Team and task management platform Asana is introducing new tools designed to help businesses automate various processes.

Asana Automation, as the new suite of features is called, includes a new rules builder that lets anyone manually create automated steps to save themselves having to repeat them. A new “vision and voice” feature inside the Asana iPhone app will also enable users to automatically generate tasks by snapping a photo of a real-world item (e.g. a chart) or recording a verbal instruction.

For the uninitiated, Asana was founded by Facebook cofounder Dustin Moskovitz and software engineer Justin Rosenstein, who led on early Google products such as Gmail chat before going on to drive development of the Facebook like button. Both Moskovitz and Rosenstein exited Facebook in 2008 to build Asana, though the product didn’t launch to the public until 2011. In the intervening years, the San Francisco-based company has managed to attract some notable backers, including Mark Zuckerberg, Sean Parker, and Peter Thiel, and last year it raised another $50 million at a $1.5 billion valuation.

Asana is designed to help individuals and teams manage and collaborate on projects, including managing deadlines, sharing feedback, viewing milestone and task visualizations, and assigning work across teams. It operates a freemium software-as-a-service (SaaS) model and offers varying levels of features depending on the user’s plan. The new Asana Automation tools will be available to those on the Business and Enterprise tiers, although anyone with a Premium plan will be able to access some of the functionality.

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Rule maker

With Rules, Asana wants to make it easier for teams to manage their workload, including routing tasks to the right people and controlling the broader workflow.

Much like IFTTT (if this, then that), Asana rules can be custom-built from scratch from a selection of more than 60 trigger-and-action combinations, but the company also offers a bunch of prebuilt ones that are good to go — this is also available to those on the Premium subscription tier.

For example, a user can stipulate that when a task is added to a project — either directly or automatically via an integration — it triggers an action, such as ensuring that the task is assigned to the correct person in the project. Or if a task is marked as complete, Asana can automatically move it to a specified section.

Above: Asana: Recommended new rules

Within the main project view, users can see a full list of rules that have been set up.

Above: Asana project: Viewing the rules

Sound and vision

Kicking off first in its iPhone app, Asana will allow users to snap a photo of a diagram, chart, or general brainstorming session captured on a whiteboard, and — via the powers of optical character recognition (OCR) — Asana can convert the content into digital and assign tasks to individuals in the organization.

The company said it’s starting on iPhone first because that is the platform most of its users are on, though it is exploring Android for the future.

On a related note, a new feature called Asana Voice will allow users to record audio via a voice memo and automatically transcribe it into an Asana task. So when they click to create a new task, users can simply hit the little microphone button that pops up to start recording.

Elsewhere, Asana is introducing what it’s calling “smart project templates,” an evolution on its existing templates offering, which layers on a complete workback schedule (a method for showing project milestones). With these smart templates, Asana can automatically correct when a conflict arises between different task deadlines.

Combined, these various automation tools are designed to remove tedious, painstaking tasks from companies’ workflow so employees can focus on the things that matter.

“With Automation, we’re introducing the ability to automate your routine tasks so you can spend more energy on your craft and leave the repetitive busywork to Asana,” noted Asana product head Alex Hood.

Today’s launch comes just a few months after Asana rolled out Workload, which promises to reduce employee burnout by making it easier for project managers to reassign or postpone specific tasks.

“Globally, knowledge workers are spending more time coordinating in email, spreadsheets, and meetings than on the actual job they’ve been hired to do,” Hood added. “In fact, 60% of their time is being wasted on ‘work about work,’ leaving only 27% for their skill-based job and 13% for strategic thinking.”

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