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Field Notes from the Digital Prairie

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Asana as Editorial Calendar

Back in November, during a discussion session at Confab Higher Ed, I mentioned that at Roosevelt University we had started trying to use project management tool Asana as a team-wide editorial calendar. @wrstknitterever asked in the backchannel how we did so.

It’s taken a couple of months, but I’ve finally been able set down some notes on our process as it has evolved.

This post assumes at least a passing familiarity with the conventions of Asana. If you've never used it before take a look around their site. Essentially, it’s an easy-to-use, inexpensive (in many cases, free) project management tool that added calendar functionality relatively recently. So while we found that it works as an editorial calendar, it's also a sneaky way of introducing project management into a traditionally decentralized office.

So here are my hints and tips for using Asana as an editorial calendar:

  • Chances are, not everyone on your team will be as excited about adopting this technology as you are. Start building buy-in from all the people who will be using it as early as possible. Explain to them why an editorial calendar is necessary, demo it for them, make it as easy as possible for them to adopt it, even if it means a little extra work for you.
  • Set up a separate workspace for the editorial calendar. If you use Asana for personal tasks as well, it may mean the occasional double-entry in another workspace, but depending on how many editorial tasks your team is involved in, the workspace can get crowded very quickly.
  • Add each new content "package" as a project. For example, you might have a one-off press release on a new faculty hire as a project, or an entire issue of an alumni magazine, or a week's worth of multimedia content surrounding commencement, each as its own project. 
  • Each project can then be broken down into tasks, preferably with a due date since you’re building a calendar. For example, "write story X," "edit story X," "post video for story X to YouTube," "post story X to the website," and "promote story X on Facebook" might be tasks (each assigned to a different team member) for package/project "Story X." Or, if your project comprises a lot of smaller pieces (e.g, an alumni magazine), you can make each story a task and then create subtasks for "write, "edit," "post," etc.
  • If the project is centered around an event, like commencement, create an unassigned task with a due date for the day of the event -- that way the event will show up on the "Team Calendar." The Team Calendar serves as your master calendar, but each team member can choose to see just their own set of tasks, or all the tasks related to a given project, then jump back to the Team Calendar.
  • Use Asana's attachment and commenting abilities to keep your assets and discussions centralized and reduce miscommunication (as well as the number of emails with 3MB photo attachments filling everyone's inboxes).
  • Have weekly meetings with as many of your team members as possible to review what's on tap for next week, and to clean up the calendar. Add new projects and tasks as necessary, and archive projects that have been completed or killed. We do this in a room with a projector and only one person manipulating the calendar, so everyone can see the changes immediately.
Are you using Asana in a similar way? Have additional tips or ways to improve our process? Please leave them in the comments. Asana also has some tips available.


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