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Trello launches platform features to visualize enterprise workflows

Atlassian-owned Trello today launched new features to visualize workflows for enterprise team collaboration — including new board views, card capabilities, and integrations for third-party data. These visibility enhancements have arrived 10 years after Trello’s founding and continue the platform’s series of technical upgrades from automation tools in 2018 to administrative plug-in controls in 2019.

In an interview with VentureBeat, Trello cofounder and CEO Michael Pryor described the platform as replacing whiteboards and post-it notes. He referenced an Okta report suggesting large companies deployed an average of 175 apps in 2020 and said the new Trello features were designed to visualize users’ remote work with fewer digital tools.

Pryor said “We’ve already always been talking about this proliferation of tabs and proliferation of apps. And we hear from customers [about] information silos, and [they’re] just overwhelmed.” He said the company is building a solution to that problem and described today’s release as “an evolution for Trello.”

Trello boards used to include straightforward cards and lists. Now they involve additional data-filtering options, like the ability to sort by due dates and tasks owned by specific teammates. The five new board views — Team Table, Timeline, Calendar, Map, and Dashboard — organize projects into different formats depending on a team’s needs.

These views might be particularly useful for managing technical information. Pryor suggested that while the Fortnite IT team, for example, uses the default Trello view to categorize and report bugs that appear in the game, changing its public product roadmap to the Calendar View could improve external updates for resolving those bugs. He also said the Timeline View could help a team juggle internal responses to the bugs.

“The future vision of this, though, is we’re going to open this up to third-party developers who can make their own views,” Pryor said. He explained that users might build a canvas view to draw mind maps or sketch out engineering problems or develop a Pinterest-like view to add web-compiled images to boards.

Trello is also changing its cards within boards, allowing cards to connect information across boards or outside of the platform. Today’s updates include Link Cards, which natively display previews from Jira tickets, Figma mockups, and Google Drive files. Trello also plans to launch Mirror Cards to automatically replicate the same information across a team’s boards, and more ways for third-party developers to customize their boards and cards on the platform.

Trello’s recent developments with its automation engine, new views, card types, custom fields, and different template creation forms have focused on enabling low-code or no-code enterprise-built solutions under a singular API. “There’s a bunch of hooks within our application where people can build tools that lay on top of Trello. And so we’re expanding those hooks,” Pryor said. “We’ll give the third-party developers, essentially, access to our API like they currently have within the Power-Up framework.”

Trello said it currently has more than 50 million users. According to Pryor, his team architected the app from its first iteration with the goal of supporting over 100 million users. “We basically leverage the cloud,” Pryor said. His team built Trello on top of an AWS and MongoDB-heavy tech stack and changed out any tools that didn’t scale or perform along the way. “That’s benefited us in a lot of ways and essentially avoided a lot of technical debt,” Pryor added.

He added that Mongo has been an amazing tool that has grown and gotten a lot more features over time. “From the beginning, we built things on technologies that ended up growing,” Pryor added.

MongoDB’s flexibility supports the platform’s horizontal scaling capabilities, which helped the Trello IT team develop new views for this release, like the multi-board table view. And while Trello has stuck with MongoDB since 2011, it has moved through three different architectures for web socket connections in that time.

Introducing the Butler engine two years ago drove automation on the platform, but it also made Trello’s architectural integrity more central to its success. Pryor said the company has been making Butler easier to use, which introduces interesting challenges. “If you have 15 million people signed up to use your app and everyone’s like, ‘Monday morning at 9 a.m., I want this thing to happen,’ how do you handle that scale in that load when those things pile up over the years?”

Trello is still scaling, but now it’s looking to facilitate third-party developers’ integrations of data from external tools so they can build ML models on top and within the platform and apply them to external tools if needed.

“If you think about applications, they all kind of have an object model, and their base layers, their units of work [like JIRA or Figma], are issues. And Trello, at the base level, is [made of] cards,” Pryor said. He added that the company is trying to do “data manipulation of those cards, [substituting] all that work from other tools into them.”

With JIRA, for example, an enterprise IT team can use Trello to investigate previous projects. Making cards and labels based on which JIRA tickets excelled or failed on cross-board Team Tables could help engineers troubleshoot more efficiently, Pryor said. So could hosting brainstorming sessions on a custom-built Canvas view, especially without in-person collaboration tools.

“So I think it opens up a lot of possibilities when you start thinking about that basic unit of work and expanding that to be representative of all the work that you’re doing, no matter where it is,” Pryor said.

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