Basecamp 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.