Basecamp vs Teamwork PM : Why we packed up camp and moved
When Basecamp announced the release of “new basecamp” I have to admit that I was quite excited. I haven’t been a fulltime basecamp user for all that long, but it was definitely long enough to experience its shortcomings. New Basecamp looks good. In particular it looks like they have tackled the user interface in a way that might stop you feeling swamped by your projects. However there is one massive shortfall for me: New Basecamp has no time-tracking
Stay with Classic or Jump Ship?
Having no time-tracking is a deal breaker for me. That left the decision to either stick with Classic or to start looking elsewhere. It might seem logical to stick with Classic, but the idea of tying our business to a side-lined legacy system does not appeal to me. There are numerous other areas in Basecamp Classic that need improvement, many of which have been tackled in New Basecamp. If Classic is no longer actively developed then those issues will presumably remain issues until the product is finally retired.
I already had an account at teamworkpm.net as a result of the last search we did for a project management solution back in 2008. Using their painless import routine I had one category of our projects set-up in a few minutes, had a quick run through their online help and was away with live projects within the hour. A further hour later I had decided that Teamwork PM was going to be our next project management solution and that we would be cancelling our Basecamp account.
- Click here to set up a free account at Teamworkpm for yourself
(Disclosure – this is an affiliate link that gives me a small reward for sending you their way. However I am happy to recommende them either way, so there is a non-tracked link here as well)
Why the quick decision?
2 hours might not sound long to make an important decision like choice of project management solution. However let’s not forget that I also had a 4 year trial period, albeit a rather inactive one. I had also trialled over 30 online PM solutions over the last few years (some to greater depths than others) and had notes from those trials.
The single biggest advantage of Teamwork PM for me is the one that is hardest to convey: The overall user experience is just better.
My job involves moving back and forth between a number of projects during the day. I also need to have a firm grasp on how all projects are progressing at any time. Teamwork PM just makes this easier. With Basecamp I always felt slightly swamped by the information and navigation was far from intuitive.
As a result of the improved interface I’ve now moved more projects in to Teamwork than I ever had in Basecamp and still feel totally in control. This is good news for me as it means I am being a better manager, and good news for the guys behind Teamwork as It means I am about to upgrade my account to allow us to add even more projects.
A poor UI can wreck a sale, but a good one rarely clinches one alone. For that you need to offer more, which Teamwork does in spades:
7 Things Teamwork PM gives me that Basecamp never did
Not only do we have time-tracking, but Teamwork PM also providers timers to add up the time for you. These can either be run through the site or through a standalone Adobe Air app. Useful stuff to help you ensure you bill for all the work you do.
The timer app allows you to pull tasks down from the main program and have them sat as inactive timers on your desktop. It is then simple to switch between tasks through the day, counting the time as you go. At the end of the day (or whenever) you then just click a button and it updates the time sheets.
Not something that everyone needs, but the lack of task dependencies was always one of my gripes with Basecamp. Being able to line-up tasks to only be triggered when a previous task is complete allows us to “load up” jobs without swamping everyone with in-actionable information.
I think that the most frequent use I have had for this so far is in getting client approval. By adding a task of “get client approval” to a list and making tasks dependent on that, we don’t find outselves staring at 50 tasks that we can’t start.
Assign to Multiple People
Teamwork PM allows you to assign tasks to more than one person. A nightmare for Project Management purists I am sure, but very useful for the way we like to work. If a priority job comes up I can assign it to everyone who is qualified to deal with it. That way the first person to become available can pick up the job and we get another task completed sooner.
With lots of weekly/monthly/quarterly recurring tasks, this is already proving a big time-saver for us. We’ve been setting up recurring tasks for issues as diverse as weekly performance checks and quarterly server audits. This not only helps us ensure that all the regular jobs get done on time, but also helps us spread the workload more evenly and avoid end of month panics.
I run a couple of “at a glance” reports every morning to ensure that we’re on track, hitting budgets and to see if any issues are likely to cause problems. Teamwork PM lets you report on most things quickly and easily then export in either Excel or as PDF if you wish. As a bonus there is also an optional daily project report email that gives you a breakdown of what you have due that day.
A Useful Dashboard
I don’t know whether this is a result of us running lots of small consecutive projects, but a common theme in project management software seems to be dashboards that over-whelm you with data. Like most, the Teamwork PM one is still pretty full on, showing you the most recent items from each project you are active on. However at the top of the screen there are 3 tabs that prevent this inducing total panic: Late Tasks, Today’s Tasks and Upcoming Tasks.
Click any of those tabs and you can instantly see what you need to be tackling now, across all projects and toggle between late/today’s/upcoming tasks either assigned to you or to everyone. I can’t over-state how useful those three tabs are giving me an instant picture of everything that needs doing both by me and company wide.
The Teamwork PM team are not only responsive, but seem genuinely interested in hearing how their users would like to see the product improved. In fairness I have only tried to contact Basecamp support once and that was some time back. However my feeling was always that 37 Signals have a very strong vision for their product that they are unlikely to be swayed from. Teamwork PM by comparison come across as far more responsive, which suits our own business style better.
Try it for yourself
Teamwork PM offers both a free trial and a free forever package, both useful if you want to try out its features for yourself. Teamwork PM does also offer a referral program, so I’ve included that link below. However I’ve also included a referral code free version, because the existance of the referral program has nothing to do with my motivation to write this post: