Understanding Automation in Asana

Greetings! I’m new to Asana, so wish to ensure that I’m understanding how automation is treated.

My question is this:

Does Asana Evaluate all triggers before completing actions that are within the Trigger event? (This is a project with multiple sections and the sections have triggers)

Thank you very much.

Hi @Moondance_Foxmarnick and welcome to the forum,

I think you’re going to need to supply a bit more detail and/or an example about the scenario you’re asking about. Do you mean in a case where a rule has multiple triggers?

Just taking a guess about what OP means: You can decide whether the rule requires all triggers or just one of the triggers. This is a boolean AND/OR evaluation.

When editing the rule, above the triggers you can see:

“When all of these triggers happen v”
(meaning that x AND y AND z must be true)
If you click on the down chevron, you can change it to:
“When any of these triggers happen v”
(meaning that x OR y OR z is true)

If you want the rule to only act on tasks in Section 1, you must add “moved to section 1” as one of the triggers and have the “ALL of these triggers” option selected. In this case, the rule will evaluate “is this task in Section 1? YES” before the rule acts on the task.

Let me give more info -

Section one - trigger
action sets trigger back to false

Section two - trigger
action sets trigger back to false

Section three - trigger
action sets trigger back to false

Section four - trigger
action sets trigger back to false

The results I’m seeing (the task randomly winding up in various sections, with actions duplicated (I have subtasks added as actions in some sections as well). What this tells me is rather than flowing through the sections in a “evaluate trigger” “trigger = true” “perform actions” “evaluate next trigger”, which is what makes sense to me, Asana is performing “Trigger evaluations for all sections”, oh, and some actions.

I’m assuming I just don’t know enough, and so am looking for clarification.

I did find a post from way back that had a user add a manual toggle field… which to me, is not automation. Might as well just manually move it to the next section. Automation to me are actions that are performed after completing the expected duties with no intervention needed on the users part.

However, I’m new to Asana, and that was an old post. So what am I missing? Thank you!

Welcome, @Moondance_Foxmarnick,

In order to process rules sequentially, as I think you’re looking for, see this through post and video by @Anthony_Tamalonis which explains what you’re encountering and offers a solution:

Larry

Watched the video. Unfortunately simple yes/no does not work for our forms. So there is no control to be garnered from the submission, itself.

I was able to do some further testing. Simply unchecking the “task complete” in the actions causes the action: “add subtasks” to be reapplied. That is how I was getting a jumble of duplicate tasks.

How does Asana expect to move a task through a set of sections, independent of a form if it continues to evaluate all triggers even when the change originates from automation? Excluding manually moving it through via drag n drop or selecting the section via a field.

What triggers can be used to move a task through: Submission (where the task starts, no issues there), Evaluation, Discussion, Final approval (after which it is spawned off to a new project)?

Completed task can be used for one move only, as marking it incomplete will just cause the workflow to re-add the sub-tasks again. I could artificially use an approval to move it again, but then I’m out of ideas to move it to the final section. I should note that we do not have many integrations at this time, so I cannot use an artificial integration to move it again.

Perhaps I’m not understanding the Asana way and there was never meant to be any automation that carries a task through sections, and what I need to do is create multiple projects that mimic the sections and move the task through “projects” that are steps in a process?

I’m open to ideas.

Thanks @lpb for sharing my video, I agree that should help.

My understanding with order of operations in Asana is:
-Actions within a single rule will execute sequentially, as listed in the rule
-Multiple rules will run asynchronously, in parallel with one another; as soon as the triggers for a rule are met, that rule will begin to execute, no matter what else is happening

Hey there! I enjoyed your video. It was informative.

I did see your project had other sections - what did you do to move them through the entire project after you automated adding the correct sub-tasks?

I have discovered what you ran across. I certainly wasn’t expecting it, having formed in my head an identical flow as the one you initially had.

When I run into these things with a company’s product, I usually assume I’ve misunderstood how the product was intended to be used. I’m hoping that Asana is the correct fit for my company.

Thank you again for the video you made.

When you say ‘other sections’, do you mean Ready for Review, In Progress, and Done? Those steps would be for the team to do the work needed on these tasks. That part of the process is manual and up to the team to configure further. Any automation in those steps would be more application specific.

There’s probably a way to achieve whatever it is you’re after, or a compromise of sorts to use Asana effectively for your company.

Interesting. Perhaps I’ve misunderstood automation in Asana entirely. They are not automating the work process, but just the intake of the initial form. Maybe?

My understanding is that it is web-based, so perhaps there is an opportunity for code injection that would allow automating the actual workflow through the project.

I’ll keep tinkering. I would really like to be able to automate the movement between sections in a project. I can’t think of why that would not be a good thing, but perhaps there is something I fundamentally do not understand in regards to project management, and this is why it does not work the way I want it to. :slight_smile:

I’ll keep tinkering and hope for more insight as I go.

You can automate moving work between sections, that would be the action of the rule. What sort of trigger do you have in mind? Is someone taking some action, or is some outside process triggering a task to move to the next section?

Well, originally, I was using the task being marked complete. Then creating actions that added subtasks, and then un-marking it as complete. You already know that doesn’t work as when the action to un-mark the task goes off, it re-evaluates and re-adds the subtasks again. Not to mention the disaster it was when all sections’ triggers was that the task was complete.

I could make it work if you could target a sub-task as complete, but I haven’t found a way to do this.

The action is the natural completion of the sub-tasks that are added as it moves through the various sections. There is no outside process.

Correct, you cannot use rules to work on subtasks, only tasks (subtasks can be mutli-homed to a project and be both a subtask and a task, however).

My gut reaction to hearing you want to mark something as incomplete is that’s not a great workflow. I could see doing that if you needed to “re-open” a closed issue. What’s the purpose of marking incomplete and doing work in subtasks? Larry has an amazing presentation here Tackle (almost) anything in Asana: Step-by-step regarding heirarchy in Asana and when to group work as projects, tasks, and subtasks that might help.

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I will follow your link after lunch. Thank you very much.

The reason I felt that complete/incomplete would work was because as you add subtasks (that pertain to the section you are in) the root task, which had been complete in relation to the section you are in, is no longer so and has subtasks to work upon.

But let me read your link. Perhaps I’ll find what I need there. I’ll post back here, regardless of the outcome.

I was going to say “I would advise against that as a workflow”, but I think I understand what you’re looking for. If you’ve used Jira, this sounds like the Action buttons that move work from one status to another. You might be able to build something like that with App Components in Asana Asana but I’ve only read the docs for that and haven’t built with it.

More commonly in Asana I would suggest having people move work to the next step in the workflow. You could do this in a few ways, either by having the user change the section the task is in or changing custom field value for a Status custom field you create.

That all said, I think this is what you’re trying to build and it avoids race conditions Loom | Free Screen & Video Recording Software | Loom it’s the same concept as my other video. In the video Larry linked, my use case was form intake. You’ll need automation steps in between each work step. Just takes a little work to setup, but should avoid the duplicate subtask issues you are facing.

Watched the Tackle video. Great information and filled in some blanks for me, but unfortunately the takeaway message regarding automation was: buy this other product - flowsana.

Unfortunately such integrations are at this time not allowed, and since it is a paid product, unlikely to be allowed in the future. So I must work around Asana’s limited automation. Flowsana looks like the real deal. That’s a shame.

Then I caught up with you in your last link where you showed me how to avoid the looping issues. I’m really excited about that, and very grateful for your time! I will give that a shot tomorrow and let you know how it went.

As a representative of the Asana community, you’ve just brightened my outlook! Thank you, Anthony.

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It WORKS! Thank you so very much!

I had to re-watch your vid, to get it through my head that I was referencing the section before the automation step, but once I slowed down and paid attention, I was able to craft my 5 section flow without issue. :grinning:

Now I just wish I could hide those sections. I did drop them to the bottom as you recommended.

I think I’m going to like it here.

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Glad to hear it’s working! It might be possible to hide these sections in a different project, but I haven’t tried that myself. Tasks can be part of multiple projects at once, often called “mutli-homing”, and users will only see projects they have access to. There’s a risk to adding too much complexity to your workflow, making it hard to modify later, both if you forget how it works or if you need someone else to come in and modify it. Make some test projects to play around, and document your flow as you go.