Global Climate Adaptation Partnership, USA, UK, Kenya

Tom Downing, President, shared his views on how he uses DeskAway

Our clients know that we have adopted effective project management tools and this assures them that we will deliver according to the agreed work plans:A Case Study

The Global Climate Adaptation Partnership is a new company seeking to provide client-oriented solutions on climate change. We celebrated our first year in business, already with $1 million in project contracts, a flagship project with the African Development Bank and our first three-week training course in Cape Town. We have clients, partners and consultants across the world.

Tom Downing President of the Global Climate Adaptation Partnership shared his views about DeskAway...

How are you using DeskAway and what value is it providing your team?
All of our projects involve a consortium of one sort or another. So it is essential to have a shared operating space that is flexible, attentive to team building and communications. We began using DeskAway a couple of years ago (when I was director of the Stockholm Environment Institute in Oxford) and added a GCAP site to the two other DeskAway sites we licence (one for SEI Oxford and one for a major EC consortium). DeskAway facilitates all members of the team to collaborate, at the right level and on time.

Were you using any other tool before DeskAway?
We looked around to see what was available. The SEI Foundation adopted its own intranet, but that was difficult to use for external projects. Internal file sharing is easy but requires off-site access and user restrictions are difficult. We looked at Basecamp, Zoho and others. We still keep our eyes open but haven't found any solution that is a broad-based as DeskAway.

Was there a learning curve associated with DeskAway? How did your team adapt to a new application?
I found that the real learning curve was simply getting people enthusiastic about using a sophisticated project management tool, rather than dumping emails on a group mailing list. We come from mostly academic roots, so this has not been easy! However, once people start using it regularly, they don't stop!

What features does your team use the most?
I find the task lists help structure a project in the 'big picture' sense, and then files can be uploaded accordingly. My role is usually to review someone else's work, so I look at the file and either comment or upload an edited version, sending an email alert around if it is critical. This is fantastic, so much easier than track-changes emailed versions. I often send an issue out, in the nature of brainstorming something that is coming up that we've not yet got organized in the project.

Are you emailing (sending tasks, attachments etc.) less because of DeskAway?
I find people still email! More and more though I rely on the email from within DeskAway. It is not easy to get an email notice of something new in a project and then click through on the link from DeskAway if I need to get involved.

How has DeskAway helped in lowering project costs, profitability or improving efficiency?
I'd say it increases quality more than anything. New members of a team--and there always are people coming in late in a project--can get up to speed quickly and not try to reinvent material that has been produced already. For us, quality and reputation precede profitability. Our clients know that we have adopted effective project management tools and this assures them that we will deliver according to the agreed work plans. Because it is easy to use, we don't need as much in-house clerical staff and can work with project managers who are off-site. This improves the pool of people we can draw upon enormously, as well as enhanced life-work balance (as they say).

Are there any other thoughts that you would want to share with us regarding our service, product etc.?
I endorse DeskAway to everyone who has tried to get to grips with tasks lists. It started a couple of years ago with just about everything we needed. And the team keeps improving the service. I'm impressed by their vision of team-work and the innovations in making this a service that grows with you. We're still only tapping a fraction of the toolkit!

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