Succumbing to Basecamp, please hope me
November 18, 2009 1:14 PM   Subscribe

I'm looking at a combination of Basecamp, Highrise and a time tracking/invoicing widget (probably Harvest). You are a Highrise/Basecamp/Harvest user (preferably as a business owner), and I ask you: will taking the plunge make me happy?

Small but growing creative agency. It's becoming almost impossible to keep track of coldish leads, opportunities, submitted bids and existing customers that need follow up, so we need some kind of CRM management, but nothing extraordinary. We can do without the huge projection and analytic stuff for now. Most sales are handled by managing partner, so no sales team to keep track of.

At the same time, there's a multitude of tasks and back office stuff to be done, and we're afraid something will slip through the cracks.

Then, keeping track of time sheets and invoicing is a pain with all the different clients. Some are on retainer, some are on budgets.

I was against using an online subscription solution, but now I find myself looking more closely at a combination of Basecamp and Highrise with some time tracking widget. It sure seems convenient, there's no upgrade and backup stuff to worry about (I think?). Basecamp seems to have opened up the possibility of all kinds of widgets and apps (this is new, no?), so it's become more flexible than it used to be, from what I understand.

Can Basecamp+Highrise+Harvest save us? Or will it be a frustrating experience. I'm mostly afraid we'll be spending days on end clicking to find the right folder. They make it look so easy on those videos, but surely there must be a Dark Side to it. Thanks for your help.
posted by NekulturnY to Computers & Internet (8 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
I don't have eperience with Basecamp or Harvest, but I use Highrise for my consulting firm (and for a client I'm doing sales consulting for) and its great. Its not terribly robust, but its easy to use, tracks who I need to call when, and logs emails/calls easily.
posted by tundro at 5:27 PM on November 18, 2009

I don't use Basecamp or Highrise but have been using Harvest since early this year and like it alot. Seemed a lot easier to learn to use than Freshbooks and they keep adding features to it, like estimates etc..., without making it too complicated. One of the main reasons I chose Harvest over other billing/time tracking apps is the design element of the website and final invoices/estimates, they just look way nicer and professional, and ease of use and it's actually a pleasure to use. I have a referral link you can use to sign up if you're interested, though I'm don't think you'd get anything extraordinary out going through me. Message me if and I can send it to you.
posted by eatcake at 8:06 PM on November 18, 2009

I'd used Basecamp for years and always thought it was a "good enough" solution -- not terribly great, though. Then TeamworkPM came along and showed me what I'd been missing. The time tracking feature isn't super-duper robust, but it does let you track time per task. You can either log time using a task-bar type timer, or add time spent on a task. I love it.

It's missing the stuff that Havest, has, though, in terms of estimates and reporting. I think about the best you can do with reporting for time associated with tasks is to get a time report on tasks associated with a particular task list.

From what I've seen, there's no all in one solution with these types of tools and usually a combination of two works best, YMMV!
posted by missmobtown at 8:20 PM on November 18, 2009

I'm in the same boat, and I've tried all the sites you mention. In the end, I always end up just going back to good old fashioned scraps of paper, post-it notes, handwritten time sheets and all the rest. I just find that in the heat of a fast-paced workday when I have ten different balls in the air, the last thing I want to do is stop what I'm doing, log into some website and fill out a stupid form. I'd rather just scribble down some notes on whatever's handy and keep moving.

That said, I think all of the above offer some sort of free trial period, so take a test drive and see if any of them seem like a good fit for you.
posted by spilon at 8:27 PM on November 18, 2009

Harvest is nice. We use it at my 5-person agency and it gets the job done. It has its shortcomings — be careful if you use Co-op's Harvest integration, or use the Mac dashboard widget or iPhone app at the same time you've got an active Harvest web page open and tracking time — but it really does hit a nice sweet spot in terms of being lightweight yet robust enough. Some of us (myself included) rely on it for real-time timekeeping. Others log everything after the fact. Either way, it works. They're a very proactive, communicative shop. Give it a shot.

Highrise/Basecamp I can't speak to. Somehow I just really don't groove to 37signals' style, and have never managed to stick with one of their products.
posted by mumkin at 11:17 PM on November 18, 2009

My company is a small creative agency (less than 10 people) and we've been using Highrise by itself. We like its simplicity and have found it helpful. Being able to read reports from various sales conversations all in one place has saved us a lot of time in meetings, and the email-to-dropbox method is handy with mobile use. I imagine it can get pretty powerful combined with Basecamp.
posted by dacoit at 11:57 PM on November 18, 2009

I've used Basecamp in two companies as well as for my own freelance work. It's very easy to use and while it's not as feature-rich or customizable as some other apps, I find the simplicity to be a benefit.

There are a few things that people often want that Basecamp doesn't provide, one big one being Gantt charts. Another is the ability to add priorities and dates to tasks on lists (though that just added the dates to to-dos within the past week or so).

In general, new features are slow in coming and 37 signals is definitely responding to its own internal sense of how the app should be developed rather than responding to the things their users are requesting. That's not necessarily a bad thing, but if it doesn't have some feature that you'd really like then don't count on it coming along any day.

Integration with many other services is good (I was using it in conjunction with my Freshbooks invoicing account) though I never used Harvest for time tracking, just entered time manually.

The main caveat, and the thing that has made it less useful than it could be in the implementations I've experienced, is that Basecamp really is at its heart a collaboration tool that is used for managing projects. It is not intended for someone who is a central project lead or project manager to be doing all the updates. This type of system, of course, only works when all the people are really buying into it and willing to use it. When people are e-mailing the PM with bugs or files instead of putting them on Basecamp themselves, then it becomes less useful because every message is by just one person.

Getting it to integrate with e-mail is simple (e.g., create a message and have it send it to selected users by e-mail, then e-mailed responses are automatically added to BC) but it requires that people don't get lazy and let files, information, etc. migrate off the system.

I have stopped using it for my personal projects because with its emphasis on collaboration, it didn't suit my needs. It's great for allowing clients to see/update/add information as well, but for many of my clients, getting them to log in and use it was a nontrivial hurdle that wasn't worth enforcing.

In my current office, Basecamp has fallen to neglect because of an expectation of a more traditional PM role and not getting the collaborative effort within Basecamp from contributors. It also doesn't integrate with our document management system or our intranet, which is where most of our documents and other info lives.
posted by camcgee at 10:05 AM on November 19, 2009

I haven't worked with Harvest or Highrise, but I have worked with Basecamp, and I find it pretty good but not great. I like a lot more control over tasks, personally.

Before you commit, do you have time to spend a day or two with OpenGoo? I don't know how well it would cooperate with Harvest and Highrise (if at all), but I like it loads better than Basecamp - and it's free, and the data lives on your server, which I also like.
posted by kristi at 1:38 PM on November 19, 2009 [1 favorite]

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