A major caveat for people who look to outsource some of their work offshore is the communication gap that can exist between groups. While we were developing this site we to had to deal with interacting with each other from remote locations. However, with two online tools we were able to quickly go from business concept to business site to working with clients in just six weeks.
For real-time communication we simply used our Instant Messaging software of choice and connected through AOL’s AIM protocol. This allowed us to do group brainstorming sessions without the hassles of email. Admittedly, at times the conversations can get out of control when you have three individuals trying to get a word in, but once you get used to each other and the way you communicate, its hard to go back.
What makes it even more special is having your IM open and only asking questions when there is a need. It can be quite a headache constantly receiving phone calls from your team wondering what should happen next. Many times we had conversations that only lasted 2 minutes because the instant feedback was all we needed.
IM also allowed for “turn-based conversations”. What I mean is that even though conversations are done in real-time, you are given enough time to think of a response and are not pressured to quickly think things through as one would do over the phone. Add that to the fact you can always scroll back up and log your conversations and you are working with an indispensable tool.
Now for this type of project 37Signals Basecamp (review coming soon) worked wonders for us. What made it such an integral part of the development of this site was not the milestones that we set for each other, but the ability to record our ideas and have them handy whenever we needed them. Doing collaborations via IM a lot of ideas would get thrown around and with Basecamp we were able to save these ideas and associate them with milestones/todo lists.
Working in different locations and on different schedules we were able to maintain our ideas and progress of our designated sections and share them with the team without worrying about the hassles of email.
Is Basecamp a tool that fits every project? No, but its not intended to be. It serves its purpose quite well and we look forward to using it more for future projects.