Sooner or later you end in administrative mayhem no matter what you do. Question is, what will you be doing about it. With all the faculty of judgement, statements like “I should have organized myself better”, are not gonna help you out now.

What happens from here is expected. Hit up your favorite browser, search for “Project Management” and let yourself get dragged into chaos you are not ready for. There are a few attributes to your requirements that will make your situation much worse.

  • It’s not just Project Management but also Accounting or Finance tools that you need.
  • You are not working by yourself but need to cater for a whole team.
  • The system should cater for operations and development personnel.
  • You need to involve your clients somehow into this.
  • You´d want to generate some billing mechanism out of it.
  • Maybe you need some kind of CRM.

Let´s face it, if this is where you are at, you are pretty f****d. You are most definitely taking a wrong decision along the way and you are lucky if it’s just a single one.

Let’s try to google “Project Management” and see what happens.

As usual, the guys with the biggest SEM budget rank best. The further you go down you´ll start to find PM comparisons which is what you should actually be looking for (of course authors of these comparisons do these for a purpose, the earn when you choose a certain PM system from within their site, i.e. you might not pick the best one, but the one they get the biggest commission one. In any case, better check these first prior taking the one that did the best SEO / SEM job).

There are a lot of articles on the web, comparing PM systems so I am not going to add on to that. I however can tell you that I have been in this situation and have deployed the following systems across various teams:

Stop laughing about Excel, there are situations it can actually work in (not many though). I did test a few more but the above captioned passed testing stage. We also did develop a custom chatbot-based PM solution which didn’t work either.

I will summarize my experience with anything but basecamp in other posts. Depending on the size of your organization there are different requirements you’ll have to cater for. The company I am working for is a mid-sized devops business, handling 20-50 members of team and countless clients. After 50, and for every further 25 people you have to manage, an altogether different system than the one I will recommend here might be needed. One of the major reasons I would not recommend JIRA to medium or small business is the overhead in configuring and deploying it. The cloud service is slow and the self-hosted difficult to configure and maintain (and its JAVA based, so it’s also kind of slow).

Why we choose Basecamp?

First off, it wasn´t my idea and I really didn’t like the looks of it. After a while of being miserable about it I just set down and reviewed the damn thing in-depth, making an effort to find reasons not to use it. I failed, deployed it and am pretty happy with it right now for the following reasons:

  • Pricing: Most PM systems charge per member and month. 10 users are almost everywhere free. That sounds like a lot but it’s really nothing. Say you have 3 developers, 2 operations managers, yourself, 1 accountant and 10 clients, you are already screwed. Basecamp offers a free version and a paid one. The latter retails for $99 a month with unlimited users.
  • Permission handling: The ability to encapsulate projects and people inside projects (including customers) is dead simple, yet ingenious. In JIRA you need a lot of time and the willingness to suffer when configuring project and individual permissions which is one of the major reasons, I would only recommend it for large scale business. Why are permissions so important? Read this!
  • Cross platform: In its core it’s a webapp, but you can use it almost everywhere.
  • One account: Sometimes it’s not only your organization using your specific deployment, but there is a client that is already using basecamp. You can, upon receiving an invitation, just join with your existing basecamp account and then pick which one use / switch at any time. This is so comfortable, I remember we once had 15 different JIRA deployments for each of our clients, with dedicated URLs and dedicated accounts, …., what a headache that was.
  • Simplicity: If you are not a total moron, the functionality of this system is explained intra 2 minutes. What might take some time is keeping your workspace clean and setting out some rules on how to use Basecamp.
  • Public links: Any post, article, knowledgebase entry, file or email-forward can be shared publicly by enabling it through a simple click. This is so useful and day to day business. My organization might not be overly happy but I am not disclosing internal information which is why I want to how you how a public link would look like:
  • Anonymous URLs: Yes, basecamp will host your project under their URL, but that’s a feature, not a bug! You lack customization on the one hand, but you can absolutely share this across different teams, projects and clients on the other, without caring much whether you are displaying brand related information that might not be suitable in the relative circumstance.
  • Editor: The editor is too simple to mess up text styles.
  • There are tons of integrations to 3rd party software that make Basecamp even more valueable. The following 2 I like in particular. Tickspot is a tool allowing you to track time to tickets from within Basecamp. It also features a mobile app and does issue detailed reports you can use for billing customers. Mangoboard is for those of you that need Kanban or Timeline based overviews that Basecamp doesn´t do natively.
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