How do we use Basecamp?

alex vaughtton

Organizational systems developed in the early stages begin to be inefficient, due to the increased workload and the need for greater structuring of information.

At we have been iterating our task and project management system starting with Notion and moving on to Clubhouse - a tool more focused on developers. We couldn't find a tool that adapted to the team's needs, that would make it easier for us to communicate with our client and keep the latest version of the information in a centralized place. That's why we decided to implement Basecamp as a tool for task management and communication with the client. And in this post we will tell you what we have learned, as a result of 2 months using this tool in our daily work.

What is Basecamp?

Basecamp is a Chicago-based company founded by Jason Fried in 1999 that has been slowly pivoting into a web application development company.

They are the creators of the shape-up methodology, which we use tailored to our needs at minimum and have a focus on developing products very focused on solving user problems, especially in small details or functionalities. Basecamp 3, is in their own words - "more than a project management tool - it's a better way to work" and that is one of the main features of Basecamp, which we will see throughout this post. It works better the more you use this tool.

Focused on the principle of less is more, this tool seeks to replace task manager, instant messaging (Slack or Discord) and even email!

Basecamp uses a project-based management system.

Each project includes all the information you may need within the project and you have the possibility to include only the people who need to be involved in the project.The goal of this is to have all the information of a project in one place and that all the people who need to be informed have access to the information in a clear and easy way.

All the tools you need, in one place

Basecamp includes within each project 6 tools. Each one has its specific functionality.

  • Message Board: A tool to create announcements and communicate the necessary information to both the team and the customers. It allows you to create posts in which you can add comments, keeping the conversation centralized in one place. What is special about this functionality and what is an added advantage is that it sends these posts as emails, which can be replied directly from the email.

    This means that you can use this channel for managing customer communications internally, with the freedom for the customer to decide whether they want to respond by Basecamp or by email.
  • Campfire: A built-in instant messaging within each project that allows you to have conversations both internally with the team and externally with the client.
  • To-do list: The task manager for each project, organized in a list system. This allows you to group the different tasks according to the scope to which they correspond, such as all tasks related to Design, all tasks related to Product, etc....

    Within each task, you can assign an owner - who is the person in charge of performing the task, a supervisor to be notified when the task is completed (you can add deadlines) and add a description or notes. In addition, you can make comments on the task itself to solve all the specific doubts about it.

    It should be noted that this functionality is very well designed to work following the Shape Up methodology , being able to create more lists as the uncertainty of the project is reduced. However, they can be adapted to the needs of other work methodologies.
  • Schedule: Allows you to have a view of the project dates, following a particular style of displaying it and linking it to your own calendar.
  • Docs&Files: A place where you can organize all the files and documents related to the project.
  • Automatic Check-ins: If you wish, you can ask recurring questions or checks (with the frequency you decide) to, for instance, make a daily status.

All these tools work together to provide you with the full suit of tools you need to manage a project. However, you may not need to use all of them in every project, or you may prefer to use some of them elsewhere. Let's see how we do it at Minimum.

How do we use Basecamp at minimum

Once we had a general overview of the possibilities of what Basecamp offers, at Minimum we have decided to use it as the project management tool, both internally and with clients.

One of the advantages of Basecamp for managing projects with clients is that you can invite them to the project and have control over the information that the client can see. Although not a full control, you can have some separation, for example create private Message Boards for the team, have a campfire without the client or show a more simplified roadmap of tasks for the client and more in depth for the team.

That is why in projects with clients, we invite them to have visibility of how the project is progressing, while always having the option of interacting with the team via email, if they prefer.

Basecamp, in addition to working by projects, allows you to create teams that allow you to have a structured conversation by departments or teams within the company. This is very useful to be able to segment the conversation and not add noise to the people who do not need it.

We also have a channel, which we have called MinimumHQ, in which the whole company is present and we use it as a centralized communications channel, to talk both about issues related to related and not related work - such as communicating absences, news, passing on information...

Managing tasks and notifications

One of the great advantages of Basecamp is that it organizes notifications in a particular way - it takes some time to get used to it - but gives you very granular control over which notifications you want to receive and

In the Hey! tray, you will receive all the notifications from the projects or teams you are in, so you can decide when to check them and review all the team's news. If you want to have a more specific filtering of the information, you have the Activity tab, very useful for people in charge of managing different projects or different teams, because it allows you to have a quick glimpse of the status of each of the projects, as well as an overview of the team's workload.

However, this tray fills up quickly when you work in a large team, that's why they have implemented a My stuff tab, which allows you to have a more particular view of your work.

Basecamp on a daily basis: a small assessment

Since we made the leap to Basecamp almost two months ago, we have found a number of advantages in terms of organization, communication and greater asynchrony. However, we have not left Notion, a tool that for the moment continues to support us in some tasks, as well as the internal management of the team.

Basecamp's PROS:

  • Better task management: The system of organizing tasks by projects, different lists and the possibility to add only the people who have to be aware of the project makes you have a good overview of the tasks. It automatically generates a task list, very useful for each person and especially useful for those people who are responsible for projects.
  • A project-based organization: Because of the way Basecamp is organized, it facilitates the creation and organization of information in projects, which adapts very well to our way of working.
  • It includes the client in the projects: Basecamp is very much designed for working with clients within the projects themselves, which creates a centralized place for all information and dealing with customer, who can see in real time the status of the project.
  • E-mail communication: One of the biggest advantages of using Basecamp for client management is that all Message Board communications reach the client by email and can be responded to, with responses being integrated directly into Basecamp.
  • Notification management: You can have a very deep granularity of the notifications you want to receive, even activating a concentration mode, to avoid receiving notifications when you do not want to see them.
  • Mobile application: Having the possibility of having all the necessary information in an application so that you can have it at hand even outside your workplace.

And the parts we think could be improved:

  • It is not a tool to work on the project: For things like the Pitch or the document yes, but we must resort to tools like sheets or presentations for certain elements. For things like these we use Notion, or the Drive suite as it gives us a greater richness in terms of format and options.

Specific cases are working on a roadmap or a presentation. There is the option to add documents and files but it does not have editing capabilities.

  • It is one more step towards asynchrony. And while this is not a bad point per se, it is not a tool that encourages spontaneous or non-work related conversations with colleagues. And while this is an advantage in terms of maintaining focus and being productive, it is imperative to try to find a balance between the two and find a way to have a more informal connection with the team.
  • It's not possible to have two Campfires when working with a client, which means you can't take advantage of this functionality to separate internal team messages from what you want the client to see.

Conclusions about Basecamp

In summary, Basecamp is a very interesting tool to serve as a project and task manager, which has improved our organization in terms of projects, communication and amount of information available.However, it is a tool that needs others to finish offering the work capacity we need, such as Notion to work on projects, Google Presentations for customer presentations...And no tool is perfect, so we must choose the one that introduces less friction when using it in our daily work, while managing to act as a "source of truth" and provide all the necessary information to the team members.We believe that the change has been for the better, so for the time being it will be the tool of choice within the team.

We will continue to iterate and experiment with new ways to optimize our day-to-day, but for the moment we believe the change has been for the better.

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