I like keeping things simple. Tools which get out of the way and allow me to execute are attractive and communicate well-thought out design. For project management, Basecamp by 37signals, is a remarkably simple system that is effective for getting things done project by project. I have used basecamp extensively over the years with my team and clients on both large and small projects. There are some powerful aspects which make Basecamp ideal for getting things done.
However, the tool is just a piece of the puzzle, as I always tell people. The strategy for how you use the system to get results is what matters. Here are some strategies that are part of an effective Basecamp project management approach:
- Set the culture of collaboration. Tools are only as good as the leadership behind them. If you don’t lead well, then who cares if you are using Basecamp. Help your team understand what yo u expect in terms of communication on deliverables and getting things done. This may include using RSS to track what is happening on any given day as part of a check-in habit.
- Capture everything. When it comes to projects, there is a lot of room for misunderstanding. When you have a conversation with your team or with a customer, summarize the meeting. Help everyone react by asking for confirmation of what you heard. This ensures there is a record of agreements. I like to take screenshots and capture specific actions from meetings to help customers know what we all agreed to. If a misunderstanding comes up later, you can search within your project and repoint anyone requiring clarification.
- Track your time. Whether you bill clients directly by time or use a fixed bid approach, time tracking helps you know where the effort is going and how your team is spending their time. Furthermore, if your client ever needs clarification on billing, you have a record of where the effort has been placed. You can also import the time into an invoice program such as Freshbooks to make a continuous process for billing.
- Drive to closure. The goal of a project is to be finished. Define clearly what this means. A good practice is to ensure every action item has been captured and completed as a To-Do or milestone. When everything has been completed, it creates the opportunity to archive the project. Make it an event and ensure your client and the team understand the closure. This keeps requirements from creeping or projects to remain obscure with continuous work.
Basecamp is powerful if you use it with great process and consistency. The speed of getting information in and out of it without the drag of complex interfaces makes it enjoyable for users and managers alike.
If you would like to have a training seminar for you and your team on using Basecamp to increase collaboration, productivity and revenue, feel free to contact me. It’s a great core system for managing the flow of knowledge work today.