A radical switch from sole entrepreneurship to group management is never easy, in particular when one hasn’t spent that much time in a team environment. In business, as in life, things tend to go out of control as soon as you start involving more people, which is why it is imperative to have a clear overview of what is happening in your company. True, many tools were developed to deliver such insights, but rarely one will be good enough to explain the things you’re actually looking at.
Today, we are sharing the story of a successful creative agency and its leader Jeremy, a number geek who worked independently for 10 years, and had no idea how to manage a team. Not even to mention communication virtue was not the thing Jeremy was best known for. Business, nevertheless, flourished, and Jeremy found himself stuck with many projects on his table, and several people over his head asking how to manage those on his behalf. He knew he should find a realiable software to help him with that probelm and accidently stumbled upon one of the best on the market: Asana.
Discovering the highlights of Asana during a free trial period was a long and entertaining process, as he likes to put it, at the end of which he had no second thoughts about whether to upgrade to a paid plan. This article is a summary of his Asana experience.
Asana doesn’t organize tasks into projects but into Workspaces, which allowed Jeremy to bundle way more details inside than he would in his regular case file. Basically, when two projects are related there is no need to tackle them separately, and Jeremy used the well-planned layers within the Workspaces to manage more tasks at once. To start with, he designed his own Personal Workspace, where he kept top payers he couldn’t entrust to anyone else, and only then shifted to Professional Workspaces where activities were divided between employees. To avoid mismanagement, he tagged himself in the Professional Workspace as well, so that he could monitor performance and give instructions.
The next thing he had to think of were his multi-team projects, namely those he needed to assign to all of his three teams. A new Workspace was created for that, and a fourth Former Tasks one was added for freelance projects he hadn’t finished at the time. He was really impressed by the opportunity Asana gave him for personal and professional project management, to work solo or to involve clients and partners, and to monitor literally everything taking place under the umbrella of his company.
What he didn’t expect, and found really useful, is how Asana handles last minute modifications: he made a few mistakes putting personal projects in the Professional section, but managed to reposition them with a single click by moving them between the sections neatly organized in the sidebar. As soon as the change was recorded in the system, each member assigned to that project received an email notification.
Once all projects were categorized in Workspaces, Jeremy proceeded by entering details and noting tasks for each of them. Most of all, he enjoyed filtering results via assigned members, dates, and prioritization. As a matter of fact, he deemed projects to be lightweight compared to Workspaces, as they reminded him of how he used to categorize them in folders.
Asana allowed him to create both private and public projects, and to edit them in a simple dropdown menu. There was even an option to duplicate an existing project, or to change its status upon need. He tried to duplicate a posting project for his agency’s blog, and was actually able to select only certain tasks he needed to recreate instead of the entire batch. He preserved the project’s privacy while deciding which elements to put forward, and then assigned it to the social team’s leader in order to execute it. It was right then that he understood duplication is a smart method for reusing templates, instead of losing time creating new ones for each project.
This was, in fact, Jeremy’s biggest fear. Running a creative agency happened to be daunting because tasks were different and required extra instructions, and he had no mechanism to categorize them into groups, or assign them to the right people. Asana didn’t make those tasks any easier, but at least managed to eliminate the fuss of creating them ad hoc.
What happened exactly? Tasks were for the first time packed with all necessary information, namely comments, notes, and hyperlinks that keep everyone focused on them. There was simply no risk that someone would miss seeing that task, or not comply with the imposed deadline (checking the icon next to the collaborator’s name was enough to see how far the collaborator got with the task).
Just as projects, tasks could be filtered by people, tags, or projects they are assigned under, where the highlight was actually able to assign a task to more than one project. Once you clicked on the task, it revealed a special panel with factual dots visible only to collaborators. Jeremy was able to track the status of each task from the commodity of his dashboard, and to archive it once it was completed. Few evenings in a row, he tested his ability to access tasking history from his mobile device, and was extremely pleased with the results.
Jeremy’s favorite part of the process was actually adding due dates to the tasks, which he did using a simple keyboard shortcut Tab + D. Upon need, he also set automated intervals, which allowed him to focus on other activities instead of measuring delivery times.
Tasks, as Jeremy explains, were beyond any conventional concept for organizing to-do lists, and that’s because they were further categorized and segmented with tags. In most cases, he tagged various projects, and found that its pretty easy to change those if needed (he hasn’t done it yet though). What did a great job for him was tagging social networks in order to cut monitoring times, and he is now sure that his work is shared and popularized even when he didn’t actually take care of the issue. Just as with projects, he duplicated many tasks to create reusable templates.
To provide the best Asana experience, the vendor offers a robust 30-day free trial and Jeremy couldn’t be happier to recommend it even to solo proprietors who are not planning to buy a project management system any time soon. In fact, he got to continue using this system for free because his team is smaller than 15 members.
Nevertheless, Jeremy would like to see his business growing more, and he found Asana pricing to be flexible enough to stay in line with his needs. He will certainly switch to the Premium plan once the free plan ends, as he will only be expected to pay $8.33 per member per month.
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