3 Collaboration Tools Startups Pick for the Long Haul

When I started asking the teams at various startups what tools they use for collaborating on and managing longer-term projects, I was surprised by the sheer number that responded with a configuration that included 37signals‘ products. Fully half of the responses I received included at least some usage of Basecamp or Backpack.

37signals’ tools are very popular choices, but I also received several responses from startups that started out using Basecamp, but made the decision to switch to something else. I think that indicates that a lot of people are pretty familiar with Basecamp already, so in this list I’ll share three less-commonly used tools that different startups have chosen to use to collaborate, and the reasons why they use them:

  1. Redmine. Startup Gloto uses Redmine. VP Technology Tony Jacobs says, “The basic requirement is to make sure that each product, customer project, and internal project is tracked separately. The wiki (despite being a fairly weak implementation) is good enough to hold the stuff we need to see, and it will track documents and files in addition to wiki-formatted input. The related bug tracker is essentially a wiki for each bug as well, allowing richer links. We added [G]it as [an] SCM tool (in addition to our subversion repository), and Redmine integrates with both nicely. The key things that we looked for during the review is that the tool is actively maintained, reasonably stable, supports easy backup/restore operations (MySQL (s orcl) dump is the preferred method) and is easy to use. Having the tool look good was important too, because we expose this interface to our customers on occasion, and we always want to present a good face.”
  2. Producteev. SubMate co-founder Jonathan Benoudiz says, “At SubMate, we love Producteev because it’s really easy to master and provides a seamless workflow integration with the “Email-to-task” and the instant messenger integration (we use Gtalk (s goog) a lot). We all have iPhones (s aapl) and it’s pretty cool to be able to check how everything is going on at the office with the iPhone app when on the go. Sometimes when I commute, I have 15 minutes to spare and just have to launch the app and identify a quick task that I can complete from my iPhone. We are a young startup that grew from two to five in two months. With Producteev, we can just add new team members and told them to browse completed tasks to be more familiar with how the product evolved.”
  3. ScrumWorks. Unicast Director of Product Michael Tuminello says, “We use [ScrumWorks] with in-house and remote teams and have found it to be very effective. A web-based drag-and-drop UI lets individual team members take on daily tasks and track hours against them. On the product management/design side (where I am), a desktop client lets you enter, estimate and prioritize individual backlog items (work items). You can pull reports to see how the team is progressing against the project timeline, and it all ends up in a database. Our VP of engineering has been able to write custom code to pull the data and look at it in Excel (s msft) pivot tables for additional information outside the scope of ScrumWorks itself, like helping to determine the relative ROI of individual features.The Java client can be a bit kludgy, but overall it’s a very effective program, and Danube is very responsive to feedback.”

What collaboration tools do you use in your startup?
Photo by Flickr user Stephen Cummings, licensed under CC 2.0

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