Detailed Review of Basecamp Project Management Tool

Project management at basecamp

The Basecamp project management tool is a low-cost, beautifully-designed, cloud-based, to-do list and Kanban board. It would be ideal for a small IT development team. However, it is lacking the project management functionality required for a large or complex project.

This post reviews Basecamp against 200+ project management software requirements on a downloadable spreadsheet. Basecamp is scored overall and for each of the ten project management processes. This post provides a summary of the key strengths and weaknesses for each of the relevant processes.

App Summary Findings

Basecamp is a niche project management tool. It would be ideal for a small IT development team, or other type of creative team. Its greatest strengths are:

  • Low cost. It uses an affordable site license.
  • Beautiful and simplistic user interface. The design is very clean and inuitive.

Basecamp’s greatest weaknesses are:

  • Very limited customization options. You cannot build dashboards or reports. You cannot add custom fields to existing objects.
  • Lacks a Gantt chart scheduling tool.
  • While it would be ideal for a small Agile team, it lacks standard Agile/Scrum management functionality, such as, story points, burndown charts, sprint planning, epics, etc.

Basecamp Pricing

Basecamp’s pricing is great! While most competing products use a user license model, Basecamp uses a single site license model. This means your costs don’t grow as your business grows, and you don’t have to manage costs by limiting people’s access to the projects.

The site license is $299 or $349/month depending upon whether you pay annually or monthly. That is a max cost of $3,588 to $4,188/year.

For the smallest companies (less than 20 users), there is an option to pay $15/user/month for employees with free guests.

App Scoring Methodology

I’ve been evaluating project management software and sharing the results to help others save time in making an informed decision. I started the evaluation as marketing research for my own project management app: Project Lifecycle Pro. I’m doing my best to give a unbiased review, but you can download the Excel spreadsheet used for the evaluation to perform your own analysis. Here are detailed instructions on how to use the spreadsheet to weight requirements and compare multiple software packages side-by-side.

I structured the analysis around the Project Management Institute’s (PMI)© project management process. This is outlined in the PM Book of Knowledge (PMBOK)©. First, I listed the project management processes and then the activities within each process. Finally, I developed a list of requirements related to each of the activities. The list of requirements is based upon my thirty years of project management experience and experience evaluating project management tools for clients. When I come across novel functionality in the software I’m evaluating I add it to the requirements list. Of course, I’m sure I missed some requirements and welcome any suggestions.

I gave all processes and requirements equal weights, but you can adjust the scoring weights in the Excel spreadsheet to suit your needs. Each requirement was rated as either:

  • Yes – As Is – Meaning, the requirement is met with out-of-the-box functionality. This rating is awarded four points.
  • Yes – With Configuration – Meaning the requirement can be met with minimal configuration or no-code updates. Since, Salesforce is highly configurable I used this rating for simple things like changing picklist values, adding a field to an existing data object, creating a report, etc. This rating is awarded two points.
  • No – Not Available or Requires Customization – Meaning the requirement cannot be met without significant investment of time or money. I assigned this rating if custom coding would be required, or a new custom data object, or a new custom flow. This rating is awarded zero points.

Finally, the scoring spreadsheet totaled the ratings by process to show how the apps compare by process. Therefore, you can assess the apps based on which processes are the most important to you.

Download Basecamp Scoring Spreadsheet

Click here to download the Basecamp Excel spreadsheet with 200+ project management requirements for $19.99.

Communications Management

Basecamp is not a training management system or intended to support change management so it has limited functionality in this area. However, it does have a chat and message board.

When you post a message to the project’s message board you have several advanced options:

  • Which project members can view the message: all members, specific people, anyone with visibility to the project, or the client.
  • Messages can be scheduled.
  • Comments can be closed.

You can select whether or not your clients will have access to the project chat.

Cost Management

Basecamp doesn’t have any cost management functionality. However, it does integrate with a large library of tools which provide timesheet and invoicing functionality. Basecamp Integrations

Integration Management

Basecamp is missing most of the integration management functionality you would need for managing a large project or program. However, Basecamp is intended for small projects and teams.

It has very advanced features to customize the client access to the project information. You can control overall access to the project, as well as, access to the individual tools (schedule, messages, cards, etc.) and in some cases access to the individual records within the tools.

It doesn’t have an ‘issue’ record type in order to track and assign tasks related to a project issue. You could work around this by placing “ISSUE:” at the beginning of the card or to-do name. Or you could create card tables specifically for issues. However, this is less than ideal when trying to provide visibility to open issues for project team members and the project sponsor.

This makes sense as it is intended for small teams, but this would be a major weakness for a large organization trying to run a large initiative.

Procurement Management

No procurement management functionality.

Quality Management

No quality management functionality, except the possible ability to use cards as user stories and use card steps to capture acceptance criteria.

Resource Management

No resource management functionality other than defining the team members and controlling their access to the project. No way to allocate people’s time across multiple projects or to measure utilization. Professional services firms would find this to be a major gap.

Risk Management

Basecamp doesn’t have any specific risk management functionality. However, you could work around this to some degree by adding “RISK” to the names of to-dos or cards. But you still wouldn’t be able to capture the risk probability or impact. It would also be difficult to report risks to the team, stakeholders or sponsor.

Schedule Management

Basecamp’s scheduling capabilities seemed geared towards a small Agile IT development team. It has a nice Kanban board. Cards and to-dos can also be assigned an owner and a due date. However, this is about the extent of its scheduling capabilities. It doesn’t have a Gantt chart or allow for scheduling dependencies.

The Kanban board is well designed and very easy to customize the columns to fit your development process.

Because Basecamp uses a single site license and is cloud-based, external resources can be treated just like internal resources on the project. You just invite the external resource to the project with an email, they setup their password and they now have access.

The lack of a Gantt chart and the ability to create dependencies between tasks is going to make Basecamp a bad choice for complex or standardized projects. The main issue is the lack of the ability to reschedule easily. If a date slides on a complex project, you need the remaining tasks to be reschedule automatically based on dependencies. If you use a standard project template, you want to update the start date and automatically update the task dates.

There isn’t any capability to assign labor estimates against tasks to support resource management, or to support time and expense budgeting.

While Basecamp appears ideal for a small Agile IT development team, it lacks many of the tools used to manage Agile teams. You can’t assign story points to cards. It doesn’t have a burndown report. You can’t assign

  • You can’t assign story points to cards.
  • No burndown report.
  • You can’t assign epics or themes to cards.

Scope Management

No scope management functionality.

Stakeholder Management

No stakeholder management or change management functionality.

In Conclusion

If you have small creative teams looking for a simple collaboration tool, Basecamp is a good fit given its low cost and excellent design. If you have large or complex projects, or if you have a strict Agile methodology for IT development you should consider other tools.

Regards,

Brian

Additional References

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