What is Asana? | Creating products customers love | Growing a talented and diverse team | Co-creating a mindful culture | Innovating new technologies | Building a fast-growing business | Pursuing our long-term vision | Leadership and Governance | For whose benefit
Everything we do here is in service of our mission: to help humanity thrive by enabling the world’s teams to work together effortlessly.
When we work together, we can do great things—things that contribute to a better life for people and the planet.
All important progress in the world requires teams of people to work together. But today, most progress is severely impeded by the difficulty of coordinating teams and a pervasive lack of clarity about what needs to be done, when.
If Asana succeeds at its mission, every one of these teams—from small partnerships to global organizations—will be vastly more efficient and effective because they have greater clarity, and the people who comprise these teams will feel more confident and less stressed.
Building a system that enables the world’s teams to work together effortlessly represents an extraordinary leverage point on all other opportunities to drive progress in the world. Because delivering on that value proposition is also a great business opportunity, it creates a financial engine that enables us to continuously reinvest in our mission.
What is Asana?
We were inspired to start Asana after seeing the broad adoption and impact of an internal work management tool we built while at Facebook. We left Facebook and created Asana to address our own pain: We love working on big ideas, but we loathe the annoying busywork required by their execution.
That’s because coordinating work across teams is generally chaotic. The problem has only gotten worse as organizations take on greater challenges with more people, complexity, and technology. Most people working in teams today spend more time coordinating work in emails, chats, spreadsheets, and meetings than they spend doing actual productive work. Every day, they get inundated with requests and don’t know where to focus their attention. For people leading teams, there’s the near-constant anxiety about missing deadlines and having work fall through the cracks.
What organizations need is a system to orchestrate their work, from daily tasks to big, strategic initiatives. Asana is that system.
We’re gratified that, a decade later, Asana is the work management platform that addresses the pain of coordinating work for organizations across the globe. With Asana, they have a living system of clarity where everyone—regardless of where they’re located—can see, discuss, and execute their team’s priorities. Individual team members experience less of the soul-grinding “work about work” that plagues the coordination of complex undertakings, making work much more productive and enjoyable. And team leaders feel more organized and confident about making progress on their team’s plans.
Creating products customers love
The predominant attitude people have toward software they use at work is either hatred or apathy. These enterprise services succeed in spite of this sentiment. Sometimes, there’s just no better alternative. Other times, the typical enterprise sales model causes leaders to make purchase decisions based on the description of features without ever trying the experience of using them. In contrast, consumer software is expected to be beautifully designed, easy to learn, and a joy to use.
“Enterprise users” are just consumer users—or, as we like to call them, “people”—at work, with the same desire and appreciation for high-quality design and delightful interactive experiences. We want our customers to love the product we’ve built and to feel more connected to their teammates and their organization’s mission by using it. This is why we’ve set out to design and build products that rival the best consumer software.
Of course, Asana also aims to rival the best enterprise software, with a deep bench of functionality and controls powerful enough to meet the needs of the world’s largest companies, along with rock-solid stability, security, and compliance. We also provide world-class customer success and support: when you need more engagement from our team, you’ll get the help you need quickly and effectively.
We believe that artisanship lies at the heart of all great experiences. We take pride in crafting the product experience we deliver to our customers, the underlying technology that powers it, the interactions that teams have with our own employees, and the environment in which we ourselves work. We aim to be excellent across all these areas and more, in order to create the best possible outcomes for our customers and maximize the potential of our mission.
Growing a talented and diverse team
Asana has invested deeply in hiring and developing an astoundingly capable, mission-driven, and values-aligned group of people. To achieve this, we have built a world-class talent acquisition organization, which partners with our existing team to identify top candidates all over the world in service of our global customer base.
In addition to seeking excellence in each individual hire, we work hard to build a team that is diverse in order to maximize our creative potential, develop empathy with our diverse customer base, and be the change we want to see in the workplace. This strategy makes us a better company and also contributes to the type of culture we want to work in: inclusive, dynamic, and engaging.
Co-creating a mindful culture
We have designed our culture with the same care and intentionality that we’ve invested in designing our product. As a result, Asana is consistently recognized as one of the best places to work, and as a cultural leader in technology and business at large. This enables us to hire and retain exceptional talent, move quickly like a well-oiled machine, and avoid conflict and dysfunction. Our reputation in the market means that customers turn to us as an authority on best practices to create clarity for teams. We regularly integrate these learnings into our product, our resources and publications on effective teamwork and our customer success services.
By culture, we don’t mean “beer on Fridays.” We mean the practical and pervasive implementation of norms, best practices, and ideals. We empower people with what they need to do their best work and avoid micromanagement. We achieve flow with practices like No Meeting Wednesday. We practice an unusual degree of candor, even when it’s uncomfortable, and the truth makes us better. We enact a fierce commitment to equity and inclusion for all teammates of every gender, appearance, race, and identity. We connect everything back to the mission, so everyone understands why their work is a critical piece of the puzzle. We work hard, move fast, and, simultaneously, live well. It’s a culture of clarity, accountability, transparency, empathy, humility, and, as a result, trust.
Ironically, many companies see culture as an indulgence, at odds with business performance. Not only is this a false trade-off, but culture is one of Asana’s most enduring competitive advantages, and a core factor in the tremendous business results we’ve achieved.
We leverage our value of mindfulness to regularly and intentionally improve our business engine, customer support, onboarding, recruiting, internal processes, and everything else about our own organization. Just like we continuously improve the Asana product, we aim to continuously improve Asana’s culture and processes. We strive to be unswervingly self-aware and have built processes at various organizational and time scales to periodically take stock of how well our actions—and their results—match our intentions. This surfaces areas that need improvement, which we call “culture bugs.” We then co-create concrete plans to address these bugs and improve our culture during the next period of work.
Through repeated iterations of this approach, we have succeeded in scaling our culture. While cultures tend notoriously to degrade as most companies scale, our system for mindful, organizational self-improvement makes the company better and better over time.
Innovating new technologies
We have invested heavily in a number of technologies which put us at a competitive advantage, including:
- Our “work graph.” Like the social graph the two of us helped create for Facebook, the work graph is a flexible data model—of people, tasks, goals, projects, portfolios, conversations, files, and the relationships among them—powering Asana. The work graph enables each Asana user to see information in the format that makes most sense for them.
- Our proprietary “Luna2” application framework, which we believe to be ahead of the state of the art in enabling the rapid development of high-performance applications with complex user interfaces. This enables us to deliver sophisticated new functionality to customers with unusual speed even while concurrently scaling our infrastructure to support a quickly growing number of customers worldwide.
- Our “mindful technology” approach to design that respects user attention and enables focus.
Going forward, we plan to double down on these investments and expand into AI, marrying human and computer intelligence to automate and prioritize work for individuals, teams, and organizations.
Building a fast-growing business
At Asana, revenue is not an end in itself; it is the rocket fuel for achieving our mission. Enabling the world’s teams to work together effortlessly is a very big mission, so we have invested tremendous energy in building and optimizing an unusually powerful engine for revenue and growth.
Traditional business software is sold top-down with expensive enterprise sales reps and slow sales cycles. A new generation of vendors has taken a bottom-up approach, allowing small teams within large organizations to try and purchase business software online.
Asana takes an unusual hybrid approach. Our optimized self-service engine allows us to land rapidly in teams all over the world, often via word-of-mouth recommendations, and our direct sales team can expand that bottom-up usage into company-wide deployment much faster than through organic growth. With this approach, we not only get the best of both worlds; we also get more than the sum of their parts. We close deals much more quickly by showing buyers the successful and happy Asana users that already exist within their organizations without needing to cold-call and “wine and dine” CIOs.
Similarly, our product and go-to-market strategy also gives us the best of both worlds. While some vendors choose to focus on an individual target market, and others create broad generic solutions, we offer a horizontal platform that can be used by any team in any industry anywhere, as well as templates, solutions, and in-house experts that are tailored to the needs of specific segments and geographies where we have the best product-market fit. The result is strong adoption across industries from technology and media to government and nonprofits, with customers in 190 countries.
Pursuing our long-term vision
From the beginning, we have had an expansive long-term vision to enable teams to work together effortlessly. Since then, we have partnered closely with our customers and the broader Asana team to develop and refine this vision. While many details have changed from what we first imagined, the fundamentals have endured.
People are most effective, fulfilled, and happy at work when they are engaged in tasks that are uniquely human. That is, they are able to leverage their empathy, creativity, and judgment.
Computers are most effective when they eliminate everything else: the work that can be error-prone, tedious, and even soul-sucking for humans. Asana aims to facilitate—and ultimately automate—all of the “work about work” associated with coordinating projects and managing schedules across individuals, teams, and organizations.
The first phase of our vision was to deliver clarity up, down, and across organizations. We created the work graph, which gives everyone a unique view of their individual work and how it fits into the work of their team and organization. This comprehensive, yet personalized map provides clarity and alignment on goals and progress across an entire organization to reach its collective aspirations. As of 2020, we are well through our roadmap for delivering the first stage of our vision: to create the living system of clarity for organizations.
The second phase of our vision capitalizes on the benefits of the work graph by marrying human intelligence with computer intelligence. When details and data about work are linked to and tracked in our database, Asana can serve as a powerful, intelligent tool in service of individuals, teams, and organizations—from optimizing how work should be done to predicting bottlenecks and suggesting ways to alleviate them. The second phase of our roadmap envisions Asana as the navigation system for organizations, its teams, and the individuals that comprise them.
Over the next several years, we intend to offer several benefits:
- For team members: Team members do their best, most creative work when they have clarity on how their work contributes to greater goals, the context and feedback they need to complete the task at hand, and freedom from distractions. We clarify how a given task fits into a team’s project or process, a division’s broader goals, and an organization’s mission. Our solution will surface the relevant context for tasks across workflows and apps, with features designed to enable teammates to recognize, encourage, and share feedback in real time. We also plan to deliver an intelligent assistant that curates notifications and suggests how work should be prioritized based on its importance to the organization. We seek to maximize the flow state for individuals by intentionally designing experiences that create the conditions for their best work to occur.
- For teams: When individuals do less work about work, their teams collectively become more efficient. Asana improves efficiency for teams by serving as their real time executional plan of record. It also acts as a central hub across all their workflows, integrating with other tools where work is accomplished. Asana is the platform that puts the components of work themselves—tasks, projects, and goals—at the center. Asana reduces the number of messages required to accomplish team goals by making priorities unambiguous and intelligently clarifying team communication. We plan to eliminate the need for status meetings, and make other meetings more efficient and focused by enhancing them with software-based assistance. Asana democratizes the benefits of having a professional project manager for all teams by building and leveraging best practices for projects and processes seamlessly in the solution. Ultimately Asana will guide teams to create and automate workflows that make sure work doesn’t slip through the cracks.
- For organizations: When team members spend more time on creative work instead of work about work and their teams are able to create shared victories more efficiently, overall employee engagement rises, the best talent can be attracted and retained, and organizations can better serve their customers. We are building Asana to be the navigation system for an organization. Leaders will be able to set goals in Asana, and Asana will help intelligently map the plans needed to achieve them—from strategy to execution—unifying and aligning an organization around its most important work. Asana will be able to predict and optimize team schedules, suggest where energy and attention need to be shifted for maximum efficiency, and assist with forecasting and scenario planning. It can assist in implementing company-wide processes, leveraging Asana’s ever-increasing knowledge of vertical-specific best practices. Executives will be able to plan and achieve high-level objectives, and monitor progress with an integrated dashboard that summarizes data across every department and third-party tool. For the first time, a tool will exist that links organization goals to strategy, and strategy to execution, that is easy to adopt across functions and teams. Organizations will experience clarity, accountability, alignment, continuous improvement, and, consequently, improved results.
Ten years in, we’re thrilled to have manifested so much of Asana’s vision. We continue to be viscerally excited by the promise of how much more we can do to create a joyful experience of flow every day for individuals, drive clarity and accountability to improve how teams work together, and automate work in unprecedented ways.
Leadership and Governance
Like many fast-growing technology companies, we have opted to use a dual class voting structure, with more voting power given to early investors and employees who joined in our first few years of operations. This structure results in a large portion of voting power being held by the founders and the two of us commit to managing this power the way we always have: by listening to others and engaging sincerely with their perspectives.
Philosophically, we are choosing this path to align the governance of the company with the people who have taken the long view of our growth, in service of pursuing our long-term vision in a steady and persistent manner.
For whose benefit
Like all companies, we intend to create great returns for our shareholders. That outcome, however, is a byproduct and catalyst of our ultimate purpose: the fulfillment of our mission. We are also deeply committed to benefitting all our stakeholders: our customers, our employees, our partners, our communities, the environment, and humanity.
We, the founders, are individually Asana’s largest shareholders, and will receive a large portion of the financial proceeds from the company’s enduring success. Both of us pledge to use 100% of the value of our Asana equity for philanthropic purposes.
We built Asana because the work people do together matters. From curing diseases and developing clean energy to building local schools and creating global movements, progress depends on teamwork. We’re proud of how often teams tell us that Asana gives them the clarity to make their work today more effortless, but we’re just getting started. If you feel aligned with our mission, values, and approach, we would be honored to have you join us on this journey.
Dustin and JR