Jason Fried

January 6, 2022

Deployments: How we announce new features and updates internally at Basecamp

A few weeks ago I shared how we write Heartbeats at Basecamp. Heartbeats are written by team leads that summarize their team's work over the past 6-week cycle. They are published to Basecamp, and shared with everyone at Basecamp, so everyone knows what's happening across the company.

The post was really well received, and people have been clamoring for me to share more of our internal processes and posts. Our book Shape Up covers a lot of this in principle, but, since it's a book, it's obviously not going to have current, ongoing real-world examples. And who doesn't like to see the real stuff? I sure do! So here, let's look at something that was posted internally, today.

In our own Basecamp account, we have a project called Deployments. Everyone in the company has access to the Deployment project. Whenever we ship a new feature or update to any one of our products, one of the people who did the work also writes up a message in the Deployment project that explains what's new, points out what could be an issue, and, in some cases, provides a link to the repo on Github.

Here's a snapshot of the Message Board inside the Deployment project.
Just this morning we shipped a brand new feature in Basecamp called The Lineup. Dorin was the lead designer on the project and wrote up the internal Deployment notice. Here it is:

Now that's only the the top. Here's a link to read the entire Deployment notice, exactly as it was published internally. You'll see it contains screenshots, explanations of how things work, animations showing specific interactions, the why's behind the how's, decisions that were made, and a variety of details that demonstrate the work that went into the feature, etc.

Often time these Deployment write-ups are posted a bit ahead of actually shipping the project. They're sort of a heads up — something new is coming and going out to customers shortly. And then, once it ships, someone follows up with a comment like this:

In the example above, Dorin (the designer on the project) posted the big announcement at 10:34am, and Pratik (the programmer on the project, and the one who deployed the update), posted his "This is now live!" comment at 10:49am, about 15 minutes later.

Aside from these Deployment notices keeping everyone informed of what's new at a high level, they're wonderful for those on the front lines too. People answering questions from customers, anyone interacting with customers on Twitter or LinkedIn, etc. Everyone internally knows, and everyone internally can speak with confidence on how things work, why things work the way they work, etc. And of course, since everything in Basecamp has a comments thread attached, any follow-up questions or updates on the release can be posted right on this page as well. No spreading stuff all over the place in different chat transcripts — in Basecamp, everything is contextual, in the right place, attached, and easy to find and reference later.

And what's especially useful about the Deployments project, and the Message Board in particular, is that over time we're automatically building an institutional library of progress. Here's what we've done, here's how we've done it, and here's how it works. It's such a great place for new employees to get up to speed on the kind of work we do, and it's full of examples of how we communicate internally and externally about the work we ship.

Whenever I see a notification in my Basecamp Hey menu from the Deployments project, it puts a special smile on my face. It's a celebration of progress, of teamwork, of our products getting better, or our customers getting something new, and of good writing making its way across the company.


About Jason Fried

Hey! I'm Jason, the Co-Founder and CEO at 37signals, makers of Basecamp and HEY. Subscribe below to follow my thinking on business, design, product development, and whatever else is on my mind. Thanks for visiting, thanks for reading.