Asana and Basecamp (37 Signals)

The reason most project management tools suck is that they add more friction to collaboration by being more heavy duty than light weight. Basecamp by 37Signals made it extremely light weight when compared to MS project or other “leading” project collaboration tools of the day.

Today – Asana does to BaseCamp what Basecamp did to MS Project. It’s extremely light weight and gets out of the way unlike Basecamp which requires more form entry. Asana feels like is if you are updating a spreadsheet or a notepad and not a form. And that reduces friction. The less friction in updating task lists, the more you will follow it and actually execute successfully on the project. (A very interesting paper on colloboration/documentation & project success)

37 Signals and Basecamp will face an uphill battle unless they dramatically change Thier UI – which is not easy (more here)

What could be next for them:
– Build a gmail competitor with collaboration built on
– A better group chat (HipChat/Campfire) alternative with tasks already built on.

Think about it:
Tasks that are an input into Asana/Basecamp are basically an output from:

  • Email
  • Group Chat
  • Talking

If you can move the Output mechanism (email/group chat/talking) diectly into an input task mechanism it will make it even easier.

Therefore- an email app or group chat is the next logical step.

37Signals should not look at thier growing sales and customer satisfaction and think that they are doing fine. (Side note on dangers of seeing only revenue figures i.e. RIM Case Study)

37S are artists and got thier early adoption via the blog & among the bleeding edge folks. And what the bleeding edge folks do, the rest of the world does (in most cases or atleast in the markets that 37S plays in). So maybe, the key metric is: What is the switch rate from 37Signals to Asana i.e or find 100 people who have used Asana and Basecamp and say which one they like better?

Weak argument alert:
Asana also feels like it requires lots of thought and a large over worked team to execute on the simple UI (by removing the back end complexity) that only a heat seeking valley funded start up could do. Not saying that a smaller bootstrapped team couldn’t do it. But it intuitively feels more difficult. FYI- this para is the weakest part of my argument so don’t throw the baby out with the bath water.

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