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6 tips to use portfolios, Asana’s best-kept secret for cross-project planning

Caeleigh MacNeil contributor headshotCaeleigh MacNeil
February 15th, 2024
4 min read
6 tips to use portfolios, Asana’s best-kept secret for cross-project planning
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Quick tip

Use portfolio dashboards to automatically create custom charts and visualize performance across every initiative in your portfolio.

So you work on many projects, and need a way to manage and track progress across initiatives. Sound familiar? If it does, you’re in luck. Asana’s handy—and way too often underutilized—portfolios feature is designed specifically to help with this problem. It’s like a folder for your projects, with extra functionality that gives you a bird’s-eye view of every initiative. Portfolios let you monitor related work at-a-glance, showing what’s on track and what’s at risk, so you can quickly drill down for more information when projects need your attention. 

Welcome to the world of portfolios, Asana’s best-kept secret. Here are five tips to get started, so you don’t miss out on this powerful feature. 

1. Keep stakeholders informed and accountable, in one place

How many times have people asked you about the status of an initiative, or where they can find information? If you regularly manage projects, it probably happens a lot. Portfolios solve this problem with a central space where everyone can access progress updates for all projects in that portfolio, making it easy to answer questions and keep stakeholders in the loop. That means no more scattered updates—instead, people can easily find the information they need in one place. 

Here’s how portfolios can simplify stakeholder communication: 

  • Create status updates faster. Instead of crafting time-intensive updates from scratch, Asana speeds the process along by suggesting sections, tasks, and milestones to mention. Drag and drop suggested highlights, automatically create charts, and more. 

  • View past status updates, so you have a concrete record of the progress that’s been made. 

  • Link portfolio work to company goals. Show which overarching business goals your portfolio supports, so stakeholders stay accountable and understand why their work matters. 

  • Add a portfolio description, owner, and due date to keep important details top of mind. And when new stakeholders join your portfolio, they have the context they need to get up to speed quickly. 

Keep stakeholders informed and accountable, in one place: status updates in portfolios

2. Get a bird’s eye view—instantly

Do you use custom fields to track task data within projects, like time spent or available budget? If so, you can automatically summarize that information within your portfolio to get an instant, high-level overview across all your projects. 

Here’s an example of how it works: 

  1. Track data within projects: Imagine you’re tracking vendor work in a project. Add a custom time tracking field to calculate exactly how long vendors are spending on each task. 

  2. Then add projects to a portfolio: Add your vendor management project to an executive portfolio, where you track work across your whole company. 

  3. Next, summarize data across projects: Add a “rollup” time tracking field to your executive portfolio. This summarizes the time tracking data within each project, so you can monitor time spent at a glance, across your entire company.

Voilà —an automatic summary of time tracking data across projects, with just a few clicks. 

Get a bird’s eye view—instantly: custom field rollups in portfolios

3. Organize work your way

The great thing about portfolios is that you can organize them however you want, without impacting how other people view or access work. That’s because tasks, projects, and portfolios can live in multiple places at once, meaning you can add initiatives to your portfolio without changing where they’re originally stored.  

Here’s a summary of how portfolio organization works: 

  • Add projects to portfolios to organize related work in one place. 

  • Add portfolios within portfolios to keep initiatives organized at a high level, like nested folders within folders. 

  • Add work (projects or portfolios) to multiple portfolios at once, so you can create a personalized organization method without impacting your teammates. 

For example, imagine you want to add a “freelance budget” project to your “annual budget tracking” portfolio. Right now that project already lives in two other portfolios, owned by other people. You can still add it to yours without changing where it originally lives.

Organize work your way: portfolio organization

4. Track progress with portfolio dashboards

If you regularly pull data to check the progress of work, you know how time-intensive it can be. But with portfolios, reporting doesn’t have to be a time suck. Instead of manually collecting and summarizing data across projects, you can use the dashboard feature to automatically create custom charts and visualize how your initiatives are performing. 

Whatever data you track within projects, you can report on with portfolio dashboards. And with a variety of chart options, you can visualize information using line graphs, donut charts, burnup charts, and more. Here are just a few examples: 

  • Track costs: Create a line graph to show how costs change over time, across every project in your portfolio. 

  • Monitor project status: Visualize upcoming, overdue, unscheduled, and completed tasks with a donut chart. 

  • Check performance: Track how long it takes to complete tasks, across projects. 

Track progress with portfolio dashboards

5. Monitor team workloads

Historically, staffing many different projects is a challenging—and time consuming—task. Portfolios solves this problem with its workload feature, which lets you track bandwidth for every person on your team, across every project in your portfolio. That means you can get the complete picture of how your team is spending time, even if they work on different projects. 

In addition to tracking bandwidth, you can also:

  • Drag and drop tasks within workload view to easily reassign and reschedule work.

  • Move resources between projects in one view, without clicking back and forth. 

  • Visualize future bandwidth to make sure upcoming projects are properly staffed, and prevent blockers before they happen. 

Note: The workload feature is available if your portfolio only contains projects. If your portfolio contains another portfolio, it will be grayed out.

Monitor team workloads

6. Coordinate timelines across multiple projects

When you coordinate multiple projects at once, timelines can easily get confusing. You may need to stagger work so your team isn’t overloaded, synchronize deliverables around launch dates, or adjust multiple project timelines at once due to blockers. Timeline view in portfolios gives you a way to visualize every project timeline in the same pane, so you can see the full picture and easily make adjustments.

With timeline view, you can: 

  • See a high-level timeline of every project in your portfolio. View project start and end dates, plus important milestones across all your initiatives. With this big picture view, you can see how schedules overlap and whether deliverables are on track. 

  • Drag and drop milestones and projects on your timeline to automatically adjust due dates with a single click. 

  • Click into each project for a more detailed timeline view with individual tasks and dependencies—assignments that can’t be started until another is completed. This lets you see the big picture first, then dive into smaller details as needed. 

Note: The timeline feature is available if your portfolio only contains projects. If your portfolio contains another portfolio, it will be grayed out. 

Coordinate timelines across multiple projects

Don’t miss out—save time and effort with portfolios

Portfolios are a powerhouse feature you don’t want to skip, especially if you manage multiple projects at once. Visit our pricing page to learn more about portfolios, plus how to sign up for a free trial. 

Want to dig deeper? Explore the ins and outs of portfolios with our Asana Academy course.

Explore portfolios

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