Friday, November 24, 2006

Got Projects? Try Base Camp

Marketers have projects. So unless you're one of those rare individuals who can not only keep a multitude of details straight in your head, but also magically keep your team on the same page with your brain, you need project management tools. Base Camp is a reasonably-priced (there's even a free version) online project management collaboration tool that's worth checking out, despite a few quirks and shortcomings.

Base Camp, first recommended to me by John Sundberg, president of Kinetic Data, is great for coordinating the efforts of inside people and outside vendors (graphic artists, writers, agencies, web developers, etc.), and is particularly helpful for marketing consultants and contractors who need a practical, affordable project management solution. It offers a useful set of project management features:

- To-do lists with task assignment
- Milestones with date assignment and automatic e-mail notification as due dates approach
- An online document/message creation tool with feedback tracking (great for group editing)
- File-sharing for documents, graphics, Excel files, etc.
- Online time-tracking (with the higher-end paid versions)
- The ability to "brand" your Base Camp login page (making even individual consultants look big-time players)

All of that said, the tool would be much more useful if a few obvious shortcomings were corrected:

- Only the project owner can assign tasks to anyone in the group; other contributors get only a partial list of names in the assignment drop-down
- File sharing is limited to files up to 30MB; it's not unusual to have a graphic file or PowerPoint that exceeds that limit. This size limit should be bumped up considerably.
- Oddly, you can't assign due dates to to-do tasks (you can work around this by including due dates in the task description, but you won't get auto-notification emails)
- Finally, the time tracking option isn't available until you hit the $50/month, 35-project level. It would be nice if this feature were available at a lower, more affordable level, particularly for marketing consultants and contractors who could really use time tracking, but don't need to manage 35 separate projects.

Want to know more? TechCrunch ran a piece on an open-source Base Camp competitor a few months back, but the effort of installing a managing a project management collaboration tool on your own server doesn't seem worth the effort to save Base Camp's modest monthly fee. Alex Dunne also provided a thorough review of Base Camp in September.

If you've got collaborative marketing (or other) projects to manage, Base Camp is worth investigating.


Terms: free online collaborative project management tool, marketing project management collaboration, Base Camp, Alex Dunne blog, TechCrunch

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