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Why Asana doesn't work well for managing client work

Anywhere
3 min read
Tl:dr;

If you don't want to read the full article, here is our quick summary:

Here is what we think are the Pros & Cons of using Asana for client work/ customer projects:

Pros:
  • Asana is comprehensive, you can manage multiple customer projects & you can arrange your customers & projects based on your choice. Requires some training & comes with a learning curve, and if not managed properly, could become an issue down the line where you have a number of customers where your team is doing one or more projects for them.
  • Task management is superb.
  • Asana is fast & responsive.
  • Mobile app is available to keep things in the view while on the move.
Cons:
  • Everyone is part of the same project workspace including customers.
  • Runs a risk of losing the informality of the internal team because customers are also part of the same project workspace & they see everything your team sees.
  • No dedicated customer portal. Customers have to login to your Asana project workspace to see updates.
  • Team chat is complicated.
  • No private messages.
  • No customizable views.
  • No way for agency owners to track customer NPS, CSAT & feedback on their work.
  • No 3rd party widget integration, so you have to show dashboards from Google Data Studio or Agency Analytics when showing updates to your customers.
  • No KPI Tracking.
  • Visibility across all active projects is available but limited.
  • No project budgeting.
  • No native time tracking, time sheet or reporting.
  • No way to check & manage resource utilization.
  • No native docs. External docs can be embedded.

"While Asana is a great tool for managing different kind of internal projects, it's not custom made for client work or to manage customer projects"

Where Asana is great:

Asana has been a fantastic project management tool and is used to manage a variety of internal projects. And frankly speaking it's great for your team if you have to manage one or more internal projects where only you & your team are collaborators.

The complexities arise when you are an agency working on customer projects or a professional agency doing client work & your customers' needs to be a part of your project management workspace just like your internal team members do.

This is where Asana has limited scope and while initially it feels like it works with your customers onboard, the problems start showing up when you start dealing with multiple clients & each of the clients can have one or more projects that your team is doing for them.

Questions asked by customer facing agencies:

Here are some of the questions customer facing agencies using asana ask:

  • Does Asana have a client portal?
  • How do I manage clients in Asana?
  • What's the best way to manage clients in Asana?
  • How to best manage clients in Asana?

Let's try to see how best we can use Asana for managing customer projects and what are the Pros & Cons of it.

4 User types who are most affected by the type of tool you choose for customer project management:

There are 4 major players involved in making any project successful & each of these users have a different goal.

  • Project Manager: Primary goal is to be able to setup the project, invite team members, members of the client & set clear expectations in terms of what is the scope of the project, who is doing what & what are the timelines that needs to be kept in mind to make the project a success.
  • Project Members: Are primarily the agency users who need to know what tasks they need to accomplish, how long they have for it & ensure that they complete their work in time & with quality. They may also need to track time if the project is billed to the customer on time & material basis.
  • Client/ Customer or Stakeholders: Folks who are paying & have hired your agency to get the job done. They don't want to put the efforts to learn your Project Management System. Their primary objective is to ensure the project is on track & to track any KPIs as a direct result of the work done by your agency for them as part of this project (if any)
  • Agency Owners/ Founders/ Account Director: Their primary objective is to ensure the customers are happy so they can become a repeat customer & life time value of the customers can be increased by upselling other services from your service stack.

We will assess Asana from the view of these 4 user types & see how best you can manage your customer work in it, for these 4 different user types.

Let's start.

What do these 4 user types need?

  1. Project Manager:
    1. Initial project Setup -Creating a team for the client & creating a project under the team is easy.
      1. Invite team members as well as client members. -You can invite everyone who is collaborating on the project as part of project members. Asana doesn't differentiate between internal & external users.
      2. Set up Views -Same set of views are available to everyone who is part of the project. You can not hide part of the work from your customers. This usually tends to creating 2 project boards for every customer facing project. One where customer is a part of, this is where most teams update details that the customer would find important & an internal team where most of the project related collaboration, chat, discussion is happening in an informal setting. Not ideal, but works. Super time consuming though.
      3. Rules & Automations -Asana rules here. Rules are easy to setup, workflow builder helps create automated workflows. Quite neat.
      4. Setup budgeting -Asana doesn't have any in-built ways to keep track of the customer project budgets.
      5. Setup Overview & dashboards -Each project comes with its own Dashboard where you can add widgets. Good to see basic high level information but limited in terms of customizations. For example, you cannot create filter views (sub set of your project data based on certain filters applied) & create charts based on these. You also can not embed any 3rd party widgets or Dashboards.
      6. Setup timelines & success criteria -Asana does offer a rich text field to define how team members are to collaborate in a given project & you can also define project goals in the overview. Which is neat.
    2. Project progress tracking -You can set the status of the project in the Overview section of Asana which is good. Everyone who is part of the team can see this status.
    3. Project health tracking -Asana Dashboard could be useful to see the number of tasks pending/ delayed/ stuck etc. Limited in terms of what you can see.
  2. Project Members:
    1. Task Management -Easy to do. Multiple views available. Teams can use either Table, Kanban or Calendar based on their choice. Limited in terms of custom column options that you can add to a project & you can only assign one task to one person at any given time.
    2. Time Tracking -No in built time tracking.
    3. Time Sheet Reporting -No time sheet submission.
    4. Unblocking users to keep projects on track -collaboration & accountability -Tasks can be commented on, you have Vimeo integration for Async video collaboration. There are Messages on project level where you can kind of chat with other project members. I didn't find it to be a good UX personally.
  3. Customers/ Client/ Stakeholders:
    1. Project Progress -They are part of the same project workspace. Which means while there is increased transparency, there is also an element of formality because your team members loose the informal setting from customers being part of the same project workspace. Every message, chat, task posted is seen by the customers. If the customers don't invest in learning Asana it might get too noisy for them to go through & get meaningful updates from looking at all this information.
    2. Project Status Updates -Available on project overview. The same update available for all project members including customers.
    3. KPI Tracking -No 3rd party widgets allowed in the Dashboard.
    4. Customers need to login to your Asana workspace every time they want to see an update. They also see a lot of project information which may not be useful for them.
  4. Agency Owners/ Account Director/ Head of delivery:
    1. Overall projects & their status -Portfolio allows you to see how many projects are being done by your team & for which customers. Limited in terms of what you see here & an initial setup is required.
    2. Customer satisfaction & NPS -Not available. Agency owner doesn't have a visibility in terms of what their customers think of them? What's their NPS or CSAT or latest feedback on the work your team is doing for them.
    3. Do I need to intervene? -The answer to this question is not readily available.
    4. Customizations to match your brand -Asana doesn't allows any customizations, not even changing the logo. Rebranding capabilities are available only for enterprise customers.

Pros & Cons of using Asana for Client Work/ Customer Projects:

Here is what we think are the Pros & Cons of using Asana for client work/ customer projects:

Pros:
  • Asana is comprehensive, you can manage multiple customer projects & you can arrange your customers & projects based on your choice. Requires some training & comes with a learning curve, and if not managed properly, could become an issue down the line where you have a number of customers where your team is doing one or more projects for them.
  • Task management is superb.
  • Asana is fast & responsive.
  • Mobile app is available to keep things in the view while on the move.
Cons:
  • Everyone is part of the same project workspace including customers.
  • Runs a risk of losing the informality of the internal team because customers are also part of the same project workspace & they see everything your team sees.
  • No dedicated customer portal. Customers have to login to your Asana project workspace to see updates.
  • Team chat is complicated.
  • No private messages..
  • No customizable views.
  • No way for agency owners to track customer NPS, CSAT & feedback on their work.
  • No 3rd party widget integration, so you have to show dashboards from Google Data Studio or Agency Analytics when showing updates to your customers.
  • No KPI Tracking.
  • Visibility across all active projects is available but limited.
  • No project budgeting.
  • No native time tracking, time sheet or reporting.
  • No way to check & manage resource utilization.
  • No native docs. External docs can be embedded.

While Asana is a great tool for managing different kind of internal projects, it's not custom made for client work or to manage customer projects.

Anywhere, a better alternative for managing client work/ customer projects:

If you are an agency that uses Asana for managing customer projects/ client work, we invite you to try Anywhere.

Some of the benefits of Anywhere for agencies doing client work are: *

  • Custom built Project Management Software for client work
  • Get an overview of all active projects from your Dashboard including the details of the clients
  • Answer questions like: What's the status of that project? What the customer thinks about us? & Will the customer become a repeat customer?
  • Track customer NPS, CSAT & feedback on the dashboard
  • Customers don't become part of your workspace but get access to a dedicated & branded customer portal where you control what views they see.
  • Easy to share customer updates so the customers can see the updates without the rest of the noise & clutter
  • The customer portal is zero-login i.e. your customers can access it with a click of a link without the need of Sign Up/ Sign In.
  • Customizable project overview shows the health of a project including overall status, number of completed/ pending tasks, overdue & blocked tasks with reason.
  • Smart filter views
  • Async text & video collaboration with your team & customers with option of Private Chat. Hide parts of the conversations you don't want your clients to see.
  • Almost live support with 5 minutes response time & more.
  • No need to hire an external consultant to setup & learn your workspace.

Try a 14-day free Anywhere trial today.



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