Up until recently, MightyData has been using Mantis to track issues to solve, along with an internally created FileMaker to-do list that we call MightyTask. Early this year, we decided to take another look at Basecamp.
Mantis has always done a good job of tracking issues and is very developer-oriented, but customer adoption was rough. Rarely did we get a customer to love it. Only sometimes did we get a customer to use it. And using it properly was a whole other debacle. As a project manager, I was always correcting developers and customers and had to watch it like a hawk. Champion of Transformation Ross “Mac” Macintosh took to calling me Hawkeye because I was eying it so closely. We wanted our customers involved in their projects, so finding something more customer-friendly was a must.
We had reviewed Basecamp in the past, but it fell a bit short of having everything we needed. However, the new update is awesome. Even its layout is clean and structured.
The To-Do list ability is great because you are able to create multiple lists. Maestro of Metamorphosis Darren Burgess was the first on our team to really embrace the To-Dos. He creates his own for implementation so that the customer doesn’t have to see all the technical stuff. Plus he has an easy place to check things off when it comes time to take something live.
One of the challenges is “classifying” issues. For example, once something is done, it still might not be ready for the customer to test until the whole version rolled out. So, we simply create another list, “ready to test” and drag the to-do there. You can assign due dates and the responsible party to a to-do item as well.
Sadly, repeating to-do items are not available. This is a problem I find with almost every out-of-the box task manager or solution. When you have something that you need to repeat every 4th Thursday, you need a way to set that up. We go back to MightyTask to keep track of those.
When using Mantis, I spent a lot of my time copying and pasting emails into the notes area. With Basecamp, that has never been an issue. If you start the “Discussion” in Basecamp, people can simply reply from their own emails and it will track it to the issue. This is a wonderful way to be able to track information without worrying that something will get lost or that you weren’t cc’d on that one piece of information that was most important.
Plus, one of the newest features allows you to email an item directly into Basecamp by using just a little formatting and a designated email address. Sweet! Our customers LOVE this one!
Here’s another cool thing. You can upload images/files to to-do items or to discussions. All of those files are where they are supposed to be and you can search them easily when you are looking for something.
The last area is Text Docs. While the Basecamp copy editor is not robust, it gets the job done. To keep track of information that changes and that multiple people could contribute to – say, for example, running agendas for weekly meetings – you simply create a Text Doc. Working on these is great because it saves the old versions and allows you to collaborate. You can see who edited it when and click if you need to revert to a previous one. This feature replaced the former Writeboards. The only difference with Text Docs is that you have to add a comment to notify the team that a new one has been added.
And guess what? ALL of it is searchable. You can even search for a phrase or word across projects. So, if you wanted to know which projects plug-ins were used for, just enter it in the search area and all references to plug-ins on the projects you are assigned to will pop up. We even pulled our internal wiki off of Google Apps and put it into Basecamp. It is so much easier to find things there and new hires can easily search for the specific item they need information about.
The biggest beauty of Basecamp is its flexibility. You can make it work like you need it to. There are milestones and calendars and to-do lists, etc. Different projects might call for different things… or different customers might adapt to different forms of communication better.
For example, I am not that interested in a calendar view to see when things are going to be done. I prefer to look at a timeline or a to-do list. Others adapt much better to the calendar view. Both are there and you can look at either. Here’s the other cool part. As a project manager, I can look at a calendar easily that has ALL of the to-do items that have a date or milestones on it. If you are trying to monitor overall resources across multiple projects, that is a great tool.
The fact that our customers are quicker to adapt to it and use it has been amazing. It is just more intuitive. Over the next few months, we will be transitioning our existing customers to Basecamp, but all of our new projects are being opened directly there. We are getting good reviews so far!
What’s your favorite Basecamp tool and how do you use it?