BaseCamp: Web-Based Workflow

I was working with a trade association that has been struggling for a couple of years to transform itself from a volunteer association to having paid staff. I attended a meeting on Wednesday, and we were told that there was three-week deadline to complete a business plan and pro forma budget to submit to our state economic development authority. After lengthy discussion we agreed amoung the ten people in the meeting that we needed to produce essentially two documents which would be combined for the proposal. We assigned champions for both documents, and then one of our members said:

Well, we’re really all software developers in this room; we should be eating our own dog food here and using some kind of web-based project manager or workflow manager, instead of attempting to send copies of eMails around with huge attachments.

Fair enough. I waited for the other shoe to drop. The suspense was tangible:
Would the Microsoft SharePoint guy offer to host a site? Would the open source guru offer to put up a LAMP site with one of the open source workflow applications? Should I offer my usual FTP site+web bulletin board/Google Groups thing that I’ve used for clients for yonks?

Tense moments passed. We mulled features, development effort and cost. Finally a third guy said, “I’ll put up a BaseCamp project. It should take about thirty minutes.” And indeed, a couple hours laster we had our ten-user web site with:

  • Dashboard (home page)
  • Task List
  • File upload and download (with version control)
  • Writeboard (online word-processor with version control)
  • Messageboard
  • Calendar
  • User login with security settings
  • User and site administratration

You can have all changes pushed to eMail…but that means that you end up reading everything twice. You can have all changes appear in the RSS feed. That is a great way to be alerted of changes without having to fish through them in eMail. The free Basecamp service offers everything except the File upload and download function…I sprang for the $12.00/month to allow this feature and that also allows the hosting of 15 projects per site. If this works out for our current project, we’ll probably find other uses pretty quickly.

This is what Web 2.0 is all about. Lightweight, Hosted, Quick, Easy. No IT Guru Required.

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