Behind the Scenes: How We Keep Track of Projects
It has been our understanding since we started out ColorLabs that good project management is the key to delivering projects on time and within budget. ColorLabs core team and collaborative designers are located in different cities, so managing all of our daily activities and tasks can be quite challenging. We need an online collaboration tool to make sure all projects are implemented smoothly and successfully. We discovered Basecamp and never turn away ever since.
A typical WordPress theme development involves a product development manager, a collaborative designer, a developer, and at least three beta testers, so there is potentially a huge amount of communication needed.
Imagine if we use email to communicate: an email message is sent out to several recipients, each replying to ‘all’, the thread getting longer and longer, making it difficult to keep track who said what. Eventually you’ll found yourself frantically searching for an email about a project in an inbox that is overloaded with messages.
With Basecamp messages are presented in a simple chronological order, with each message clearly identified with its sender. Most importantly, with Basecamp all activities, documents, discussions, data are in one place where all team members are able to access. This makes collaboration super easy since all team are literally on the same page anytime and anywhere so we can pay close attention to every single step within the project implementation stages.
I will walk you through on how we use Basecamp to handle internal management and also the team’s communication with external collaborators.
Milestones & To-Do’s
The Milestone area has to be my favorite part of Basecamp. It really helps us work towards timeline-based goals. The screen shot below shows our milestones in recent weeks. Setting goal-oriented milestones alone in Basecamp has taken us from puttering around to being super efficient.
To-do lists can be attached to a Milestone, so you can list out what needs to be done to hit a milestone. The to-do list might be the easiest way to keep track of our project’s progress. Both Milestone and To-do can be assigned to a team member allowing everyone to be held accountable for what they are responsible for, and there’s no confusion.
As we start a new project we import the appropriate to-do list and start to check off the items that have been done. You can keep track of other members working on the project, share your work progress with them, discuss and make plans to complete the project in the specific time.
Share Documents with Colleagues and Collaborative Designers
Basecamp has a Files section where you can upload all the documents relevant to your business. In ColorLabs’s case these might include draft and final project briefs, project reports and images, such as banners, screen-shots, etc. Basecamp allows all project parties to upload documents, we use this to our advantage in the planning stages of a theme project.
We have 7 collaborative designers who are spread all across the country and still looking for more. So you can see how we will struggle if we assign designers to submit their work via email. Everything will get jumbled up and email attachment has a size limit.
At the early stage of WordPress theme development the designer will submit mock-ups by uploading the files to Basecamp, where he will explain my choices. This way everyone can have a look over the mock-ups and give their feedback.
Collaborate to Write Content
Creating content can be a really complex set of step and interactions. Basecamp offers Writeboards which you can use to collaboratively write a web page, a contract or a project brief. Just create a new writeboard, write your content, then send a message to your colleagues inviting them to review and edit. Every changes to the writeboard is saved as a new version and you can then compare the various versions easily.
How Do You Manage Projects?
What system(s) do you use to keep your creative team and projects on track? We’d love to hear from you.