Over the years I’ve used many project management systems to keep Spigot on track. From Basecamp to ActiveCollab to a long stint with Project Pier and a few others I feel like I’ve tried them all. For various reasons each was disappointed enough to continue searching, trying the latest software – much to the team’s frustration. While it’s never been an issue for me to try new systems, not everyone is as happy changing up their workflow. For clients too, these changes were usually so disruptive that I’ve stopped bringing them in, sticking strictly to email.
About a year ago I stumbled upon Asana during yet another search for the PMS holy grail. It was free so I gave it a try for a week on my own. Secretly. If Kari knew I was trying another system she’d kill me. After a week I was hooked. Project entry, easy. Task entry, easy. Assigning a due date and person responsible… yep, easy. I boldly announced the change that week, endured the groans, and we’ve all been managing happily ever after. Well mostly anyway.
This is how we use Asana. While the structure has changed a few times, we keep three Teams: Projects, Spigot, and Family (We actually keep a fourth, Cinch, for our hosting company projects, but for the purpose of clarity, I’ll only describe the first three).
Like any web agency, our work is a mix of both large projects and minor client requests. The Projects Team is where we house all the major projects we’ve got going at any one time. The projects are named after the client and is initially set up with a standard set of sections and tasks. Here’s a screen of that template:
Each section represents the major areas of the project. This example is our standard website task list. Individual projects can have their own additional tasks of course. The reason we set it up this way is two-fold – It allows us to keep the major task groups in the top-level of the project and have subtasks buried within. Only the top-level tasks show on the calendar, which keeps it clean from the many subtasks required to complete the major section tasks. The second reason is that we love using Instagantt, a free charting app that syncs directly with Asana. If you hate Gantt charts then snort away, but for projecting timelines it’s priceless. I’ll do a bit on Instagantt in a follow up post.
Besides major projects, we also keep a project titled Misc Projects. This is where we throw the smaller client request projects. Any project that we can get done in a few hours or a day goes here. The reason we set this up is for quick integration with Instagantt. All daily tasks are there along side the longer projects.
Once a project has been completed, it gets archived. This is a great feature of Asana, that projects can go away from view, but not be lost forever.
This workspace is set up for Kari and I to manage the day-to-day of running Spigot. We keep a few mundane projects here, such as Marketing, Financial, and HR. Here’s a screen of our Blog Schedule. Wonder how many of these I’ll get to?
There are a two important projects listed there:
We use Asana for lead management as well. It’s pretty slick actually… Here’s a screenshot that may not look all that great but…
Here’s how the leads automatically get pushed into Asana:
- Prospect fills out our Work with Us form – which is powered by Gravity Forms
- Form gets emailed to us, but more importantly triggers a Zapier zap that takes the GF form and pushes directly to Asana
- A ‘task’ gets created with the Name and Company as the title. Email, Phone, Contact Date, Contact Via, and message notes all appear in the description
We keep a list of current leads in one section, and lead tasks in another. It’s simple and easy to follow and reproduce. New leads appear above the sections as well as in the New Tasks section under My Tasks. We could probably be automating more but for now this is working pretty well.
We also keep a list of clients going in a separate project. Each client is a top-level ‘task’ and the task description contains pertinent info – emails phone numbers, etc. This is partly a legacy project – We used to set up minor requests as sub tasks within the client task. This option would work well for those not connecting to Instagantt as tasks would be directly connected to the client. We currently prefer to set these small jobs up in the Misc. project. It prevents having to create and add a project to Instagantt for every small job. We’ve toyed with adding the client’s name as a tag, but it hasn’t added any benefit and clogs up the tag list.
Custom Web Project Template
We also keep a blank project template within the Spigot team. It’s for quick and easy setup of a new major web project. Templates are fantastic for this. Every project has its own nuance, but this template is a great start.
This team is what it says it is. Our household family item. Shopping lists, Financial to-do’s, house projects (Oh the never-ending house projects.). Each store we frequent has its own ‘project.’ This makes it easy to quickly find the list on the iOS app and mark things off. Kari will often add a few grocery items as I’m in the store checking off others.
We’ve just started using Instagantt along side Asana. I’d actually looked into it months ago, but found it, and Gantt charts in general, confusing. When a friend of mine showed me his Gantt workflow (he used TeamGantt) I thought I’d better take another look. The integration with Asana isn’t as seamless as I’d like, but we’ve bent it to work pretty well with our flow. It meant changing how we use Asana slightly, but the results have been a boon to project planning. We can now easily timeline out how long a project should (theoretically) take. We’re still very new to this, but Instagantt has worked so well it probably deserves its own post.
I’d love to hear any feed back on how you use Asana, or answer any questions about things left too vague. Post them here in the comments.