In a crowded collaboration and project management tools market, Central Desktop has managed to keep focused and stay above the fray. Central Desktop serves a wide customer base, though in the past year or so, the company has made interesting moves to become the collaboration platform of choice for marketing firms and digital agencies. Even if you aren’t a marketing firm or digital agency, Central Desktop could find a home in any media intensive workflow that includes internal company staff, freelancers, partners, and external customers. Central Desktop is rebranding its product to Social Bridge.

Note: This post was updated to Dec. 14, 2012 to reflect that Central Desktop is now calling its product Social Bridge.

Project workspaces

Central Desktop uses the standard concept of project workspaces for projects. You have the option to create a public or private workspace with standard templates. The templates are elegant (a hidden bonus for collaboration sites) and creating workspaces is a simple wizard-driven task. Figure A shows a public workspace in Social Bridge.
Figure A

Public workspace in Central Desktop (Click the image to enlarge.)

Social Bridge has customizable branding and workspace settings that govern naming, access and security, and configuration options. There is even a control for Salesforce integration, which is something I’ve been surprised not to find in more collaboration platforms.

There is a People tab where administrators can provision internal members such as coworkers and external users like contractors, freelancers, and partners involved on the project.

Manage media with Social Bridge

Central Desktop has stand-out tools for managing an approval workflow, including fully controllable proof settings that enable you to give site users Read-Only, Approver, Reviewer, and Reviewer & Approver privileges.

I like the notifications and progress settings that can help you see that review workflows are on track. The review tools also enable you to lock proofs using When All Decisions Are Made or Complete The Proof After One Decision; both options help reviewers stay on task and focused, thus keeping your reviews out of an infinite loop. In addition, reviewers can annotate and leave detailed notes on proofs (Figure B).
Figure B

A proof open for review (Click the image to enlarge.)

When you are working with proofs or review documents, you can syndicate the comments, and share the review document using email or a shareable link. I am a proponent of online reviews, and Central Desktop really shines when it comes to reviews.

The backend workflow tools are completely customizable with triggers based on assets and don’t require a programmer or system administrator to make work. With a bit of practice, a non-programmer could make the workflow tools do their bidding.

Project management tools and features

Central Desktop’s project management tools support milestones, dependencies, tags, assignees, and reminders. You can track time and review audit logs of any changes to your tasks.

Central Desktop includes powerful project management features. Tasks in Social Bridge roll up into a project plan that you can view as a Gantt chart. Multiple views over project data are important to give each audience their own view into the project information such as scheduling and progress. Figure C shows an example of a task list in Social Bridge.
Figure C

A task list in Social Bridge (Click the image to enlarge.)

Figure D shows the same task list as in Figure C, though it’s rolled up into a Gantt chart.
Figure D

Gantt Chart rolled up from a task list. (Click the image to enlarge.)

From Central Desktop to Social Bridge

While the rebranding to Social Bridge is hard to follow (your people would never see the branding) for it could better signify their take on a partner extranet, might be the company’s most important project management move. Extending collaboration to external partners sometimes isn’t as easy it could be, but the user interface and backend tools that Central Desktop brings to bear should make Social Bridge easier to use than SharePoint and some of the partner extranet solutions on the market.

Mood boards

Central Desktop’s new mood boards feature for Social Bridge is in private beta with some of its key customers. It’s the digital version of what advertising firms create using magazine clippings and other artwork images on boards in their offices (think the walls of the copywriters on Mad Men) to find images and colors for advertisements and marketing campaigns.

With the ranks of remote workers, contractors, and freelancers (none of whom might be onsite) growing, I like to see traditional industry tools and methods make the move to online collaboration tools. While mood boards have their roots in advertising and marketing, the principle could be adaptable to screen captures and mockups.

What do you think of Social Bridge?

If you use Central Desktop’s Social Bridge to manage projects and/or teams, let us know in the comments section what you think of the platform.