For the last few weeks I've been living in Basecamp, the web-based project management system that has been a bit of a hit in the new media world. Some thoughts…
Using a web-system I do miss the speed and richness of a desktop application, no matter how much Ajax goodness they throw in. But they more than make up for it with the benefits – access to the project info from anywhere and good communication.
Once I get my clients over the initial hump of their desire to shoot off emails left, right and centre we start to see the real benefits. Basecamp allows everyone to see what is going on. It also provides live, searchable documentation as problems are solved and reported. That's saved my bacon numerous times already.
Good-bye email attachment version hell – say hello to online file sharing with Basecamp's file tab. The todo lists, milestones and messaging are all godsends. It does take discipline though, you need to write copiously on the system to keep the value there. You also need to think carefully about who to include on threads. But it really really pays off.
Two things I'm learning:
Transcribing phone calls and f2f meeting notes, in summary, onto Basecamp is valuable but takes a lot of time and discipline. If you don't do it you end up with big gaps in how things are progressing.
Instant messaging is the black sheep in working on Basecamp. There's really no connection between the two. Copying and pasting your chat history doesn't look right (too many typos, smileys etc). So I end up reviewing my history and posting todo items etc as needed. I don't know what I want exactly, I just know I want Basecamp to do more with my IM. Anybody?
So for the moment I feel like my life is a Basecamp todo list. Which is hard work but in a good way – my energy is going into doing stuff and less into sorting out who said what when in which email. Hurrah.