Asana for Agile and Scrum

Though it has roots in software development, Agile is now a way of working for many more teams, and even entire organizations. Agile teams are suited to work quickly in changing conditions, helping organizations go to market faster with higher quality work. But that’s only if teams can keep everybody on board about what work they need to tackle and how. Asana is a flexible tool equipped to help you build fast and ship often. Here’s how to translate your Agile work into Asana.

If you are brand new to Asana, we recommend reading our quick start so you can best understand Asana concepts and more easily translate them to Agile frameworks.

How can Asana help Agile teams?

Agile-specific tools aren’t always useful for entire organizations and between different teams. They can bring unncessary complexity for non-Agile teams. Product and marketing teams might run Agile processes, but how they do it can widely differ. Instead, teams can rely on Asana and customize to their team’s flavor of Agile, and keep it flexible for work that might not follow Agile processes.

Translating Agile Scrum concepts into Asana terms

One of the most popular Agile frameworks is Scrum. Here’s how common Scrum concepts translate into Asana, including some helpful examples.

Agile Scrum concept In Asana...
Epic Create a project portfolio
Feature Create one project per feature
Story Add tasks in your feature’s project
Task Add subtasks to your Asana story task
Backlog Create a backlog project
Sprint Create a sprint planning project
Size Use a drop-down custom field to indicate size
Time to finish Use a numeric custom fields
Acceptance criteria Include information in a task’s description

How to create epics

An epic is an overall effort towards a specific objective, which can be broken down into smaller pieces. In Asana, that translates into projects and tasks for features and stories, respectively. Things like big launches could be epics, as could a series of events or campaigns in service of a larger goal (like more sales leads or revenue).

To create an epic in Asana, you’ll create a portfolio. Portfolios allow you to group related projects and monitor them together. You can see the epic’s health at a glance and easily see status updates across the features helping you achieve it.

Project portfolio in Asana

To create an epic (Portfolio):

  1. Open your sidebar and click Portfolios on the top left.
  2. Click New Portfolio.

When you click on one of your Portfolios, you will be able to see a holistic view of all projects contained within it.

Create portfolios to track progress towards your epics in Asana

Now you’re ready to create features for your epic.

How to create features and backlogs

Features document the larger activities that will help you achieve your epics, and backlogs help you keep track of work that you haven’t yet prioritized. In Asana, both features and backlogs can be created as projects, but you can also include your backlog as a section in your project.

So for an epic around your biggest product launch of the year, you could create projects for research and feedback, development, and the marketing launch or sales plans.

To create features and backlogs (Asana projects):

  1. First ensure that you’ve created a team in Asana so you have a place to host your features which will be created as projects.
  2. Click the orange + button in the top bar to create a project for each feature. To get started quickly, you can click the Templates tab to see if any Asana-created templates match the work in your feature.
  3. Next, add custom fields to your project so you can track things like the feature sizecosttime to finish, business goal, or epic it ties to. Add custom fields to any project by clicking the blue Add Custom Fields link at the top of any project.
  4. Now that you have your features created, you can decide to keep your backlog in a section of the feature project, or a separate project for backlog items in general. Follow the same project creation process above.
An agile website launch with Asana boards

Next, you’ll learn how to break your features into stories.

How to create stories and add them to your sprint

story is one actionable piece of work to help you break up a feature into smaller, actionable parts. In Asana, this means adding tasks to your project. So for an epic about a redesign, you could have a website launch feature with stories like “draft web copy,” and “optimize for mobile.”

An agile website launch

To create stories (Asana tasks):

  1. Add stories to your feature by creating tasks in your project. Just type the actionable step as the task title and press enter after each one.
  2. In the task description, you can add your acceptance criteria and any other relevant details.
  3. Fill out any custom fields you’ve added to your project to make things like size and time clear.
  4. Assign the task to the person responsible for completing the work, giving them a start and due date so they can plan accordingly.
  5. Once you’ve created your stories as tasks, you can go on to break them down into tasks, which in Asana, would be considered subtasks. Subtasks are how you break up work into even smaller pieces and distribute responsibility.

Once you create stories, consider creating a sprint planning project to capture the actionable pieces of work that you’ll take on in a sprint. Check out our sprint planning blog to learn how to build and manage sprint planning.

Now you’ve built a basic Scrum framework with Asana.

We know there isn’t one way to run Agile processes. If you’re curious how other teams do it, or want to customize the process we’ve outlined here, ask the Asana Community to start the discussion, get answers, and connect with other teams.

Managing Agile work with Asana

Now that you’ve got your basic Scrum structure built, and have added work to your sprint project, we’ll give you tips on how you can manage the work in Asana.

How to manage your backlog

By keeping backlog sections or projects in Asana, you can have an up to date, running list of all the items on the backlog. By using custom fields, you can filter tasks in your backlog to help you decide what you should prioritize next. Plus, you can easily move tasks to and from the backlog.

How to add new items to the backlog:

  1. To make it easy to add items to the backlog, you can create a backlog template task. That way, each backlog item has the same level of information before getting added. Then, if you decide to action it, you have the context you need.
  2. Use the task description to spell out information someone needs to provide before adding a task to the backlog.
  • The template task can be copied by clicking the ... button in the top right corner of the task and selecting Duplicate task...
  1. When a task is ready to work on during the sprint, add it your sprint project by clicking the ... button and adding to your current sprint project. By using this process, you’ll have the starting details you need without creating extra work!

How to decide what to prioritize from the backlog

  1. Adding custom fields like priority, size, hours to complete, etc. to your backlog project can help you sort the project later on to identify the best work to prioritize from it.
  2. Click the Filtering icon in the top right corner of your project and sort by the desired custom field.
  • For example, if you knew you had some open engineering time in your upcoming sprint, you could look for tasks that are high priority and that fit in the allotted “time to complete” category.

How to manage your Agile sprint

Once your sprint planning project is created, you can start adding your sprint work to it and managing it in Asana. Here are tips on how to move your work forward and keep stakeholders up to date.

How to manage your sprint schedule

Managing your sprint schedule with Timeline means you don’t have to use spreadsheets and separate tools for sprint planning and management.

  1. For each feature, story, and/or task that gets added to your sprint plan, make sure they have start and due dates to see how your schedule fits together in Timeline. Click the Timeline tab at the top of any Asana project. (You can do this for feature projects, too.)
  2. Within Timeline, you can see all your sprint tasks in a Gantt-style view with easy dependency setting and drag and drop functionality to move work around as needed.

Keeping up with sprint updates

Instead of trying to maintain a separate spreadsheet or pinging teammates to see where work stands, you simply have to click into your sprint plan project.

  1. As work moves forward in your sprint, make sure teammates are marking tasks for stories and tasks complete, attaching any relevant work to the completed task so it’s clear the work is complete, and other teammates can access the results.
  2. Show progress towards any relevant tasks for stories by dragging them into the appropriate column in your sprint project. That way, anyone who needs a pulse on where work stands can simply click into the project.
  3. Add any relevant stakeholders or managers to your sprint planning project as project members. Click the project header section with faces, and add anyone needed. You can give them comment-only access so they can't modify anything.
  4. Use Progress View to communicate regular updates during the sprint. Use @mentioning to call out any tasks or projects with relevant work. @mention teammates for kudos or to let others know who is leading a project and to whom they can direct further questions.
  5. For daily stand ups, individuals can use My Tasks to keep tabs on what work they’re tackling today, what work they completed, and to help them identify blockers.
  6. If someone is stuck, teammates can use task comments to ping teammates for more information or help. They can also add task followers for needed visibility.

Conducting an effective retrospective in Asana

Retrospectives are an important part of the Agile process. They help teams digest what was accomplished, and determine what can be improved or iterated on in the future. Here’s how you can use Asana to supercharge your retrospectives, leading to actionable insights.

  1. At the end of a sprint, use your sprint planning project to see what was accomplished, and what’s still left.
  • Tally up how many features were completed to capacity to plan for the next sprint. You can use your “time to complete” custom field to easily tally it for you!
  • Move any incomplete features and stories to the backlog, or add them to your next sprint if they’ll carry over.
  1. Use Progress View to post a status update with the final sprint results and share out accomplishments.
  2. If any retrospective feedback is actionable, create a task and assign it to the person who will look into implementing it or surfacing it to other teams.
  3. Archive your sprint project so only the current sprint project is referenced. You will still be able to access them in Asana.
  4. Create a new sprint project and repeat the process!

Though there are many facets and pieces to Agile work that contribute to team success, the ability to easily track, manage, and plan this work in one place undoubtedly drives results.