Part of a series of posts where we cover the tools we use here at Codesly.
Back when I came on board with Codesly, we were using ActiveCollab for project management. It was a bit of a pain point for me coming from Apollo, but we made it work. Mostly.
One reason we used it, and one that most agencies use it and things like Basecamp for, is client interaction. Having a tool for clients to take part in discussions and task management seems like a win for both client and agency.
But eventually, we discovered that most clients just don’t use them. This meant the PM tool was really just for us. For us, we didn’t need discussions, notebooks, and most everything else ActiveCollab (or Basecamp for that matter) offered. We needed task management.
I’m a tool junky. If left alone, I will spend an inordinate amount of time researching the best tool for everything I do. It’s borderline obsession. But it has it’s good side. When it came time to find something new, I already had a short-list of things to try, and Asana was on top of that list. As it turns out, it was a perfect fit for us.
How we us Asana
Asana has a learning curve, somewhat steeper than other simple task systems. It’s not overly complicated, but it’s really flexible. Which means you can use it a number of different ways, and that means it can be hard to fit into at first. The team behind Asana has done a really great job of setting up videos and help on it though.
For us, everything start with projects. We have one team here so using multiple teams is unnecessary. Everything we do gets a project. New Codesly website, new client project, new internal project, all get a project in Asana. We also have a Client Support project that lumps a number of clients together for support tasks. More on that later.
For our work to excel, we need to make sure everything is covered in tasks. Each of us needs to know what needs to be done and by when. So every task in Asana gets assigned to a person. No open tasks allowed. If we’re unsure who might need to do the work, I take the task and decide later. We also diligently assign (most) everything due dates. This helps us get a big picture view of all work inside the calendar view of Asana.
Every day we take time in the morning to set up our tasks for the day. Asana let’s you set a task to either Today, Upcoming or Later. This is my favorite part of Asana. I look through Upcoming and move things to my Today list every day. Everyone else does this as well. During the day, I can open anyone’s task list and see what they have on their plate for the day.
Asana is also very keyboard-friendly. Almost the entire system is manageable from just the keyboard. Makes getting around in it a breeze once you get your bearings.
Due dates on tasks automatically bubble up tasks when they are due. So if you have something set for today and it’s hidden in Later, it will show up in your Today. Very nice!
Client support with Asana
We have a growing number of clients, and they often need assistance or small bits of help on things. For this we created the Client Support project. Since each project gets it’s own email address, this makes it easy to forward in client emails to start a task. That keeps the whole message and any attachments included in the task. We can then pop into Asana and assign it a person and due date. We use comments and sub-tasks as needed for these.
To keep them organized better, we use tags to distinguish clients. Each client gets a tag, so at a glance we can see which clients have work needing done. Clicking a tag shows all tasks for just that client, all over Asana.
Asana integrates with a number of 3rd party systems, like Harvest. We use Harvest for time tracking and invoicing our clients. Once the client support task has been emailed in, we can start a Harvest timer right from the task itself. I can see the task timer show up in my desktop Harvest app within seconds, and then I’m off to make the client happy! We love the integration with Harvest. It was one of the big selling points for us.
Client work in Asana
I mentioned above that we don’t do much collaborative task work with clients anymore. Most of our clients just never use it. We do have clients once in awhile though that do, and Asana works well in those situations too. We just share a project with whoever we need to by email address, and they get to access just that. They never see anything else within Asana that we don’t need them seeing. They get email updates and get to email tasks in just like we do. It works great.
This is one of a series will be doing. Other tools we use that we’ll be writing about include Evernote, Dropbox, Foundation, InVision, Beanstalk and Harvest.