What do you like best?
Asana has clear advantages for teams that seek to drive task completion by combining powerful and flexible functionality across a range of devices.
First, Asana takes collaboration to the next level using tasks and subtasks. Powerful subtasks hardly matter for shopping lists but are transformational for team projects. For example, task A could break down into tasks B and C, and then task C into tasks D, E, and F (and so forth). Asana makes it possible to define the work, establish the sequence, set due dates, and assign the right people across all of these tasks and subtasks. In contrast, many other task management software tools suffer from underdeveloped subtask functionality. Robust task structures in Asana enable everything else to fall into place.
Second, Asana provides a full view of tasks and status. This is accomplished by combining features that are available separately across other task management software tools. Checklist projects are available to track task completion. “Board” projects enable tasks to flow through phases of completion, like sticky notes on a whiteboard (similar to Trello). Certain projects, such as ongoing programs, work best as a board instead of a checklist. For example, editorial articles could flow through stages (eg. ideas, written, published, etc.). It’s also possible to add the same task to multiple projects. This enables you to track the task for different purposes. Tags can also be used to group tasks together. Asana provides a powerful viewpoint using this mix of features.
Third, Asana is accessible across nearly every device and inside other tools. This makes it easy to view and update. While Asana might not have the best look and feel across every platform, it's functional everywhere. For example, it’s easy to quickly create new tasks using the (somewhat clunky) browser extensions. Tasks can be emailed to projects, and due dates synchronized to calendars. Additionally, it’s possible to build custom integrations using tools such as IFTTT, Zapier, Microsoft Flow, or the API. For example, using these tools you can speak tasks directly from virtual assistants, such as Alexa and Siri, into Asana.
What do you dislike?
While it’s great to have features and options integrated into a single software platform, power and flexibility also increase the complexity. In my opinion, this is the biggest obstacle with Asana.
First, Asana has many features and setups to uncover. Unfortunately, the right organizational approach is difficult to anticipate. For example, it might not be obvious whether a project should be set up as a list or board. Unfortunately, this up-front choice cannot be easily changed. In other cases, the best subtask structure for a complicated task might be unclear. Getting started on the right foot can be a major challenge, and it's not always straightforward to rearrange later.
Second, Asana has a steep learning curve. Critical functions buried under deep menus and keyboard shortcuts are especially tricky for some users. Even basic setups frustrate beginners, such as the difference between lists and boards. These hiccups can sabotage the best of intentions to get an entire team moving in the same direction. It’s death by a thousand (digital) paper cuts. In fact, it's possible to work HARDER than before because processes fall apart when any tool is used inconsistently.
Third, human factors matter. Results from any tool come from deep integration into daily routines. Setup and training are only the beginning with Asana. People have varying levels of comfort and won’t use something just because it exists. Furthermore, even though Asana is marketed as “project management” and borrows features from classical project management software, formal project managers will likely be dissatisfied. Asana is best characterized as “task management” because it lacks maturity in certain capabilities that traditional PMs expect, such as cost analysis and resource scheduling.
Recommendations to others considering the product
Power and flexibility can either help or hurt depending on how you apply them. I recommend several principles to get the most out of your Asana implementation.
First, establish your underlying goals and define what you seek to accomplish using Asana. There are so many possibilities that it’s easy to get carried away by the tool. Keep these definitions close at hand.
Second, create your own business systems around Asana to accomplish your goals. Willpower is not enough. Simple systems that do not rely on human failure modes include automatically creating a new task in Asana when a specific trigger happens, or scheduling time on the calendar each week to keep Asana projects maintained.
Third, remember that Asana will not replace every other software program. It often makes sense to continue using specialized tools such as CRM, G Suite, etc. You can use integrations in Asana so that they all work together.
Fourth, don’t expect a turn-key solution. Asana does not work well after a quick setup call. Prepare for implementation challenges and growing pains. The good news is that Asana is configurable for almost anything.
Finally, incorporate team members that know Asana well. Asana takes time to learn and there are many possibilities. Otherwise, you might still be uncovering features and optimal setups for years.
These experiences come from my own internal projects and helping others with Asana. How these recommendations apply depends on how they relate to your own situation. While I do not have any formal relationship with Asana, my background with enterprise software projects in general, in over fifteen countries and almost every business function, enables me to assess the technical features and business impact of Asana from a bigger picture context (https://www.mergencesystems.com). Whether these specific recommendations are useful to you depends on the way in which you apply them.
I invite you to contact me through G2Crowd by clicking on my profile image if you have questions.
What business problems are you solving with the product? What benefits have you realized?
Asana eliminates the need to flip between different software programs for checklists, boards, messaging, notes, and files. Too many tools results in confusion about where to work and constant updates to keep everything synchronized. While not perfect, Asana is the simplest unified tool with the muscle to manage task priorities, what the team is doing, and how everything is interconnected. Integration options are great to bridge any gaps.
With everything in the same place, Asana provides visibility. Whether dealing with a small or large project, it’s simple to see the details, who is responsible, and related tasks. It’s totally possible to maintain visibility even when working with large teams because the building blocks are adaptable and scalable. Of course, it’s important to avoid getting too sophisticated with unnecessarily complex structures.
Through this clearer picture, it’s possible to focus on priorities in Asana. Without structure, it’s easy for urgent disruptions to distract from important work. Sections, task order, tags, projects, reports, and other Asana tricks prevent this from happening. Staying organized around priorities drives satisfaction with clients, customers, and stakeholders. Integration with time tracking tools keeps billable projects in view, which is important for revenue.
With the important details up-front, Asana facilitates better conversations and fewer meetings. While back-and-forth from meetings and web conferences won’t go away, Asana constrains them. For example, it's easy to pull tasks together into a meeting agenda (using a tag), get conversations out of email, and link tasks to relevant context. Needless conversations get minimized when all the information is easily accessible.