Our Basecamp process

Our usual project structure includes three parties: The client, a designer, and a developer, all three potentially being represented by more than a single person. From the prototype has been implemented, we are using Basecamp to manage communication between parties.

The feature that we use most in Basecamp are to-do lists. To avoid chaos in creating to-dos and organizing them in lists, we have developed our own Basecamp process. Our Basecamp process mimicks the idea of Kanban, a scheduling system originally developed for instrustrial manufacturing. In Kanban, objects travel through different phases of the process. In our Basecamp process, to-dos travel through three different phases:

  • Incoming
  • In progress
  • Done (ready for review)

For each phase there is a To-do list in each of our Basecamp projects. The rules are simple.

Create new to-dos in the “Incoming” list

New to-dos may be created in the “Incoming” list only. From there, they will be moved to the “In progress” and “Done” lists. The list a to-do is in reflects its status: A to-do in the “In progress” list in currently being implemented, while a to-do in the “Done” list needs to be reviewed by the client or designer.

Only cover a single task in each to-do

To-dos should cover only a single to-do. Also, to-dos should be formulated as imperatives, for example “Make headline red” instead of “Can we make the headline red?” or “Please make sure the headline appears in red”. In the context of our Basecamp process, we consider such style effective, not rude.

The rule of thumb is: When more than one verb is required in the to-do, it’s likely the to-do covers more than a simple task. Instead, two to-dos should be created.

When creating or commenting, assign to the next person

To facilitate a discussion in Basecamp, we have introduced another very simple rule: After adding a comment, assign the to-do to the team member you expect to answer the question or take on the work. For example, when the client’s project manager has created a new to-do Incoming list, he will assign the to-do to the technical project manager at Systemantics. The benefit of that is that Basecamp automatically sends out email notifications, therefore new to-dos cannot be missed.

Only Systemantics may move to-dos

Everyone can create to-dos in the Incoming list. Moving to-dos from one list to the other is restricted, though: Only Systemantics can move to-dos from Incoming to In progress, and from In progress to Done.

Review and check off

When implementation is ready, we will move the to-do to the Done list and assign to the original creator, who will automatically be notified via email. The original creator is then in charge of reviewing the implementation. If that is ok, he will check off the item, making it disappear from the Done list. If additional work is needed, for example because the implementation is incomplete, he may add a comment and re-assign to Systemantics. The to-do will remain in the Done list during that process. If it turns out that the specification was incomplete, meaning that much additional work will be required, either Systemantics or the client will create a new item in the Incoming list.

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