Coordinating decentralized teams, clients, and projects with Basecamp

In a cozy office space on the second floor of the Beauty Shoppe's 'Cube' collaborative workspace in Pittsburgh, Shift Collaborative is a-buzz creating new marketing, fundraising, and communications campaigns.  Part of the organization's success in managing numerous on-going projects and tracking the activities of its 8 sometimes-office bound creative freelancers is due to Basecamp, a cloud-based project management tool. 

Centralizing collaboration and communication 

Basecamp centralizes communication so all team members have the same current information at all times. With each new project, Basecamp tracks assigned tasks, conversation threads, and uploaded documents and images, and shares this activity outward in real-time to each team member. 

Using Basecamp's 'Client Project' function, project owners can extend project access to clients while keeping select documents and conversations confidential. Shift Collaborative uses this Basecamp feature to give clients the opportunity to take part in the collaborative process. As explained by Sarah Mayer, a principal partner and marketing strategist at Shift, "With Basecamp clients can voice feedback immediately and we can see the trail of that conversation." The ability to immediately integrate the voices of different stakeholders, be they co-workers, clients, or community partners, facilitates project progress on all fronts. 

In a case study provided by Basecamp, Footwear company KEEN uses Basecamp to host conversations, upload documents to specific conversation forums, and create to-do lists.

In a case study provided by Basecamp, Footwear company KEEN uses Basecamp to host conversations, upload documents to specific conversation forums, and create to-do lists.

Contributing to conversations is just as easy inside the tool as outside of it. When in Basecamp, team members can start conversation forums on specific topics, preventing conversations from overlapping and muddying, and reducing time spent hunting for specific information in email threads. Want to be a part of conversations without logging in to Basecamp? Each time a new comment is posted to a discussion thread the update is emailed to the team. Project team members can respond via email as well, and their response is added into the Basecamp discussion automatically. Furthermore, team members can also email documents and images directly to a project, as see in the following video:

Increasing efficiency on the go and in the cloud 

Work doesn't always happen at the office. From client meetings to business trips home offices, when project members are out and about Basecamp's mobile friendly layout, sync functionality, and project templates keep team members productive. 

Basecamp is easy to use on mobile phone and tablet. Cynthia Closkey, a principal partner and digital strategist at Shift finds the mobile site "great for adding tasks on the go, looking at old meeting notes and files, and checking off assigned tasks." For organizations using other cloud tools like Google Docs or Dropbox, Basecamp is capable of syncing with over 50 3rd party marketing, time management, software development, and reporting tools. Shift Collaborative currently syncs Harvest, a time tracking and invoicing tool, with Basecamp and Quickbooks to stay on top of its time tracking. 

For those tackling similar project repeatedly, Basecamp streamlines the project management process by enabling users to create project templates. Projects, like coordinating annual events or crafting proposals, typically require accomplishing the same tasks and with the same people. Project members can create a template of tasks, roles, supplies, and milestones to consider when attacking similar projects for future use. 

Shift Collaborative uses this project template as a foundation for new web design projects.

Shift Collaborative uses this project template as a foundation for new web design projects.

Of course Basecamp has a few limitations. Currently, task assignments cannot be broken down into subtasks, meaning multiple tasks cannot be grouped under a single overarching task. Also, even though Basecamp is a project management tool it doesn't come with a Gantt chart feature. Both of these drawbacks are a concern for Shift Collaborative, as time management and delegation of accountability are critical to maintaining project momentum. 

For curious parties, Basecamp offers a 60-day free trial, plenty of introductory videos, and even a few free, 30-minute webinars to explore Basecamp's features in greater depth. Plans start at $20/month, regardless of how many users a project has, hosting up to 10 active projects or 3GB of cloud storage.