Asana’s Boards product will look somewhat familiar to Trello users. (Credit: Asana)
As software company Asana continues to build out its vision of a full collaboration software suite, its newest feature will look very familiar to users of another popular service, Trello.
Asana announced Boards today, a visual layout for tracking projects as they work through teams and various milestones. Customers have asked for the left-to-right cues of a digitized series of Post-Its or a flow chart on a whiteboard, says cofounder Justin Rosenstein, and doing that through APIs connecting to other services outside of Asana would prevent companies from using Asana’s own advanced project management tools alongside cards from the outside. “People spend hours with those APIs,” Rosenstein says. “And when customers are doing most of their work in Asana, if they use a lightweight board, they’ll pretty quickly hit a wall.”
Boards will roll out to most Asana customers on Tuesday. Rosenstein says the ability to create a single work item and have it populate on multiple boards, list views and calendars will immediately remove “chaos” for some. Product and marketing teams at Instacart as well as teams at Lyft and USAA bank have already tested the product.
The similarity to Trello is unmistakable. Trello, which said it was adding 150,000 new users each week and had crossed 1.1 million daily users in May, has popularized the digital board for work teams. Rosenstein at Asana admits, “We definitely give Trello full credit. That is clearly the product that has done a good job pioneering this view.” But Rosenstein then goes on to take what amounts in enterprise software to a broadside fired alongside the other company. “We see Trello as a feature, not a product,” he says. The former early Facebook employee—he founded Asana alongside Dustin Moskovitz, the billionaire Facebook cofounder—compares the Asana or Trello question to a Facebook post or Apple’s product evolution. “A Facebook post can be text, photo, video, all this info in one place. And you want all of it to work in that one place. Would you rather have an iPod or an iPhone?”
Asana’s move into Trello’s turf comes just two weeks after Microsoft made its own similar move into the domain of another popular collaboration software company, Slack. At an event in New York, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella unveiled the company’s team chat service, Teams. And Asana was there, named one of the featured solutions to integrate with the product.
According to Rosenstein, these competitive moves all stem from inevitable battles within three distinct swim lines of collaboration software: files, communication and work tracking. Within file sharing, that means competing products from the big tech companies such as Microsoft and Google, as well as Box and Dropbox and Quip, which was acquired by Salesforce. In communication, Slack, Microsoft and others such as Atlassian are battling it out. Asana sees itself in the work tracking sandbox, where it will have to fend off Trello and others.
So while Asana is clearly posing a challenge to Trello with its Boards product, Rosenstein says it’s highly unlikely that Asana would end up competing with Slack or Dropbox. Asana speaks closely with Google about its work applications and is confident that Google won’t do the same to them as the company is doing to others; Asana is also partnered actively with Slack.
“The nature of work is changing, and you need to have powerful software to reflect the realities of modern work,” says Rosenstein. “Our strong hypothesis and the basis of Asana is that the work tracking solution that’s going to win is both easy and powerful.”
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