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Basecamp [noun]: A web-based project management software launched in 2004 that has helped millions of companies complete their projects “on time, on budget, and on point.”
Basecamp [verb]: To assign, comment on, or complete any task undertaken by a 9 Clouds employee.
At 9 Clouds, we use Basecamp religiously. So religiously, in fact, that it has become a common verb in our office vocabulary.
Need a PDF for a landing page you’re working on? “Basecamp it to me.”
Want another opinion on an email you’re about to send? “I’ll Basecamp it for you.”
Have to assign someone a task? “I’ll Basecamp you a ‘to-do.'”
Almost everything we do at 9 Clouds goes through Basecamp first. With all the ongoing responsibilities we have for both our clients and ourselves, Basecamp is the one tool that keeps us accountable on a day-to-day basis.
Here’s how we use it to our advantage.
But Wait! What Is Basecamp?
Before we can begin a discussion on how to use Basecamp for your online project management, let’s go over what it actually is.
Basecamp’s slogan is “chaos, organized.” Its objective is to help your team work together to finish a common goal. It is, in a nutshell, a digital project management system.
Basecamp operates in the cloud on all major Internet browsers, including Safari, Chrome, Firefox, and IE 9+. It also offers official apps for Android, iPad, and iPhone. So as long as you’ve got a smartphone or laptop, you can access Basecamp anywhere, anytime.
To use Basecamp, start by setting up accounts for you and your team. These accounts aren’t as customizable as social media sites; instead, they’re streamlined, so the focus remains on the projects, not the people.
Once everyone is added, you’re ready to start project managing. Basecamp is broken into several different sections:
- Projects: Projects is your home base. This page shows you a tile for each project you’re a part of. (At 9 Clouds, each project represents a different client.) When you click into one, you can see a clean layout of its discussion boards, to-do lists, shared files, and related events, with the latest project updates right at the top.
- Calendar: This tab provides a bird’s-eye, calendar view of upcoming due dates for all projects. You can narrow the view by individual project or even add your own calendar to keep track of separate events that aren’t part of the project.
- Everything: This is sort of a catch-all page. Here, you can elect to see all the discussions, to-dos, files, text documents, forwarded emails, and even deleted items from your projects. Everything is the place to go when you don’t know where to go.
- Progress: This page shows a vertical timeline of all the activity that’s been happening recently. If you like visual aids, you’ll reference Progress a lot.
- Everyone: Here, you can see snapshots of all the users and companies you work with.
- Me: This is where you can see your latest activity, open to-dos, shared files, and profile settings.
There’s also a handy search bar at the top of every page so that you can easily find whatever you need. Basecamp even offers video tutorials sprinkled throughout the site, so you can keep up-to-date with all the ways of Basecamp.
The process of using Basecamp is pretty self-explanatory. You simply create to-do lists for each project and to-dos for each to-do list. You then assign each to-do a due date and a person responsible.
Within each to-do, you can make as many comments as necessary and even share files from your computer. If a to-do needs to be moved or changed, you can easily edit or delete it. Once a to-do is complete, you simply check its box and watch it get crossed off. (This part is highly rewarding.)
Basecamp was meant to be barebones, so it’s fairly quick to figure out. But there are a couple of best practices for Basecamp use that we’ve discovered over time. And, being nice people, we want to share them with you.
A Tool for the Team (Not the Spectators)
Our first rule of Basecamp is that it is an internal tool only. With a couple of key exceptions, we do not invite our clients to participate in our projects on Basecamp.
Why not, you ask? Because once you open the door to client use, you let in a whole swarm of inconsistencies. You’ll get clients who comment either too often or too little, clients who assign or complete to-dos they shouldn’t, and clients who forget to use the tool altogether.
Plus, when clients come into play, you won’t feel free to be totally honest, since they’ll be able to see all your comments–as well as any deadlines you may have missed.
Oh, and once you allow clients to use Basecamp with you, they’re in it for good. You can remove them from a project, but good luck explaining why you want to do that. Most clients will be offended or even lose confidence in your project management abilities if they feel they’re suddenly being taken out of the loop.
Trust us, unless you can establish extremely clear expectations on Basecamp use with your clients, it’s a software best used for internal information. Keep Basecamp as a safe space for you and your coworkers to share information, and stick with email and phone calls for client communication.
Over-communicate, Over-communicate, Over-communicate!
One of our project managers’ favorite mantras is “over-communicate!” She knows that in order for the team to get things done, we need to be in constant communication with one another about our progress on projects.
While it can seem tedious to enter so many status updates in Basecamp, it’s totally worth it. Not only does it give others working on the project some peace of mind that you are indeed doing your part (or at least trying to), it also provides a thorough record of each assignment.
This feature is super helpful if you forget a detail about a project and need to remember exactly what happened. All you have to do is click a “to-do” and scroll through the comments to see a play-by-play of the task. Basecamp even tracks completed to-dos, so you can still see all the details of an assignment after you’ve checked it off.
You can also get both real-time and daily email updates from Basecamp. Depending on the settings you choose, you can get notified when you have a due date approaching or someone else comments on, changes, or completes a to-do you’re involved in. You can also opt for daily updates that list everything that happened on Basecamp that day.
At 9 Clouds, we make to-dos for even the tiniest of tasks, like updating an email signature or swapping out a file on a landing page. Not only does this help us keep track of those tasks that are easy to forget, it also helps improve productivity and morale.
I’m telling you, it’s extremely satisfying to check off those little boxes once and for all.
Should Your Business Use Basecamp?
Although Basecamp is an essential tool for us at 9 Clouds, it’s not for everyone.
Some people don’t love the stripped-down style of Basecamp. It’s extremely easy to set up and use, with a clean design that favors visual elements, but it’s not quite as robust as some other project management softwares. Since Basecamp hasn’t changed much since it started, its app integration and available features are a little lacking. And it’s not free, like some similar tools.
But if you’re willing to shell out a little cash for a software that can help you get the job–any job–done, Basecamp is the way to go. There’s a reason why multinational companies like Twitter and Nike use Basecamp and why nearly 5,000 companies signed up to use Basecamp just last week. It’s a tried and true project management tool.
If you’d like to try Basecamp for yourself, sign up for a free two-month trial here.
Got questions before you start? Ask us. We’d be happy to let you in on all our Basecamp secrets.
And if you’d like to learn about other digital tools that can help you do business better, we’d love to help you out there too. Check out our library of free online resources, or subscribe to our blog to learn more of the latest news!