VMware scales engineering for Tanzu Observability by Wavefront with Asana

VMware case study hero image
  • VMware logo
  • Location
    • 200 distributed employees on the Tanzu Observability by Wavefront team
  • Founded in
    • 2013

Asana Impact

  • Established a central place for information about all technical and nontechnical projects across the organization
  • Eliminated the need to request project updates or manually update spreadsheets
  • Gained visibility into timelines, dependencies, and progress on all projects at a high level

Today’s businesses run on data—and the applications and cloud services that rely on it can be truly gargantuan. Developers need to be able to monitor every aspect of their complex systems, and Tanzu Observability by Wavefront helps them do just that on a massive scale. Small wonder that DevOps teams at Reddit, Okta, and Box are among their customers.

Wavefront product image

Founded in 2013 by Clement Pang and his two cofounders, Tanzu Observability by Wavefront was acquired by VMware in 2017 and has grown from that initial trio into an organization of 200 engineers and cross-functional teammates around the world.

But as the team grew, Clement realized he needed to streamline their processes to keep everyone aligned and develop effective roadmaps for the future. While they managed their engineering tasks in Jira Cloud, they used inefficient spreadsheets for planning and high-level project tracking. Spreadsheets are essentially static and can’t be easily linked to live projects or dashboards, which caused a number of problems.

  • Since project managers worked out of spreadsheets and engineers worked out of Jira tickets, their tracking systems weren't connected, which led to outdated information and limited visibility across teams.
  • Alignment required a lot of meetings and impromptu hallway conversations, slowing everyone down.
  • It was difficult to share delivery date estimates with customers because high-level roadmap timelines weren't clear.

The team needed to improve visibility and transparency so everyone knew what to build and whether projects were on schedule. Simply put, it was time for a completely new way to manage work.

“We needed to find a way to scale from a startup of three people to 140 people. That’s why Asana is in the picture.” –Clement Pang, Principal Engineer, VMware

Finding the right tool for the job

The Tanzu Observability team needed help in three areas: product roadmapping, long-term development planning, and release planning. The new platform had to be easily accessible to all engineers and cross-functional teams like marketing, sales, and support engineers.

They also had some other requirements:

  • Integration with Jira Cloud and Slack to keep day-to-day engineering work connected to high-level plans
  • A place to capture new ideas in brainstorming sessions
  • A high-level overview of project roadmaps to see relative dates and interconnected milestones
  • Flexible customization to adapt to the unique workflows of different teams
  • Real-time project updates to keep everything running smoothly
  • A mobile app for access anywhere

Asana ticked all the boxes for Clement—and it had a simple, intuitive interface that was fast. For quick project planning and capturing ideas, Asana felt much more “immediate” than creating Jira tickets. It also reduced the chance of accidental mix-ups, which could happen when copying and pasting information into their old spreadsheet system.

By integrating with the team’s other tools, like Jira Cloud and Slack, Asana was able to sync updates automatically across all platforms, eliminating wasted time on manual updating. It was a simple win-win for everyone that reduced unnecessary coordination work. According to the Anatomy of Work Index, workers spend 60% of their time on this “work about work,” including status checks, redundant meetings, and looking for information—and U.S. organizations lose an average of 308 hours per year on duplicate work.

“Asana is super fast. When you have a lot of people in a meeting, all staring at a Zoom screen, you don’t want to wait for your tools to load. We never have to worry about this when we’re reviewing work in Asana with our team.”

Easy implementation, painless adoption

Asana was a new way of working for the organization, so Clement let them simply dive in and set up the way it worked best for them. The platform is as flexible as the different teams that use it. Some teammates used Kanban boards in Asana for their project plans, while others used lists; some used it as a repository of ideas, and others used it to manage Jira tickets via the integration. Clement was happy for them to work in Asana however they found it most helpful to their specific workflows.

To keep everyone aligned, though, they did need some guidelines for project structure. For example, teams work in sprints, so they populated Asana with common columns and custom fields to add context and information. The teams were also asked to use Asana’s Jira Cloud integration rather than manually entering Jira ticket numbers into Asana projects and tasks, to keep plans connected to the technical execution. They also implemented bots using the API to automatically push project status changes from Jira to Asana.

Ultimately, adopting Asana streamlined their processes and reduced everyone’s workload.

How Asana simplifies Tanzu Observability’s planning and development

Today, the team uses Asana for all their planning activities, whether for weekly releases, product builds, or a fun offsite. They manage their development work in Jira and track the higher-level projects, timelines, and history in Asana, while the integration keeps the two synced to show progress.

Screenshot of VMware's Asana project

Asana’s integrations are crucial in keeping work connected automatically. Even Slack is in the mix: the Asana for Slack integration automatically sends project updates to a channel, where the Asana project URL is pinned so teammates can easily click through to see more.

“Many of our Slack channels have links to boards in Asana. Instead of having to ask people what’s going on with a project, they can just click the link and see for themselves.”

But it’s not just about automating updates across platforms. The Tanzu Observability team uses Asana for all their productivity goals.

Development planning and long-term projects: With everything tracked in a project, the whole team is singing from the same sheet music. It’s easy to see progress against a roadmap and look at which sprint a project belongs to.

Growing ideas into reality: Tasks can also be added to multiple projects, enabling work to be tracked in many different ways while reducing context switching. For example, an Asana project might contain a list of ideas for the future, with each idea assigned as a task. The best ones can grow into their own project board when they’re ready to be worked on—and Asana keeps the whole history of notes and context, from start to finish.

UX roadmap: As the Tanzu Observability team builds new features and enhancements, Asana helps track which updates are for which products, what their priorities are, and which product area they apply to.

Release planning: Streamlined and synced tracking lets everyone see what’s shipping when. Portfolios let the team see the timelines and dependencies of multiple projects at once.

Easier project management: Asana’s UI is easy for project managers to use, on desktop or mobile. And sometimes, it’s the little things. For example, multiple rows of tasks can be selected and edited simultaneously—unlike the one-at-a-time limitations of a spreadsheet—a single click is all it takes to save the team precious time. “A lot of UIs just don’t work well when you’re selecting multiple items,” Clement says. “If you want to do something very simple, like assign a due date for fifteen tasks, Asana lets you do it.”

This raft of benefits has had a significant, positive impact on the engineering team and its cross-functional partners. Asana’s improved visibility has helped the whole organization align on a single system. Now that everyone knows who’s working on what, off-the-cuff planning and meetings are a thing of the past. And as the team became entirely distributed during the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, a central working platform was even more important in keeping everyone rooted.

“With Asana, we’ve achieved the ability to align our teams on a single system and understand what everyone is working on. Whether it’s release planning or project ideation, we have a central place where all information can be found.”

A future at the forefront

Clement and his team now have a platform to plan their work, stay aligned, and execute faster. They’re free to focus on innovation, which helps them stay ahead of the game and react to changing customer needs as they happen.

Tanzu Observability has always been at the forefront of application and infrastructure observability and analytics. With Asana keeping them organized, they can concentrate on developing best-in-class tools for best-in-class developers.