If you’ve ever wondered what other companies use their collaboration tools for, today I have a great case study for you. I interviewed Simon Hird, Managing Consultant at Cedar Consulting, an international firm specializing in providing Oracle HCM Cloud (Fusion & Taleo), ERP Cloud and PeopleSoft projects and services.
They use Huddle, one of the hot tools for collaboration (find out how many people use it in the results of my collaboration tools survey from earlier this year).
Simon explained what a difference it has made to their project teams and how they use it.
Simon, what does Huddle do? What do you use it for?
Huddle is predominantly for internal use. We use it for the secure storage for company financial records, HR records, policies, and marketing materials. It’s also a collaboration area for staff to share working and issued documents related to delivery projects, support projects, bids, specialisms, internal projects etc.
How did it get set up?
When I joined Cedar, there was no formal policy on where to store project collateral. There were several shared drives in the organization, but with no owners, and nobody seemed to know what was where or how up to date it was. This resulted in a culture of keeping all work on individuals laptop hard drives, which presents several issues; lack of ability to share collateral and learnings from engagements and the risk of hard disk failure being just two of them.
Having used SharePoint with other employers, I saw an urgent need to put a knowledge sharing platform in place at Cedar. Asking around, I realized that although there was broad support, initiatives had been started in the past but never got past the investigation stage.
I suggested that we create an internal project to revisit this. The Directors agreed and we set up a project with a formal Terms of Reference and allocated individuals to the team.
But how did you choose Huddle?
We looked at several products including SharePoint. I had read about Huddle in the newspaper and started to investigate that. We mapped them all against selection criteria, and Huddle met nearly all of our needs, was cost effective and required very little maintenance. It was also pretty ‘turnkey’ so we could start to use it immediately.
So it was easy to get started?
Yes. Together with a colleague I designed a project directory structure (PM, Functional, Technical, Training, Testing, Upgrade, etc with sub-folders for each) against which we could build templates to quickly duplicate standard structures for all Cedar delivery projects.
Do you use it to share details with your customers?
Huddle was not intended to be a client facing tool. In many cases, our clients already have a collaboration tool such as SharePoint to use for project collateral and key documents.
However, developments in the Huddle product have now allowed us to share documents by publishing links to a public share area and this is functionality I shall promote throughout Cedar for sharing documents with clients.
So as it’s mainly used internally, how have the project teams taken to it?
It has been quite successful. The adoption of a common folder structure within the project workspaces has been a massive benefit and has allowed all newcomers to a project to find collateral in a consistent manner.
We have rolled it out to the support team as well, but they already use a ticket management system called Service Now which is used in conjunction with clients. It can store documents such as SLAs and support manuals so we have to take care not to try to use both systems for the same thing.
Your project teams are virtual, with members all over the world, aren’t they. How has Huddle helped you manage dispersed project teams?
Communication with offshore teams is always an issue, either due to language constraints or geographical distance and time zones. We use Huddle for several activities during an engagement such as sharing design documentation and technical specifications. This has meant that all have access to the latest versions of documents as soon as they have been updated so there is no longer a risk of an offshore colleague working to an old version of a specification.
There is a notification function that allows the editor to inform others when changes have been made. Although not automatic, this is useful. I have raised a product enhancement request with Huddle to send out automated emails when a document is updated; they thought that this would be a good thing to provide their clients and have taken it into their enhancements log.
It is also used for other mundane tasks; Huddle is used by the consultants to upload their weekly timesheets so that the PMs can monitor hours worked on a project. The benefit here is that they are stored centrally rather than emailed directly.
Sounds great. Would you go back to working without it?
Absolutely not! If we did not have it, we would need to get a replacement system to replicate what it does. It is vital to share knowledge collateral easily in a small company as it is so valuable.
Huddle has proved invaluable for the large bids we have worked on where the contributors to certain sections, selected due to their different specialisms, have been able to access required information and then store their responses centrally irrespective of their time zone or geography (e.g. one involved contributors form Australia, India, Switzerland as well as the UK).
Any final thoughts?
Share areas are all very well but are generally unmanaged, get into disrepair and eventually get forgotten. Using a collaboration system such as Huddle clearly defines who ‘owns’ documents and who should have access to them. It has been a huge benefit to the business and is key to our objective of obtaining ISO 9001.