Trello, in major update, hands admins more control over public boards

The task management app gets a range of new enterprise admin tools, with automation related to Trello’s purchase of Butler being rolled out for all users.

Trello has added a variety of new security and admin features to help large organizations manage the task management app across multiple teams, including new privacy settings to prevent users from sharing sensitive information on public boards.

The update to Trello Enterprise is the biggest since the launch of the service in 2015, said founder Michael Pryor, and follows growing demand for the app among large businesses.

While some people use the app for personal purposes, Pryor said around 70% of customers use Trello for work. There are now 35 million registered Trello users, and 1 million teams – an indication of how many are using the app for collaborative purposes.

“The evolution over the years is that small teams adopt Trello and then you get to [a] saturation point where there is a ton of different teams in an organization using it,” said Pryor, whose company was acquired by Atlassian for US$425 million in 2017. "We give tools they need with Trello Enterprise and we see this rapid growth across the rest of the organization.”

Tighter controls on public boards

Among the new features is a new “Organization” privacy setting. Trello already has Private, Team and Public settings, the latter of which enables a business to highlight a product roadmap to customers, for instance. The new setting makes it easier for users to securely share Trello boards with colleagues throughout their organization – whether that be different working groups or across departments such as sales or marketing – without making the information publicly viewable.

The “Organization-wide permissions” in Trello Enterprise also let admins override individual team settings. Other features added to the Enterprise Admin dashboard include the ability to designate all enterprise teams as Private, as well to determine what controls team admins can put in place around privacy settings, board deletion and invitations.

Furthermore, Enterprise Admins will now be able to see all public boards currently live within their organization.

“Our goal with these features is to make it easier than ever to manage use of Trello across your organization [and] across multiple teams, hundreds or thousands of users, with admin level control and security,” said Louise Ewing, senior product manager at Trello.

The update follows reports of large organizations, including the United Nations, inadvertently posting sensitive information such as passwords in public boards that are indexed on Google’s search engine.

Pryor said the new features in Trello Enterprise are just part of wider efforts to ensure that users are well aware when their information is made public.

“We actually have done a lot of things to make that process smoother. This [the Trello Enterprise update] is one of those things,” said Pryor. “We also made it much clearer when you make a board public that it is public: there is a double opt-in, there is a banner on the board.”

Among the other updates just announced are the ability to “bulk deactivate” multiple lapsed users from the Trello Enterprise dashboard, and the ability to filter members by last active use. Restrictions can also be placed on integrated third-party file-sharing systems such as Google Drive, OneDrive, Box and DropBox, allowing customers to require a particular provider used. Trello also announced SOX and SOC2 Type 1 compliance.

Angela Ashenden, principal analyst at CCS Insight, called the updates “very significant” and said they “highlight the ambitions of Trello in the enterprise market.

“The new capabilities in Trello strike the balance well between maintaining the familiar approach that team admins will be used to, while adding a layer of control and visibility that can be imposed by enterprise admins…. The added granularity of controls in general is a major step forward for Trello,” she said. 

Ashenden added that the announcements will likely boost Trello’s appeal as a company-wide solution and are likely the “first in a series of enhancements and new features that target this audience.”

Pursuing enterprise growth opportunities

Along with the additions to its Enterprise tier, Trello said it has made changes to its free service, limiting the number of open boards that a team can use to 10. Teams requiring access to unlimited boards will need to move to one of Trello’s two paid tiers.

The changes to its free service terms indicate Atlassian wants to boost Trello revenues by enticing free customers onto its Business Class ($9.99 per user/month) and Enterprise tiers (with prices on a sliding scale that starts at $20.83 per user/month for 20 users and decreasing for larger deployments), and highlight the importance of enticing more business users.

“Atlassian has a ‘good-to-have’ problem with Trello. It is hugely popular and has the stickiness that product managers strive to achieve,” said Raúl Castañón Martínez, senior analyst at 451 Research. “The challenge for Atlassian is figuring out how to monetize its popularity and clearly the way to do this is by targeting the enterprise segment.”

As a freemium app, Trello has typically been used on an individual or team-by-team basis, the type of “viral adoption” that other digital workplace tools such as Slack have also achieved in recent years.  As adoption grows, this presents an opportunity for Trello to convert pockets of use across various departments into large-scale deployments.

“One of the biggest challenges of cloud applications like Trello that have grown by viral adoption – with employees embracing them to help solve specific team productivity problems – is that eventually they reach adoption levels that get the attention of IT organizations,” said Ashenden.

“This is great for the vendor as this brings the opportunity to sell much more profitable and scalable ‘enterprise’ packages, and increase their traction and stickiness within these organizations as a result,” she said.

“However, it also means that they have to move from being low-touch admin tools, which are often built as a way to get around cumbersome IT processes, to requiring a more centralized, policy-controlled approach in order to comply with the organization’s central compliance policies.”

Butler automation goes live following acquisition

Trello also announced that Butler – the automation app it acquired last year for an undisclosed amount – has now been integrated into its platform and will be available for all customers  (though Trello Business Class and Enterprise subscribers will gain access to more features).

Butler was created in 2016 as a third-party integration – known as a Power-Up – for Trello. It lets users set up simple rules to automate repetitive processes such as automatically moving a Trello card from “To-Do” to “Doing” on a specified date, or assigning a card to team members as soon as it is placed in a “Doing” list.

No coding is required: actions are created using a simple language interface, allowing any user can write rules, said Trello.

“For tech-savvy workers, this can be a great way to customize workflows and streamline routine tasks,” said Jon Arnold, principal analyst at J Arnold & Associates.

Ashenden said Butler gives users tools to augment and customize Trello to suit their own way of working. This enables them to embed the tool more deeply into workflows.

“It also speaks to the growing adoption of Trello, helping people cope with the tedious but necessary management tasks that escalate as they use Trello for more and more activities,” she said.

In related news, Trello’s parent company Atlassian, announced the acquisition of collaborative planning tool AgileCraft. The deal, valued at around $166 million, follows the Australian software company’s acquisition of OpsGenie last year for $295 million as the company expands its focus from tools for software developers to wider IT and business roles. 

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