How many hours of your life have you spent rifling through emails and looking for all the bits associated with projects? And how often have you been cc’d into an email that was only marginally relevant to your work?
If you’re into managing projects and keeping things together, then Basecamp is your friend. Basecamp is an online project-management system that keeps all of your project’s communications in one place. It comes with both paid and free packages, and while there are some excellent alternative tools out there, we find it one of the easiest to use.
How it changed the way I work
While working at my former company as a producer/director, we found that Basecamp transformed our business as soon as we started using it. We loved it, and so did our clients.
Before that, in the dark days, most of the decision-making and knowledge was buried in emails several replies deep. Since then, I have lived by a philosophy of minimal email.
The magic of Basecamp lies in commitment
Over time, I’ve become a Basecamp fanatic. Having an online project management system enables a new way of working, providing a central hub for all action points, project milestones, decisions and communications. To make the system a success, anything discussed outside of Basecamp needs to be added back in. For example, points covered in phone conversations and meetings.
People do sometimes need reminding to use it, and anything outside of Basecamp needs to be put in – including action points, milestones and the points covered in telephone calls. If someone in a team sends a group email instead of using Basecamp, I will usually copy the email into a new thread in Basecamp. This might seem pedantic, but the truth is that the system is only useful if you stick to it. It devalues very quickly if communications fall outside of it.
Opting out and dipping in
Things are made easier by the way that Basecamp integrates email. You can choose to have email notifications of new messages and, if you reply via email, your message will simply be added to the Basecamp thread. Whenever someone feels that their attention is not required, they can opt out of notifications.
On the BBC project, I hardly ever included the top decision-maker in email notifications. Any time that he wanted to see how things were going, he could just log into the system.
Working with clients
I have seen a shift in the way that teams work together once they start using a system like Basecamp. For Talking America, the World Service jumped in head-first. They understand that it brings greater transparency, and more efficient issue management and knowledge transfer.
We use Basecamp with most of our clients. Even if there is a slight learning curve, it’s worth it because we get to spend more time on the projects and less on administration.
If you’re interested in learning more about Basecamp, if you’re a project manager and you’ve used it before, or if you have another system for project management that works well for you, then we’d love to hear your thoughts.