Do you ever find yourself asking these questions?
- How was I supposed to know?
- Wait, have I forgotten to CC someone in?
- Uh, did I just accidentally CC someone from the wrong company?
- Where did Andrew put his meeting notes?
- Where is that long email thread where someone said something unrelated that I now need to reference?
Basecamp is a project management and team/client communication system. We love Basecamp at Aerion, because we don’t need to ask these questions anymore. Here’s how we utilise Basecamp, and how it’s improved our ability to communicate with our clients, including third parties that assist us and our clients.
Disclaimer: This is simply about how we use this service, and how you can use it too. We haven’t been endorsed by Basecamp, we just love their product.
1. From unorganised conversations to message threads
As simple as it sounds, moving from a disarray of emails with a lot of topic crosstalk and forgotten CCs, to message threads simply structured by subjects, has helped immensely. No more “How was I supposed to know?” or “Who has it?”, and absolutely no more “Fwd: Re: Re: Re: Fwd” subject lines. Both our teams as well as our clients start threads in the message board, but how we go about it differs. Oh, and no trying to remember to hit ‘Reply All’ or even changing your Gmail settings to use ‘Reply All’ as your default.
Threads that clients tend to initiate with us:
- Questions on how an existing feature in their solution works
- Idea pitches
- Bugs (the inevitable)
- User feedback
- Impact of a recent external announcement (for example “****, how does the iTunes shutdown affect our app!?“)
- Screen designs
Threads that we tend to initiate with our clients:
- Release announcements for their app/server/what have you
- Impact of a third party plugin update
- Limitations found in a third party plugin
- Estimates on requested features
- Surprise, here’s an edge case we just discovered you may want to know about
- Meeting notes
Threads that we initiate, but for our eyes only:
- Low-level discussions on how something could be developed
- Announcements only concerning the internal team
2. Email forwards for an easier transition for your clients
We replaced our dream of instantly switching over to Basecamp, with a more realistic approach: utilising the Email forward feature to ease our clients or other third party members (and ourselves) into communication without emails.
When we’d receive a project related email from a client, we’d forward it to an email address set up in Basecamp, specifically for centralising the conversation back into Basecamp. It can take a few tries, but only takes a few days or less, until everyone’s on the same page.
3. To do lists for all parties
You have a meeting with a client, and you mention something you need from them, or they mention something they need from you. Something small, mentioned as an afterthought, like providing someone with some statistics on system usage, or providing some login details. Then, it gets forgotten. If you’re lucky, it gets recorded into some meeting notes, but then gets forgotten anyway. To do lists in Basecamp have made this a lot easier to manage for us, and our customers. We can also manage lists that are only accessible to our team, or accessible to both us and the client.
4. Centralised calendar
We tend to add important dates such as meetings and releases into the project’s Schedule in Basecamp. We still create Google Calendar entries from Basecamp, but we treat Basecamp as the source of truth for the events, as well as a place to dump notes from a meeting (on any scheduled event, you can add comments for your meeting notes). You can also make some events private to your side only, but typically having them accessible by both is helpful.
5. Docs & files
Files (including files on Google Drive) related to a project can be uploaded into the Docs & files section of a project. Each file can be visible to or hidden from clients. Typically these are external resources such as screen designs, meeting recordings and so on.
This is how we use Basecamp to keep our clients engaged throughout and after the development of a project.