Buy Yourself Time by Systematizing Your SaaS With Trello

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This is a guest post by Kyle Brown, author of the upcoming book Systematize.

Are you spending a lot of time explaining how to perform tasks to your employee(s)?

Do you have documents scattered all over the cloud, various emails, and computers?

Do you struggle to find documentation when you need it?

If you answered yes to any or all of these questions, then hope is not lost and there is something that you can do.

You’re running a SaaS business and likely don’t have the resources or the desire to hire an individual or management company to run the operations of your business and you cannot be everywhere all of the time. Spending your time repeating endless cycles of q and a are not the answer to growing your business.

Image if you had more time to market your business or work on a new feature for your SaaS to increase the profits? What if you could consolidate all of your methods for performing tasks into a clean organized manner so that you could easily find and share information required to run your company?

In this post I outline how you can take your mind share and knowledge required to perform tasks in your business and document them so that your team can execute in your place. The method is also known as systematizing. Also referred to as standard operating procedures and business process management.

I have written other detailed posts on how you can systematize at my blog and on the BidSketch blog that you can read for more background. The purpose of this post is to give you an overview of how you can use a tool named Trello to document your processes after you have created them. It also includes some of what you’ll find in my upcoming book, Systematize.

Introducing Trello
Trello, a Fog Creek Software product, is an interesting tool that I’d heard about some time ago while listening to the Startups for the Rest of Us podcast. It has evolved since that time and so have the things that it can be used for. One of those things is documenting business processes.

System requirements
To document processes effectively your system of choice should have at a minimum the following three elements present.

  1. Decentralized hosting.
  2. The ability to control profile based permissions.
  3. The ability for you and your team to collaborate.

Trello meets all of these requirements and more.

To document a business process using Trello, follow these steps:

Create an Account
This is relatively straightforward. Free accounts are available and will serve your purposes. So visit trello.com/signup to create your account. At the time of this article, you can use your Google account to sign up.

Setup your First Process
The first thing you need to do is identify a task that you want to document into a process. I recommend starting with something small. You can always add larger processes later once you get a feel for it.

Note: During your first sign in you may recognize that some content already exist. This content has been place there for you by Trello to help get you started. So to avoid disturbing that, you will create your own content from scratch.

Create an organization
In the upper right hand corner of the screen, you want to click the ‘+’ icon, then select “New Organization.” Complete the “Name” field (You can use your company name) and click the “Create” button. We will use a fictional company named “SaaSco”

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Create a Process Category
Trello uses containers called boards to store information. We will use these boards to house individual process categories. So click the ‘+’ symbol again but this time you should select “New Board….” For this example, let’s name this one “Marketing.”

Create a sub category
By default Trello may provide you with three new boxes named “To Do”, “Doing”, “Done”. These boxes are called “Lists” and we will use these to store our process sub categories. For this example, we will name it “Blog Post Processes” in the next few steps.

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We are only going to use the “To Do” list so we can remove the other two. Click in the upper right hand corner of the “Doing” list and select “Archive this list” and the list should disappear. Repeat this for the “Done” list.

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The only list that you should have left is the “To Do” list which you should rename “Blog Post Processes” which is as simple as clicking on the words, typing and clicking the “Save” button.

4

Create your First Process
1. Now we want to create the individual process. Trello uses “Cards” to store detailed information. We will use these cards to store your individual process. In this example we will create a process for posting to your company blog named, “How to write a post for the blog” by clicking the “Add a card” link, then click the “Add” button.

2. Now it is finally time to add the actual process. Click on the card that you just created and you should be presented with a box in the center of the screen which allows for a variety of functions. I will outline four of them.

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  1. Edit the description: In this section of the card, you should include information such as the process goal or objective, the effective date if different from the posting date, the specific team members, and any other special instructions.
  2. Members: Allows you to determine who can access this process.
  3. Activity: Logs all of the activity around this process and serves as a revision tracker so that you can determine which changes were made, when, and by whom. This is useful information when process are changed and you need to determine why.
  4. Checklist: These are specifically handy when you start documenting step-by-step instructions for your process.

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And there you have it. You have successfully taken a time consuming task and systematized it using Trello. I really feel like this is the tip of the iceberg when using Trello for this purpose.

There are many features which add additional functionality that were not addressed. This post was meant to serve as one example of how Trello can be used to serve as the infrastructure to create, store, edit, share and collaborate your business processes to systematize your business and save time.

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