Once upon a time, there was a tool called Asana. This cool tool came to life years ago, and at first, everything was pretty much free. They had paid tiers if you wanted Enterprise-level features, but the most useful features were free. At the time, Asana’s strategy was probably to gain market share and reputation, dealing with revenues later.
Then they started to add cool features, long-time requested features and released them for Premium-only users. The Timeline and the Custom Fields are examples.
They also decided it was time to create an online community, to get user feedback and also probably lower the workload of the support team 😅. The Asana Community is thriving and is an amazing and welcoming place to discuss the product. But something happened: it allowed users to discuss the limitations of the product, the features that were premium when they wished they were free, and the lack of progress on other, long-requested features… People realized they were not alone anymore, and started discussing.
Then Asana raised a whopping 75 million dollars. And shared their incredible vision. At the time, nobody realized that it meant two things: Asana will have to start thinking about revenues very seriously, and they will start acting on this vision, whether or not users’ workflows matches the new vision.
For someone joining Asana today, nothing is very shocking. You have a list of features for free, and a list of features for each tier available. When you are a long time user, you can easily be mind-blown. Features that were free disappeared (bye bye Dashboards) and replaced by a Business-tier only feature (hello Portfolios). Premium users may feel cheated because they now have to upgrade to get the feature. Also, it is now especially hard to sign up for the free version. There is a tiny link at the bottom of the signup page and they call it the “Limited version”. A client of mine even told me he thought Asana was not free anymore and could not sign up.
This inspired a few thoughts.
As a new user, no one is forcing you to sign up to Asana. You can compare Asana with their competitors and decide for yourself. Asana is transparent enough to let everyone discuss the limitations of the product on the Community.
As an existing user, I understand that you are pissed off. If you built workflows year after year, seeing a feature being removed and replaced by a paid feature could really push your buttons. And as an Asana evangelist in your company, you may now for the first time be embarrassed having to apologize and explain, and it will make your work very complicated. What can you say to colleagues and board members you convinced to pay for Asana, built dashboards for years, and now the company needs to pay way more for the same service? Common practice in online software is to keep existing customers on the previous plan or features. For example, Basecamp is known for having several versions of their app, because they refuse to force the users to move to a new design that would break their workflow.
We are not commodities, Asana. Don’t forget that you are where you are thanks to the very first users, the consultants that helped sell the product, the developers that built tools using the API, the authors that wrote books about you… I see many experts moving away from Asana (or at least reconsidering their enthusiasm for it and wondering what to do next), saddened by the way things are turning out, and the lack of support for the ecosystem around Asana (currently improving).
Building software is hard. You have truly no idea. Every user has a different browser, operating system, needs, and ideas. Everyone wants everything, and they want it now. They removed the Dashboards because 98% of users did not use it. They had to decide on removing “unused” code or keep legacy code creeping around for years, for just a few users. Tough choice.
Get over it. This is business. We are not friends or a family. And the online Community is not free speech, this is a private company online discussion forum, so don’t get on your high horse if you are censored when you share your anger and push other users to move away from Asana.
Personally, I decided to stay with Asana for now. I still love the tool, and even if I don’t agree with all their decisions, the team is great and I want to believe things will move in the right direction. It is now up to Asana to make sure they support the community for the long run.
EDIT January 16th: we are seeing very good signs on Asana’s side for more transparency on various topics!