What Is Trello Automation? (Features, Drawbacks)
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Project management is not an easy task.
It requires handling a lot of tasks, meetings, reports, and more—an instant recipe for stress and tiredness!
Sounds like Rebecca’s shopping sprees in the movie Confessions of a Shopaholic, right?
But don’t worry, task management tools like Trello help you overcome this hurdle easily.
And to make things even more comfortable, it lets you automate manual and repetitive tasks.
With Trello automation!
But what is that and how do you use it?
In this article, you’ll learn what Trello automation is and five ways you can use it to power up your Trello board.
We’ll also highlight an alternative automation tool to Trello to help you take things to the next level.
- What Is Trello?
- 5 Butler Bot Commands to Automate Trello
- Key Drawbacks of Trello
- The Best Trello Alternative: ClickUp
Let’s get started!
What Is Trello?
Trello is a Kanban-based project management tool that organizes your projects into multiple boards known as Trello boards.
Note: If you’re familiar with what Trello is and only want a detailed overview of Trello automation, click here to jump to that section.
What’s a Trello board?
A Trello board represents a specific project in Trello. You can create multiple boards for various projects—either from scratch or by using a template.
And what’s a Trello board composed of?
A Trello board is made up of Trello cards. These cards are categorized into various lists, where each list represents different project stages. For example, if your card name is “Marketing Requests”, then you can create Trello workflow stages like “Ideas” and “Commissioned”.
Each Trello board is populated with tons of these cards, making it look like Rebecca’s list of excuses here:
But wait… what’s a Trello card?
Each Trello card denotes a task, which can have multiple attributes like:
- Checklist: break down Trello tasks as a simple to-do list
- Attachments: attach relevant documents to a Trello card
- Due Date: set a due date for when a task is due
- Labels: categorize or sort your cards with different labels, each having various colors
- Comment: add comments to your card
- Member: assign the linked card to a specific Trello team member
Note: A Trello user can add more attributes by using the “Custom Field” Power-Up. A custom field can be created for texts, numbers, dates, and even checkboxes.
But what are Power-Ups?
Power-Ups add additional features to your Trello boards through your Trello integration and Trello API. They let you add various apps like Jira, Twitter, Custom Field, and more.
As you progress through your project workflow, you can move the cards between the lists (project stages).
But if it’s a repetitive task, you need to perform the same things every time, right?
For example, if a task in the list ‘Editing’ always has the same checklist, you’ll need to add it manually every time you create a new task.
Sounds tedious, right?
Here’s how Trello automation helps you…
What Is Trello Automation?
Butler for Trello is a tool that lets you automate Trello boards. It is a built-in, no-code workflow automation tool that helps users create automations to perform a specified series of actions.
And how do you access it?
Simple! By clicking on the Butler button at the top of your Trello board.
But what’s automation exactly?
Automation is the process of automating manual tasks through specified triggers and actions.
Rebecca’s pencil sharpener here is an excellent example of a physical automation tool:
All she needs to do is insert the pencil and voila—a sharpened pencil!
Similarly, with Butler, you can set up 5 automation commands, like:
- Rules: create simple rules to automate any kind of action
- Card buttons: create a custom button to handle card-level actions
- Board buttons: create a custom button to handle board-level actions
- Due date commands: automate actions using a card’s due date
- Calendar commands: set actions for any date
But wait… how do you set up an automated workflow?
Simple: By using the Command Builder in the Trello app!
Command Builder is an interface where you can select triggers and set one or more actions from the given dropdown lists.
You can access this dashboard by clicking on the Butler button at the top of your Trello board.
What’s a Trigger and an Action?
- A trigger is an event that initiates an action. Trello lets you choose from three types of triggers:
- every: schedule recurring tasks
- on due date: schedules an action around card’s due dates
- when: performs actions when things change in the board
- An action is what you’d like the bot to do upon a trigger
Remember the personalized ringtone Rebecca set for Derek’s calls?
- The trigger: a call from him
- The action: play the recorded ringtone
Here’s a Trello example to make things clearer:
Let’s say you want to set a command “When a Trello user is added to a new Trello card, add the green label to the card”. Then:
- Trigger: when a Trello user is added to a new Trello card
- Action: add the green label to that new card
So what are the types of automation commands that you can set?
Let’s find out…
5 Butler Bot Commands to Automate Trello
Fashion came naturally to Rebecca.
From ballroom parties to TV interviews, this shopaholic’s sense of fashion could be used for various events.
Similarly, Butler for Trello offers more than one automation command for your project needs.
So let’s check out the 5 Butler Bot automation commands you can use in the Trello app:
Rules work on the simple ‘when this happens, do this’ format and are applied across the entire Trello board.
You can create rules to trigger commands that automatically run some actions when the trigger’s condition is met. The Butler bot performs these actions on behalf of the rule’s creator.
Rebecca lived by one rule:
When there’s a sale offer, then shop!
So if she’s a Trello user, then this rule would look something like this:
Trigger: When there’s a sale offer
Action: She can set actions such as:
- Add the yellow label to a new Trello card
- Change the card name or card title to ‘Shopping List’
2. Card Buttons
Card buttons can handle Trello tasks on the card level. You can create a custom button to perform automation that is triggered at the click of the button.
Planning a wedding might’ve been stressful for Suze, Rebecca’s flatmate, right?
With Trello, she could’ve automated a few things, like:
Trigger: When she clicks the button
Action: Set actions such as:
- Move the card “Wedding Dress” to the top of the list ‘Done’
- Subscribe to a Trello card to get notified about updates
Isn’t it better now, Suze?
Card buttons are present on the back of each card, under the “Power-Ups” menu.
Here’s how to create a button in Trello:
- Select the Butler button from the menu on the right side of your board
- Pick Card buttons from the Butler menu
- Pick an icon for the button and give it any name you want
- Select an action or a series action (from the command builder) that you want Butler to perform
3. Board Buttons
You can create Board buttons to automate board-level actions easily.
They are placed at the top of your Trello board and perform actions for the specified lists.
Remember when Rebecca landed in this embarrassing situation?
Well that could’ve been avoided, if she knew when all her credit cards bills were due.
She can use the Board buttons to set a command, like:
Trigger: When she clicks the button
Action: Sort the cards in list “Credit Card Bills” by due date
4. Due Dates
Due Date commands use a card’s due date as a trigger to perform a set of actions.
Due Date triggers are not retroactive — which means that they’ll only work for upcoming due dates.
Note: You can use Due Date commands only on a premium Trello account — Enterprise, Business, and Gold.
I’m sure, Derek, the debt collector, had a hard time keeping track of Rebecca’s dues.
To overcome this, he could set a Due Date command to automatically sort all the cards by their due dates.
In Trello, it could be:
Trigger: The moment a card is due
Action: He can set actions such as:
- Add the red label to the Trello card
- rename the card to “Rebecca Bloomwood – Overdue”
That’s right Derek. You don’t have to run after her anymore
5. Calendar Commands
Calendar commands are somewhat similar to Due Date commands.
However, they use the set date as a trigger instead of the due date of a card.
You can use Calendar commands to schedule recurring tasks quickly.
If Luke, the editor of Successful Savings, needs weekly updates on the magazine’s articles, he can set a Calendar command for it.
It could be something like this:
Trigger: For Calendar commands, the trigger is the time it is set to run
Action: Every Monday create a card with the card title ‘Updates’
This way, he won’t have to personally go and ask his employees!
Key Drawbacks of Trello
Now that you know everything about Trello automation, do you think it’s fair to call Trello the best?
Sure, Trello helps you save time and effort by helping you automate some manual and repetitive tasks. But that’s pretty much all that it can do in task management.
So here’s a look at the problems that you can face with Trello.
I mean, Rebecca couldn’t have changed herself without accepting her problem, right?
Trello lacks on the following fronts:
- It’s primarily a Kanban board tool, with only a Kanban view on the free plan. Even the paid plans offer limited additional views and limited customization, making it unsuited for certain types of work management
- Comments cannot be assigned to users and lack threading, making collaboration difficult
- Lacks native time tracking and granular time estimates, making it difficult for project managers to track and asses workloads
- Lacks relationships, dependencies, and formula calculations, making it unsuitable as a relational database
Additionally, one of the major drawbacks is that most of its features, like reporting features, are only available as Power-Ups — which might require you to pay extra.
Even the Butler bot automation is limited if you use it with Trello’s free plan.
You can find out more about Trello’s drawbacks in this Trello review.
So should you even use Trello?
The Best Trello Alternative: ClickUp
From magazine conglomerates to IT firms, task management tools enable businesses to manage and automate their processes.
Learn more about automated project management! 😊
And while Trello can help you do that, it’s surely not the best project management software out there.
I mean, even the free plan features are okay at best.
Does this mean that you’re doomed?
Luckily, all you need is a powerful project management tool like ClickUp, which offers a wide variety of features (including automation)—100% free!
But what’s ClickUp?
Widely used by teams of all types and sizes worldwide, ClickUp has everything you need for managing projects effortlessly.
Whether it’s workflow automation, creating project plans, or tracking progress — ClickUp’s the only tool you need!
Here’s how ClickUp makes managing projects as easy as swiping credit cards while shopping:
1. Automation for repetitive tasks
ClickUp brings tons of automation to your workspace with its Automation feature.
It offers 50+ premade automations such as:
- Automatically assign new tasks to specific team members
- Change task priority when its status changes
- Add a tag or move a task to a List when priority changes
- Apply a template when a task’s status change
- Post a comment when all subtasks within a task are marked closed
- Add, remove, or reassign a task when the status of a task changes
- Apply templates and tags when a task is created
- Automatically change the task’s status when its due date arrives
- Move a task to a particular List when the list of watchers is reassigned
- Change tags, assignees and task status when all checklist items are resolved
Click here to check out more Automations.
You can even create your own automations to automate any repetitive or recurring tasks, which not only helps you save valuable time but also lets you focus on important tasks.
ClickUp’s Automation framework looks like this:
For example, Luke can set an automated workflow to remind Rebecca about her article assignment.
It could be something like this:
- Trigger: Due date is coming up
- Condition: Rebecca is the assignee
- Action: Post a comment, “Email it before 3:00 pm!”
This way, he doesn’t have to remind Rebecca frequently or in person!
2. Multiple Views for varying project needs
Like the Trello app, most project management tools have limited views and interfaces, even for their paid plans.
And you are forced to adapt to whatever they offer, not the other way around.
But wait… since project management is all about adapting to change, shouldn’t your tool be flexible too?
Luckily, ClickUp offers you multiple views to work from any angle.
Here’s a detailed look at what ClickUp offers you:
A. Required Task Views
ClickUp offers two required task Views to adapt to any project management style:
1. List View
As the name suggests, List view lists tasks down as a checklist—one after the other.
You can sequentially tackle each task or checklist item and check them off as you progress. You can also organize your tasks the way you want!
2. Board View
If you want to continue with the Kanban board, then this is the perfect view for you.
ClickUp’s Board view helps you move tasks around and visualize project progress quickly.
All you need is a glance to determine what stages your projects are in or drag and drop them according to your needs!
B. Box View
Remember Luke’s meetings with his bosses?
Those wasted a lot of time!
ClickUp’s Box view could have helped him avoid those.
It provides a high-level visual overview of your team’s tasks and projects to save you from endless meetings over knowing who’s working on what!
A project manager can use this to quickly know:
- What tasks your in-house or remote team members are currently working on
- What has been completed so far
- Who has too many tasks
Additionally, this helps you identify if someone has too much on their plate and evenly distribute workloads to avoid overworking your team.
ClickUp’s Calendar view is the quickest way to plan and manage your project schedules!
For example, content marketing teams can create a beautiful editorial calendar to keep track of their schedules.
You can even toggle your Calendar view between:
- Days: view all the tasks for any selected day
- 4-Days: look at your task schedule over four days
- Week: view your scheduled tasks for a whole week
- Monthly: visualize the tasks for the entire month
D. Me Mode
ClickUp’s Me Mode lets you view all the work that’s assigned only to you. This helps you focus better on your workload and avoid being distracted by other team member’s assignments.
You can even customize the items you want to see in your Me Mode.
Simply check the boxes according to your requirement — it’s that easy!
And these features just scratch the surface of what ClickUp offers! with over a dozen views to help you visualize your work and hundreds of work management features, ClickUp is suited to help any team with any task or project.
3. Use Comments to collaborate with your team members
Remember how Suze saved Rebecca from running into Derek?
That was possible only because Suze conveyed the correct message on time.
Similarly, streamlined collaboration is vital for projects to run smoothly.
How do you do that?
Just use ClickUp’s Comments!
Each ClickUp task comes with a dedicated comment section.
You can use this cool space to:
- Discuss how to do the task
- Share relevant files and links easily
- Address any problems with the right context
- Tag team members to get their attention
But that’s not all!
With ClickUp’s Assign Comments feature, you can convert comments to tasks to ensure that they never go unnoticed.
Assign the tasks to a team member and they’ll be notified instantly! It’ll even pop up in their task tray to ensure that it always stays on their radar. Once the task is done, they can mark the comment as resolved to avoid unnecessary follow-ups!
4. Custom Status for tracking task stages
Did Successful Savings need a “code debugging” stage for their hiring process?
But most project management tools give you default task statuses that are irrelevant to your project needs.
Luckily, with ClickUp, you can create Customized Task Statuses according to your project needs. For example, Luke can create a “content ideas” stage in the advertising process for the magazine.
A glance at a task’s status is enough for him or anyone on the team to determine what stage that specific task is in!
5. Dashboards for tracking performance easily
Whether it’s Successful Savings (the financial magazine in the movie) or Alette, the fashion one, it’s super important to track performance statistics.
How do you do that?
With ClickUp’s Dashboards!
With 50+ Widget customizations to help you get insights into the most critical business analytics, you can monitor the performance of any business process with ease.
From resource management to client reporting, these Dashboards have got you covered.
You can use Dashboards to help you assess your quarterly goals, see the time tracked on projects, spot potential bottlenecks, and more. 📈
Dashboards in ClickUp also help you understand your KPIs and business metrics better.
A KPI Dashboard breaks down complex data into simple graphs and charts. This way, Dashboards make data analysis more accessible to you and your agents.
ClickUp also lets you customize your Dashboard with custom charts like:
- Line chart: create a custom line chart to identify trends in your intel
- Bar chart: use bar charts to see changes in crime rates over time
- Pie chart: use a custom pie chart to map out your intelligence agency’s expenses
Take it a step further by adding Sprint Widgets like:
- Velocity charts: get a visual representation of the overall status of your project and how much work your Agile team can handle in future Sprints
- Burndown charts: see how much work your agents have left in a project and the remaining time needed to complete that project
- Burnup charts: track and see the work that’s been completed against your total scope of work
- Cumulative flow diagrams: visualize how your projects are progressing and identify potential bottlenecks
ClickUp also lets you secure your Dashboards by setting permissions.
By default, Dashboards are classified (private) and only visible to you. But you can share them with anyone on your team or opt to display your Dashboard at the office in full-screen mode!
What’s more, ClickUp gives you additional features for better workflow management, like:
- Multiple Assignees: assign more than one member to a task
- Collaboration Detection: know when someone works on the same task as you
- Pulse: know which tasks your team is super focused on at the moment
- Notepad: a personal notepad to quickly write down anything
- Priorities: help your team know which tasks are urgent
- Dependencies: ensure that the tasks are attempted in the right sequence
- Native Time Tracking: track the time each task or project takes
- App Integration: integrate with apps like Google Sheet, Zoom and more
While the Trello app can automate your project with its Butler feature, it’s far from being a perfect project management tool.
So why invest in a project management tool like that when you get the world’s best automation and project management app for free?
In fact, ClickUp has all of Trello’s features (and more) without skyrocketing your credit card bills like Rebecca! You get plenty of views besides Kanban boards, advanced commenting features, tons of reporting charts and more.
Sign up for ClickUp today and make project management as comfortable and pleasant as Rebecca’s shopping experiences!