Garry Robinson and his associates at GR-FX are experts at Microsoft Access and Office development and XML file processing. They're also Basecamp fans. Garry, who's written a book on Access and a number of big articles for MSDN, sent us an email detailing how his team uses Basecamp.
My company has developed and helped other, much larger companies with Microsoft Access databases for many years. In all we have worked on a few hundred databases over the last 12 years in many places around Australia and elsewhere. (Left: Working in a Ger, a traditional nomad dwelling in Mongolia.)
Until the start of 2007 my approach has always been to tackle the databases myself or get my equally competent offsider Scott to work on the project. Managing this scale of business is easy because you only have to monitor two streams of emails. Then I decided that it was time to crank the business up a bit and start using more contractors. When the work starting rolling in thanks to my more proactive marketing, so did the emails and files and the timesheets came in many different forms. Quickly I felt like I was losing touch with my clients and projects and the Inbox took far too long to organize.
At this point in time, I happened upon an article taking about successful Web2 companies and I had a good look at Basecamp. Two things caught my eye, online timesheets and secure file exchange. So I signed up for a trial.
With a few weeks I was up and running with 10 projects and timesheets for 4 sub-contractors were coming in. A bonus was messaging between me and my sub-contractors, this was also more organized than it ever used to be...
A thread with 100 comments that went on over 6 weeks.
What I really like is that everyone gets to see the projects that they are assigned to and nothing more. People also get to see the people that they need to work with on a project and nothing more. And when they open Basecamp, they see all the latest activity that affects them in the overall dashboard and the project dashboards. This is really useful.
Easy access from anywhere
Another thing that I have really liked is that Basecamp acts as workplace for me on my laptop, on my server, on the workstations that I use at clients and even on my parents PC in the country. In no time at all I can see what is happening in my business without pulling my laptop out of my bag, booting up, logging in and cranking Outlook up. Of course there are other emails and things that dont go through Basecamp but these can be managed at other times. Whilst on the Internet front, Basecamp seems to work in companies that have the most rigid of firewalls and other user controls. Because of this I can add to my todo lists whilst using someone else's Windows account and even plug in files that I upload through the Files tab.
File transfers and email notifications
As for one of the initial goals of Basecamp, file transfers have worked out pretty good not because it is totally streamlined but more because it is easy and consistent. The email notifications are quite adequate and do not suffer from the email filters that we used to get when transferring files using email attachments.
In summing up, Basecamp allows me to run my business so I can quickly see activity on a project, I can easily assign projects to sub-contractors, we can manage work using To-do's, and with our own integrated Timesheet invoicing system, I can readily review projects before costs run out of control. These are not earth shattering advances in computer technology, they are just things that we have achieved without spending "more than 10 minutes" training people.
Do you use a 37signals product in an interesting or noteworthy way? Let us know.