Improving our agency’s posture with Asana

Just a week after their public launch, Asana quickly became the hot new thing at our agency. We had been searching for a simple solution to manage client emails, and so far Asana has delivered that and more.

What Asana Does

A project management tool with emphasis on task tracking, Asana allows us to create multiple projects for free (unlike Basecamp) with unlimited team members in each project. This means our whole team can follow a project and its various tasks and be notified via email when something is updated in that project.

For our hypothetical client ACME, we created a new project called ACME, added each team member as a follower, then setup an outlook email contact for the project itself which looks something like “ACME – CPC Search” You see, the cool thing about Asana is the ability to create a new task via email. Just put that address in the To, CC, or BCC fields, hit Send, and a your whole team is notified (as long as they’re following the project).

We repeated this process for each of our clients and now have a nice list-serve-meets-project-manager with a few other bells and whistles tossed in. One suggestion for the Asana product team would be a one-click V-card export to Outlook. Otherwise, each member of your team needs to create a new contact for each project. (At least we realized we could have one person do this and email all the V-cards to everyone else.)

Put It In Practice

Getting this to work for us took some experimentation. Since we wanted to copy Asana on all client-related emails (reports or  account updates) we figured we would put the client in the To field and Asana in the CC field. This caused problems though. When our clients hit Reply All to our emails they received an error message back from Asana saying: “You are not a follower or user of this Asana account.” So, putting Asana in the To or CC would not work.

By putting Asana in the BCC field, we eliminated those error messages, but what if our client had an excellent reply? How could we add that to the thread? It’s not perfect, but in those cases we will just forward meaningful replies to the Asana contact.

What Asana Does Not Do

Great technical support does not yet flow from Asana. In two cases we asked for some hand-holding and were denied both times — once in the form of a rejected LinkedIn message — doh! Well, I guess that’s life in the fast-lane!

As a task/project management tool that aims to be well integrated with email, they could take it further and let us do other relevant things via email: adding tags and due dates, for starters.

Speaking of email, there is no way to adjust your notification settings. So if you don’t want to receive an email for this or for that, too bad — you are going to be notified on EVERYTHING, like it or not. In the era of (over)engineered notification settings (Facebook, Twitter) these guys have some catching up to do.

But all in all, we seem to have put this free tool to good use and regardless of the lack of this or that, it has simplified our approach to client management in a way that is virtually invisible to our clients (if not overly visible to us).