Online Project Mangement: Using Basecamp to Manage Projects and Collaborate with Your Team & Clients
Basecamp is a powerful web-based tool designed to assist agencies with managing their project activities. It allows users to share files, assign tasks with deadlines, communicate via threaded messages, conduct collaborative document editing, and view overall project(s) activity in a centralized location. It’s a particularly useful collaborative tool for teams working remotely who cannot access a centralized server. Basecamp takes care of the hosting, security, and technical issues for its clients. To learn more about the costs, security/hosting specifics go to: http://basecamphq.com/
Below is a brief overview of the benefits and drawbacks of most of the basecamp features:
- Dashboard: This is the default page and it’s the centralized location for users to see at-a-glance a log of all their project activities. For example an agency may have 15 projects running at the same time, however, the number of projects each staff member is assigned will vary. Each staff person’s dashboard will only display her/his assigned projects and the activities related to them.
- Threaded Messaging: This feature allows users to post messages with attachments. The message is saved in one location and is emailed to all selected recipients. Replies and comments related to the message are also saved to the same location. The benefit of using the treaded messaging feature as opposed to e-mail, for example, is that all project team members have access to messages (and any attached documents) by topic in one place.
- To-Dos and Milestones: These two features allow users to assign tasks to any project member, identify milestones, customize personal to-do lists and milestone deliverables, filter tasks by date or by person, track deliverable due dates, and send email notifications that deadlines are coming up or are late. There are some limitations, which include the following: it isn’t easy to track milestones by person across projects, it’s difficult to search and make changes to milestones when administering a large number of projects, and one cannot assign more than one person to a task, or create recurring milestones.
- Writeboard: This is a powerful real-time collaborative document development and editing tool. It’s useful for two or more people in drafting copy for articles, memos, grant proposals, or project planning outlines. It lets users save after every edit, track versions, post general comments, and compare changes across versions. It’s a tool to use prior to formatting documents. One limitation is that users cannot add graphics or tables.
- File Saving: A central location to house files that all group members can access. It allows for simple versioning control and for multiple file uploads at one time. This is particularly helpful when team members are working remotely and cannot access their agency’s internal server. An overall issue is that it isn’t an optimal storage for files. You have less control than you do on a file server. If you already have an internal file server to document work, you may wind up moving files onto that server. If you decide to do that, finding the files and ordering them correctly absolutely depends on having a sensible Category system, and transparent file names. Otherwise it’s very time consuming.
Overall, Basecamp is easy to set up for the administrators of the site, and it requires minimal training for both early and late adopters. If infrequent users need a refresher on some of the features, we direct them to one of the numerous Basecamp how-to training videos located on their support site.