Fresh from posting strong Q1 numbers last week, work management platform Asana this week is getting a march on rivals with the launch of a new feature that lets users record video messages for colleagues to view on-demand. Similar capabilities are on the roadmap of several other digital teamwork players — Slack has been talking about it for ages — but Asana is now just weeks away from rolling it out in production, working in partnership with enterprise video platform Vimeo. Other new features in yesterday's announcement include Asana's first desktop app, new ways to organize to-do lists, supported by automations, and an integration with smart calendar assistant Clockwise.
The past year-and-a-half has shown the power of video as a communication channel, but the phenomenon of Zoom fatigue has also demonstrated its downside. Video calls are synchronous — they require everyone to be present at the same time, even when only one person is speaking. The advantage of video messages is that they're asynchronous — one person records it at a time of their choosing and others can then view it later on demand. But unlike text messaging, it's a conversational medium that shows off the speaker's tone and gestures, and a visual medium that allows for much more information to be conveyed alongside the speaker themself. The Vimeo technology can record the speaker's face, a screenshare of documents, slides or images, or a picture-in-picture recording of both together. All of this makes it a potentially huge time saver, says Alex Hood, Asana's Chief Product Officer. As he explains:
It's a new form factor of communication, that can be much more efficient, because it's just the number of minutes required to get the message. It should draw away from 30-minute Zoom calls. And it should draw away from sitting at your keyboard with your headphones on, typing paragraphs to one another, which is slow and old-fashioned.
Connecting video into the work graph
All this is already possible with standalone video applications such as Loom, which Atlassian just announced it will integrate into its Trello task management app, or with video meeting add-on app mmhmm, whose latest release adds a host of new video editing features. But Asana's integration with Vimeo connects into the 'work graph' of data that Asana tracks as teams progress their work, attaching a searchable transcript along with metadata about the content and context of the video. Hood says:
It's not just a, 'Hey, we created an easy way to capture a video and attach it into Asana.' We've gone to take that unstructured data about work — which is how I think about conversations, or people just sharing video clips — and we've made it structured, accountable and retrievable ...
Where I think we're different is the most important piece, which is applying the video content — the transcript, the words — and making them an accountable part of the plan of record in the Asana work graph.
Hood believes this asynchronous video capability will become even more important as some workers return to their offices, while others continue working from other locations. He explains:
One way to think of async video is, it's a way to level the playing field between those who are in the office, and can have those conversations in real time to get context, and those who are not — without having to get everybody together on a Zoom call. That's one of the pain points that we've seen in some of these hybrid working environments. So it's a hybrid tool for a hybrid office environment.
Other new capabilities announced this week include:
- A new desktop app, providing an alternative to the existing browser and mobile apps for when users don't want to be bothered by notifications so that they can focus on the work in hand.
- An upgrade to the My Tasks personal prioritization system allows users to organize work into Kanban, list or calendar views, and adds automation options. Users can set rules to automatically organize tasks based on a due date or when a teammate has completed work that unblocks a dependent task.
- Integration with smart calender app Clockwise, which automatically schedules priority tasks from Asana by blocking out time in the user's Google Calendar.
100,000 paying customers, eyeing 50% annual growth
Timed to coincide with yesterday's Focus and Flow Summit virtual event, this week's announcements follow on from last week's launch of Universal Reporting, an enterprise-wide view of all the various work projects and tasks across an organization. That launch adds the final, executive-level view that co-founder Justin Rosenstein described to diginomica in our first encounter with the startup more than two years ago.
Last week's Q1 earnings report gave a measure of Asana's progress since then, passing the 100,000 paying customers milestone and reaching 1.5 million paid users. Quarterly revenue was up 61% year-over-year, and the company raised its full year guidance to $336-340 million, representing an annual growth rate in the 48-50% range. Even more impressive is the growth in larger customers. Asana ended the quarter with 11,272 customers spending $5,000 or more on an annualized basis, up 53% year-over-year and representing almost two thirds (64%) of total revenue. At the high end, the number of customers spending $50,000 almost doubled (92%) to 485 customers, and the company's largest customer deployment expanded to 50,000 seats in the quarter. Those customers are spending more too, with the dollar-based net retention rate in this cohort running at over 140%.
While the company expects operating margins to improve "slightly" in the coming year, it's notable that alongside sales and marketing spend running at 68% of revenue, it continues to invest in research and development at the rate of 40% of revenue. There are some intriguing enterprise-focused announcements planned for later in the year, including new workflow templates in Q4. Part of that R&D spend is on, as Hood puts it, "hiring the best designers that I can possibly find." Ease of use is a priority because it's only by getting people to plan and record their work in Asana that it will be able to eliminate all the "work about work" that's currently holding them back. He explains:
The tool needs to be so easy that you benefit from it as an individual contributor, because frankly, that's how the work graph data model gets populated. The alternative, though, is back to 80% of folks working out of their email inbox as their to-do list.
I'm pleased to see Asana embracing video in its partnership with Vimeo as I think people are increasingly going to turn to video as a quicker and more productive alternative to text messaging. In fact, future decades may look back on all the 'someone is typing' of this era in the same way that Gen X looks back on the typing pools of the twentieth century.
But what's crucial about how Asana has incorporated video is in digitizing the content so that it becomes part of the work graph it's building up. This is the key to delivering the highest level of the maturity model for enterprise digital teamwork and will become particularly crucial as we enter the hybrid work environment of the Vaccine Economy. I'll have more on this in the coming days so hold that thought for now.