The Repo

The Tools We Use - Asana - Project Management

Kelly Sims

Written by Kelly Sims on June 12, 2014

Posted in: project management tools

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.

Hello Asana!

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.

Other tools

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.

Comments

  • Arlen Mark
    Arlen Mark
  • Jul 14, 2014

One more tool you will love to try out is proofhub project management tool. It is very easy and effecient project management tool. Loaded with features like time tracking, gantt chart, group chat and much more.

  • Simon
    Simon
  • Nov 25, 2014

Nice post, this is great to hear about some real-world uses of Asana! I have an issue with this use case though - how do you get past the problem of a support email coming in that is incomplete or needs some more information? If you can’t reply back via Asana, do you use some other email tool to communicate with the client separately then manually update the Asana task? I’m also using Helpscout and am looking into tighter integration with Asana and Helpscout for this exact scenario, would love to hear how your team handles this. Thanks!

  • Kelly Sims
    Kelly Sims
  • Nov 26, 2014

Hi Arlen, thanks for the tip.

Simon, for support email we still stick with our email for any communication. Asana is for our team internally. We communicate to each other on tasks through Asana (and Slack), and with the clients in email.

It’s not perfect, but it works for our small team. We have brought clients into Asana, which can alleviate some of the communications issues, but most clients find it easier to stick with what they know, email.

For our BrilliantRetail ecommerce system, we use Helpspot for support tickets. It works well but we’ve been looking at other options as well.

  • Baadier Sydow
    Baadier Sydow
  • Apr 25, 2015

I’ve been using Asana for the past 2 years to manage my business. I’ve been toying with the idea of giving each client a team as we might have 1 or 2 staff working on a particular client along with their representatives.

The one issue is you lose the nifty calendar view across the whole business which gives you the birds eye view of whats happening.

  • Kelly Sims
    Kelly Sims
  • Apr 27, 2015

That’s great Baadier. 2 years for a web app is unusual, but shows how well made Asana is.

  • Baadier Sydow
    Baadier Sydow
  • Apr 27, 2015

I tried quite a few alternatives before settling on Asana. For what its worth, I have used http://harvestapp.com for the same length of time.

The Asana mobile experience was crappy for most of the 2 years but since the update its gotten way better.

Sunrise has recently become part of my toolset as it makes viewing multiple calendars really easy for us.

Cheers

  • Kelly Sims
    Kelly Sims
  • Apr 27, 2015

We also use Harvest for tracking time. I’ve seen sunrise but and a Fantastical user myself. Internally we use Google Apps for calendars.

Thanks for the feedback!

We love comments

  • Anto Shirt
  • Boomphones
  • Lifefactory
  • Growersbox
  • Cake
  • RIFSoCal

Just a few of the amazing companies we have worked with. Find out how Codesly can help your business grow.

Codesly is proudly based in the South Bay area of Los Angeles, CA. We provide website design and development solutions to companies in and around Torrance, Los Angeles, Redondo Beach, and Palos Verdes as well as globally.