It’s impossible to work in software development without some kind of team management tool. Agile development uses multiple people working asynchronously toward a common goal, but the only way that works is if there’s a guiding hand that keeps everyone organized.
Which team management tool is best? That’s a tough question because a) everyone has unique needs, and b) there are countless tools available (and new ones popping up every day).
Jira and Trello are two of the most popular team management tools out there. They both organize projects and tasks, facilitate communication, and track milestones. In this article, we’ll compare Trello and Jira to help you choose the one that’s right for you.
The Basics of Jira and Trello
Jira by Atlassian is one of the most popular software development tools. It was designed specifically for developers who use scrum and agile techniques. It’s used by countless development shops to track projects, manage sprints, and keep everyone organized. It’s known for its robust library of add-ons and extensions.
Trello (acquired by Atlassian in 2017) is a project management tool designed for more general use. It’s a lightweight Kanban system that can be used for anything - software development, marketing campaigns, and even family needs.
Whereas Jira was built for software teams, Trello has a much wider audience because it offers the “common denominator” of project tracking.
Features and Tools
Trello’s main feature is the Kanban board. There’s a cast of supporting features as well, but the Kanban board is the big one. And they do it well. It’s one of the best Kanban boards of any project management tool.
Why is Trello so feature light? Because it’s designed to be. It’s not an underdeveloped tool. It just targets a market with simple needs (which explains why Atlassian bought Trello when they already had Jira - the two tools serve different audiences).
The other feature worth mentioning is Trello Butler - a suite of automation options that save you precious time. You can set rules for Butler to perform tasks for you, such as adding a certain due date when a card is moved to a certain column. If you want to extend to Trello beyond its basic functionality, you'll need to use power-ups.
Jira is a feature-rich piece of software made for development teams. It’s heavily reliant on the Agile development philosophy. You can opt to use a Kanban system, but the real value is in the scrum board that has teams work in sprints toward goals. Once the goal is met, the tea moves toward the next target.
A Jira project comes with a roadmap and a backlog where tasks are added and then imported into the scrum board. You can attach code or other resources to the project. You can even communicate with other team members using Confluence, Jira’s alternative to Slack.
One area where Jira beats Trello handedly is in reporting. Trello doesn’t offer any features to track or report on your team’s performance. If you’re a manager who needs a clear and comprehensive view of how each person on the team completes their work, opt for Jira.
On-Premises or Cloud Hosting
When it comes to data storage, you can either store it yourself or host it on the cloud. Storing it on the cloud is easier, but you may prefer the privacy of keeping everything on your own network.
Trello is only available as a cloud-hosted service. Truthfully, this is suitable for most people who don’t want to deal with the time and hassle of maintaining an on-premises solution.
Jira, however, offers both a cloud-hosted service and an on-premises service. If you choose on-premise hosting, the monthly fees remain the same, but there’s a large one-time upfront setup fee (up to $4,500).
Pricing and Fees
Both Trello and Jira offer some free use, but they charge for additional features and more users.
Trello’s free plan limits you to 10 Kanban boards. You can add an unlimited number of cards to those boards, but they lack a number of key features you may want to keep organized, such as advanced checklists, admin and security features, power-ups, and automation tools. To get these features, you’ll need to pay at least $10/month/user or $17.50/month/user for enterprise plans.
Jira also has a free plan. You get unlimited Kanban boards, but your team can only have 10 users and 2 GB storage. Most development teams will want at least the Standard plan ($7/month/user) to get access to key features like project roles, advanced permissions, audit logs, and 250 GB storage.
Jira’s Premium ($14/month/user) and Enterprise (custom price) plans offer even more attractive features, like admin insights, advanced roadmaps, project archiving, and unlimited storage.
Like most professionals, you probably use a number of tools in your daily workflow. It’s important that those tools work together in order to achieve maximum automation and efficiency.
Trello has a fair-sized list of integrations in its library. You can connect with popular tools like Github, Zendesk, Slack, Salesforce, Google Drive, and Zapier. It also offers native add-ons called Power-Ups that extend the tool’s basic functionality (but they’re only available on paid plans).
Jira has a massive library of tools and integrations to make the project management tool stronger. It’s not uncommon for Jira teams to have dozens of integrations to help team members, managers, and even stakeholders. There’s pretty much anything you could possibly need, such as:
Charts and diagramming
Code review tools
Themes and styles
Both tools offer a free developer API for customers that want to set up their own integrations. If you use a tool that doesn’t have a native connection, you can instruct someone on your team to build a custom integration.
We don’t consider either Jira or Trello hard to use, but there’s no doubt that Jira has a lot more bells and whistles that new users might find intimidating. It can be confusing if you aren’t familiar with scrum systems. (You can always choose to use Kanban on a project, however.)
That said, Jira makes up for this challenge with some of the best tutorials of any software product. Their documentation library is full of articles with images and videos to help you find answers to any of your questions about the software.
Trello has fewer features, which makes for a slimmer interface that is easier to understand. Once you’re on a board, creating and manipulating cards is intuitive. New users seem to “get it” in the first couple of minutes and quickly discover ways to use it creatively. If they get stuck, Trello also has a library of help docs.
Trello vs. Jira: Which is Right?
If you’re looking for a comprehensive and sophisticated project management tool designed specifically for development teams, Jira is the solution, especially if you’re leading a large team (20+ people). Be aware, however, that onboarding may be expensive in terms of cost and time, but the investment is worth it.
Is Jira just for software development teams? Not necessarily, but it’s not appropriate for anyone who doesn’t work according to Agile methodology. It’s only valuable if you work in sprints or short-to-medium term goals.
If you’re looking for something fast, simple, and lightweight, choose Trello. It’s the king of Kanban boards with a simple interface that is easy to understand and quick to adopt, but it doesn’t offer much else without using add-ons. It’s a great way to introduce people to the Kanban style of project management.