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How Think Brilliant Uses Basecamp

Communication is at the core of our company. As a team, we are constantly looking for ways to improve the dissemination of information. We primarily use four software products to stay connected, and as one of those products, Basecamp by 37signals plays a pivotal role in our continued success.

Our core team is made up of five people. We constantly stay in communication throughout the week and it’s crucial that information flows through all of us. We don’t really have set hours, and as long as everybody gets their work done, they are free to work when they want. It’s a completely open-door policy. Some people are most productive between 11pm and 4am, others are most productive between 10am and 2pm. Whatever the individual’s schedule, we are all working towards the same end goal.

Because of the nature of our work, everything is incredibly transparent. We are a small team, and every member has to pull their own weight. If something doesn’t get done, or information doesn’t get properly shared, it’s entirely possible the whole team will suffer and elements of our products will temporarily get put on hold.

Four of us are in Portland, Oregon and the other is in Missoula, Montana. We have a nice office here in Portland, everyone has a key and they can utilize the space whenever they want. I’d say we work from home about 70% of the time by choice.

As you can see, we aren’t your standard group of nerds. We rely on our communication flow – not on bureaucratic meeting schedules or corporate structures. Aside from the actual products we build, our lifeblood is the software that we use to communicate and share information with each other.

At the time of this article’s publishing, we are primarily using four software products to stay connected and run our company’s communication flow.

1. Basecamp – our foundation
2. Backpack – best calendar around
3. Skype – daily chatrooms and killer screen sharing
4. Yammer – internal twitter stream

Basecamp is the foundation of our communication flow. We literally store everything in Basecamp. The flexibility it provides allows us to maintain our own methods, and for a team as agile as ours, this is absolutely critical. We can’t have anything imposing rules and methods on us. Give us the tools, and we’ll figure out what works best for our situation.

While we are an intensely private and internal group, we still have to balance communication and information to a wide range of partners and clients. Basecamp allows us to do this with relative ease.

First things first – we have a BaseCamp project called “/root.” – This is where we brain-dump all of our internal information. All company-wide milestones, messages, writeboards, files and to-do lists go in the /root project. This allows us to never have to worry about making things private. It gives our core team complete freedom when working or adding items to /root. Plus, it allows us to say things like “throw it up in root!”

It’s a highly efficient way of organizing and disseminating information. For example, let’s say we are working on four different products. Each product will have its own partners, clients and external members that will need access to certain pieces of information. While this is fine and dandy for those working within the individual projects, our core team can’t be walking on egg-shells when entering new to-do list items, milestones, writeboards or messages. As designers, developers and engineers, we don’t have time to sit there and think, “should our partners see this?should our clients see this?” – This is why everything goes in /root.

One great thing about BaseCamp is that it doesn’t force you to enter pieces of meta-data that may later need to change. Say I want to enter a milestone for SoulPancake or MacBlogz into our internal /root project. We simply put “SP:” or “MB:” in front of the item, and we all know which project or product it belongs to. Same with to-do items, messages, writeboards and everything else in the /root project. This is why it’s so efficient. All the information our core team needs is in /root (in one place), and our clients and partners can access the information they need by logging into their individual projects.

In terms of information flowing in and out of our company, we feel this has played a pivotal role in our continued success. Basecamp doesn’t take forever and a day to setup. 37signals backs up your data for you, they host with RackSpace (which Think Brilliant also partners with), and you can trust that your information is in good hands. The accessibility of software that isn’t designed with rigid rules in mind is refreshing.

Think Brilliant completely endorses Basecamp. We stand behind it, and hope that over time our feedback helps shape the way this product evolves.

If you have any questions about how we specifically use Basecamp, or want to know anything else about our methods, feel free to shoot me an email: Aviv (at) thinkbrilliant (dot) com.