Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Using Central Desktop for proposals


Central Desktop is the online collaboration tool of choice for my employer (recently named one of Consulting Magazine’s “Small Jewels” for 2010).

In addition to the various success stories they have, here are several ways I recommend using Central Desktop for proposals:
  • Create milestones for deliverables with tasks for individual steps like outlines and reviews etc. This will help create your project deadline structure within the tool, the workspace calendar will then be populated with schedule data as well.

  • You can post templates for various sections and components of the proposal. This could be for win themes, storyboards, or actual content.
  • The built-in version control will be CRUCIAL in your management of sections. Not only can it manage all the various versions of documents through a logical and simple check out/in process, you can also provide summary comments to the versions of the documents so you know what was changed, when and by whom.
  • You can also provide comments on documents as part of an overall discussion of the content. This is great to pull dialog out of emails and onto a system so it is referenceable later (no more debates about who suggested to remove a section)
  • Also instead of emails there is a forum for online discussions. These are great when you are in the idea creation / brainstorming phase, and won't require you to post a formal "possible win themes" document
  • You can post Twitter-like messages so people know who is actively working on what, which is rather useful when you have a decentralized team concurrently writing and editing material.

Central Desktop was not developed as a proposal tool, but does a fantastic job as one. You should explore their tiered product offering, I think you'll find the prices rather reasonable.

Tip: If you get a plan with a limited number of "internal" users, there are creative ways to use the "external" accounts ;-)

Overall you’ll need to decide if each proposal warrants its own workspace, if you should create a workspace just for proposals, or if you want to use a dedicated folder within your overall company workspace. I recommend the first option as it affords you great flexibility with controlling access to documents and information in the workspace.  You can more readily use the “internal only” feature to limit access to files, which is especially important if you are working with other companies/subcontractors.

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