Asana goes after the large enterprise market with “Organizations,” a more IT-friendly version of its collaboration software

By Richard Nieva , written on May 1, 2013

From The News Desk

Asana, the collaboration software company started by Facebook insiders Dustin Moskovitz and Justin Rosenstein, has always sold to businesses. The company has said it does not want to be called “Facebook for the enterprise.” But today, the enterprise part, at least, becomes true. The company announced the launch of Asana Organizations, a product tailored for big enterprise clients with thousands of employees.

Asana’s software lets teams manage various tasks, showing team members things like who is responsible for what, how their progress is coming along and when its due. The company's software has already been used by A-list Silicon Valley companies like Dropbox, Airbnb and Pinterest. Asana won’t disclose how many customers it has, but Kenny Van Zant, the company’s head of business and operations, says the number is in the “tens of thousands” of teams. A paid version, for teams larger than 30, has "high hundreds" of customers.

The main difference between the Organizations product and versions meant for smaller teams is a focus on IT administration. Large companies have compliance requirements that smaller ones don't have. With Organizations, an administrator can view user activity across several different teams within the company. The administrator can also set access policies and remove old users. In other versions of the product, users needed to be invited into the system. Now anyone with a company’s email address can have access to the dashboard of teams, but must have the proper permissions to join a team and see what it’s working on.

Organizations, which launches today, is primarily for big companies looking to use Asana on a large scale, but it will be available to everyone, even the smallest teams. Pricing varies by the size of the company. It costs $100 a month for a 30-person team, with the price increasing per every 25 users.

Asana is riding the wave of the “consumerization of IT,” where employees use their own devices and favorite software at work. As a result, IT departments have had to catch up. Asana plans to market Organizations to teams that already use the product, pitching it as a way to expand deployment throughout the company. One large company already using Asana’s software is publishing conglomerate Pearson.

One of the biggest challenges for companies trying to court the big enterprise companies is convincing reticent chief information officers that data is secure in the cloud. Van Zant says that’s never really been a problem for the company, since it has always catered to businesses, though on a smaller scale. The company hosts data in a SAS-70 Amazon data center, which he says usually puts hesitant CIOs at ease. Still, there have been a few high profile instances of AWS outages.

Asana is also challenged to break away from the pack of all of the other software companies trying to help teams manage their work. “There’s no real household name in collaboration software,” says Van Zant. As such, it means the title is theoretically there for the taking, but it also means navigating through a fragmented market. And the usual suspects like Oracle, which has a few collaboration products of its own, including one called Beehive, are always lurking.

Jack Stahl, a product engineer who led the development of Organizations, thinks the company’s lineage from Facebook -- and its enviable engineering culture -- can give Asana an edge in the market. “Facebook ships code really fast, they use open source tools. These are not necessarily things you associate with enterprise software companies.”

Still, he said the goal is to balance serving IT administrators with individual users because the stakes are so high at the enterprise level. "We realize that this is hosting people's crucial data. And when Asana goes down, people can't get work done. And that's really important in a way that Facebook going down isn't."