The Future of Asana: Co-founder Justin Rosenstein shares our vision

Hi @Diakoptis, thanks for the thoughts and questions! I wanted to hop in here as soon as possible to say that we definitely noticed the overlap with Timeline and Instagantt, and tried to be sure that @danielguajardok was in the loop about what we were building. Daniel was so cool and supportive of our team during the process that (without naming names) a couple of comments made from some internal discussions were “Wow, what a guy!” and “Huge respect for Daniel”, which I have to whole-heartedly agree with.

Timeline is a big reason that I think he’s been working on a standalone Instagantt, which is great not only from a pivot perspective with regards to our Timeline launch but to allow Instagantt to become even better without being constrained by some complex and somewhat funky Asana functionality. We really hope it continues to grow and do great things for teams everywhere.

I’ll have a more complete response very soon, but wanted to at least get that out there. Thanks!

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Hi @Diakoptis, thanks for your kind words regarding Instagantt!

I’ll take this opportunity to share my feelings and explain my point of view, as a developer and as an Asana partner, about the impact of this situation. I have received a lot of messages asking similar questions, and a lot of support from current users, so I think this is a good opportunity to answer all questions.

First of all, I want to say that Asana has been incredibly transparent all the time. JR (Justin Rosenstein) shared his vision and showed me the early mockups of the Timeline view almost a year and a half ago. He has been a great mentor and has always encouraged me to build great things. I think like I was the first non-Asana-employee to know about this feature a long time ago.

@Matt_Bramlage and @Jeff_Schneider has been always incredibly helpful and they are doing an amazing job on the API side. We work together to sort things out very quickly, like bugs or requirements. We have a direct communication channel along with monthly meetings. And we’re still working together! And all the people behind behind the API, both engineers and PMs have been very supportive.

@Shannon_McNeil and @Kaitie were also incredibly helpful on the early days of Instagantt. They even helped me writing the first Instagantt help guide! They share their thoughts, and exposes customers needs.

I know that the Sales team and the entire CS team always sent customers to Instagantt, and I think they will keep doing this when there are advanced or power users who needs more than the Timeline view.

With that said, I just want to point out that as you mentioned, the Asana culture and the people behind it are incredible, smart, and kind. I feel that we built a pure relation without expecting anything from the other side. We’re not even running any Revenue Share model, considering that the customers, product, brand, and reputation of Instagantt wouldn’t have been possible without the help of Asana (as I already described).

Instagantt was one of the first 3rd party apps built for Asana. It started 5 or 6 years ago when the API didn’t even had OAuth, and Asana was just about 30 employees. I have seen the team growth and I have always keep the good relation with all the collaborators.

Building on top of Asana
I know and understand what you’re mentioning, and I can read the fear you feel when deciding to publish a new app. How this story ends? I will still encourage developers to build on Asana.

You can think that I’m crazy, but I’ll explain this.

Asana has a vision: help humanity thrive making their work effortless. And you need to understand that this people are passionate about this. This means that their strategy and their product will evolve to whatever it needs to help their mission.

There are 2 categories where you can build apps: Making a feature and Solving a use case.

Making a feature
When you make a feature, you must know that there’s a risk of having this feature built-in at some point. There are many 3rd party apps for Asana that had a similar situation: Hill88 (the first mobile app for Asana), Kansana (Kanban boards for Asana), Templana (templates for Asana). Then Asana launched their mobile app, then they introduced Boards, and then they introduced Templates. All of these are examples of features that could be turned into core-functions at some point. And Instagantt is in this category.

Is it going to die? The answer is no. We will keep working on delight our customers with the features they need. I have never shared our numbers publicly, so this is the first time: We have 4.000 paying companies. For some of them the Asana Timeline is perfect and enough for their needs, but for some others they need the advanced features of Instagantt to manage their projects. And we have already seen this :slight_smile: As @Matt_Bramlage pointed out we will release a Standalone Version soon, which is great for the people not using Asana. Fortunately this situation happened at a point where the product is super mature, so we have a lot people that will stick to it. As a Product Manager building products cross-industry and not for niches, it’s impossible to satisfy 100% the needs of your customers when you’re on different industries. It’s common to think of Pareto. “We will satisfy the 80% of customers that will benefit from 20% of the features from a niche-app”. And the rest can be solved by others, like Instagantt.

Developers building apps to solve Use Cases
This is where you’re probably safe. Asana is not thinking in one industry or solving specific use cases. So if you’re building a specific app for solving a specific use case (Inventory management, Purchase orders, HR, etc) you’re good to go!

This is why I will encourage developers to keep building on top of Asana.
1.- The team behind it is the best
2.- They are pursuing a real mission. And they will do whatever it takes to accomplish it.
3.- I believe that Asana will be the Google of Search engines and the Gmail of mails. Remember the year 2000 where you had tens of search engines and google pushing from the side?
4.- If you’re building a feature that could be easily turned a core-feature, you must be aware of the risk.
5.- I’m pretty sure that Asana will have a marketplace (a la Salesforce). Being an early member of the marketplace is an incredible opportunity (business speaking).

In summary
I have received many messages trying to build a scandal from this situation, and I’m rejecting them all. I don’t have bad feelings about this. This has happened many times in other companies, like when Github released the “Projects” feature and Zenhub was the leading provider of “Project Management on top of Github”. They are alive, growing, with an amazing product where many Github users still prefer.

We will keep developing for Asana. We’re launching Dependencies integration this weekend and a UX update next week. And we will launch the Standalone version soon too.

I’ll invite developers to explore Asana, to get in touch with their team, and to build products wisely. To understand the risks of building a just a feature, and understand the difference of building a “use case”.

I’ll be happy to answer any questions :slight_smile:

PS: @Matt_Bramlage, I’m done writing :joy:

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@danielguajardok Your response is truly admirable. I am sure that Asana and you learned from each other and the Community owes you two thanks, one for your Integration and one for your vision. As a fellow developer it begins with a passion to help Asana users have additional features to compliment Asana’s great vision. And boy the vision video was exciting. You are a man to be respected. Thank you.

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Thanks a lot to @Diakoptis to ask difficult questions, @Matt_Bramlage to provide a quick answer and @danielguajardok who answered admirably and has always been supportive of my own work at Templana. As he mentioned, I am in the same though spot where Asana can release a Templana killer-feature if they want to. I also build a great relationship with Asana and truly hope I will be kept in the loop if that does happen! And even if I am forced to pivot, that’s life!

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I agree with you but the needing is really existing when you want to share a timeline with a customer. For the moment , My team in Poland is using Instagantt but it will be much better if I have a complete integrated tool inside Asana . Why not merge totally the 2 applications ?

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@danielguajardok wow. That was a really great response. Thank you for the time you spent to share your thoughts.

The truth is that your point of view and the backstory, reliefs me enough about how Asana handled the situation. I still believe on them and their culture.

We are at the same page concerning the feature and use case option. I agree totally. I knew that would be a day that Asana will release the Gantt charts. I was not surprised of that, I just didn’t see any reference of the Instagantt at the announcement. I am sure that many of the users had the same question in their minds.

About the Instagantt now, the number of the paid organizations that using your service is just incredible. Amazing work dude.

Thanx a lot about your time again. I did’t want to build a scandal. I just was a bit afraid of losing my faith in Asana and I like to be clear. Really sorry if I put you in an uncomfortable position (same for Asanas @Matt_Bramlage, @Alexis <3)

:unicorn:

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Because one is officialy done by Asana and the other one is a third-party app is the first reason. A second is that modern software development is incremental, you might get the feature one day, I am happy they did not postpone the launch until every single asked feature was developed :wink:

@Diakoptis no worries man, thank you for bringing this topic up to the discussion. Your message didin’t sound as a scandal at all (I was mentioning other messages I’ve get). Yours was very supportive :slight_smile:

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Truly exciting announcement.

Hi!

First of all, i’m especially excited about the new upcoming features this year.

As our company grows, we try to use asana the best as we can. We are using the software about 3 years now.

Question: Will the new planning / project features provide an overview of multiple projects in one overview? At the moment, we’re using a separate project called ‘all projects’, were tasks are connected to. I got the inspiration thanks to a video from @paulminors

Annual, monthly, weekly and daily planning in Asana (NEW VERSION AVAILABLE) - YouTube (thanks mate!).

Thanks in advance!

Regarding Asana and Instagantt:

Most important question first: yes, @danielguajardok knew that our Timeline feature was being developed, and worked closely with @Jeff_Schneider and even some with Justin. I know that Daniel saw some preliminary mockups very early and working with Daniel was extremely helpful in creating some of our API features. In fact, the start date data model in the Asana product was shaped by Daniel’s experience and feedback from Instagantt, so his DNA is present in Asana itself!

We definitely noticed that Timeline was going to be very close to Instagantt in some ways and wanted to be as up-front as we could, and as we were headed to release Timeline we were happy to see that Daniel was moving to make Instagantt less dependent on Asana (such as developing his standalone version). This is fantastic because it not only allows for Instagantt to still be a great app for Asana but allows him to separate it from some of the restrictions and assumptions of the Asana product itself, which I know has held Instagantt back from time to time.

In general we’re strong advocates of sharing as much as we can with our developer community, doubly so when something on our roadmap will affect their apps. We really want to give visibility into what exactly we’re building so our app creators can have the time and insight into how to pivot or adjust. There are definitely challenges here, however. Some of these are obvious, such as risking sharing a roadmap that might change as we build out and test features, and others are not so obvious, like integrations we build being under another company’s press embargo. This happened with our Gmail integration, for instance, because Apps for Gmail was still under wraps on their end.

Since this is actually pretty complex and can require buy in from a lot of parties across Asana, it’s been less about following a concrete policy and more about keeping the lines of communication as open as possible on a case-by-case basis. This gives us a lot of flexibility in cases like Timeline / Instagantt, but does have the unfortunate side effect that we don’t have a hard-and-fast rule we can share for every case. Regardless, we do have a policy of “Transparency by default”, and it’s only when we feel like we’re constrained that we couldn’t be super open with our developers, and it frankly leaves a bad taste in our mouth when we have to do that :confounded:.

Finally, yes, please do build apps for Asana! Since we shared a bit of a forward-looking vision in that video, I hope it’s a little more clear where the potential and the risks are for Asana apps (for instance, I would caution against building something that looks like the product/portfolio management features that JR talked about in the video :slightly_smiling_face: ). To be clear and head off an impression that you didn’t really ask, but which we keep in the front of our minds a lot, we absolutely don’t view our app community as a source for features we might build into Asana at the expense of our developers’ time and effort. Sometimes what shows up on our roadmap (which is built from user feedback and our user research teams) ends up being in conflict with an existing app, and we always try to keep an eye out for when this might happen. I’m hoping that we can get even more open with where we’re going in the future, and as always, feel free to ask for feedback on app ideas here on the community or at devrel@asana.com. We’ll try to communicate as much as we can about whether or not an idea sounds like it might get a little to close to potential Asana functionality before our developers invest time and money into building an integration (even if we might be unable to share specific details).

Thanks!

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Hi @Erwin_Hoog_Antink! Love your enthusiasm! The best prediction we can give you about what future features will look like would be in the video you’ve watched. Seeing multiple projects in one overview does sounds like the logical option :slight_smile: Thanks for letting us know why this would be helpful for you - our product team will be glad to hear it.

Thanks. So is the Vision thing for the short/mid term? Any eta? Like early adopters would say: Give me an ETA or a bETA…

Thanks @Erwin_Hoog_Antink. Glad you like the videos!

I"m very excited about Asana’s vision for the future. I like how it’s going to provide more of a big picture of your companies goals, vision etc and how the teams and projects align with this.

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About Zooming in and Zooming out mentioned at 08:10 here are the pending request just about that, some of them are the top voted.

-Ideas/Feedback to display subtasks - #68
-Viewing all assigned tasks across multiple workspaces
A better Dashboard for high level overview
Project Folders
Collapse/Summary feature for sections
Having Collapsible Sections - #3
Indent / Collapse assigned subtasks from project-level task list (Already being done in Instagantt)

I love the idea of zoom in zoom out. It works just great. That’s why I love Workflowy/Dynalist and MyInfo. Unfortunately these are not collaborative software/service. Todoist sucks at its own UI.

IMHO, with the kind of drill-down like workflowy, you don’t need projects, sub task, team, division. Eventually they are just fancy name for a task.

Take workflowy and combine with Asana right pane comments/attachment pane. with improved permission (owner, editor, comment only) which can be inherited from the parent task to childs. that’s all. Then you can zoom in zoom out. manage tasks at different levels. using the same view. (List, timeline, board, etc)
User will have the right level they need to work on and focus on. Exactly what Mr. Rosenstein want to share.

Asana is great on search capability at the moment. with tags, customs fields, and all other fields.
But It’s still too loose. it has very thin structure to hold on pieces together. Projects and sections alone can not do that. 2 layers is just too flat.

Well, you get the idea.

Please, I think this is the first priority. not timeline. not AI. not google sync.

This is it. It will change a collaborative/ project management software, to a true content management software as Mr. Rosenstein is trying to present.

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This is where it gets scary:

Who wants their CEO (or any mid-level manager, for that matter) to sit on their desk and check whether they’re on track?

Just because the ability to drill down and check things on the frontlines exists doesn’t mean that high level executives in a company will be micromanaging people all day long. If they did they wouldn’t be where they are, OR their company will eventually fail. The idea is that if something is lagging behind, you can see why, then drill down into the problem quickly and come up with a solution. In no way would any executive of a large flourishing company waste his time “watching” you work.

My point is not about micromanaging. It’s about surveillance. For surveillance to have effects, it doesn’t require anyone to actually to check your behaviour, it suffices that it is possible that they can.

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Thanx a lot for this and the time you spent :slight_smile: happy to read it.

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