Central Desktop, one of several Web collaboration software providers trying to compete with Microsoft SharePoint and Google Apps for a share of the SMB Web collaboration market, has added time tracking, support and help desk applications and a new database API that lets teams integrate data from other enterprise applications.
The company, fond of saying it provides more collaboration functionality than Google Apps while requiring fewer resources than SharePoint, makes a productivity platform that lets knowledge workers manage their business activities from one Web location.
Central Desktop's platform includes wikis, intranets, group calendars, task management, Web and audio conferencing, forums, search, and online spreadsheets.
These are the tools that are leading more knowledge workers to forego pushing paper for the ease and comfort of working with colleagues on the Internet via their desktops or smart phones. This is where the Web meets the working world.
Central Desktop CEO Isaac Garcia said the new database API is designed to create custom workflow between Central Desktop and third-party software applications, such as CRM software from Salesforce.com, ERP software from NetSuite or even a bug-tracking tool.
So, a worker logging on to Central Desktop to work on another project may decide he needs data from Salesforce.com CRM. The worker can pull that data into Central Desktop without having to toggle, switch and log in to multiple software applications. Garcia said:
"More and more of our customers are spending their work day inside Central Desktop and they're looking for ways to integrate more stuff inside the platform. This API allows users to create those hooks themselves."
Workers can integrate third-party data into Central Desktop workspace databases; automatically update Central Desktop databases from these apps; query and export custom data sets from Central Desktop databases; and import custom data sets into Central Desktop databases. The time-tracking application helps workers from all fields track the amount of time spent on a task and create timesheets and reports by user, by project and by date. Timesheets and reports can be rolled into external billing applications.
Finally, as part of Central Desktop's summer release, the company is offering a help desk application to support in-house help desks, client services, internal software support teams and minor bug-tracking. This means small and midsize businesses won't have to pay for applications such as BMC Software's Service Desk Express Suite.
Central Desktop's customer base spans several verticals, including technology, media, marketing and communications, professional services, architecture, and design, in the largely untapped SMB market.
Is Central Desktop better than SharePoint and Google Apps? Depends what you're looking for. If you're a five- or 10-person shop with limited or no IT resources and don't have the time to set up SharePoint, Central Desktop is the way to go.
If you're not happy with Google Apps because it doesn't yet offer task or project management, then Central Desktop could also be a nice alternative.
There are many fine, small Web collaboration platforms that fly under the radar, including Jive Software, Awareness and Sosius. Central Desktop is one of them.