Lifewater stays agile while working to end the water crisis with Asana

Asana Case Study - Lifewater - Drilling well
  • Lifewater Logo
  • Location
    • Serving populations in East Africa and Southeast Asia
  • Company Size
    • 110 Employees across the US, Ethiopia, Uganda, Cambodia, and Tanzania

Asana's Impact

  • Save time previously spent on administrative work thanks to streamlined workflows and centralizing communication in Asana
  • Increased collaboration with external stakeholders, such as journalists and freelancers, by communicating in tasks rather than email
  • Improved cross-functional context to drive organization-wide clarity and connection by keeping all conversations and documents in one place

Water is vital for humans, yet one in ten people globally lack access to clean drinking water. What’s more, children are affected the most by this crisis: Every two minutes, a child dies from a preventable waterborne disease.

When Allie Watts, Digital Marketing Manager, joined Lifewater, a nonprofit committed to ending the global water and sanitation crisis, that metric was one child per minute. Progress—achieved by providing clean drinking water to children—is underway in countries across East Africa and Southeast Asia, like Uganda, Ethiopia, Tanzania, and Cambodia. Allie, who oversees all the marketing projects at Lifewater, along with other colleagues including Zerihun Hailu, Head of Programs Implementation, and Lissie Babb, Head of Program Quality, are working to close the gap even further.

A platform to streamline workflows—and reduce emails

When Allie joined the team in 2018, the search for a new work management solution was already underway. The organization needed a platform to support their globally distributed team and streamline recurring workflows. At the time, all teams, including the marketing team, program implementation team, and program quality team, relied on emails and meetings—lots of them—to manage everything from marketing campaigns to the implementation of their water, sanitation, and hygiene programs. With email, coordinating efforts and finding files became time consuming and work often fell through the cracks.

Once Lifewater selected Asana as their work management platform, the organization gathered a cross-functional implementation team to discuss rollout phases and create documentation for employees on how to use the tool. The first phase, for example, involved getting employees to check their Asana Inbox every day and update their profiles.

“Before Asana, we used email. It provided little space to see what others were doing and to effectively track tasks. It took more time to communicate one thing to a number of people and arrive at solutions.”
- Zerihun Hailu, Head of Programs Implementation

Allie got her team on board by tackling their first big project—a website revamp—using Asana. She created a project timeline of what needed to be done by when and got to work. Starting with a specific project helped the marketing team learn how to use Asana by doing, and they saw results from the get go. From then on, Allie built out other workflows in Asana, such as creative reviews and social media, editorial, and email calendars, to migrate all of her team’s programs onto the platform.

Asana Case Study - Lifewater - Summer campaign

One central place to track work

Many teams across Lifewater have found project templates useful for cutting back on repeatable tasks and reducing work about work. In particular, Allie’s team uses templates for nearly all of their workflows, including newsletters, campaigns, communications, and PR. And using filters and rules, tasks are assigned to people based on their roles so that everyone knows what they’re responsible for.

“I love the power of Asana’s templates because I can get a new campaign set up in just a few minutes and provide the entire team with visibility into what’s going on.”
- Allie Watts, Digital Marketing Manager

When the marketing team needs to work with an external collaborator, like a freelancer or journalist, they invite them as a guest to the project so that communication is centralized and expectations are clear. For example, Lifewater works with field journalists in each country they serve to write and publish stories about children or families in need. Using Asana, they can share the impact Lifewater has on an individual or family—what they call ‘transformation stories’—by inviting field journalists to the project, sharing assets, such as photos of the children or water source, and updating everyone on the progress that’s been achieved is easy. When a story of need turns into a success, the Lifewater team can easily access the information and share it through their channels—further driving donations.

For Lissie and Zerihun, projects in Asana look a little different. They each work with country managers who oversee on the ground implementation of Lifewater’s water and sanitation programs. Lissie’s team uses Asana for discrete projects, like evaluation studies to evaluate the impact of Lifewater’s work. These projects can take up to six to nine months to complete, and they track every task that needs to be completed in Asana. They also use Portfolios to track work across projects so they can see how they’re tracking at a high level.

Asana Case Study - Lifewater - drill in action

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Asana has been critical for Lissie’s team since they can’t travel to the countries the projects are being implemented in. Work in Asana is so seamless that it may even reduce the need to travel—at least as often—once it’s safe to do so.

“We'll likely need to take fewer monitoring trips in the future because we've created a better communication process. Or we'll change the purpose of those trips since much of our detailed planning can now be done in Asana.”
- Lissie Babb, Head of Program Quality

Zerihun oversees all of the country teams who are implementing Lifewater’s programs—and who are spread out across countries and timezones. As part of this work, Zerihun manages annual program activities and budget planning in Asana, as well as water project design and construction. Now that his team isn’t reliant on email, he can easily see where certain projects and tasks stand by looking at their status in Asana. Communication times have shrunk as well since responses don’t get buried in long email threads and more discussions can happen asynchronously on tasks. Project status updates are shared right in Asana as well so all members automatically receive them.

“Asana allows our team to be more efficient and communicate more effectively, which directly results in more children, families, and communities being served with clean water and health every year.”
- Allie Watts, Digital Marketing Manager

Better communication, collaboration, and efficiency

Since rolling out Asana, teams are more efficient and processes at Lifewater run more smoothly:

  • Communication is organized and clear: By keeping all discussions in a centralized place (Asana), the organization communicates faster and more effectively across national and international borders. Asana also helps them get to know their teammates in other countries, too. By using Asana to announce new hires or company-wide changes, leaders have the confidence that they’re reaching every employee.

  • Everyone has access to important information: With Asana, everyone is on the same page and has the necessary information to do their jobs since all important documentation and files are stored in the platform. Instead of hunting down updates, data, or context, teams spend their time executing and can get a pulse on work without leaving Asana.

  • The teams are more agile: When project timelines change, teams can adjust dates and make changes to plans in real time so that work isn’t set back. By updating due dates in bulk, it’s always clear what has to happen by when and work doesn’t fall through the cracks.

In the end, the work that all teams do ladders up to Lifewater’s mission: to help children and communities access clean water. By being more efficient in their day-to-day work, they can move faster toward ending the global water and sanitation crisis.

Driving better outcomes for the years to come

In the years ahead, the marketing team will continue to launch improvements to their website and bring on more monthly donors so they can drive lasting change. Lissie and Zerihun’s teams will continue to use Asana to ensure that their programs are implemented smoothly and effectively in the communities they serve.

With the goal of decreasing the number of child deaths from waterborne illnesses even further, the entire Lifewater team will continue to strive towards more agile, efficient, and collaborative practices so more communities can have clean water, health, and lasting hope.