August 01, 2008

Review of BaseCamp

In the past I have completed reviews of various DotNetNuke modules, components, and skins, however, recently I have been receiving a number of e-mails with questions about how I manage my business.  Typically these questions have been from individuals that are just starting out with consulting business, or those looking for better ways to manage their pending products.  Once item that I always recommend to people is BaseCamp, a hosted project management solution provided by 37Signals.  This article will go through the features/services offered, and why I use it to manage all projects.

Overview

As I previously mentioned BaseCamp is used for all of my project communications, I was looking for a way to manage each individual consulting project that I had in progress in a manner that would provide me a few key elements.  The first item I was looking for was a consolidated location to access ALL project information, to additionally have a true source of information regarding my projects.  Additionally I needed facilities to manage deadlines and tasks.  I'll discuss a bit about each below.

Project Communication

As many of you have experienced managing communication for multiple projects via e-mail is often a very cumbersome activity, and it is very hard to get a centralized collection of all communications.  One of the biggest advantages of BaseCamp is the ability to have multiple projects, and communication channels inside each of these projects.  Individuals can write messages via the BaseCamp site, and e-mail notifications are sent to any selected recipients, replies can then be added via e-mail or the web interface. 

This was exactly what I was looking for, I still get e-mail notifications and the ease of e-mail replies, but the benefit of having all items recorded in a non-editable manner via the BaseCamp project site.  This is a very strong benefit, as the information contained on the site can then be treated as confirmed as it is not possible to edit entries once they have been posted.

Project Management

In addition to managing client communications a big feature that I needed to find was a system that would allow me to track and share deadlines, milestones, and task lists.  These items might be things that I need to complete, or even items that the client must complete to ensure that projects stay on track and budget.  BaseCamp has a feature called "milestones' which does exactly this, milestones can be created, assigned to an individual or organization, and a deadline set.  From a management level, milestones are aggregated into a dashboard view if you have multiple projects which allows one to quickly see a listing of all upcoming deliverables. 

After using BaseCamp for this purpose, I am not sure how I managed things before.  With a centralized outlook of all deliverables I am able to quickly isolate quick-hit items and can ensure that I am always able to deliver on my client requirements.

Other Features

BaseCamp has a number of other features that I do not use, such as client management, chat and more.  A few of the extra items that are very nice in my opinion is the ability to customize the look and feel of the site with your company logo and a customized site url.  For example my BaseCamp site can be accessed via http://iowacomputergurus.seework.com so it is easily identified as being associated with my business.

I hope that this has been a helpful overview of BaseCamp and why I use it for my client communication.  If you have any questions or comments feel free to share them below.

tags: Product Review, General Tech, Business
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