The obvious answer to avoiding forgetting things is to write them down. Project related things could be tasks, ideas, requirements, feature requests, websites to look at, something a client’s said: anything at all.
For all of the above we create a to-do list in Basecamp called the Project Backlog: this is where we write everything down that needs to be remembered and isn’t actionable by a specific person in the near future (more on what to do in that case soon).
Some Basecamp specific tips for you:
- empty to-do lists are automatically moved to the completed lists sidebar; to force the list to stay put, even when empty, add a to-do labeled “———————————” at the top of the list;
- add a description to the list and explain its purpose at the start of the project to both project and client teams;
- don’t assign items in this list to anyone; they aren’t actionable yet, so you don’t want them to appear in anyone’s global to-dos yet.
The main thing is to get everyone using it and to not be precious about what goes in there.
There's also a good section on using lists for weekly reviews. Read the full piece.
If you’d prefer to simplify your billing, you can pay for 37signals products in one lump sum. We’ll then pull from that credit instead of charging your card every month. We’ll email you when your balance runs low so you can recharge it.
To set up lump sum payment, click the “Account” link at the top of any screen. Then click the link for lump sum payments.
You’ll still get an invoice each month. When your lump sum is running out, we’ll send you an email to let you know.
By popular demand we’ve added 10 MB of file storage to every Free Basecamp account! Now you can share files, documents, images, and designs with your clients or team.
All your project files in one place.
Basecamp supports popular file formats including Word, Excel, Photoshop, PDFs, PNGs, you name it. You can upload and share any kind of file with Basecamp. Basecamp can even send an email notification to other people on the project when a new file has been uploaded.
Automatic image previews.
When someone uploads an image (PNG, JPG, GIF), Basecamp will automatically generate a preview so you can see what the image looks like without having to download it first. Clicking on the preview magnifies the image to show more detail. You can even see the image at full size without having to download the file.
Keep track of every version of every file.
When you upload a new version of a file, Basecamp can keep a copy of the old version around for safe keeping. This makes it easy to go back and see what changed and who changed it.
We hope this new file storage helps you get that project done on time. Thanks again for using Basecamp!
Dan Griffiths (shown below) is Managing Director of Buffalo, a UK-based web design, development, and e-commerce shop. The company uses git for version control and has recently hooked it up to Basecamp in order to log time there. Below, Griffiths and Jasper Tandy, fellow Buffalo director, explain how the system works.
Time tracking is one of the biggest bugbears for anyone. We've all got our rituals, but the minute you're in a rush and you forget, you're either losing money going through work history or losing money not charging.
A while ago, we began to experiment with time tracking via git (our choice for version control). Checking each commit message for a specific machine code, we used this to calculate the time spent on each commit. This data was then saved, along with the commit message so that we could easily look through our history and see who'd done what and how long it took. This was only mildly successful as we'd invariably forget something and have to trawl through our git logs database table or memories to infer timings. Not the picture of accuracy we were all hoping for.
Like many companies, we use Basecamp to track our projects and I'm sure we haven't always squeezed everything we could out of it. We used personal to-do list managers to keep track of time and activity, we used a combination of starred email, Basecamp messages and luck to manage what people needed from us.
There's only so many hours you can spend editing a spreadsheet of boring log data before you need an alternative. Our idea was to improve workflow and change as little as possible doing it:
Tracking todos in Basecamp is easy (especially with the new mobile webapp), but when it comes to logging time against an item, you have to save and commit your work, then log the time, then move onto the next thing. This might not seem like much, but the fewer steps you need to take to achieve something, the more likely you are to adopt it as a habit and make it work. We integrated our git hook with Basecamp's todos using their API, taking our machine code and logging it as time spent on Basecamp. Our commit messages look something like:
Something more useful than this
time:h:2 # h=hours, also responds to m and d, minutes and days
Abhishek Desai (right) is co-founder of Digicorp, an IT service company based in India that uses Basecamp as its primary project management tool. Desai wrote up a basic tutorial on how to do project management using Basecamp, especially in an IT or software development company. An excerpt:
Each milestone should have a date associated with it. Don't be afraid of putting dates on milestones (keeping in mind holidays and leaves of course).
As we all know nothing is certain in this world and any random event can disrupt your plan. But then you can always shift the milestones.
If you shift the first one, Basecamp gives you option to shift all the following milestones. When you do that, make sure you enter proper reason in comment. It's always better to tell the client upfront about the delay rather than on the delivery date.
Here's how to make sure your time stamps show up accurately in Basecamp: Go to the Dashboard and click the “All People” tab.
Find the company/client you want to set the time zone for and click on the “Edit” link for that company.
Go to the Time Zone pulldown menu and select the appropriate time for that company.
Lab.SixtyFive is Gregor McKelvie's blog "inspired by smart business, good design and people who can get things done." Recently it offered up some thoughtful tips on how a small company can get more out of Basecamp.
One thing he advises when starting out: Get people to use the global to-do list.
I think for project managers it’s a great tool. You’ll instantly take to it and begin to live in it (rather than in email). The problem is getting others to take a similar approach, as it’s not their role to be organised. It takes change. The first thing I’d recommend is to encourage people to use the global to do list. If users slowly get used to seeing a list of things to do in one place then it makes getting off to a good start in the morning a bit easier.
Also, start getting people used to posting messages.
The first thing that many people do – especially the project managers is create to do lists. That’s because they are “organising”. Whilst you need to do this, I think a great place to start getting users used to the change is using the message board. It’s simple and people understand adding comments. When you start using Basecamp you should be thinking “how do I collaborate” not “how do I organise”.
I use Basecamp and Highrise in meetings and discussions all the time. Clients use it too. To make it work, you’ve got to build it into everyday processes. For example, in project meetings project Basecamp on to the wall or display it on screen. Put notes into Basecamp and assign tasks in the meeting. This is a good visual mechanism for people to see that Basecamp is where they need to go if they want project information – or to see who is doing what.
Do you have a tip for how to use a 37signals product? Let us know.
You can create an announcement that appears at the top of a project's Overview page. The announcement can describe the project, give a special announcement, or say anything else you want people to see.
To set yours, click the Project Settings link in the upper right corner of the screen. Then enter your text and check the "Yes, display this announcement" checkbox.
Your message will then show up on the Overview page, like this:
Flash & Flex Developer's Magazine has a new issue out on Project Management. On p. 20-29, there is an in-depth look at how to get started using Basecamp. It's a good, no-nonsense primer for anyone who wants to learn the basics of Basecamp.
The following information will not only review features, but also touch on how we should use them. This is to help not only manage projects, but also to be more aware and efficient in getting things done correctly.
Here's a sample page:
Download the entire issue (email required).