I program. I am not a great programmer but I get around Java, Python and Ruby. I know a garbage collector is not the guy who collects the refuse at the dumpster (not at least this GC). I also know there are no true static methods in Python but there are ways around functions to simulate a class method. I also know how to check code in Subversion which is a great feat from someone coming from a marketing background =)
Version control is great when programming. It’s also great when managing projects among groups, but I find a total lack of tools when operating in my own company. Let me give you an example. I just finished working on our Seasonal Integrated Merchandising pitch back. This is a process where the sales, product and retail teams unite to choose the foundation of a product line for the upcoming season. We need to fill – and agree – on a thousand little charts. The product team decides on what apparel and shoes will make the assortment line and makes a forecast. That forecast has to coincide with the sales forecast we manage. And my sales forecast has a door schedule (the number of doors we will launch at retail) that needs to make some sense with the charts our retail people manage. The PowerPoint and Excel charts get updated quite a lot, and keeping track of who changed what and when is messy. These are teams of people with commercial and/or business backgrounds. For programmers used to sophisticated tools like GIT it might seem nonsense, but for someone whose life does not center around committing a code change, talking or learning how to use repositories, check-in updates, or keep a minimum scheme of update versions is alike quantum physics.
I work in the sales department, and despite the general dislike for charts and forecasts (my team is more the let’s just sale till it hurts type of people) we managed to create some order in the reigning chaos to make life easier on all of us. Now we are trying to tackle this complicated process of implementing a minimal and easy to learn version control system for our cross-functional projects that works for everyone. And I mean everyone, the guys in retail who are architects and mind space and contrast (but not concurrent change) and the guys in sales who mind their sales today (but not anything else).
We don’t use Basecamp. I love Basecamp, but if I were to use Basecamp I feel we would have to adapt to their methods and not the other way around. Yes, constraints are beautiful, but explain that to my team. Basecamp is a great starting point, but I would prefer something closer to home. My needs revolve around:
- A central repository
- Keeping one’s working document always updated with all changes
- Keeping things that change often as stand-alone modules that can be edited often and quickly without having to change the master document (as in Excels linked inside a PowerPoint that change often and get updated on the fly with the master document.)
- Keeping a standard naming scheme for versions
- Being able to see if the version is draft or release candidate
- Having the power to freeze a version
Again, nothing ground breaking here but keep in mind these terms are unknown to the average sales/commercial team. There is not a simple tool that I know of.