Why Do Organizations Fight Collaborative Software

@atrain101 it sounds like you’re an avid Asana user. :clap: What draws you to Asana and where do you think the disconnect is between you and your team? What kind of work do you do, by the way?

I’m a system admin for a biopharama where there are more softwares and systems in play than I can account for. Introducing a NEW application into the mix that people must learn and simultaneously abandon old habits and processes is distracting and expensive to… Well… any established business.

While Asana could introduce some better work- management and communication habits through its UX, they are lessons that can be replicated in our existing environment through training and practice. Unless you’re working with a very small team, the cultural buy-in required from the business is large and can be imposing.

It took me a while to accept that it’s not the tools we have, but how we use them that we need to address first. So when I hear arguments about how Asana or Office 365 or Trello (etc) can fix everyone’s workplace problems, it comes off as short-sighted to me.

To adopt Asana at work is to adopt their philosophy of workplace management and communication. That’s not a bad thing, but it’s something that is better built from the ground up rather than wedged in later as a “solution”.

I still would love to use Asana as a daily driver, but only under the right circumstances.

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I appreciate you sharing your story @atrain101. What you describe is logical and, honestly, something we see a lot. These are just the kinds of conversations we’re excited to have here in the Community! How teams are working, how cross team collaboration works across companies, what tools people use, and where Asana fits in.

We actually see companies where a single team adopts Asana, rather than a whole company. While some teams that are successful with Asana do adopt what you might call Asana’s philosophy of workplace management and communication, I would caution folks from thinking that is the only way to use this tool. In fact, it’s possible and sometimes preferable to integrate Asana into a company’s existing communication processes. You could compare this to wanting to go on a diet and choosing to change everything and go Paleo vs. taking it slow and starting by eating smaller portions. Paleo works for some, but it can be easier for others to make the transition by modifying existing habits rather than creating new ones.

I’d be curious to learn from Asana champions who introduce Asana to their team (marketing, CS, product, etc.) and see success with without completely changing existing company philosophies.

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I hate to say this, but I am a little more cynical in my observations. I find most small business’s and non-profits highly disorganized and most of that starts in the corner office. I don’t think things get any simpler than Asana (there are missing pieces though) and where people have adapted it in a department they agree that it improves execution. This tends to make me feel that some people do not want accountability, some are not willing to learn on their own time, some just have difficulty with adding a rather structured overlay to execution. Having said that I come from a CPA background, so maybe I have always been checklist oriented. But I truly enjoy working with people willing to learn and improve their processes.

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@James_Carl I’m similar to you in the regard that I enjoy working with people to flush out continuous improvement, but the fight against “this is the way I (or we) always done it” is really an eternal struggle against company culture, not individuals necessarily.

I’ve stopped trying to impose the philosophy and features of tools like Asana, as the quality of my work will always say more in the end.

If my employer notices an improved output from me, they may ask me how I achieved it. The reality is that I’m not going to say “oh well Asana is the greatest thing since sliced bread and everyone should use it”. I will share how I approached the problem and executed on it. Asana may come up in the conversation if it was involved, but the process is more important than the tool used to achieve a desired output.

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I’ve been leading the charge in my department’s adoption for over a year now - while I would never say there’s fighting, there will always be some resistance to new things, especially if the team is smaller. It’s hard to see why a team of 2 or 3 needs something like Asana when they can just lean over and ask someone something, etc. But in reality it’s about efficiency and over time those side conversations add up!

What I’ve found is not to push a shift or major process overhaul. Start with a project - simple, like a meeting agenda, or large like an event. Ideally it’s something that many people in the department, regardless of focus, will need to know about or be involved in. If you set it up correctly, and use it well - I’ve found people are more susceptible to it when you start adding them to tasks as collaborators, etc. Of course, I’m in the perfect position to do it as a PM/Ops manager.

But ultimately the resistance comes from a central point - I’ve heard this mentioned a LOT by @Kaitie (and others) in her trainings over the last 15 months or so, but identify your organization’s ‘Source of Truth’ and I think it will help clarify things for teams who find themselves overwhelmed with different tools.

Example: Where do I go if I want to know what the most up to date deck is for XYZ? We’ve agreed that it will be housed in the decks project, etc. and so any time it needs to be updated, the request will be there regardless of where it came up (email, meeting, etc.). And that that is the “Source of Truth” - ie where do I go if all else fails, to get the right answer. (This may not be what yall mean when you say that btw, it’s just how I’ve been going about it).

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All of these reasons aren’t unusual, they’ve been toted around as excuses in organizations. But the major reason is different. No real tool has brought the simplicity and elegance to do the collaboration piece well. Base camp started well but v3 is a mess. Yammer etc are genuinely time wasters and a noisy stream of chit chat after a while. Wrike is too flexible. Clubhouse is too simple. Anything from Microsoft is too clunky. Jira is too ugly and too “IT”.

Asana is somewhere in the middle. But it too is far from intuitive with its hoisting of some presumptions. All we need in any organization of any stripe–

  1. We should be able to create multiple teams. These should not be tied to a domain name. That’s a weird choice by asana. I’d like to create various internal and external “teams”, and external ones such as vendors will have different email addresses.

  2. We should be able to create projects and milestones and tasks and sub tasks (which is ok in asana) but then assign people to projects across various teams. We should neither be limited by organization nor by team. Why is a project tagged to one team? Who thought of this knuckle headed idea?

  3. All the projects across teams (each project selectively accessible to allowed teams), should be easily trackable in ONE dashboard. One report. We should have pre set views by project, or by time, or by team, or by status. This is as simple as pivoting. A concept from 30 years ago. And yet none of the aforementioned “collaboration” tools have nailed this.

To me, wrike and asana come closest, but miss the cigar. Asana gets too noisy, doesn’t do well with customization of simple things like logos and themes (which goes a long way in people feeling comfortable), and that silly animation at every click is totally useless. Make it simple and quick, and solve the above very simple interconnectivity of projects, teams, and tracking thereof – and it’ll be a winner.

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@MoreGreens you make some interesting points. I like the way you’ve broken down your thoughts. Your idea of Asana coming close but not being as intuitive as it could be bring up the philosophy that Asana is in the middle of the powerful and easy to use spectrum. While a Jira might be very powerful but not so easy and a Trello might be easy to use but not so powerful, Asana fits, as you say, “somewhere in the middle.”

I’m curious. It sounds like you’re an Asana user, yes? What has inspired you to select and implement Asana over other tools and does your team or entire org use Asana, or just you? I’m interested to know what has been successful and how you’ve gotten through the “fight” being discussed.

Thank you for the patient response. You’re right about asana being a middle ground. I’m not sure it’s a very successful middle ground though. The requirement of almost every organization is pretty much as I’ve described it above. I’ve been through a few, and worked with many, of different sizes. All of them use their collaboration tools with moans and groans and learning to live with woeful inadequacies. Which is surprising because the core need is pretty straightforward and has been consistent for about 30 years. Perhaps more. Asana has made some very limiting presumptions about projects and teams work which makes it utterly useless for real world scenarios of any putport. Sure, like trello or clubhouse, tiny teams are using it everywhere with pain. Doesn’t mean it’s cracked the code. I wouldn’t say we have had any success with asana. I just hope someone in the product team at asana is reading this. Thank you.

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I am the community manager at Asana. :slight_smile: I’m here and I’m listening.

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Thank you for listening. I had made similar comments about 2 years and someone had said profuse thanks. Two years hence, asana still hasn’t solved the very basic project management structures from decades ago. Other tools haven’t either, which is surprising to me. I wonder if the design team in these companies (that build collaboration tools) has ever worked in a real project environment in an organization larger than 10 people :slight_smile:

Well, one hopes asana will get there some day.

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Having used a number of collaboration packages, they all certainly have shortcomings. I think the big question is which one has the ability to enhance their platform to user needs and that begins at the basic structure. I think that sometimes people get caught in the hierarchical names without thinking they are just a hierarchy to be used anyway they deem fit. Organization-Team-Project-Task-Section-Subtask have a lot of flexibiity. I am not as sure Asana is as inflexible as being portrayed. One thing I do agree upon though is that it would be good to have a cross-organizational reporting capability. I know this is possible because there use to be an Iphone app other than Asana that did that. Keep up the improvements @Alexa as I still think Asana is one of the top foundations to build on. It will be interesting when their Enterprise version comes out.

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Lots of good points in this thread. One barrier I’m not sure I saw mentioned is that collaboration software is of limited value unless most (if not almost all) teammates use it. So while Asana can still be a great to-do list when used solo, it’s hard to get a team humming when some people use it and some don’t. And then even when you manage to convince your whole team to try it together, anything involving someone not on your team reverts to emails and phone calls and you have to start the sales pitch over to bring another team on board. This is where I am in the process now – my team of 8 is “all in” and loving it. Just 2,492 colleagues to go. :slight_smile:

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Not to be self-promoting, but a major reason I had the Microsoft Outlook Add-in written was to draw management into the process through Outlook. And it has contributed significantly to accomplishing this. But I realize many of you are not PC users using Microsoft Outlook.

Sendana-Microsoft Outlook Add-in For PC Users

I’m wonder if teams who start with collab apps are more likely to stick with them for longer? I imagine that it’s harder to get people to switch onto something different when they’ve already got a defined process to get their work done.

Has anyone tried introducing Asana (or other software) with a very specific purpose that’s owned by yourself or someone else in your? For example, maybe use it specifically for writing meeting notes and action items that can be access by anyone who needs to review them. The idea being that people find value in Asana if they see the value in one of its core competencies.

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I bet more people would engage if we had superior project overview dashboards like all the other threads were asking for :wink: #JustSaying

This was one of my tactics for some of the more ‘stubborn’ colleagues - it’s kind of hit or miss, you have to still be really on top of it and encouraging them. And not every specific purpose works for everyone, so you end up with lots of little items that you have to push with individuals. It’s doable, but a bit of a headache if you have lots of people you’re doing it with.

One of my tactics was meeting agendas - only for meetings I run or take part in - and if it’s a one-off meeting (not worthy of a project) then I usually take notes (as I always did) but then I’ve started adding the attendees as collaborators. Whether this is helpful or not, I don’t know, but I think it just kind of reinforces asana.

Hey @Caisha! Been following this convo for a bit and it ended up inspiring us at Asana to publish a blog post around cross-collaboration barriers. Hope you don’t mind, but I quoted you in the article: https://blog.asana.com/2017/11/cross-functional-collaboration/

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I completely agree with your statement. We are a non-profit and just brought Asana into our agency about 6 months ago. It has been a long- and sometimes difficult climb of getting everyone on board because non-profits tend to have a different mentality and focus. Too many non-profits do not spend enough time on efficiency because they wrongly assume that the time spent will take away from the people they care for. I have spent MUCH time educating our staff on the fact that increased efficiency, in turn frees up time for serving people. The other BIG problem with non-profits is that computer skills and tech skills seem to be lacking, and there is no money invested in those vital areas. We have been lucky in that we have a couple semi tech savvy Social Workers or the transition into Asana would not have happened.

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Wow, hah! Thanks Jessie, what a nice surprise. Great post, thank you for linking and letting me know! It’s such a daunting subject, glad to see more posts about it - always interesting to hear ‘Asana’s’ thoughts =)

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