Central Desktop Establishes Common Ground for Creative Agencies

Mar 22, 2011

Collaborative software is quickly becoming an indispensable tool for companies across all industries, increasing communication speed, and enterprise efficiency. With a wide variety of tools to choose from, businesses often look for a solution that is as tailor-made and industry-specific as possible. Central Desktop, a Pasadena-based provider of collaborative software-as-a-service (SaaS) solutions, took note of this trend and created Common Ground-a new collaboration solution geared specifically toward creative marketing agencies-debuting on Tuesday, March 22.

The first of Central Desktop's market-specific solutions, Common Ground is designed for businesses in the media and entertainment industry. Devised to sit on top of the current iteration of Central Desktop, Common Ground offers a scalable business platform that allows agents to collaborate on internal work and then share it with customers.

In the past, Central Desktop has offered software in two versions, an ecommerce model and an enterprise model. It formed the new solution following a close analysis of its market. After clustering its customer base into vertical segments, Central Desktop examined the industries its software supported, and then created a third, market-specific level of software.

For creative marketing firms that deal with the entertainment industry, a social collaborative solution is necessary, according to Central Desktop CEO Isaac Garcia. "There's constant communication and collaboration" in the marketing industry, he says, and "lots of document flow back and forth." Common Ground seeks to streamline the creative process and make it more efficient for every party involved, from the creative department to the CEO to the client.

Common Ground features a social workspace that provides users with an ongoing activity stream, status updates, lists of projects in various states of completion, and a calendar view to organize project schedules. Using the different areas of the workspace, agents can manage workflow, add to the knowledgebase, edit proofs, share files, and interact with clients.

Common Ground aims to enable clients to work transparently with agencies. When customers access the project workspace, they can see the status of their projects and communicate with the agents working on them. By using this feature of Common Ground, the "customer sees exactly what's going on" in the creative process, says Garcia. "Some agencies may not prefer that, but we've found that a lot of them want that." In order to accommodate different levels of transparency, agents can decide exactly what information is available to clients. On the other side of the equation, clients can use the project workspace to request projects, schedule events, start discussions, or upload files.

The flagship feature of Common Ground is the Review + Approve process. Agents can create and edit a proof, get feedback from others, and send out a preview of the proof for approval, all within the software. In Review + Approve, users can highlight parts of an image or a still from a video clip and add comments or questions. The software then converts the image to a format that allows inline commenting and editing which can be emailed to others for review and approval. The proof is stored in Central Desktop, but the receiver does not have to be involved in the creative process of the project, or even logged in to Central Desktop. Using the Review + Approve feature, agents can obtain feedback from anyone, particularly a company executive or a client.

In the development and release of the new software, Central Desktop turned to its existing clients for ideas. "There was heavy customer involvement in this," says Garcia. "We asked them how they were using Central Desktop already." Then he asked them, "What else do you need, within Central Desktop, to really make this product sing for you?"

The company found agreement among its clients' responses within the same industry, and designed Common Ground around the process of review and approval within creative and marketing agencies. All of the Central Desktop offerings are driven around social workspaces, but the biggest distinction of Common Ground is its Review + Approve feature.

In addition to serving the media and entertainment marketing industry with Common Ground, Central Desktop also has market-specific software for the professional services and higher education industries in the works. Garcia says the company plans to continue developing its enterprise offerings, concentrating on "the ‘M' in SMB."