Beyond Basecamp, the Summit

John Reeve | May 5th, 2008 | ,

Beyond Basecamp, the SummitBasecamp has dominated the realm of online project management, or has it? Basecamp invented a methodology for getting things done, hijacked the phrase ‘project management’, and unleashed their simplified solution onto the web. This was a brilliant move because there was a large population of people with basic needs. And there still are. However, it would be counter-productive to stop there and not look beyond Basecamp. Many people want to see it that way; they want a catchy phrase, like “Getting Things Done,” and a simple way to run their business. The reality is that many small businesses have complicated and diverse needs outside the abilities of Basecamp.

Collaboration is not the same as Project Management

First of all, Basecamp is not a project management service. It is a collaboration tool. There is a difference. A project management service should focus on predicting, tracking, and learning your business; refining your workflow. While collaboration is a subset of project management, a communication method for working together as a team. Small businesses need tools that can provide feedback for self improvement. This need for more — time tracking, reporting, scheduling, invoicing — is driving small businesses towards more comprehensive web-based project management services.

Project Management is not a Commodity

As much as we would like to have one way of doing things, reality will not allow it. Project management apps, like Intervals, have sometimes been compared to a commodity, like blogging. The comparison is flawed. The blog is a basic and young concept, and has been implemented almost identically in every corner of the web. Project management concepts have been around for decades, long before the Internet as we know it. Project management has evolved into many different ecosystems, each one unique with its own set of subscribers. It would be impossible to address everyone’s needs with one app. As part of this evolution, some small businesses are in a unique position to share their successes with others using web-based services as a medium. Intervals, and others, are built by businesses who have adapted their workflows to the web, for others to learn from and adapt if they’d like.

Opensource is not the Answer

As much as we advocate opensource, the project management arena will fair better by being privatized. Opensource is ideal for services that truly are a commodity; like blogging, programming languages, operating systems, and databases. These services are easily defined. There is little room for debate about which features should be included. Opensourcing a project management service would have to niche itself and require a clearly defined spec, which is difficult in community-driven development. The opensource model also requires that you install the software on your own server, a hassle, if not a showstopper, for any small business.

The great thing about Basecamp is they have created an economy of web-based tools for small business. They kickstarted the market. Now we have several other contenders in the project management space. More small businesses are finding their needs met by a web-based service. As more businesses adapt their workflow to an online model, this web-based economy will continue to evolve and succeed, with plenty of room for everyone.

12 Responses to “Beyond Basecamp, the Summit”

  1. Chris says:

    I stumbled upon as I was looking for one of those applications that had a bit more project management grunt than that of the usual collaboration tools and I agree that that Basecamp certainly opened the door for more niche and tailored solutions.

  2. Greg Bell says:

    You are right. Basecamp is a collaboration tool and was originally designed this way. There are companies that are happy with this solution and there are companies that search for more features and flexibility. My team chose Wrike. It was hard to choose of all the options represented on the Web, but Wrike won the contest for us.

  3. Neil says:

    We’re looking for a project management system with a shared writing environment like Google Docs. We write ad copy. It’s easy to use an online document that shows changes than to exchange Word files. We haven’t found a solution yet. For now, we use Basecamp and its Writeboards, but Writeboards don’t allow any formatting except by using strange codes that are dangerous to use.

  4. Nick Hill says:

    We used Basecamp before but after 6 months or so found it quite inadequate as our own demands started to rise be it for better reporting, scheduling or even email alerts. Searching for project management solutions is a huge activity but we finally found what we were looking for in [a href=””]Celoxis[a]. It’s been close to a year now and we are quite satisfied.

  5. Jack says:

    I’ve been a rabid Basecamp user for 1.5 years. When I merged my small company with a larger one I brought Basecamp with me and we soon found out that BC is not a proper project management program. Although time tracking in BC makes sense from the production side of things it is totally unworkable from the admin/book keeping side.

    The thing I value most about Basecamp is it’s collaboration. We invite clients into our BC projects and many of them love it. It’s a common workspace. Add to the fact that clients can add to the collaborative conversations by simply replying to BC emails is so effective. In other words it works with clients because it requires no effort on their part.

    As far as I can see this kind of extended collaboration is not there in Intervals. Or at least not in a fluid, easy way as it is in BC. To me communication is just as important as tracking hours, tasks, milestones and budgets.

    Perhaps it would benefit Intervals to look at hook into Basecamp via their API?

    Just a thought.

  6. John Reeve says:

    The Intervals API is due out before the end of the year. Once the API is launched, our customers will be able to hook into Basecamp and any other application of their choosing, freeing them up from the confines of a web-based project management app.

    Here is some more reading on the API development:

  7. Steve says:

    You can also try Manymoon, it’s free:

    With Manymoon you can:
    * Managed private and shared To Do Lists and Projects.
    * Upload documents and add them to tasks and projects.
    * Integrate with Google Docs and Google Calendar.
    * Automatically convert emails into tasks.
    * Twitter-like feature to let people know what you are working on.

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John Reeve
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John Reeve

John is a co-founder, web designer and developer at Pelago. His blog posts are inspired by everyday encounters with designers, developers, creatives and small businesses in general. John is an avid reader and road cyclist.
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Jennifer Payne
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Jennifer Payne

Jennifer is the Director of Quality and Efficiency at Pelago. Her blog posts are based largely on her experience working with teams to improve harmony and productivity. Jennifer is a cat person.
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Michael Payne
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Michael Payne

Michael is a co-founder and product architect at Pelago. His contributions stem from experiences managing the development process behind web sites and web-based applications such as Intervals. Michael drives a 1990 Volkswagen Carat with a rebuilt 2.4 liter engine from GoWesty.
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