What Atlassian’s Purchase of Trello Means for the Future of Project Management


I’m a huge fan and power user of Trello. I use it to run Let’s Do Video and manage my personal life. The LDV team has a daily scrum-ish meeting where we go through our main Trello work board. We also have Trello boards to help us manage various aspects of the business, including special programs, annual events, consulting engagements, team goals, etc. Personally, I use Trello to manage my household, health and fitness, hobbies, and various projects. With this in mind, I was very interested in its acquisition by Atlassian. Please check out the Trello blog and Atlassian blog for more details.

I’ve used countless project management applications and most of them are just too complicated. They force users to bounce between different screens and menus to look at tasks, calendars, messages, files, and all the other elements of project tracking. With Trello, the entire project is on one board/screen. You can get your entire status, of every task related to the project, in a single glance. It is also impressively intuitive. It takes about 2 minutes to teach new team members how to use it. At the same time, it has a number of power features. My favorite is the ability to quickly filter a board to only show one team member’s tasks.

If you’ve never seen a Trello board, check out the Trello team’s development board. As you can see, it’s a simple “sticky note” system. The sample board uses a common Kanban methodology, moving cards from left to right. A card wills start on a “to do” list on the left, then move to a “doing” list in the middle, and end up on a “done” list on the right. This is just one way to use Trello. To see more, check out their page of inspiring boards, with dozens of samples showing how to use Trello to manage everything from a wedding to job hunting to starting a new business.

As much as I love Trello, I have found it is only half of the essential business structure for a remote based team. While the LDV team uses a number of apps and tools to run our business, they fall into two major categories; project management and communications. While you can communicate via Trello, by leaving comments on task cards, it does not provide the live, active, back and forth feeling you get through a true communications application. Therefore we have found a combination of Trello, persistent team messaging, and video, provides a true foundation for our virtual office infrastructure.

Of course, a great way to increase efficiency and improve productivity is to tie your various business apps together through APIs. I recently wrote an article about Trello’s various integrations with Slack. Long story short, the ability to create Slack messages from within Trello, or to create Trello cards from within Slack, can save teams a few valuable clicks and seconds. Multiply this over the course of the thousands of communications and tasks that take place over the year and you are talking about some serious efficiency improvements. Full disclosure, while this article was not sponsored, the Trello team did like it enough to send me some cool Trello swag.

Trello Swag

As you may know, Atlassian offers a number of project management and team communication tools. The first that comes to mind in this context is HipChat, a direct competitor to Slack. This is where the purchase starts to make sense, and gets a little exciting. As much as I appreciate the integrations between Slack and Trello, it is clear that these integrations were created by separate teams, doing their best to tie two distinct products together. In other words, the integrations are good, but not completely seamless. With HipChat and Trello now owned by the same company, the potential for a higher level of integration exists. With the great popularity of Trello, this could be a major advantage for HipChat in the big team messaging wars.

Atlassian also offers JIRA (an agile/scrum development tool), Confluence (another team collaboration tool) and several other team project/collaboration tools. The potential for Trello to enhance and integrate with this portfolio is pretty apparent.

Integrations are only half the story here. The other half is development funding. Trello is a five year startup. They clearly have had enough development money to offer a no compromise solution. Trello is slick and pretty, whereas many bootstrap startup tools look pretty bland and unappealing. Trello also has been continuously developing and adding new features and integrations. In other words, its startup status hasn’t held it back at all. Also, one of the things Trello users like about it so much is its relative simplicity. We don’t want it to add hundreds of features and require a learning curve to use it.

On the other hand, it’s pretty exciting to think about how much cooler it could potentially be with some serious R&D bucks behind it. Atlassian reportedly paid $425 million for Trello. This means Atlassian has some pretty deep pockets and puts a pretty high value on Trello. I think it’s safe to say Trello’s R&D budget could increase dramatically. What this means for Trello users remains to be seen. Perhaps Taco, the Trello mascot, will become a virtual personal assistant, creating cards for us by voice command! Regardless of the details, it looks like good times lie ahead for Trello users.


About Author

David Maldow is the Founder & CEO of Let's Do Video and has been covering the visual collaboration industry, and related technologies, for over a decade. His background includes 5 years at Wainhouse Research, where he managed the Video Test Lab and evaluated many of the leading solutions at the time. David has authored hundreds of articles and thought pieces both at Telepresence Options, where he was managing partner for several years, as well as here at Let's Do Video. David often speaks at industry events and webinars as well as hosting the LDV Video Podcast.

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