Asana adds Microsoft Teams integration to help 'cat-chasers' herd work

Profile picture for user pwainewright By Phil Wainewright June 18, 2020
Summary:
Work management platform Asana partners with Microsoft to integrate with Teams and help remote teams keep track of work status

Asana task within Microsoft Teams - screenshot
(via Asana)

Work management platform Asana, now in the throes of preparing a direct stock market listing expected later this year, today launches its integration with Microsoft Teams. The deepened partnership with Microsoft, which mirrors an existing relationship between Asana and Teams rival Slack, brings task management functionality that isn't available natively in Teams. Asana Head of Product Alex Hood explains:

The best teams have something where the plan of record lives and becomes a living system for the team to have, who's doing what by when, who's accountable, what's the purpose/plan/responsibility. So it's a nice addition to Microsoft Teams because they don't have it. Because there's so much back and forth, sometimes people can get sloppy as they're chit-chatting about something.

Now you just right-click in Teams, and you pop it over into Asana, and it becomes an accountable task, added to the project plan.

As of today, users can launch or update Asana tasks directly from within a Teams conversation, or view relevant snippets of Teams conversations from within an Asana task. Here is the full list of capabilities in Asana for Microsoft Teams:

  • Instantly turn conversations in Teams into tasks in Asana to create a plan of record on who is doing what by when
  • Receive automated notifications about important Asana task and project changes directly in Teams via bot technology
  • View context and details of Asana tasks from within Teams
  • Find and share Asana tasks, projects, and portfolios with teammates directly in Microsoft Teams

Many points of integration

With the exception of the integration to bots in Teams, the functionality is similar to Asana's integration to Slack. That is Asana's most popular integration, says Hood, which bodes well for the success of the Teams integration.

We're not choosing favourites. But we are partnering with Microsoft because a good portion of the billion information workers out there are chatting using Teams ...

We know that this is a big unmet customer need for those who come to work and their laptop has the Microsoft suite on it. They['ve] lack[ed] the capabilities that Asana can offer.

Alongside the new integration with Teams, the two companies offer various other integration points between Asana and Office365, including the ability to convert emails from Microsoft Outlook into a task in Asana and attach Office365 application files from OneDrive to Asana tasks. There's also the ability to build custom dashboards in Microsoft's PowerBI analytics based on data from Asana and other business tools, or create automated workflow between Microsoft applications and Asana using Power Automate. In addition, Asana customers with an Azure AD instance can use it to manage user access, provision user accounts, and enable single sign-on to Asana. Adding Teams completes the line-up, says Hood.

Now folks have a lot of avenues to communicate. Email's one now and chat's an additional one, popularized in the Microsoft suite by Teams. So now you can be looking across the places where you communicate, and be right-clicking, turning things into tasks and piping your notifications into the right spot. There is a cohesion, where it's not just one tool works with Asana and the other communications do not.

Among the millions who have adopted Teams, Asana is most likely to be welcomed by those who work cross-functionally. Those are the users who typically get the most benefit out of using Asana, says Hood:

They spend a lot of their time chasing cats internally — we serve the cat chasers. It's those functions like product management, product marketing, creative direction, operations of all kinds. Those are the ones who we see adopt us, love and recommend Asana, because they're the ones who are not professional project managers, but have a lot of accountability without a lot of authority and have to work across teams to get the job done.

They hate pinging people. They hate being that person who is always following up. When your cross-functional project is in Asana, you literally can open it up and just see the state of the world — the state of now across all the dependencies — that is attached to the work by definition. So there's no pinging required. It just really allows everyone to see the lay of the land at their particular altitude, their particular interest level.

My take

This is an important step for Asana and also for Microsoft Teams. For Asana, it opens up a much wider user population than the Slack universe where it has found most acceptance to date. Many of the current generation of digital teamwork tools, Slack included, have the aura of being a product of Silicon Valley buzz rather than something that's relevant in the wider world. However false and unfair that perception may be, partnering with Microsoft helps validate Asana to that wider world, as well as opening up a rapidly expanding user base driven by Microsoft's marketing of Teams to its Office 365 user base. With a stock market listing planned later this year, it's a good news story that brings some limelight to Asana at a time when investment rules mean that it can't currently discuss user growth or other business metrics.

It's good for Microsoft too because, as I've previously discussed, there's a lot more to successful remote teamwork than video meetings. All those millions of users that have switched on Teams during lockdown to continue their work from home must be starting to get mightily fed up with having to check on work status constantly over video or chat. That's where a work management tool like Asana comes in really useful, and so I'm in agreement with Hood that there's a massive unmet need that Asana can now help Microsoft address.