In an attempt to fix collaboration, Facebook cofounder Dustin Moskovitz has officially launched Asana to the masses. Read on if a modernized productivity service sounds like it could be a nice add to your social business menu.
Here's how it works: Asana's interface features three panes. The left column lists work spaces and current projects that can be accessed by teams of people. Select a project and it will appear expanded in the middle column, accompanied by a checklist of related tasks that can be assigned. Click a task and the task's details -- asignee, due date, comments, etc. -- will appear in the right-hand column.
There's a lot of other little features available within the system, such as the automatic incorporation of e-mails and external task lists. Check out the video below to see how several companies are using the platform today:
“Today people have all this information stuck in their heads, split across a gazillion different e-mails and documents and status meetings, just to try to stay on same page,” said cofounder (and former Facebook employee) Justin Rosenstein. “Asana takes all that work and unifies it onto one page.”
In other words, it's not a social network, nor is it Facebook for business. It's an amped up to-do list.
Obvious Social Roots
While the app's founders are clearly adamant about keeping Asana from being interpreted as a second Facebook, they do borrow some ideas from the social network. For instance, tasks have walls and activity feeds, and users may "follow" them in order to receive updates when they change.
"Now that people bring the tech products they use at home into the workplace, they expect business tools to be as intuitive and easy to use as consumer products," explained Kenny Van Zant, Asana’s head of business.
Still, as it stands Asana’s biggest competitors as low-tech tools used for coordinating. Think: e-mail chains, whiteboards, meetings-- even Post-it notes. The platform reminds me a lot of a cleaner, prettier, free version of Basecamp.
That's right, I said the F word. Asana is free for individuals and teams of up to 30 users. Beyond that, who knows. The company doesn't look to have decided just yet, but I expect it'll be the same ol' premium prices for premium features drill.
Solving the Collaboration Problem
While the service just launched its public beta this week, its famous roots means tech kids have been tracking and discussing it for some time now. Back in February, Rich Blank of NewsGator covered it in detail:
My interpretation of the problem Asana is trying to solve is that collaboration continues to happen via email. Email makes it incredibly difficult for anyone at any level to put some context around specific tasks, take the appropriate actions and ensure some coordinated effort exists towards whatever objective or deliverable the team is trying to achieve.
Asana's approach to this "email and information overload problem" is a SaaS solution offering a simple task management tool for small teams or organizations. The Asana product focuses on what Rosenstein calls "speed and structure" which can be loosely translated as efficiency AND context of the information flow among the team members. And the intended results are more accountability and transparency in managing tasks.
If you're looking for a free, easy-to-use task manager that can help organize an event or project, I don't see any reason why you wouldn't want to give Asana a spin. If you go ahead with it, let us know what you think in the comments below. Or, if you have a preferred tool, tell us what's so great about it.