I’ve been on the great quest the last few days to find a product management solution. I should say a contractor management solution. I have no need for clients to be able to see this. I just need to keep the contractors working on my projects organized and flowing well. That sounds easy enough, right?

And then I started touring the hell that is project management software land. Some of these things could probably control rocket launches. I mean, seriously, maybe with a degree in computer science and a gift for being psychic I could actually figure most of these things out. And my God are some of these solutions expensive. I could deal with the cost, but I need one I can work – and that my contractors will be able to figure out.

All I want is a project management software that can:

  1. Allow me to task individuals with their duties for a project
  2. Allow my contractors to see what needs to be done by them and check it off when completed
  3. Allow my contractors to track time, so I now how much to pay them at the end of a project
  4. Allow me to run multiple projects
  5. Be easily customized
  6. Be navigated by anyone

And then I found it. Recommended by a friend, there it was in all its shining glory.


[*Note: Years after this post was written, I switched to Teamwork and love it. I’d highly recommend it over Basecamp nowadays.]

So, we’ll hit down the list of requirements:

  1. I can assign things to people, assign things to myself, set milestones, create training documents – easily and without hassle.
  2. Anyone assigned to a project can see what tasks need completing and who needs to complete it.
  3. Allow people in my company to track their time on projects – and will even do it at the 15-minute level (most others stick to straight hours).
  4. Depending on the plan, you can run 1 to an unlimited number of projects at a time.
  5. Customization was pretty damn easy. No HTML required – just grab the hex codes of your color scheme, upload your logo, and you’re good to go.
  6. A middle schooler could not only use this, but they’d probably kick my ass on the speed at which they learned to use it.

So, you’re saying, great Rae, why the hell do you sound like you’re going to bitch?

It lacks in a few areas. I know no software can be perfect for everyone, but there were a few features lacking that I felt dampened the program:

  1. Only people within your company can track their time. So, if you are using a designer or anyone else from an outside firm and list them as a separate company, they can’t track time. You’d have to make them listed under your company for that feature.
  2. Anyone assigned to a project can see not only their tasks, but those assigned to everyone else as well. For me, this leads to a privacy issue. Maybe John Doe doesn’t want people to know his business isn’t going well, and he is freelancing to pick up the slack. Maybe I assigned 3/4 of the content work to Charles and Mary realizes she didn’t get the bulk of the work and gets annoyed. Anyone who uses various contractors knows why this could be a bad thing.
  3. The dashboard shows you a listing of tasks and happenings – but it shows them all. Would be better if they only showed what was new so you could see added things at a glance without having to study it.

Of course, I went to their support forums to express my concern – especially on the privacy issue. Seems the developers feel that openness is a good thing, and they will never change the privacy features. I understand that not every product can be perfect for every person. But, this is a fundamental feature – and if users are willing to pay extra for it, why wouldn’t you provide it? The makers of Basecamp hide behind the “because the more features, the more bloated and we don’t want to turn into everyone else” motto. And I can understand that, but at the same time, privacy is a fundamental feature.

I’d like to tell Basecamp to stick it where the sun doesn’t shine. However, it’s the best option I’ve found for those looking for simple project management who don’t have a need for 8000 features. So, I guess I’ll have to figure out some workarounds (aka take some of the organization and streamlining I was looking for away), unless of course someone has other recommendations. Sigh.

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