Asana's new feature lets users 'track anything'

New custom fields support expands the work tracking software's possible uses

Asana is making it easier for users to adapt its work-tracking software to more than just task management.

The company announced Thursday that it's launching support for creating custom fields inside the product, so that it's possible for people to use the same service they rely on for tracking work tasks to also manage other things. So, a recruiting team could use custom fields to track a candidate's name, status, interview times and more.

The custom fields feature was first announced last year at an Asana press event. It's an important part of how the company plans to expand its product to reach not only its current user base, but also businesses with more complicated and customized workflows.

Justin Rosenstein, Asana's co-founder and head of product, said that the company was focused on making sure that the feature was powerful enough to support diverse uses while also being simple enough for everyday users to work with. It's something that he said was part of the company's product vision from day one.

To add a custom field, users have to navigate through a couple of nested menus, and can then pick whether they want it to be a text field, a drop-down or a number field. Once those are set up, it's possible for users to search and sort using custom fields across one or multiple projects.

That way, a recruiting coordinator could see all of the candidates coming in for an interview, even if they're listed in several different projects. As with all other Asana items, it's possible for administrators to control access using fine-grained controls so that people aren't seeing the things they shouldn't see.

Anyone who's a full member of an Asana team has the ability to create and edit custom fields, while guests can view the fields but not edit them. It's a move that might frustrate some admins at more regimented teams, and Rosenstein said that the company is working on adding more fine-grained controls in that regard.

All of the custom fields reside in the same namespace, which has the benefit of allowing users to do things like see all of the candidates applying for a job across multiple different projects. The downside to that is it then becomes necessary for people to make sure that they're using different field names for different purposes.

That may change in the future, but the Asana team didn't prioritize it for the feature's initial launch.

The company plans to add templates that will provide companies with a starting point to get Asana working in different scenarios. That should help teams get their feet wet with custom fields, so they can better understand how the tools might be used in their organization.

Asana's announcement comes at an interesting time, since GitHub announced Wednesday that it's getting into the project management market with a new feature called Projects. Asana is a much more intense product, aimed at a different audience.

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