Usage scenario for short term consulting projects

I’ve been using DevonThink Pro Office since March, and it’s one of those pieces of software where I think there’s probably more that I could do with it. However, I don’t know if what I’m thinking of doing is the intended use of the software, which leads us to this forum post.

I’ve got multiple databases. The personal ones are easy to figure out - a database for scanned receipts, another database for a journal, and then another database for all my work email, and a final database named ‘work’. It’s that last one that I’m thinking about as I’m barely using it.

I work as a consultant, and take on short-term projects with customers. Projects generally are one or two weeks. Projects have a high degree of similarity between the projects, even though the customers vary wildly.

My current workflow is that I create a new Folder in OS X every time I have a new customer. Under that folder I create a ‘development’ and a ‘documentation’ folder. The development folder contains lots of statistical data that’s highly sensitive - so it goes into an encrypted disk image, and we’ll not further consider it. The ‘documentation’ folder contains Word documents, Visio illustrations, and PDFs. So if I had forty customers last year, I’d have forty high-level folders, each with a ‘development’ and a ‘documentation’ folder underneath.

What I’m thinking of doing to note trends between customers is either:
a) create a new database for each customer, put everything that’s in the ‘documentation’ folder into that; or,
b) create a new database for all customers, create folders within that database, put the contents of the ‘documentation’ folder into those customer-specific folders (in DevonThink); or,
c) leave it alone, let my own artificial intelligence note market trends that cross customer segments.

Related question: if I go with either ‘a’ or ‘b’, how about then archiving all of my email from Entourage with each customer folder/database? I’ve currently got a separate database for all email as there isn’t a convenient way to tell DevonThink’s search box to NOT include emails…

Interesting scenario/question. What do you mean when you say you want to “note trends”?

If I put that aside for a moment, from what I read you are keen to optimise how you interact with the development folders. I think one single database with individual folders based on client identities is probably the way to go. When using DTPO, you can put any type of file into, as you know, and have it launch the programme that you would normally use to edit, etc. In this sense, DTPO is acting more or less as a finder replacement, but the upside is that it is indexing the contents of everything (although not sure about the Visio illustrations). I suppose the benefit of this is that you can quickly search across all clients for a phrase or word. Is that something that would be useful?

By ‘noting trends’ I mean using the ‘see also’ feature in DevonThink Pro. I might think of a question, i.e. how many customers had onerous organizational procedures that materially affected a project. Using the ‘see also’ feature I’d hopefully be able to see related trends to that issue, which in turn might make me think up a new way of tackling that issue.

Related question for database optimization: sometimes I collect other vendor’s documentation in the course of an engagement. It’s reference material that’s non-specific to the customer but rather specific to a technology. Oracle is a good example of that. Should those go into a separate database of documentation? From a workflow standpoint I usually need to look up that other documentation when I’m at the customer, which would suggest the same database as the customers, but from a database optimization standpoint, I’d hedge that the words will get indexed and degrade the quality of the customer database.

What’s the best practices for this sort of scenario?

If there might be an advantage to placing certain contents into separate databases, do that. It will still be possible to open multiple databases and search across of them, when that might be productive.

Sometimes I split up an existing database, and sometimes I merge two or more databases into one. Those decisions are based on my experiences with using the content.