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Managing an International Team with Help from Trello

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Greetings, Reader.

It gives me great pleasure to introduce Soren Beck Jensen to you. Soren is a serial entrepreneur with 22 years experience in the internet industry.

He was the first employee in Denmark’s first internet company and was involved in making the original websites for LEGO, Tivoli Gardens and Nordea Bank, among others.

Soren is a volunteer in the Joomla project where he contributes to the marketing team, the resources directory and writes for the Joomla magazine. He is also a Joomla developer and a regular speaker at Joomla events.

Soren is the founder and CEO of Jensen Technologies the parent company of several successful web businesses.

Soren Beck Jensen

When I started the planning for my latest project, Neno Translate – a website translation tool for Joomla, I knew I was going to need a project management system that was both simple to use for all involved but still flexible enough to manage what was was going to be a really complicated project.

I am a web developer, based in Granada, Spain and employ a team of 8 people. We mostly design and create tools for other developers to use based around the Joomla content management system (CMS) such as the popular Component Creator. We are all familiar with Trello and use it every day to run various projects, but on a much smaller scale than what I was contemplating for this new project. I was going to have to recruit, organize and work with developers and translators in 12 different languages, spread out across 12 different cities, spanning 8 time zones.

The Trello Test

When it came to recruiting I decided to do an experiment. If we were going to use Trello to manage the whole project, why not use it right from the start in the hiring process? It would be like a test. So after a few preliminary emails to the job applicants, I conducted the rest of the recruitment process via a specially set up trello board. I added the person to the board, and set up a few basic tasks each with a deadline. The potential employees were asked to do things like attach their CV to a card, were given a time for a meeting when they had to be online via skype, and given tasks to do that would test their suitability for the job they were applying for.

It worked really well. I soon found out who was able to adapt and work with a new system, who was comfortable doing things a new way and who was not. In fact, it was such a success that I may use it from now on as part of our recruitment process. I not only found people who could adapt to a new working environment quickly, but those people were now already familiar with the whole project management system, and had proved they could meet a deadline.

Managing an international Team with Help from Trello 1

Long Distance Brainstorming

Before the latest project, we would occasionally have brainstorming meetings where we all get together and try come up with new ideas, new features or discuss potential ideas for new projects. I would set up a large whiteboard and we brainstormed the old fashioned way, with the board with a pen. I found the sessions to be productive and we often came up with some useful ideas.

I wanted to continue this with the new project, and included all the new members of the team, so we set up a Trello board for the purpose. Now, by using the Trello board we could involve the whole team in brainstorming, regardless of where they were in the world. On the brainstorming board, we could pin pictures, ask questions of other teammates, vote for an idea, comment on ideas and so on. This way, team members whose timezones mean they are not very often online during our working day can still contribute to the sessions.

Managing an international Team with Help from Trello 2

Teambuilding & the Trello wall of shame.

We have a tradition in the company. Every Friday after work we go out for a few beers, kickback and let our hair down a little. The tradition is that I buy the beers for everyone unless someone made a big mistake sometime during the week and then they would have to buy “mess up” beers. Luckily I end up buying the beers most of the time. It works well for team building and you can often hear someone in the office commenting “careful or you’ll be buying mess up beers”

We wanted to include the newest members of the team in the fun, but as many of them are half way around the world it was not possible. In the end, we came up with the “Trello wall of shame” instead. If someone made a big mistake during the week he/she would be nominated for posting on the specially made board, and the rest of the team would enjoy adding comments and generally winding the person up. Of course, it was all light-hearted and good fun. It worked well to bring everyone together and make them feel part of the team.

Managing an international Team with Help from Trello 3

Finding Neno

So now I had a good team, and some good ideas it was finally time to put the project into action. I set up the Neno board in trello, and took full advantage of all the features like checklists and due dates on cards. I was able to assign tasks to the developers and translators overseas and everyone knew what they were doing and was able to communicate with each other despite distance and time zones. Slowly Neno Translate was born and begun to take shape. The result was the first translation tool for Joomla with a dedicated translation interface, manual, machine & professional translation of a website all from within the same interface and the ability to translate third party components, all brought together for the first time in a Joomla component and completely free to use for all.

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