Kicking old habits is hard to do:
I was toying with the idea of "upgrading to Basecamp 3 for quite awhile. We were already using Basecamp 2, and had a great tool stack that made us nimble and effective. But there were some issues with our delivery process that were gnawing at me.
And I felt that Basecamp 2 was where some of the bottlenecks existed... So, I made the change.
Here's a side-by-side comparison of Basecamp 2 vs Basecamp 3. See how we use it and why we think one is far superior than the other.
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Basecamp is available on ios, android, mac, and PC. I am an android/Windows guy, so this review is based on working with those devices. I know... shame on me, being a marketer on Windows... Go ahead and blast me in the comments ;)
But I have my reasons!
Now, there are 3 versions. Basecamp Classic isn't part of this review, but it DOES still exist.
A little about me and how I use the program:
I run a digital marketing agency, and everybody working for me does so remotely. We are all based in the US, spread over 3 timezones. We have international clients, but we don't really communicate with them through Basecamp. We explain why later in this article.
We use Basecamp as a project management tool. For me, the most important things are that it's:
- Easy to use - I don't have time to dig through tutorials and forums for help. And since adoption is key, I don't need something that confuses my teams.
- Strongly multi-functional - No one-off's... I don't have time for that... nor do I have time for sub-par software. I need something that is great at what it does, and does a LOT.
- Backwards AND frontwards facing - Reviewing something' history is just as important as planning the future.
- Customizable - ...but not too customizable... I need to be able to do simple things like change access limits, and work within the environment created. However, I don't have time to get lost in options.
- Cost - Money is money
- Ultimately saves me time, money, or both
I don't run my projects, my project leads do, but I am involved creatively and have ultimate oversight to it all. So, flexibility is important.
True project management:
When you roll out Basecamp 3 coming from the Basecamp 2 environment, prepare to make significant shifts in the rest of your tool stack. Prior to the change, this was what ours looked like:
- Google Drive: Project storage
- Basecamp Classic (2): Project management, some project storage, & discussions with your team
- Gmail: Offline communication
- Uberconference: Live communication
- Trello: Creative white-boarding
- Hotjar: Analysis
- SEMrush: Analysis
- Hubspot: Analysis & execution
Remember, we're a marketing company. But a few of these are specific to our industry: Hubspot, and SEMrush.
Our project management execution needs to be ON-point if we're to hit our deadlines and make effective decisions about the future of our projects. Before the change to Basecamp 3, everything flowed together beautifully, but there were a few things that bothered me:
- Communication was scattered - there were way too many places to connect with each other, and people were missing tasks and deadlines
- Project storage was un-centered
- Succession planning was very challenging
- We were wasting time digging through emails, etc
1. The client-facing stuff:
UPDATED: Initially, this was the most difficult change to navigate through, because in Basecamp 3, you didn't have the ability to assign to-dos to clients. No, that wasn't a typo... That's actually a thing they thought would be good to leave out apparently. Big swing and a MISS if you ask me!
They still had a "client mode," which meant they could SEE what you wanted them to see, but they were left out of the assignments.
This has since been rectified, and the client-facing stuff is JUST as good, if not better, than I remember in Basecamp 2.
2. Document management:
In Basecamp 2, document management is a bit of a joke. You can't organize your files or folders, and everything you attach to a message or to-do gets added to the never-ending stream of document-consciousness.
In the 3rd installment of the Basecamp series, they meet this HEAD on.
1) There is now a section titled "Docs & Files"
2) You can create folders and sub-folders
3) You can link Google Docs and slides and sheets, and even FOLDERS
This was a game-changer for us, because in the past, there was a confusing balance of what to go to Basecamp for, and what to go to Google Drive for. Today, EVERYTHING starts in Basecamp, even our Google docs, because they're all linked.
So, to give you an example of how this works, we have Google Sheet dashboards set up for each of our service lines (inbound marketing, website design, and sales enablement), housing certain information that doesn't fit anywhere else.
But instead of opening up Google Sheets to get into them, we LINK them to Basecamp 3, and go through there. We actually ended up splitting out several of the tabs in there into their own sheets, so we could connect directly, which is especially helpful when our software clients have access to the whole project because they're contributing in some way.
EDGE: Basecamp 3
This is another area for improvement. In the past, we needed separate forms of communication to spit-ball new ideas or have conversations. Many of my clients use Slack for this. Basecamp 2 has a feature, but the problem for us was separating quick communication from longer term discussions.
They are all jumbled in there together, so we typically resorted to just communicating through email. As a project manager, this doesn't sit well with me, because that means we might not have all important data in a centralized, easy-to-access location.
This is ANOTHER huge area for advancement for Basecamp 3. The broke it down into 3 different methods for communication:
- Pings - for direct communication you don't want on your project board. You can ping one person at a time or multiple people. Works exactly like chat.
- Campfires - for discussions with your team as a whole. It's still not formal, but moreso than "pings."
- Message Board - for ongoing discussions that require multiple comments. We use this to throw out ideas for contests, content, etc
With these big additions, we no longer need email as our main form of project communication. That's a HUGE benefit to somebody like me, who gets inbox anxiety. We are able to easily separate the chit chat from the serious conversations, and easily store data where it is accessible.
EDGE: Basecamp 3 - BIG time
Basecamp wouldn't be Basecamp without the to-dos, so let's talk about the differences here.
In Basecamp 2, it was pretty straight forward. You assign a task with a date, then go. They were organized by lists that could be rearranged. Not a LOT has changed here, but that isn't to say that the changes that DID occur aren't significant... because they are.
- Multiple assignees - You know those tasks that apply to multiple people where you would have to create TWO in the past? No more! You can now assign multiple people to the same task. The only downside I see is that once ANY of them check the box, it's closed for everybody. But we have a system for that... Last one to complete closes it out, and we know who that is by the comments section
- Date ranges - You know those assignments that could have multiple end dates depending on the million other things they depend on? It's no longer confined to a single due date. Now you have the ability to assign a date range!
- Card view - You can show your to-dos just like you did in the past in list-fashion. However, in 3, you can put them in "card view," which makes it a lot easier to shuffle them around and see big-picture resource requirements. We put them into monthly categories, so we know exactly what January, February, and March look like without having to pull out the note pad.
EDGE: Basecamp 3
This is was a game-changer for us.
One thing we do exceptionally well is project management, and these templates are a big reason why. Each project has its own special nuances, however, they also have a lot in common. So, for us to replicate successful programs, we work off of templates.
We have templates for inbound marketing, growth driven design, and sales enablement. Each one spells out every painful detail of every step in every process. At the beginning of each project, we generate a project using said template, then adjust it according to the specifications.
This gives our project managers EXTREME transparency and helps them visualize the program from tooth to tail.
That said, I have two MAJOR gripes about the template process:
- There is no way to duplicate existing templates
- There is no way to create a template using an existing project
If they could make it easy to do those things, I think we'd be sold on Basecamp 3 for many years to come. But it's a good start nonetheless.
EDGE: Basecamp 3
Basecamp 2 and 3 differ here as well. Some things are the same, such as being a flat fee regardless of number of users. However, there are major differences.
For Basecamp 2:
- $20/month - Manage up to 10 projects at once + 3 GB of file storage
- $50/month - Manage up to 40 projects at once + 15 GB of file storage
- $100/month - Manage up to 100 projects at once + 40 GB of file storage
- $150/month - Manage unlimited projects + 100 GB of file storage
- $3,000/yr - Manage unlimited projects + 500 GB of file storage
- 60-day free trial
For Basecamp 3:
- $99/month - unlimited projects + 500 GB of file storage
- $150 credit for upgrading from Basecamp 2
- 30-day free trial
- Teachers & students free
- Discounts for non-profits
We mostly redirect away from Basecamp straight to the Google Drive. So, file storage isn't a big deal. However, you may choose to store everything there, in which case 3 vs 500 GB of file storage is a big deal.
If you have a lot of different projects, Basecamp 3 can be more cost-effective. But it also depends on how you use the program. If you are looking to replace other community channels like slack, you could save significant $ by making the switch.
7. What's still missing
Basecamp 3 is a vast improvement from 2 for our company. But it's still not perfect. When somebody publishes includes these, I'll be listening.
- Real time collaboration - The campfire is a chat room, which helps... but it's not enough. I'd like to see things update when others are in there in real-time. I'd like to see that they're actually in there as well, like on a Google doc.
- Artificial intelligence - AI makes the world easier to digest. I want my marketing and collaboration platforms to tell me what is needed of me. As is, finding to-dos assigned to me in Basecamp takes some digging. But it shouldn't.
OUR WINNER: Basecamp 3
|Edge Score:||2 out of 6||6 out of 6|
As you can see by the many updates from 2 to 3, you're going to have to improve your entire process if you make the change. It actually turns out that our tool stack remains the same, but how it works together is where the transformation occurred. This led to a complete re-learn on our end.
But it was WELL worth it!
Today, our tool stack looks something like this:
- Google Drive: Collateral storage
- Basecamp 3: ALL communication, and portal to the Google Drive
- Gmail: Deliver Basecamp 3 notifications
- Zoom: Live communication
- Hotjar: Analysis
- diib: Analysis
- Hubspot: Analysis & execution
If you're interested in exploring these tools for the delivery of marketing for your software company, schedule a free consultation today!