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.

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

Timers

Teamwork PM Timer App

Teamwork PM Timer App

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.

Dependent Tasks

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.

Recurring Tasks

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.

Improved Reporting

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

Teamwork PM Dashboard

Teamwork PM 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.

Understanding

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:

37 thoughts on “Basecamp vs Teamwork PM : Why we packed up camp and moved

  1. Thank you for the link & tweet, some great feedback. I’m an interior designer who works with multi-level teams and so far from what I have seen for interior design software, the logistics of setting up is just not meant for smaller businesses. Seeking other pm management software that opens up to other areas of work outside of design, this seemed to be a good option.

    Thanks again for the information, so much appreciated.

    • Hi Gaile, I’m glad that it was useful.
      The ability for the software to work well for external teams was a consideration for us as well. We use a few regular/irregular freelancers who would put up with whatever we force on them, but we want to bring the clients closer as well. Quite a few solutions seem to handle this quite well. Some make it horribly complicated though and I could see us ending up investing time in support and training for those users. Teamwork PM is one of the intuitive ones, although this isn’t an area we’ve really pushed as yet.

    • Yes. Teamwork PM has repeating tasks, which means that you don’t have to use templates. We’ve surprisingly ended up not using these anywhere near as much as we thought we would, but they do work well.

  2. I haven’t tried out the new Basecamp – no doubt it’s a great product.

    But I’m with Teamwork PM all the way. And you are right, usability is the killer feature.

    Every step, click and link is well thought out in Teamwork PM to make the process quick and easy for heavy users who have it open all day adding, shifting and ticking things off.

  3. Hi Mat,

    Thanks for the great info. I too have been struggling to find a good PM application. I’ve been using Paymo for a while, and while it has most of the features I’ve been looking for, it was lacking in look and feel and even after a few months of using it I felt it was missing something. After about an hour of checking out Teamwork PM, I think I’m ready to make the switch.

    thanks again!
    David

  4. 37 signals’ philosophy is minimalism and they refuse to implement certain features in order to save that style. Well, it’s great that they are so stick to the idea, but at the same time it gives such an opportunity to their competitors!
    We are using Teamlab.com – one of the first Basecamp alternatives, providing much more great features for free.

  5. Thanks for the feedback on the comparisons. I’ve used Teamwork off and on for a couple of years but have recently used it extensively for several projects. It was a godsend! However, I’ve changed companies and they currently use Basecamp. Transitioning to Basecamp has really been somewhat of a pain because it appears to me that there are only lists of “To Do’s” with very little organization or reporting capabilities. Templates cannot be created from Task Lists in BC. Who wants to recreate the wheel? Your posting has given me some ammunition to show them that Teamwork is a much better project tool than Basecamp. Thank you!

  6. Hey Matt,

    This may not be related but I happened upon your blog due to the fact that it was suggested that I consider basecamp vs. Planning Center Online for planning events, services and organizing teams, etc.

    My question is, “are you familiar with Planning Center?” How does it compare or are these two totally different tools? Also, does basecamp or teamworkpm have a phone app?

    Thanks for any help!

    Rob

    • Hi Rob,
      Sorry can’t help with the planning center comparison – I haven’t used that at all.

      Teamwork does have an iphone app and an air based mobile app that will run on other platforms. Can’t comment on the iPhone app, but the air one is really limited in my opinion. I tend to just use the online tools straight from my (android) phone and not use the app at all. That works OK though.

  7. Hi Mat,

    Thanks for the useful comparison…started a trial today. Looks very promising – flexible and not too rigid…

  8. Hi Mat

    Thanks so much for your comparison. I was considering switching from Nozbe to Bascamp, and the weaknesses/omissions you point out re Basecamp, apply equally to Nozbe.

    You just saved me weeks of evaluation time and disruption.

    I have signed up for a 30-day trial of TeamworkPM, and so far it looks great. Seems to hitting the sweet spot for a balance between functions that matter (time tracking, task dependencies etc.) and simplicity (nothing in it is daunting to me so far).

    I had a look at Teamlab.com, mentioned above by Karen. It is even broader in scope than TeamworkPM, encompassing internal blogs, internal IM’ing, wikis, general doc management, etc. We already use CubeTree (now called Jam, since Success Factors acquired them, and who have since been acquired by SAP!), for wiki/intranet etc. … so my question is, have you looked at Teamlab.com? What’s your view of a Project Management tool that goes broader to be a whole-of-enterprise type app?

    Thanks again
    MC

    • I’ve not looked at teamlab.com at all to be honest. TeamworkPM is working well for us and I don’t really need to be shopping around again (it’s too time consuming anyway!). We’re currently trialling some other applications to work alongside teamworkPM – namely helpscout and hipchat, but these are to add another layer of improvement rather than filling any shortcomings in what TeamworkPM offers.

      My problem with the “whole-fo-enterprise” type solutions is that they never seem to fit the enterprises I work with! Because they think they solve anything they can be quite inflexible yet never seem to quite fit what we want. I’ve given up trying to find one that works for us – instead opting for components that do each job well and living with the lack of integration being the compromise.

  9. Thanks for your reply Mat. I agree re the whole-of-enterprise apps. For example, in Jam (which does a great job of wiki pages, internal blogs, etc.) they have a Chat function and a Tasks function. Both of these stink. Waste of time even being in the app they are so rudimentary and poor from a UI perspective.

    We must be living in parallel universes, as just in the last 2 days, independent of your reply above (which I saw just now), we have been trialling HipChat and Help Scout. We are loving HipChat. Se easy to use, responsive, no learning curve for the team (whereas we found Yammer to be a hopeless chat/IM tool, and poor at documents/wiki type knowledge capture — actually, I can’t for the life of me work out how Yammer became so popular — apart from the many and varied integration partners, the core app itself is very ordinary, imho).

    We have decided HipChat is here to stay for us. How are you going with it.

    Re Help Scout, we started with it just yesterday. I like the simplicity of it for our clients (invisible to them) and the ‘universal email inbox’ effect it gives our team (including remote team members). We have been using Tender but have found a low usage rate by our clients/members. They end up just emailing us anyway. I think Help Scout (and SupportBee and apo.io) are getting ‘Help Desk’ right for small/medium business. I think ZenDesk, Desk.com, Tender are all old school (and ‘a sledgehammer to put in a thumbtack’) thinking. Out-dated. Less is more.

    How are you going with evaluating Help Scout?

    By the way, if you are not using it already, we have created some great little ‘Zaps’ (API integrations) between the various cloud apps we’re using, on the Zapier.com platform. For example, we have created a Zap whereby if someone in a Room in HipChat includes ‘Send2TPM’ in their IM, that goes automatically into TeamworkPM as a Task in an ‘Inbox’ Task List in a particular Project. So efficient!

    Gotta love the cloud!

    P.S. I am looking forward to ending our “shopping around” phase on these systems, and just motoring along …

  10. Thanks for the very useful information. Do you expose your project plans to your customers? How does TeamworkPM perform in this area (for example you may want to expose only part of the plan or certain tasks).

    Does TeamworkPM allow your customers to complete actions – for example your “get client approval” task? This of course would trigger the next set of dependent actions – all automatically.

    I’m still looking for a great app that gives me all the tools I need and lets me collaborate effectively not only with my internal team, but with my clients whose projects I’m managing.

    • We do expose the plan to some clients, yes. It tends to be those we’re working with on an ongoing basis as we use TeamworkPM to manage our retainers quite heavily. Mostly this is done on an informational basis, as we haven’t really integrated client involvement within Teamwork as part of our workflow. However they can comment, we can assign tasks to them (which they can then mark as complete).

      We haven’t explored that functionality that far yet, although it was on our requirements list as this is the direction we are heading too. It’s worth taking a look for sure.

  11. I wanted to drop in and say thanks for this post. I’m a freelancer and have been looking into project management for a while, trying to find something that was simple, yet had the tools I was looking for.

    I was not aware of TeamworkPM until finding this post. I’m trying it now.

  12. Thanks for the post. I just converted FROM BASECAMP TO TeamworkPM in 15 MINUTES! Teamwork has a great email feature that will allow you to move an enormous amount of information quickly. We even migrated completed tasks. So happy with this product…

  13. Thanks for the post. Do you know if Basecamp still has no dependency feature? My company looked at Basecamp a couple of years ago and decided against it because it didn’t at the time. I was getting ready to research this and camp across your post – very helpful.

  14. Hi, we are basecamp users but I woudl like better management of repetitive “projects”, i.e. we have clients whose activities repeat every month and we have a “project” per month as a template in base camp and that template is re-applied every month. But there’s a lot of tweaking to be done……

    Does Teamwork handle this better?

  15. I have been using teamwork pm for around 3 months and hate it, its expensive and impossible to filter to sets of tasks, also very buggy, waste of money.

    • Wow – surprised to hear that. We’ve been using it for 13 months now and I can honestly say that I cannot recall a single bug in that time. Tasks can definitely be filtered though – I do this a lot from the “All active tasks” tab. It would be nice to have more options on that page, but between that and the search I tend to get to where I need to be quickly enough that I’ve never even fed this point back to Teamwork.

      Each to their own though. Luckily there is not shortage of project management / task tracking software out there to choose from. It’s good to try a few and find one that fits your needs. What are you switching to?

  16. We have been using Google Docs to track tasks and assignments as well as a make-shift database and replicate ticketing via email. As we grow it’s painfully clear Google Docs can’t continue to support us (too manual, no automation). We lean toward a need for an integrated relational database type solution that would include project management.

    Please forgive our ignorance – we’re intelligent and teachable but not developers! Our question is whether or not this would be considered a complete system – database, storage/archive data, content management? I’m not sure we know the right question/s to ask. Any light that anyone could shed is greatly appreciated…..

    • Hmm… not sure. The document management side of teamwork is not particularly complex/fully featured. We don’t really use that side too much, so I might not be being particularly fair there though. It would really depend on what you would need to do with it. Teamwork is certainly strong on the project/task management side. It also integrates with Google Docs well, so you could attach documents that are within Google docs/drive to tasks and projects and then track them from there. I don’t think that there is any version management or similar though if that is what you are looking for.

      Reading between the lines a bit, I think you should give it a whirl. I’d imagine that some of your tasks require things like taking a guest post from brief to link. You can certainly do that with the document handling in teamwork PM. We do! Teamwork do offer a free plan for up to 2 projects. I’d trial it and see how you get on.

  17. I am a basecamp user and find it super frustrating that there is no real way to look at priorities across projects. It also has no way to tag a task as “open” or anything like a status so I can look at open items, those awaiting approval, etc. Does this package have that capability?

    • HI Carisa,

      Teamwork lets you view all tasks across all project and you can then order those by priority. I switch between that view and the same in due date order a lot.

      There is not a mechanism for open / pending. However there are a few ways to to the same. The smartest is probably dependencies. Lets say I have a task to add a new page to a website, but I am waiting for approval on the copy: I’d add one task for “get client approval” and another for the page itself. I’d make the page task dependent on the get approval one, so that would stay out of the way until I can actively work on it. This works well for us. As you can also assign that task to the client and sent them an email reminder that works pretty well. For simpler stuff we sometimes just set the start date a week ahead and remind the client every time it comes up.

  18. Well hello Mat

    Like you I had already been round the mill looking for a PM solution. One of my friends recommended Teamwork and the interface initially looks very similar to my current option Basecamp, I found your post searching for comparisons between them.

    Your post highlighted many of the issues I am facing, ie I really do not want to have the long tasks lists threatening me every time I log in.

    I have in the middle of writing this comment imported my projects over to Teamwork and already I can see the benefits. From the overview that presents the information in a clear style to being able to set dependancies that with a simple icon highlight the bottle necks in your projects. Plus it has a mobile app so I can free myself hopefully from having to use Google calendar.

    igor Griffiths

  19. Teamwork looks interesting. It nails down from project planning to reporting at a single space. I tested it and see it solving many of our problems.

    Effective & streamlined collaboration increases success chance of a project. The piece missing form Teamwork is project collaboration and communication.

  20. thanks for the helpful article, will be happy to use your referral links if we make the switch – our company is a POWER BaseCamp use stretching the 50 project accoubt to its limits and feel married to it due to how much data and history is there after 5 years (archived projects are free, so there are hundreds) – are you saying that we can import BaseCamp data into TeamWork?!?! Every PM site I’ve looked at required a ‘clean start’ something we just can’t do, so we’ve been stuck. Tho we use time tracking – its how we pay all our subcontractors so I’m appalled to read that will be dropped.

    While I’ve not been notofied by BaseCamp of this, if it is true, it is very concerning. Thanks.

    • Hi Karl,
      I’m not sure whether archived projects are bought over or not. You should definitely speak to Teamwork.com support about that (they are a really helpful lot). You definitely don’t need to have a clean start though – not unless something has changed a lot since we signed up. I’d imagine at the very least you could import the live ones, remove those then “un-archive” another batch and import them (so that you don’t go over your basecamp limit) . 50 live projects isn’t an issue on teamwork. I think that the package we’re on allows for 100 and we are not on the top package.

  21. I am using Teamworkpm. I am a manager. It is my responsibility to assign tasks to my team members, but some members check the task to complete before completing the task.

    I want to limit the team member access to task completion. I just want that only I have an access to complete the tasks which have assigned by me.

    How can I do it. Please help.

    Thanks in Advance.

    • It is worth contacting Teamwork support about this. I suspect though that the answer is to ensure that your team members better understand how to use the tool properly. On thing that might help though is having a dependent task on each list that is assigned to you. That would then trigger and alert when the other tasks were marked as complete.

  22. Thanks for a really interesting introduction to Teamwork PM. One question – is it any good for bug reporting, and can people send tasks or requests via email?

  23. Hi Mat,

    I’ve been using Basecamp for around 1 year. But now for me nothing comes close to Worksection. At first it’s very easy to use and it has all the requirement features to make project management easy.

    This tool includes:

    – Automatic time-tracking
    – Gantt Chart
    – Dependent and recurring tasks
    – Task assignment with start date and deadline
    – External groups with access to specific projects (for clients, freelancers, etc.)
    – Comment directly on tasks to spitball new ideas and leave feedback
    – Reports

    You also can create and edit documents, preview and edit any other attachments right from the workspace — no need to download them to your computer first.

    I think Worksection is giving one of the best project management service at the moment.

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