Make Mine Asana
April 18, 2014
Make Mine Asana
Score 9 out of 10
Overall Satisfaction with Asana
Asana runs our entire production department, which includes a staff of nearly 30 web designers, graphic artists, photographers, illustrators, 3-D modellers, copywriters, data entry personnel, and customer service representatives responsible for the ongoing maintenance of thousands of websites and the creation and launches of several hundred new websites each month. Asana helps us stay on schedule with tens of thousands of tasks being completed every month. Asana multiplies our productivity and allows us to achieve goals that would have been all but impossible before.
- Task management is all but flawless in Asana. Almost everything about the drag n' drop interface is perfectly suited for the assignment and timely completion of lots and lots of tasks and sub-tasks. Asana helped us launch a company record of 323 websites in a single month by streamlining our workflow to eliminate work-related "meta" like trying to figure out who was doing what, what should we do next by priority, and on and on. While Asana may have a great many minor flaws, task management and project management are not among them. I don't think anyone does it better, and it is hard to imagine anyone ever being able to.
- Keyboard shortcuts. For old-school keyboard junkies like me, there is nothing better or more time-saving than being able to use the tab key to complete common functions quickly. As a long-time sufferer of repetitive stress injury from heavy mouse use, the less I need to rely on that mouse, the better. Just don't hit Tab+B. And don't ask.
- Tags are especially helpful at organizing and finding groups of tasks. We use tags for almost everything: grouping projects by client company, grouping tasks by department, grouping photo shoots by state, matching prerequisite tasks to their counterparts. With tags, you can customize almost anything in Asana far beyond their probable intended uses.
- e-mail straight to an Asana project... I can't tell you how much time this saves us being able to just send a client e-mail straight to Asana and have it create a task for you in the appropriate project that you can quickly assign out. You might think, "why not just forward the e-mail straight to the person you're assigning it to?" Well, for starters, in our company they are more likely to be looking at Asana at any given moment than their e-mail client. Second, if it goes to their e-mail address, who else do you copy on it? If it goes to Asana it is public for everyone in the workspace to see and comment on, re-assign to themselves if that person is not in the office that day, or whatever. If it goes in Asana it gets done, but if it goes to someone's e-mail and no one else sees it, the task will probably linger awhile.
- Support is always respectful, thoughtful and on-target. While they don't necessarily have the resources to provide the same response times as other companies, the response you do get from Asana will usually not disappoint. Even if I know that I may not see a resolution to my issues immediately, at least with Asana I feel confident that I am being heard and that a fix is on the horizon somewhere. I get a sense that Asana's support team genuinely cares about their customers, and that goes a long, long way with me. I have been thanked no less than four times in a single e-mail from Asana support. They are just good people who manage to make YOU feel good about using their product.
- There are more things Asana does well, and I probably can't really even list them all. The web-based cloud app is very fast, in many cases instantaneous, and we have anywhere from a thousand to two thousand projects with probably hundreds of thousands of tasks. It shouldn't be as fast as it is by any means, but they manage to satisfy somehow. They have a decent mobile app as well, though it is more suited to individual tasks and is of little use to me as a manager overseeing all of them. There are features we don't even use, like Harvest time tracking and several "Hacks". There is just a lot of stuff here.
- A complete lack of even the most basic reporting is a source of ongoing disappointment and frustration. I would like to know, at the very least, how many unarchived projects I have. It would be extremely helpful to know how many incomplete tasks there are, how many tasks are being completed per day or week, or any of those things. Asana doesn't tell you anything at all about what is going on inside of it. Even the filter dropdown, which shows a number of matching tasks for each tag filter includes both completed and incompleted tasks even if you have completed tasks hidden in that view. We have been on Asana for over a year-and-a-half with absolutely no reporting whatsoever beyond what we tracked manually in spreadsheets. This is without a doubt the single most annoying thing about using Asana.
- The project list is an unmitigated, unsortable disaster if you have a large number of projects. Going through it is an hours-long chore of scrolling down, clicking "More Projects..." scrolling down and repeating over and over. To make matter worse, the most recently entered projects always appear at the bottom, so if you have any open but delayed/stalled projects, you'll have to scroll past them to get to the items you can actually get completed. Since projects have no defining characteristics unto themselves that allow any sorting options, you are ever at the mercy of the search box to find anything in any reasonable amount of time, and that search box carries its own set of tiny migraine-inducers.
- The search box is fast enough to function, but not fast enough that you can actually click on things before the results change again as it searches through more items that match your terms. No less than twenty times a day do I search for a tag or project, then click (or arrow key down and hit enter) on the tag or project I am looking for in the results list just as it re-orders itself, causing me to have clicked on the wrong result. Then I have to type my search all over again. The search feature does not work for archived projects, either, so the only ways to find them are to search for a tag you know might be on that project, or scroll all the way down to the archived projects list at the bottom of the main projects list and then patiently hunt-and-peck for them as you scroll further still.
- The API for integration, unlike the web app itself, is painfully slow. I don't know if it is because it wants to pull down every project every time (including archived ones) instead of just the ones you are looking to access or what, but our dev team has had one heck of a time getting it to stay online and functioning. Our integration breaks down regularly, and that affects our photography dispatch report, our automated generation of new tasks when a sale comes in, and our fledgling reporting system (which seems to return only zeroes and ones). Some of this is on our dev team to fix, but I have to blame a cumbersome API for most of the speed issues.
- ROI is through the roof. No WAY could we have accomplished the record-breaking production year we have had without Asana. And at just a few hundred a month it's a total bargain. While I will probably always remain on the lookout for something that does what Asana does but also features detailed reporting, I can't complain too much. Asana delivered what I needed it to: much faster completion of individual tasks leading to exponentially increased output across the team (and therefore higher potential sales volume). Fewer hours wasted on work "meta" like sending e-mails back & forth, tracking progress on spreadsheets and so forth means less $$$ spent on wages to achieve greater results. That, in turn, allows for better hourly wages for team members and a much happier team overall.
- The negative impact of Asana is that our development team is often tied up supporting our essential integrations when they could be building new things instead. Asana is great, but it isn't a total solution and doesn't pretend to be. The cost of making up the difference for a larger, more complex operation like ours is substantial, but it is still more cost-effective than trying to develop a proprietary solution that probably would not be as polished anyway.
We just evaluated Podio, which has a number of distinct advantages over Asana as far as flexibility and reporting, but fails spectacularly when relied upon to deliver complex task management. AskCow has also been evaluated, and is nearly identical to Asana in most respects, except that the interface is less professional-looking, it seems quite a bit slower, and the documentation just reads weird. The promotional video about running a starfleet shouted "nerd" to me, and not in a really good way. Still, if we had found that first, we might have used it, but porting all of our data from Asana to AskCow just seemed utterly pointless. The differences weren't substantial enough to justify a move, especially when Asana just "feels right" and has offered us such great support. I guess you could say we're still looking, but I don't suspect Asana has anything to worry about with us for awhile.
I just can't see us getting it off of Asana any time soon, despite the many headaches it has caused us. We have too much data in there, too much time & training invested into it, too much at stake to move. If we were just starting out today, fresh, I don't know for certain that I would absolutely go the same direction, but I *think* I still would. I just haven't seen anything better yet. Maybe if Podio's support staff hadn't treated me like a worthless nuisance to them, I might feel differently, but the fact is that their task management is simply inferior to Asana's. That can't be denied, and in fact Podio said it themselves: "Tasks are a simple function. They cannot be customized. Tasks in Podio can be used for quick to-do's for you and your team members." In our operation, however, prompt task completion is a big deal; one task can't be completed until another one is done first, and closing the gaps between those tasks is critical in meeting deadlines and servicing our customers. Asana gets us there, the others don't.
In cooperation with another system to act as the brains, like our proprietary CMS, Asana can be a magnificent tool for gaining task-completion efficiency. There is maybe AskCow or one or two others that may rate as comparable, but Asana wears the crown as far as I'm concerned. I would and have recommended it to others to speed up their production efficiency. For most any other purpose, though, you kind of need to shoehorn things into tasks almost as a hack. It doesn't inherently work well for sales or development, mainly because there aren't any different types of views. The flexibility simply isn't there, but for its primary purpose you just can't go wrong.
They don't fix everything, but they have certainly gone the extra mile for us. When we were frustrated with a recent change that altered our default view of every project, changing it from all projects being visible to just incomplete projects being visible, they wrote a custom script to change all of our default views back for us, so we didn't have to manually click 3,000 times (we have over a thousand projects).
No escalation required
Support understands my problem
Support cares about my success
Quick Initial Response
Yes - I think so. I recall noticing the problem as being fixed sometime later, but I wasn't personally notified whenever it was, so I couldn't say how quickly it was resolved.
I think the time they wrote a custom script for us to change all of our views when we were really frustrated with a recent change demonstrates their willingness to provide exceptional service. Few, if any, other companies would undertake such efforts just for a single client. Asana treats you like a true partner, not just a dollar sign and some numbers.