Basecamp vs Netsuite – Why we switched to Basecamp for Project Management
Bluewire Media is a web marketing consulting business in Australia and we started out building websites.
Initially we were interested in how we could get better and faster at building websites – how could we make sure that we didn’t miss any key ingredients? How could we quality control our work? How could we get faster?
The answer was checklists – lots of them. Over time we developed these checklists for the different stages of our projects – strategy, design, development, deployment.
The checklists definitely helped.
Then we stumbled across our first attempt at project management technology – Netsuite. It seemed to have everything we wanted or could ever want. It was web based and came recommended from trusted sources. What we didn’t realize was that we weren’t getting any systems or processes included in the licence. But… that was ok because we could build our checklists as custom fields into Netsuite and have our team allocate time against it. We were pumped!
We invested 100s of hours and 10s of thousands of dollars into getting the various checklists into Netsuite, setting up user accounts and authorities and creating reports to enable us to check in on the time tracked against certain tasks and ensure from a quality check point of view that the projects were complete.
Then we started to use it.
One thing we quickly learned was that none of our team enjoyed using it. We had to hold training sessions regularly to remind people to enter time and dates for project milestones. We actually allocated time at the end of the week for everyone to enter the relevant data because no one was doing it in real time. This was a huge de-motivator for our team.
From a management point of view the reports were difficult to set up and customize. Netsuite’s customer service was convoluted and it was enormously difficult to get useful answers.
The other thing we came to realize was that it hadn’t improved the “time to completion” for our projects at all.
This had been a VERY costly, massively over-engineered solution and after 2 years of pain and hope that things would improve, we finally bit the bullet and started looking for a way out.
One of our developers, Sam, had heard of these guys in the US, 37Signals. He followed their blog Signal vs Noise. He also loved David and Jason’s approach to product development, work and culture. Through these channels Sam knew they had Basecamp, a project management tool born out of their own experience as a web design business and thought we should try it. I have to admit I was a bit skeptical.
We signed up, tried it and switched days later.
Why did we switch?
- We had the project checklists and user accounts created and were up and running in hours not months.
- There was no training time. It was so easy to use, everyone just got it, used it and enjoyed using it.
- The customer service was very fast and useful – on the very rare occasions when we had to ask a question.
- Basecamp was literally a 10th of the price of Netsuite.
Why have we stayed?
Basecamp itself taught us something about project management: the best checklists in the world will help your quality, but if you don’t include the client, your projects will never get faster. Basecamp made it so easy for us to massively improve our communication with our clients.
We’ve visited the Chicago HQ as one of our professional bucket list to dos and have referred Basecamp as a project management tool to anyone who might listen. We also included it in our Business Cloud Planning Template (free download).
Thanks Jason, David and the whole @37Signals team. We couldn’t be happier.