlarge.)

Summary

Trello's innovative approach to simple collaboration using a card-based approach continues to generate new applications to project processes that are typically solved with stale and static project management templates. The same concepts of an issue log can be applied to a project risk management or change management process by creating a new board and adding a new list for each step in your company's process.

You can get started with Trello today for free by creating an account at http://www.trello.com.

More about Trello on TechRepublic

About

Dr. Andrew Makar is an IT program manager and is the author of How To Use Microsoft Project and Project Management Interview Questions Made Easy. For more project management advice visit http://www.tacticalprojectmanagement.com.

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