No matter how talented your team may be, you still need a way to keep track of who’s working on what. That’s what project management programs are all about. If you’re interested in project management, you’ve probably heard of Trello and Jira. These two tools, both from Atlassian, promise to help teams stay organized and get stuff done, but they go about it in very different ways.
So how do you decide which tool is right for your business? Before we get into the specifics, let’s take a minute to talk about two different approaches to agile development.
Sprints and Billboards
Agile development has received a lot of focus as an effective methodology for development teams to manage complex projects successfully. That said, there’s more than one approach to agile development. The scrum method is a well-defined approach that relies on iterative sprints, cross-functional teams, and regular check-ins. The kanban method, by contrast, is a much less structured method that revolves around a visual board (“kanban” means billboard in Japanese) divided into columns that represent different phases of progress.
The difference between these two approaches to agile methodology is a good way to think about the fundamental differences between Trello and Jira. In short, Jira is designed to manage scrum workflows for development and technical teams, while Trello is designed for individuals and teams that need a way to visually organize projects and tasks.
That said, it’s important to note that scrum and kanban aren’t mutually exclusive–many teams use a kanban-style board to keep track of their sprints. (This is sometimes called a “Scrumban” approach.) You can even do this in Jira.
Now that we’ve established the philosophical differences between these two project management tools, let’s compare some specific features and use cases.
Keeping track of who’s doing what is the core of project management. That said, there are many different ways you can go about it. Trello handles task management via a series of boards, lists, and cards. Cards represent individual tasks or ideas, and are arranged vertically into lists which represent stages of a workflow or collections of topics or ideas. All of this taken together forms a board.
As tasks are completed, you can move them from a to-do list to an in-progress list to a complete list. Along the way you can attach files or re-assign cards to different team members. Keep in mind this is all just a hypothetical–part of Trello’s power is that you can make cards and lists represent anything you want.
Jira, on the other hand, takes a much more structured approach to task management. Rather than a free-form board, you’ll get pre-built (but customizable) workflows geared toward agile software development.
Users can create stories (Jira’s version of cards), issues, and bugs which can be assigned to different team members by different priorities. Individual team members can see what tasks are assigned to them and in what order, and managers can get a bird’s eye view of an entire project and create reports to monitor progress.
Collaboration and Integrations
Beyond core functionalities, both Jira and Trello offer other features that can expedite or improve your work process. Jira and Trello can integrate easily with Atlassian’s HipChat, as well as Slack. This way, users can get notifications about new tasks or status changes directly in their chats.
In terms of integrations, both tools provide their own developer APIs as well as their own libraries of native integrations. Trello offers hundreds of “power-ups” that let you integrate Trello boards with tools like Google Drive, Github, Bitbucket, InVision, Salesforce, Mailchimp, and more. That said, Trello’s integrations don’t really hold a candle to Jira’s. In the Jira marketplace you can find all of the above along with more than 1,600 other integrations with a wide array of apps.
Jira offers two options, both billed monthly. Its small teams option is a flat $10 a month for teams of up to 10 users, while its growing teams plan charges $7 per user per month for 11-100 users. Beyond that, you’ll want to look into setting up your own server.
Trello’s business plan costs $10 per user per month for unlimited integrations, 250MB attachments, and a slew of security features. That said, Trello also offers a free tier that covers unlimited users and boards but limits you to one integration per board and file attachments to 10MB. If you have a small-ish team that is looking for an easy way to keep track of projects, this free option might be very appealing.
Looking for more tips on Jira? See how it can even be used to manage marketing projects.