Isaac Grauke is CEO at Populi, a company that makes web-based College Management software. Below he describes how his team uses 37signals products.
We build software designed around a lot of the principles expounded in Getting Real and REWORK, principles which are all but absent in the college software market. Between our Sales and Development teams, our day-to-day work revolves around Basecamp, Highrise, and Campfire.
Basecamp does a lot of heavy lifting at Populi. We use it to keep track of development and customer implementation, and to germinate a lot of our web marketing & support documentation.
We group our development activities—whether tracking bugs & fixes, adding new features, improving old ones, and so on—into individual Projects. For instance, we have the “Dev General” project, into which we funnel a lot of the routine, across-the-board stuff (like bugfixes, optimization, etc.). Development projects that require special, focused attention get their own project—our recent Bookstore release was one such item.
Implementation for new customers generally follows a particular pattern, so projects are a natural fit for that. When we sign a new college, we set up a unique implementation project for them, and plug away at it using milestones and to-do’s.
The various writing projects at Populi fit in under Documentation (official stuff like Terms of Service, help documentation, internal company docs) or Website (marketing text for the external site, as well as look & feel code updates). Obviously, these projects are heavy on the Writeboards and To-do’s. Comparing different versions of copy in Writeboard makes it sooo simple to update website text or giant docs like the Terms of Service.
Highrise manages our sales leads and correspondence of note with existing customers. It has been a tremendous help to our sales staff; previously they used a half-hearted combination of Salesforce and an internal Populi checkout. Salesforce had a zillion features that didn’t do anybody any good; Populi is built for colleges, not salesmen. Highrise handles everything we need it for with ease — even the guys here who only rarely need to look at it find what they’re after within a few seconds.
Campfire is where we discuss a lot of the stuff that’s going on in Basecamp and Highrise. If someone has a question or issue or idea that’s worth the entire company’s feedback, it goes there first. Also, it has replaced internal email for sharing links (work-related and otherwise). For our internal discussions, it’s so much better than what we did before—reply-all emails, individual chats, meetings and mini-meetings—that it’s hardly worth comparing them.
The Populi team hunkers down with REWORK.
Fitting in with Populi
The 37signals apps are a great fit for Populi and how we like to do things. Being in the web-based software business ourselves, that aspect of the apps is just a no-brainer for us. Since we have a rather “informal” company culture, we have no need to chart how robustly we leverage synergies to get maximum ROI. The apps do pretty much what we need them to do. They replaced a lot of software — besides the stopgaps that Highrise replaced, Basecamp did away with an old TRAC system for development and a barfbag of shared folders and documents for our other uses, and Campfire has all but replaced the reply-all email noise that used to plague the office.
One surprising thing about the apps is how easily they let us tweak or adjust our workflows. As I write this, we’re considering some significant changes to how we organize Development projects, and one thing we’ve noticed is that Basecamp will make that process short and virtually painless.
Do you use a 37signals product in an interesting way? Let us know.