Like Trello but not Trello
May 17, 2021 6:42 AM   Subscribe

I've decided I need to manage the projects I'm working on better. In the past, I've used Trello to keep track of stuff like that, but apparently my company's firewall blocks Trello, so I'm looking for alternatives.

One of the problems I've been having at work is that it's tricky to keep track of what I should be doing. We use TFS to create tasks and have a Kanban board, but the "tasks" are really big chunks of stuff, not individual action items. There could be 20 action items in a single task in TFS. We also have JIRA for ad hoc stuff that comes up (bugs and such, but also if someone requests training or something like that), and my company is owned by another company that has its own JIRA. So at any given time, I've got three different systems tracking what I need to do, and none doing so with the specificity I'd like.

In the past, I've used Trello for stuff like this, because it's free and lightweight. Creating projects and subtasks doesn't require 100 clicks and tons of information. I'm not a project manager; I don't need project management software that sets milestones and generates reports. All I need is a quick-glance Kanban board so that if my manager says "project A should be your priority this week", I can look at project A, see tasks 1 and 2, and know that that's what I should be doing.

But alas, Trello is not available to me. I'm trying to come up with some alternatives that aren't over-engineered. In my personal life, I use Workflowy for pseudo-bullet journaling, and I like it, but I'd like to keep my personal life and my job separate. And at any rate, Workflowy is also blocked at work, so it doesn't matter. I've used Todoist before, but it was at a job where I was pressured to do so by a not-great boss, and I have some negative associations. I'm not super-thrilled about the deadline-based to-do list, either, because my deadlines shift fairly often. And while I know you can organize folder-like projects, I don't know, I just think Trello does projects better.

I don't have any interest in going around my IT department, or in using a non-work device to access Trello.

Any suggestions?
posted by kevinbelt to Work & Money (22 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Could you ask your IT dept to allow access to Trello? Is there a reason it is blocked?

Todoist now has Kanban type boards if you can overlook your past experience.
posted by chr at 6:50 AM on May 17, 2021 [5 favorites]

Do you have access to Notion? Any database you can choose to apply a kanban view.
posted by past unusual at 6:51 AM on May 17, 2021 [2 favorites]

Would the dependent sub-tasks in JIRA work? As long as there has not been too many weird customizations, and no other workflow is dependent, they can be attached alongside other things. The difficulty comes when you need to make sure all the subtasks are closed before moving or closing a main ticket.

Another option is good old excel.
posted by nickggully at 6:52 AM on May 17, 2021

I’ve not used it myself, but if your org has Office 365 you might have access to Microsoft Project and not realize it. There is a kanban style view called task boards.
posted by misskaz at 6:54 AM on May 17, 2021 [4 favorites]

If the parent company has a large enough JIRA license, could they just grant you your own little board?
posted by nickggully at 6:55 AM on May 17, 2021

Also with Office 365, Microsoft Planner is lightweight, functional, and not too overengineered. I've found it much easier to use than Microsoft Project.
posted by mosst at 6:56 AM on May 17, 2021 [6 favorites]

For a quick kanban-type board, my go-to suggestions would be Notion or Asana.

(I'd also echo chr and suggest at least *asking* why it's blocked - productivity tools are an odd thing for an IT dept to care about like this. Also, Trello is now owned by Atlassian, makers of Jira.)
posted by Tomorrowful at 6:56 AM on May 17, 2021 [3 favorites]

Actually, Microsoft Planner could be an even better fit (avail through 365).

[jinx, mosst]
posted by misskaz at 6:57 AM on May 17, 2021 [3 favorites]

As one of the jerks that does stuff like blocks sites like Trello in the workplace, it's likely that the entire category of services like that is blocked and even if you find one that isn't, once IT notices something new, it'll probably be added to the blocked list. The reasons are usually things like not wanting company information in a 3rd party system or concerns that the free tier may not actually be allowed by the provider's terms of service creating liability for the company. That said, they may be willing to unblock it upon request.

I do know some people that use literal sticky notes (or the app equivalent) for simple Kanban tracking.
posted by Candleman at 7:42 AM on May 17, 2021 [4 favorites]

Jira and Trello are made by the same company, which may help your argument, so I would definitely see if you can get it unblocked.
posted by Threeve at 8:27 AM on May 17, 2021

In a pinch you can use a presentation file as a kanban board. If you have one slide per project, you can store project details in the slide, and then have other slides to represent priority types, and then just shuffle the slides around as things change.
posted by bleep at 8:57 AM on May 17, 2021

Another vote for microsoft planner. Went through about 5 different systems for lightweight task management and landed there - very good if you need high level task tracking, especially in a group, without deep project management elements.
posted by amycup at 9:22 AM on May 17, 2021 [1 favorite]

Todoist has changed their free plan, and I know you have bad associations, but if your time using it was long enough ago they've added a board view to their product that is VERY similar to a Trello board, which might change the feel enough for you to override your previous associations.
posted by foxfirefey at 9:28 AM on May 17, 2021

Response by poster: Candleman is correct; Notion and Asana are both blocked as well. I can only conclude that my company hates productivity. Guess I'll have to play here on Metafilter more. HA.

I think I might actually go back to Todoist. At the very least, I already know how to use it, and it's not blocked.
posted by kevinbelt at 9:31 AM on May 17, 2021 [1 favorite]

Microsoft Planner is essentially exactly like Trello but without rounded corners and all the clunky design you’d expect. But it does meet all your reqs.
posted by iamkimiam at 11:15 AM on May 17, 2021 [1 favorite]

There's a Tasks app in Microsoft Teams.
posted by oceano at 11:48 AM on May 17, 2021

Github Projects is a free Trello-like thing. I hesitate to call it a clone because it integrates very nicely with the rest of Github in a way that might be confusing/distracting to you. But it is possible to use it as a Trello replacement.
posted by caek at 12:16 PM on May 17, 2021

I would be concerned that they’ll decide block whatever you choose for the same reason theY blocked Trello. Whatever that might be.
posted by sjswitzer at 12:37 PM on May 17, 2021

If I still did all my work at a desk, I’d probably still use a spreadsheet for my todo list. Column for project, column for task, column to put the completion date in, column for due date if that’s relevant. Add more as desired and sort/filter/auto format. I also like having a tab with a list of the projects and higher-level outlines/deadlines.

Todoist recently limited new free accounts to five projects, older accounts have the current number of projects grandfathered in.
posted by momus_window at 12:58 PM on May 17, 2021

I suspect the elegant, intuitive open-source app Columns would be a great replacement for Trello, and it's much too small to show up on the radar of blockers.
posted by knucklebones at 4:32 PM on May 17, 2021

My company blocks Trello for security purposes. Interestingly, they use Azure DevOps for planning, with great enthusiasm. But there are strict rules (and annual training) teaching us to keep customer-specific information out of the cloud.
posted by lhauser at 7:23 PM on May 17, 2021

You could use Todoist labels as sort of an improvised kanban board. Set up labels like to-do, upcoming, current, and completed.

Number the labels, too, if you'd like, and use colors as well.

Just change the labels as the tasks progress through the stages. You won't have the board layout, of course, but you can use this system, or one like it, to keep your projects on track.
posted by Leontine at 9:07 AM on May 18, 2021

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