The VPM Blog

Teeing Off With Asana

Posted by admin on Jun 11, 2012 12:31:28 PM

Golf Joust is a new mobile app, available in beta for iOS and Android. Forget the Bay Area, the Big Apple, the Valley… our startup is making a go of it on The Plains. We’re a young, self-funded operation and - call us crazy - few areas in the country beat the Southeast when it comes to golf.

The median age in our Auburn, Alabama office is 25, with one major outlier (our wondrously young-at-heart leader, Don). We do it all under the auspices of Verge Pipe Media: application design, development, marketing and PR.

The Tee Box (quick setup)

I bring this up only to mention that, like so many businesses, our resources are rather precious. Our staff juggles a lot during any given day, generally loathes e-mail and the vast majority of communication is done face-to-face, over Facebook, within Google Docs and through group texts. As the ops person, this is a recipe for disaster when it comes to tracking and accountability. Or, it would be… were it not for Asana.

Asana is the latest effort from a pair of Facebook's tech-dev heavy hitters, Dustin Moskovitz and Justin Rosenstein -- a platform that re-imagines "how teams get things done". So, that's promising. Here's how Asana works for us...

Club Selection (pulling out a steady driver: Asana)

Group project management = clearly and concisely explaining not only what your team will be doing, but why it’s important to our overall efforts. Decision-making logic and “big picture” context are crucial to execution.

We use Asana to reiterate team discussions. As recommended in their incredibly helpful tutorial videos, Golf Joust’s mid-to-long range roadmap and short-term objectives are laid out for all of our team members to see and refer to, as needed.

Our roadmap includes milestones and objectives for our beta release and the summer golfing season here in the United States: achieve X # of users this season, achieve X # of golf course additions at our freemium level, achieve # of golf courses at our paid “pro” level, create content to run alongside the U.S. Open, develop improvements to the game engine and general upgrades, solidify plan for version 2.0 based on golfer feedback, networking and introductions to potential capital investors, etc.

The roadmap gets broken down into 1 week sprints. The goal of this project is simple: make sure our entire team understands what has to get done this week. Where are we moving as a team? How does this make sense in the grand scheme of things? What are our priorities?

Asana gets our team onto the fairway. One powerful driver, that helps Golf Joust hit it straight and clear.

Stance (lining up)

Once all of our team members are in play – that is, our proverbial groupings and tee times are set -- individual strategy starts to figure into the process.

On any given week, we’re working on tweaks to the administrative dashboard, surveying current users, retooling our social media strategy, running earned media campaigns through regional press outlets, producing social videos, editing photography, writing and running our various accounts and systems through review.

Each person plays a very specific role in this sort of operation… and each person has about a thousand roles to play. Needless to say: it takes some rather deft maneuvering and metal acrobatics when determining who to deploy, under what auspices, when, where, how and what to do if one or more factors change mid-stream.

Fortunately, Asana does some of this thinking for our team by super-charging the people process and giving everyone a very clear sense of how they are expected to line up and what projects should be front-of-mind.

Asana allows you to assign people to specific lines within a project, log notes and keep a steady stream of updates / comments and attachments organized all in one place.

Waggle (energizing our effort)

Lining up for the shot is one thing, putting everything into motion is another. Just ask pros Kevin Na or Morgan Pressel.

Once our work starts, Asana provides a remarkable degree of flexibility and fluidity in our day-to-day processes. Project tasks are easily re-assignment, streams may be dragged and dropped elsewhere, special tracking tags can be added to any line within Asana and the platform sends activity out in an e-mail update (should you choose).

At our office, our full creative process entails several stages and work groups. We have one group that drafts strategy, another that produces raw content, another team responsible for design / branding and still another that is responsible for publishing and metrics. The foundational work is done as a whole, but when it comes time to work – we break out and start chipping away. When one group is done with their process on a specific project, the line is simply reassigned to the next work group along with instructions.

If we have to back track or someone drops out of a daily workflow for any given reason (out-of-office, sick, re-assigned due to pressing need, etc.), it’s as easy as reassigning the line within Asana, providing a note and following up in-person.

Stroke (executing)

Asana, unfortunately, can’t do this part for you.

The pros play under great conditions, with fabulous coaches, cutting-edge gear, years of practice and a drive to win. But when it comes to ball striking – the actual moment of impact – the pro’s action is all that counts. Execution is about having the best people on your team, great leaders, focus and guts.

Moving on then…

Follow-Through (ensuring the shot + sizing up performance)

From a managerial stand-point, Asana’s “people” and “tag” tabs give me a pretty good sense of who should be doing what, at any given time. I can see what each person in our office is assigned to within Asana and, if I need added oversight, I can track tags that may be publicly or privately attached to each task.

When a task involves several different work groups, each group will be tagged on that specific task – making it easy to see what, for example, our Golf Joust Street Team has on tap during the week.

If I want the added benefit of personal oversight and follow-up, I’ll attach a private tag… something that only I’ll see… something like “GIDDYUP”. I can then search the team dashboard for anything I’ve slapped this priority tag on. Nifty.

When tasks are done, we simply check them off and re-rack our rolling projects or archive the whole darn thing (one-and-done type deals).

Current leader-board

  • Ease of installation: 5 out of 5 – Asana is a web-based app that requires a confirmed e-mail address. Asana integrates with Google and, I’m assuming, is a setup for features to come. Up to 30 users are permitted within a workspace for free, more than enough to cover most small business and early startup needs.
  • Ease of use: 3 out of 5 – By design, Asana is an open-ended platform. The interface is silly stupid – it’s basically a blank, tiered to-do list – but the true power / functionality comes into play when your entire team embraces the app and uses the same workflow and tagging standards. If you’re implementing Asana within your organization, I’d definitely run a test period and clearly indicate your standards for adoption.
  • General utility: 3.5 out of 5 – I love Asana’s foundation and I’m looking forward to what it is to come. That said, there is still a big disconnect between the “due date” function and our group’s centralized calendar. Down the line, I’d like to see greater integration with Google Calendar and Google Docs... or a flat-out better solution. Asana also recommends a few ways you can use their platform to log time and efficiency but I’ve still found these methods to be redundant (I’m still required to keep a separate spreadsheet and account, line-by-line, for time spent; there is no simple export function). The utility of something like TimeFox isn’t there quite yet.
  • User engagement: n/a – Asana’s developers haven’t gotten in our way or driven anyone off so, really and truly, engagement is driven by the user / company. Either people are bought in, or they aren’t.
  • Keeper factor: 5 out of 5 – for a free, flexible project management and CRM tool, I haven’t seen anything on the market that can challenge Asana. What’s more – for those of you that are interested in the back-end – the Asana team is aspiring to do way more than build a web app that lays on-top of Google apps. Asana is developing an entirely new coding framework called Lunascript. Pretty impressive work.

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Meredith Singer is COO & Co-Creative of Verge Pipe Media. Verge Pipe Media assists public institutions, enterprises and the non-profit sector with Imaginative Inbound Marketing strategies + campaigns. We also have a development team chock full of Marvelous Mobile Migrators, poised to help transition our clients into a mobile + social world.

 

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