Asana promises to rescue marketing and creative types from email chaos

Profile picture for user pwainewright By Phil Wainewright February 27, 2019
Work management platform Asana hits $100m ARR as it launches packaged solution for marketing and creative teams - we speak to Autodesk's content team

Asana in use at Autodesk - screengrab from video 370px
One of the biggest challenges getting started with a digital teamwork platform is figuring out the best way to set it up so people can just get things done. If only it were already packaged up ready to go, based on the learnings of what works well in other teams. This week, work management and project collaboration platform Asana offers a new edition designed to do just that — tailored to the needs of marketing and creative teams.

Packaging up its learnings from the experiences of existing customers is typical of Asana's ambitious approach to solving enterprise work management, as co-founder Justin Rosenstein told us in a wide-ranging interview the other week:

We have very ambitious visions and long-term goals — but how we do that in baby steps is how we keep proceeding.

Those ambitious visions are matched by rapid growth. The company has almost doubled revenues in the past year and has just passed the $100 million mark in annual recurring revenue. It has signed up more than 60,000 paying business customers, plus a million on its free plan. With $200 million in venture funding and a $1.5 billion valuation, its backers expect that growth to continue. Rosenstein isn't fazed: "I feel really good about our trajectory."

This latest 'baby step' is based on the strong presence Asana has already built up in the marketing and creative industries, with customers ranging from Sony Music to Vox Media. The packaged solution is designed to replace the traditional chaos of spreadsheets and emails with a single platform to set objectives, co-ordinate global campaigns and manage the end-to-end creative production process.

It includes specific tools for information gathering, proofing and approvals, and is built on the recently introduced Asana Business edition, which offers the ability to group multiple projects into portfolios for a high-level view of progress. It has ready-made integrations to embed Asana actions into Adobe Creative Cloud, Litmus and Slack.

How Autodesk's content team uses Asana

A few weeks ago I spoke to one of Asana's many customers in the marketing and creative business. Erin Hanson is Head of Content Operations at 3D design software maker Autodesk, and Managing Editor of Redshift, its owned media channel. This publishes articles and videos of interest to Autodesk customers around the world, across industries including architecture, engineering, construction, manufacturing, and infrastructure.

The Redshift team use Asana to manage the production workflow of all content, with each article or video set up as a separate task that flows through the system to completion. There are integrations to Airtable where the team manages its social media activity, and to Wordpress where the content is published.

Redshift currently publishes three to four separate items each week in English, plus localized content in seven other languages ranging from Japanese and simplified Chinese to Turkish, German and French. Everything is produced to a high standard, with the production cycle for each article taking from three to eight weeks, depending on the amount of research needed and also how many people are involved in the approval cycle. Since much of the content is about customers, there may be several stakeholders who need to approve the copy.

Although Autodesk uses Slack more widely for messaging throughout the organization, Asana is where the team keeps all communications relating to the content production workflow, says Hanson:

Any communication related to an article or a piece of content, or questions back and forth about images or anything like that, that all stays in Asana so that we have a record of that.

Never going back to 'jumbled emails and chaos'

The ability to keep track of everything has made Asana indispensable for expanding Redshift's content operations over the past few years, particularly with the recent addition of localized sites that require translations into multiple languages. Hanson recalls the difficulties before bringing that aspect of her work into Asana:

We were bringing stuff back and forth with Box and OneDrive and all this stuff. It was just out of control. It was not working. And I was like, why have I not brought it into Asana? So I've done that ... Honestly the only way I've been able to manage seven languages is by bringing my localization [third-party service] into Asana.

Once you've got used to having the workflow taken care of in a platform like Asana, you don't think of going back, she says:

It is really nice to move past the whole emailing files back and forth to each other. You can see when they've been attached to your task — even if they've mislabeled them, there's timestamps — so you know what's what. Stuff isn't lost any more, because it's already there ...

Life without Asana would be a bunch of jumbled emails and chaos. I think about trying to go back to ways of working that we used before and I don't want to do that, now that we have these platforms.

My take

After interviewing Asana co-founder Rosenstein the other week, this was my verdict:

The challenge for Asana — indeed for any vendor seeking to be successful in this category — is figuring out how to help people understand how to get the most out of their offering. This is an emerging market that isn’t fully defined and therefore people don’t yet appreciate the full extent of what it’s capable of.

Introducing a packaged solution for marketing and creative teams exactly answers that point, and presumably is the first of many such packaged offerings for other industries as Asana expands its reach.

There's still a big education challenge ahead. But so long as most teams are still floundering in ad hoc workflows cobbled together around spreadsheets, email and an assortment of messaging channels, any vendor that can offer a coherent solution will find it easy to win new customers.