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Goodbye Basecamp, Hello Teamwork!

For many, many years now, Solamar has relied on the project management service Basecamp to manage our team and all of our projects, but recently we’ve begun to run up against the limitations of Basecamp’s offerings.

This is partially because the version of Basecamp we use (Basecamp Classic) is no longer the focus of the company who created it (formerly called 37Signals, now called just Basecamp). They’ve moved on to newer versions of the Basecamp project management system, and while they maintain Basecamp Classic, most of their energy is on development of their new systems.

However, their new systems weren’t really a good fit for us and so we soldiered on with Basecamp Classic. We’ve spent almost a year searching for a new project management system that would serve us well, both now and into the future.

Today, I am happy to announce that our winner is Teamwork Projects, and I’d like to spend a little time talking about it, and why we chose it.

Our Search Criteria

First, let’s talk a little about the criteria we used for our search, so you have some context for evaluating our decision. During our search we evaluated over 20 different systems, and in order to efficiently do so, we needed to be specific about what we were looking for. Here, in no particular order, is what we chose to focus on:

  • Separate Client Areas
  • Multiple Projects p/ Client
  • Task Management
  • Time Tracking
  • Robust Reporting
  • File Management
  • Messaging Integration
  • Notes / Writeboards
  • Email Integration
  • Ease of Use / UX Quality
  • Transition Smoothness
  • Pricing Affordability

When all was said and done, only one system stood out among the rest, and by a fairly wide margin!

Say Hello to Teamwork Projects

Created by Peter Coppinger and Daniel Mackey in 2007, Teamwork (which encompasses Teamwork Projects, Teamwork Desk and Teamwork Chat) is based in Cork, Ireland. With a few small exceptions, which we will discuss, Teamwork Projects excels at all of the above criteria. It is highly customizable, both in look and function, and has an attractive and intuitive interface that is similar enough to what we are already using that the transition for the team has been smooth.

Bad News First

There’s a ton of good to talk about with Teamwork, so let’s get the bad news out of the way first. None of these were deal-breakers, and since Teamwork Projects is regularly updated, it’s likely that these issues will be dealt with over time.

No External Calendars — Teamwork Projects does not currently allow for external calendar feeds to be added to the in-house calendar. You can export the in-house calendar out to external calendars, and the TWP team indicated in a forum post that they are looking to add this functionality in the future, but it is not on their current development roadmap.

Basecamp Import Wasn’t Perfect — I should start by saying none of the services we tested had a perfect import, and TWP’s was the best at it. In this case, it doesn’t import writeboards from Basecamp at all, so though we got 90% of our existing project info in automatically, we did need to go through and manually add the writeboards for each client. Also, the way the import processes the formatting of our basecamp messages and other copy isn’t perfect. It doesn’t do horizontal rules, and there is some awkward line spacing. Additionally, there were a few issues with importing logged time from task lists that had the same name in Basecamp, which we were able to resolve.

Email Integration Has Some Quirks — While TWP’s email integration has a number of strengths, it does fall short in one way. Email formatting is not retained when sending to a task. We’ve found a way around this that works for us, which involves forwarding to a Message instead of a Task, and then linking to that message in the comment on the task, but it is not ideal.

And that’s it!! Those were our only issues, which is pretty spectacular when you think about it.

Bring the Good Stuff!

Alright, here we go! I’m going to run through each evaluation criteria and discuss how TWP does it well.

Separate Client Areas / Multiple Projects Per Client — Because their pricing scheme is based around number of “Projects”, it made sense for us to organize projects within TWP similarly to how we used Basecamp. Each client has 1-2 “Projects” which serve as delineations between areas of service and then actual individual projects for those clients are Task Lists within that “Project”, and actual tasks for each individual project would be tasks within those task lists. This was essentially the way we used Basecamp.

Task Management — Tasks in TWP do everything Basecamp could do and more! You can assign multiple people to the same task, follow tasks without being assigned to them, tag tasks, assign task priority, add subtasks to tasks, assign start and end dates to tasks, mark task progression and set task alerts and reminders. One really cool thing you can do is set up task dependancies, so that if a task requires another task to be finished before it can be started, you can make it so that the dependant one can’t be completed until the one it is dependant on is also finished. You can also set up task list templates which you can use to automatically generate lists that you use over and over again. TWP also allows you to set milestones, though we don’t currently use those. But if we had projects of larger scope that really needed milestones, they are there for the using.

Time Tracking — TWP does time tracking right, which SO MANY of the other services did not. TWP time tracking is built right into the web interface, available wherever you might happen to be working. By hovering over the clock icon next to a task, you can either log time directly, or just start a timer and get to work. You can also just click a “Start Timer” button or even click the “Quick Add” button in the top right of any TWP page, and log time or start a timer from there. TWP also has a dedicated desktop and mobile timer app, if that’s your thing, as well as a chrome extension that let’s you log time (as well as create projects and lot’s of other stuff) from anywhere you might happen to be browsing.

Robust Reporting — TWP tracks so many more things than Basecamp and will report in finer detail with more specificity. Want a report on a specific project? How about on just an individual task list? Or maybe you just want a report on everything that has happened in every project, but only for a single day. Or how about all time used by two seperate people over a two-week range? It will generate these reports as PDFs or HTML pages, which you can then share with others. TWP also incorporates a Gannt Chart, which is an advanced system for visualizing and working with projects over time. You might not need it, but it’s a feature that lot’s of these services have incorporated recently and which a lot of people are talking about.

File Management — Like Basecamp, TWP let’s you upload and store files within TWP. It goes one step further by implementing version control for uploaded files, integrating popular storage services such as Dropbox and Google Drive, let’s you categorize files, tag files and upload or download multiple files at a time.

Messaging Integration — Teamwork has developed it’s own chat app called Teamwork Chat, which fully integrates with Teamwork Projects. It has a web interface, as well as dedicated desktop and mobile apps. It is totally free, and will always be so (according to Teamwork). We’ve decided to keep using HipChat, our current messaging app, for now, but we’ll be keeping an eye on Teamwork Chat, which is still in Beta. Hopefully it’s feature-set will grow to match what we are accustomed to in HipChat, and we can eventually switch over.

Email Integration — TWP integrates with your email quite well (except for the previously mentioned formatting issue), delivering daily task reports and reminders, keeping you informed of conversations attached to projects and tasks you are assigned to or following. We also found the quality of these emails to be higher, both in the info they delivered, and the visual attractiveness of those emails.

Notes / Writeboards — Every project management system should have an internal place to create and share messages and notes. Basecamp had Messages and Writeboards, and TWP has Messages and Notebooks. They essentially function the same way. In general, messages should be discussions about a project (or client) and Notebooks should be for permanent repositories of info. Notebooks are also version controlled, and can be downloaded as PDF or HTML documents. They can also be viewed in a “printable” format that makes printing them easy.

Ease of Use / UX Quality — TWP has one of the more intuitive interfaces we looked at. Many of the services we tried were attempting to push the envelope when it came to interface and UX, but most ended up with a confusing mess. TWP’s basic visual customization is enough to inject some personality, but retains a familiar and easy to parse layout. While there was some initial “where is the thing I am looking for” shock as we implemented, it wasn’t too bad, and after an hour or two of poking around, we were navigating the system with ease.

Transition Smoothness — Because we were able to import most of our existing project info in, and because the interface is relatively similar to Basecamp, it was a fairly smooth transition for our team.

Pricing Affordability — While the pricing for TWP jumped up a little during our evaluation period, it was still within a range we found acceptable.

And that’s all she wrote! We’re really happy with the way Teamwork Projects has been serving us thus far, and their support team has been very responsive when we’ve run into issues.

Need a project managed? Give the team at Solamar a shout, and we’ll use our spiffy new Teamwork Projects management system to get your ducks in a row!