Diving Deeper: Why We Chose Asana

By Shabnam Gideon

When I joined Focus Lab, we were managing all client and internal projects in Trello. It's a great application and methodology, and I recommend it. When it came to our highly varied client projects, however, I found we needed more depth in a few key areas.

Some backstory:

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This, my compadres, is that post.

I was largely unfamiliar with Trello at the time, but for those who know, it's easy to pick up and run with. Trello follows the kanban methodology for managing projects, which is, in a very simple explanation, a visual and modular representation of an item/task/project through phases in a workflow, wherein items proceed to a next phase/function only when the next phase/function is ready to accept it.

This methodology is highly logical and is successful in many a shop across many an industry. I'm a fan of the rationale and Trello's interface is accessible, unintimidating, and relatively feature-rich. In fact, we still use Trello for a couple highly-specialized and finite workflows — including our sales pipeline — and it serves us well to that end.

What we needed production-wise, though, was a more robust means of tracking single projects throughout their unique lifetimes. While it would help to more fully explain my decision-making process, I'll save sharing the finer details of my project management philosophy for a later post.

At our shop, a "project" could consist simply of a single task for a single person, but it could also consist of multiple phases with multiple high level tasks, each of which has its own subtasks and deadlines, and may span across the entire production team. What we needed was a solution that allowed for a specific workflow for each project, plus depth in assigning tasks and subtasks, and in commenting and communication. Further, when you can achieve that level of granularity, then you probably have the ability to sort and display assignments and statuses by any one of those project elements: projects, tasks, subtasks, people (or, as we sometimes heartlessly albeit necessarily say, "resources") and deadlines.

By setting up distinct workflows ahead of time, assigning task-level deadlines (with notifications!), and having space for communication, our team could save headspace and time by not having to monitor an entire system for task updates because their individual task lists would show only what they needed to know at the time, but gave them access to dig deeper if they needed.

Asana offered all of these things, and more, including:

  • project templates
  • useful integrations, including Google Drive and time tracking with Harvest
  • task followers and @mentions
  • individual inboxes
  • task sorting options
  • due date calendar views
  • search functionality
  • unicorns

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There's another factor here: everyone is different, including project managers, and what worked well for Alicja wasn't as intuitive for me. By finding a solution that offered the level of management I wanted, and then having the ability to train our team in a way that made sense to me, we arrived at a solution that's working quite well.

Now, what we haven't arrived at is an agreement on pronunciation. I stand alone and proud in placing the accent on the first of the "a"s. So there!