Team and task management platform Asana is introducing a suite of new tools designed to help businesses automate various processes.

Asana Automation, as it’s calling the new suite of features, includes a new rules-builder that lets anyone manually create automated steps to save themselves from having to repeat them. A new “vision and voice” feature inside the Asana iPhone app will also enable users to automatically generate tasks through snapping a photo of a real-world item (e.g. a chart) or through through recording a verbal instruction.

For the uninitiated, Asana was founded by Facebook cofounder Dustin Moskovitz and software engineer Justin Rosenstein, who led on early Google products such as Gmail chat before going on to drive the development of the Facebook Like button. Both Moskovitz and Rosenstein exited Facebook in 2008 to build Asana, though the product didn’t launch to the public until 2011. In the intervening years, the San Francisco-based company has managed to attract some notable backers, including Mark Zuckerberg, Sean Parker, and Peter Thiel, and last year it raised another $50 million at a $1.5 billion valuation.

Asana is designed to help individuals and teams manage and collaborate on projects, including managing deadlines, sharing feedback, viewing milestone and task visualizations, and assigning work across teams. It operates a freemium software-as-a-service (SaaS) model with varying levels of features depending on the plan, and the new Asana Automation tools will be available to those on the Business and Enterprise tiers, although those on a Premium plan will be able to access some of the functionality.

Rule maker

With Rules, Asana is looking to make it easier for teams to manage their workload, including routing tasks to the right people and controlling the broader workflow.

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Much like IFTTT (if this, then that), Asana rules can be custom-built from scratch from a selection of more than 60 trigger-and-action combinations, but it also offers a bunch of pre-built ones that are good to go — this is actually available to those on the Premium subscription tier too.

For example, the user can stipulate that when a task is added to a project — either directly or automatically via an integration — this can trigger an action, such as ensuring that the task is assigned to the correct person in the project. Or if a task is marked as complete, Asana can automatically move it to a specified section.

Above: Asana: Recommended new rules

Within the main project view, users can see a full list of rules that have been set up.

Above: Asana project: Viewing the rules

Sound and vision

Kicking off first in its iPhone app, Asana will allow users to snap a photo of a diagram, chart, or general brainstorming session captured on a whiteboard, and via the powers of optical character recognition (OCR) Asana can convert the content into digital and assign tasks to individuals in the organization.

The company said that it’s starting on iPhone first because that is the platform that most of its users are on, though it is exploring Android in the future too.

On a related note, a new feature called Asana Voice will allow users to record audio via a voice memo and automatically transcribe it into an Asana task. So when they click to create a new task, they simply hit their little microphone button that pops up, and start recording.

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Elsewhere, Asana is also introducing what it’s calling “smart project templates,” which are an evolution on its existing templates offering, which layers on a complete workback schedule (a method for showing project milestones). Essentially, with these smart templates, Asana can automatically correct when a conflict arises between different task deadlines.

Combined, these various automation tools are designed to remove tedious, painstaking tasks from companies’ workflow so they can focus on the things that matter.

“With Automation, we’re introducing the ability to automate your routine tasks so you can spend more energy on your craft and leave the repetitive busywork to Asana,” noted Asana’s product head Alex Hood.

This launch follows just a few months after Asana rolled out Workload, which promises to help negate employee burnout by making it easier for project managers to reassign or postpone specific tasks.

“Globally, knowledge workers are spending more time coordinating in email, spreadsheets and meetings than on the actual job they’ve been hired to do,” Hood added. “In fact, 60 percent of their time is being wasted on ‘work about work’, leaving only 27 percent for their skill-based job and 13 percent for strategic thinking.”



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