How Asana uses work management to optimize resource planning

Headshot kontributor Caeleigh MacNeilCaeleigh MacNeil
18 April 2024
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How Asana uses work management to optimize resource planning
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Initiatives can’t succeed without the right resources. Nobody knows this better than Rita Khayat, Asana’s Head of PMO for Strategy and Operations. Khayat is responsible for keeping business-critical goals on track—which she does by allocating the right resources, at the right time, to the most important work. 

Khayat’s team is responsible for four main business areas within the CIO org: 

  1. Strategic planning and execution

  2. Program and project management

  3. Operational and change management

  4. Leadership and organizational development 

Resource management is essential for each of these areas. "It is imperative that we deliver on our commitments," says Khayat. By carefully planning budget and team capacity, her team can consistently hit goals and execute on company initiatives. 

Here’s how they do it. 

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Getting visibility into team capacity

According to Khayat, one of Asana’s biggest unlocks is capacity planning. This feature gives her visibility into team bandwidth across projects, so she can ensure her team has enough budget and headcount to confidently deliver on their roadmap. "Priorities and timing can shift, necessitating resource reallocation," Khayat notes. "This underscores the importance of maintaining visibility across critical projects." 

With capacity planning, leaders can look into the future and see what’s on their team’s plate—then allocate work for the upcoming months based on roles’ capacity. You can see what projects people are working on, the percentage of time those projects take up, and who might be overallocated. When a change is needed, leaders can easily shift work, extend timelines, and adjust resources. 

Capacity planning gives leaders like Khayat a big-picture view. And at the same time, more specialized team leads can still see a detailed picture of their team’s capacity and what everyone is working on.  For example, Khayat’s team has one overarching view across the entire department as well as more specific views for each team.

"Each role requires distinct functionalities," Khayat explains. "Asana facilitates both these needs effectively." 

Getting visibility into team capacity

Ensuring high-priority projects are properly staffed

Prioritization is essential for Khayat’s team. "There is a high demand for numerous projects," she observes. "We field requests from various business functions throughout the organization, encompassing all levels." With such a large volume of requests, her team needs a data-backed system to understand what’s important, what the company should invest in, and what can be deprioritized. 

Her team uses three key features to prioritize effectively: 

  1. Forms to collect information about requests and size them correctly

  2. Portfolios to track team roadmaps and ensure key initiatives have the right resources

  3. Projects to prioritize smaller tasks within each initiative

Let’s dive into each one. 

1. Sizing requests with forms 

Khayat’s team uses intake forms to standardize the request process. “A form lets you take unstructured data and turn it into structured data,” says Jana Beiswenger, Head of Business Program Management at Asana and a member of Khayat’s team. This gives them the information they need up front, so her team can evaluate and size new projects based on objective criteria.

"We require requesters to provide a rationale for their request, detail the expected impact on the organization, and describe how it will contribute to achieving company goals," says Khayat. Once her team has that information, they can begin an assessment process to size each request correctly. This helps them determine 1) what resources the request will require, and 2) what impact it will have on the business—for example, generating a specific amount of annual recurring revenue. From there, the team can prioritize each request within their larger roadmap. 

Sizing requests with forms

2. Tracking roadmaps with portfolios

Khayat has a roadmap portfolio for each team to track every key initiative they’re working on. This gives her a big-picture view across projects, so she has the information she needs to prioritize the right resources, at the right time. Her team uses custom fields to capture information at a glance, like project priority, level of effort, and whether an initiative is a “big rock”—aka an essential, resource-intensive item on the roadmap. 

"When I review my roadmap portfolio, I can immediately identify which initiatives are big rocks, which are long-term projects, and which are quick wins, among others," Khayat explains. This information is essential to allocate people and resources effectively. For example, it allows Khayat’s team to start on big rocks first, then tackle quick wins. "This categorization significantly clarifies how we should manage our capacity," says Khayat.

Tracking roadmaps with portfolios\

3. Prioritizing tasks within projects

Within each project, leads also need to prioritize individual tasks to make sure team resources are spent effectively. Jorge Zuniga, Asana’s Head of Data Systems and Integrations, uses a similar tagging system on his team to allocate resources at a project level. Custom fields let them see key details at a glance, such as: 

  • Task priority

  • Level of effort

  • Estimated hours

  • Request type

  • Task status (on hold, in progress, to do, backlog, etc)

  • And more

This helps Zuniga’s team prioritize the most important tasks. It also lets them fit in lower priority tickets when they have extra time. “During sprint planning we tag each item with a priority,” says Zuniga. “Lower priority tasks go in a ‘to do’ section, and people can pick them up when they have extra capacity.”

Prioritizing tasks within projects

Tracking time spent across initiatives 

Accurate time tracking data is essential to keep projects on schedule. Zuniga’s team tracks exactly how many hours they’re spending on each task, so they can compare to original timeline estimates and understand if they’re over or under budget. “During sprint planning, we calculate estimated hours and then everyone adds their actual hours,” says Zuniga. Those numbers are then automatically pulled into a capacity planning report, where Zuniga can see how many hours team members are spending across projects, in real time. As a result, he can help teams reallocate tasks to ensure nobody is underutilized or overworked.  

“When I notice someone is overallocated, I need to understand why,” says Zuniga. “Asana reporting lets me see exactly how they’re spending time. For example, I can look through all the support tickets a contractor completed in a month and see which one took longer than expected.” 

Having this accurate time tracking data has increased efficiencies across Zuniga’s team, from managing contractor hours to helping employees avoid wasted time from context switching—shifting attention between different tasks, which research shows can cost as much as 40% of someone’s productive time. 

“With Asana, the team has become very efficient,” says Zuniga. “With five full-time employees, we can easily do the work of 12.” 

Make your resources count

Ensure business-critical work is properly staffed at every level of your organization.

Make your resources count

By capturing all work data in one platform, Asana’s operations and PMO teams can get total visibility into business priorities and how teams are spending time. As a result leaders can staff their most important work—every time. 

Learn how your team can ensure business-critical work is properly resourced, at every level of your organization. 

See Asana in action

With Asana, operations teams can connect work, standardize processes, and automate workflows—all in one place.

See Asana in action

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