Have you heard? 37Signals just launched a redesign of the very popular tool Basecamp! Along with a fresh new interface, they’ve released a set of features that adds to its ease of use. I attended one of Basecamp’s webinars and thought I’d share my thoughts on its new offerings. Check it out:
New Calendar. The UI is very slick. You can drag and drop events, quickly jump from month to month, and have calendars specific to project. Users assigned to a project’s calendar can subscribe to events via RSS so any updates will be reflected in their local calendars. You can’t submit events from your local calendar, but Basecamp does plan to open up their API so this feature can be developed later on.
Discussions. This is very useful for Project Managers. Discussions can be had around everything from events, to-dos, a file or just a plain old discussion thread. All discussions are centralized, so you can view the comments in one place in regard to a particular topic or file. Really handy if you’re trying to revisit something from the past, like feedback. It would be nice if there was a voting system similar to Reddit that put emphasis on popular or important comments. That way, if the discussion is really long, I can easily scan through the details and pick up on the high priority comments that were made.
Loop In. If you have a stakeholder involved in a project and need their feedback on a particular file or discussion, you can “loop” them into discussions without giving them full access to the project. That way the user can add their comments but not see sensitive material.
Daily Progress. This is a feature that is very similar to the new Facebook Timeline, but applied across projects. It gives you a bird’s eye view of all the activities (i.e. files uploaded, discussions, tasks completed) that happened across the projects you’re assigned to. Really cool if you’re new to a project or need to catch-up. They even have a “Catch Up” tab that does the same thing: gives you a summary of all the activities within a project by day. To take this further, users are sent a Daily Recap email that encapsulates all that has happened that day. I have a gripe with this though… a daily email seems like too much. Will teams (other than PMs) pay attention to this email? This is where a PM should really be involved with what information is sent to their teammates. It would be nice to create a custom daily email so that it fits the needs of each user and is relevant.
Drag and Drop. This can literally be done for everything, from uploading files to changing priority of tasks. It removes 2-3 clicks out of tasks that can be time consuming.
Live Updates. As users are updating, uploading, and commenting on a project other users will see these updates as they are happening. Very Twitteresque.
People pages. Just like the Daily Progress, you get the skinny on all the activity of one person. I could see this bordering on micro-managing, but it’ll be useful to see how a person is progressing on a project and get an idea on what they are currently working on.
Timetracking. The sentiment on Twitter and during the webinar was that this feature will be greatly missed. But I see this as a good thing. While Basecamp calls itself a “Project Management” tool, it isn’t. It’s only 1/5 of project management: Communication. It has been and always will be really awesome with collaboration. So while tracking time is essential, it’s a different function entirely. Along with tracking time, Project Managers need the ability to create reports on time entries, forecast resources and timelines and analyze historical data, which Basecamp just doesn’t do. Any why should they? There are other products on the market that provide these features and then some. So while yes, tracking time is important – you shouldn’t be using Basecamp for it. I’m glad that 37Signals is focusing on what they’re really good at: Collaboration.
So that’s my two cents – I’d love to hear your thoughts on the new Basecamp. If you want to check it out for yourself, sign up for the next class: http://basecamp.com/classes or read all about it here: http://basecamp.com/