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Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Using Asana

8:26 PM Posted by Deepak Nayal No comments
I have been using Asana, a task management tool, for managing my consumer initiative for sometime now, and I am really impressed with its combination of simplicity, speed and usefulness. Asana was founded by Facebook co-founder and ex-employees. Apparently they noticed the problems in managing tasks and projects and communication in Facebook, and realized that people were inclined to use simple tools that could get the job done quickly. This became the permise for creating Asana. 

I have been using it primarily for identifying product features and creating product roadmap. Activities such as adding product features, tracking their progress, prioritizing them for releases have been a breeze since I started using Asana. Now it has turned out to be my primary project management tool. Sure it still is missing some very important features such as offline mode and a graphical view (e.g. gantt chart), but the things that it can do, it does really well. 

Simplicity is a very important factor in making Asana a useful product. A lot of us have used products like Microsoft Project before and banged our fists on desk frustrated with its capability of making even the most trivial tasks difficult. Such traditional project management tools have become so bloated that while they might be useful for managing complex projects, they are not the most optimal solution for managing small or average sized projects (which is where most of the projects fall in). In case you do not agree with me or do not know what I am talking about, try changing a date in your existing plan in MS Project and you will see for yourself. On the contrary, Asana's minimal and simplistic approach to task and project management is one of its biggest strength. 

Speed is another useful factor for Asana. Given its roots in Facebook, I am not surprised that Asana was built with speed as one of its core considerations. It is fast in two ways. First, it is very responsive. It almost feels like you are using a locally installed software. Its creators have developed their own web framework for developing such fast web 2.0 applications. Second, it can be used almost entirely with keyboard shortcuts. This might seem trivial at first, but the fact that users do not have to keep shifting their hands between keyboard and mouse, makes it a lot more easier and faster to operate. 

The overall look and feel of Asana is also very commendable. It is uncluttered, uses subdued colors, beautiful fonts, and does not have toolbars full of icons like its competitors. It has a very [iOS] app like feeling to it. 

Even with all these strengths, Asana still has to provide more features that people have got use to, such as the ones mentioned above, for it to be taken as a serious project management tool. One might sideline Asana in comparison with MS Project or Basecamp, and probably rightly so for now. However, I think the Asana team is taking its time and building the right foundation for their product. And with the kind of team they have put together I am confident this is not the kind of product that you can just write off. The challenge, however, for Asana will be to maintain its speed, simplicity and nice UI even with increasing number of features.

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