So we brought Basecamp in to the interactive creative department.
And then we introduced it to the product development team. Where someone from IT saw it and now is asking where to sign up.
Basecamp is a beneficial virus. Once it's unleashed on an organization, it's bound to grow and replicate.
Below, Thom Smith, Director of Design & Development for The Baltimore Sun, answers questions about how his team uses Basecamp.
How do you use Basecamp?
My Department operates as a mini creative agency within the greater organization of The Baltimore Sun Media Group. We do design and development work for clients both internally and externally. This work spans most media and includes: web sites (big and small), banner ads, e-mail newsletters, admail, video production, logos, illustrations, print ads, tradeshow signage, etc. This keeps us pretty busy and we use Basecamp to manage all of our projects from start to finish.
Which feature(s) do you use most?
Milestones and messages are the most important tools to us. The ability to assign those to members of my team is extremely helpful as well.
We create a new project for each of our clients. Then we break down each job into its component parts. Each of these deliverables is a milestone assigned to a member of my team. They get their instruction in the form of a message that is associated to the milestone. These details are added by our traffic coordinator who works with our clients to assess needs.
We also use the file upload tool to share large files, like video, for our clients to proof. It's so much easier than trying to get them to use ftp.
Why are you a Basecamp evangelist?
We love Basecamp because it's so simple. It takes very little time to learn and is easy to teach to new employees and clients. It's also extremely flexible. The tools are useful and intuitive, so regardless of the type of business you're doing, you can adapt Basecamp to suit your needs. That's why I've reccomended Basecamp to so many people. There are many units in our corporation who use Basecamp now and as more people are exposed to it, they see how it could be a good tool for their own departments.
What did you use before and why did you switch?
I'm almost embarrassed to say. Before Basecamp, we were a 3 person shop and I managed our schedule and workflow on a giant paper calendar. There were some obvious drawbacks.
Anyhow, we had a growth spurt about a year ago and it was neccesary to improve our infrastructure as well. I had been a fan of 37signals since I read Getting Real a couple of years ago. When it came time to expand, I had already heard of Basecamp and was ready to give it a run.
Get specific. Tell us a story about a project or situation where Basecamp helped you kick ass.
Basecamp helps us kick ass every day, but specifically we've recently begun working on a complicated project that Basecamp has helped us keep in check.
The Baltimore Sun Media Group consists of numerous publications, both in print and online. Recently, my team was tasked with modernizing the online presence of all of the smaller circulation newspapers that make up our Community Newspaper Group (there are about 20).
This large-scale build-out has about a million moving parts: developing site architecture, designing mock-ups, building out the CMS, working with vendors, planning and implementing a marketing campaign, feeding content from print to online, working through contract negotiations and more. All of this is made exponentially easier with Basecamp.
Everyone involved (about 30 people) can follow the progress of every aspect of the project. We can share and update files so that everyone only sees the most recent -- this is practically impossible with e-mail. We can communicate to everyone or only some. We can breakout all of the different steps involved into their component parts and assign them to people so nothing gets missed.
Truly, I don't know how we would have kept this thing organized without you guys.
Any Basecamp tips or tricks for other customers?
Milestones are great for breaking even small projects down into smaller more manageable pieces.
We develop a lot of ad campaigns and a single ad may have 3-5 different dates associated with it like: the date the design elements need to be collected, the date the design work should begin, the first proof date with the client, etc. So we use milestones to track each of those deliverables.
It's also nice to be able to associate messages where we can list out all of the details of the work that needs to be done.
I'm sold on the philosophy of not adding too many features to software. If there's a real need, add it later, don't try to put every possible bell and whistle into the first iteration. It makes it harder to use the product. That's why Basecamp is so successful, everything's easy use.