Asana will take an important step forward as an enterprise software company Wednesday, launching a new partner organization that will oversee how other companies integrate with its project-management software and pave the way for channel partners to sell those tools to a wider audience.
Asana Partners formalizes a program that the newly public company had in place for integrators and resellers, said Billy Blau, head of corporate and business development at Asana, in an exclusive interview with Protocol. Blau joined Asana last October after several years running a similar program for Dropbox and was "pleasantly surprised to see how much work had already been done" on the product integration front.
Still, "there was a need to have a huge investment in the partner ecosystem. When I landed, I saw there [were] a lot of different product integrations, but we haven't really tied everything together into a coherent strategy for the enterprise going forward, and we haven't programatized anything yet," Blau said.
Asana Partners will launch with three tiers: strategic partners, premier partners and platform partners. The initial strategic partners include the Big Three U.S. cloud providers — AWS, Microsoft and Google — as well as major enterprise software companies like Salesforce, Adobe and Zoom, companies where "we work with them almost weekly" on making sure Asana works smoothly with their services, Blau said.
Premier partners include companies like Zendesk and Okta, which offer services outside the scope of Asana's platform as well as opportunities for cross-promotion. Platform partners will be companies that are newer to Asana, and across all three categories there are 200 companies involved in the program at launch.
As SaaS became the de facto way of consuming business software over the last decade, that trend unlocked a surge in entrepreneurial activity. And as companies started to allow different departments like marketing, legal and human resources to choose their own business tools, those startups worked overtime to make sure their software talked to other new SaaS applications inside a business, even software made by direct competitors.
"The reality of the situation is that people are doing the work in communication tools; they're in Zoom meetings, or they're in Slack talking about stuff. They're producing content either in Adobe or Canva, or Figma, or with Dropbox or Box. But that's all disparate, and when you want to be the single source of truth for a company of who is doing what by when, those experiences have to tie back into that platform," Blau said.
Asana's software now sits at the heart of day-to-day operations for many companies, which means it needed to streamline and standardize the way administrators manage these integrations. "As we're moving upstream into more enterprise accounts, those accounts and those customers are expecting a formal way to work with our partners and to be able to find the partners and find those integrations," Blau said.
The new program isn't just about integrations: Lots of those enterprise accounts also prefer to acquire new technology through channel partners and resellers who can help them negotiate prices and manage their tech portfolio. Partner programs are table stakes at big enterprise software companies; over 90% of Microsoft's commercial cloud revenue is generated through partners.
Asana, founded in 2008, went public through a direct listing last September and recorded $227 million in its 2020 fiscal year, up 59% compared to the previous year. Customers spending more than $50,000 rose 93%, which helps explain the need to formalize a partner program as the company moves from word-of-mouth growth across smaller companies or within department-sized organizations to larger companies.