Yehiam Shinder leads the Professional Services organization at the open source video firm Kaltura. With 50 dedicated staff members around the world, his group plays the crucial role of onboarding new customers and making sure their customized video solutions work, which demands effective and on-time project management.
"With thousands of customers, at any given point we are managing about 200 projects," said Shinder. "This requires a lot of collaboration inside Professional Services, and also with other departments, like product development, R&D, IT, Customer Success, and the sales team."
"Our Professional Services organization is actually one of the things that differentiates Kaltura from other online video platforms," added Shinder. "We are experts at providing tailored solutions on top of the platforms that serve the customers."
Kaltura's primary challenges: allocating resources and collaborating effectively
"Our first major challenge," said Shinder, "is to provide visibility and transparency for project resource utilization, to allow us to prioritize projects correctly, and to make sure that we deliver according to the customer's needs."
Kaltura Professional Services needed a "centralized project management solution for wide transparency and for all the stakeholders in the company," according to Shinder. "At any given point, people need to understand where we are with a project."
"In case we have to re-prioritize resources," added Shinder, the organization needs to be "flexible and agile in order to move quickly to serve customers. So we require a tool that provides us with a clear status of where we are, and what our capabilities are, in terms of turnaround for customers."
"Our second challenge is internal communication around projects," said Shinder. "As you can imagine, every project involves extensive collaboration, starting from sales and sales engineers, to solution architects, developers, IT engineers, and product managers."
"In order to manage this process and communicate between all the stakeholders," explained Shinder, "we need a tool that allows people to collaborate, share ideas, and eventually decide upon action plans and move things forward."
A solution to these challenges: upgrading to Clarizen V6
"We started with Clarizen Version 5 in 2011," said Shinder. "Last year, when Clarizen V6 was introduced, we found it extremely helpful for managing internal communication." Clarizen is a cloud-based, enterprise-level work collaboration and project management solutions provider based in San Mateo, California.
"In an organization like Kaltura," explained Shinder, "in which we consult with professionals all over the world, Clarizen is crucial to our success. The discussion feature in Clarizen V6 actually allows us to overcome the challenge of collaborating efficiently."
"I would emphasize," added Shinder, "that this is a key feature in Clarizen, which makes it easier to manage an organization like ours."
Shinder described the upgrade to Clarizen V6. "We worked with our customers and our account manager at Clarizen to define the upgrade plan. Actually, I was very impressed with the process."
"Clarizen introduced the V6 Training Box (PDF)," said Shinder, "which actually allowed us to configure all of our specific workflows. We now have many customized workflows that we built on top of Clarizen, including configurations with other platforms like Salesforce. During a period of around a month, we worked closely with Clarizen to implement all of our customizations on the Training Box."
"We created a working group," added Shinder, "of Kaltura project managers, developers, solution architects, and others to take part in Clarizen's 'friendly beta' program and contribute feedback about how they would like to see V6."
"The beta program allowed our people to provide feedback prior to the actual upgrade," explained Shinder. "This helped us improve our Clarizen experience in the shift to V6."
"We had a very smooth transition," said Shinder, "because people actually knew how to use Clarizen V6 the day we launched. I must say, as the responsible person at Kaltura, this was a very risky move, and I was very concerned that we would have struggles and problems after the shift."
"I have to say," added Shinder, "that we've had very few issues after the upgrade, because of all the preparation and the attention that we got from Clarizen during the operation."
Results of the Clarizen V6 upgrade
Social collaboration: faster turnaround time
"The main benefit of Clarizen V6," said Shinder, "is the social module, the discussion module, which is great."
"Instead of using several tools," explained Shinder, "we actually moved everything to be managed through Clarizen's discussion module, which allows us to define and devise action items. This is a major improvement in Clarizen V6. This allows us to streamline the way we work, to reduce turnaround time, and come out with quick solutions for the customers.
"With the collaboration feature in Clarizen," said Shinder, "you can follow up on discussions and take actions. It also allows everyone during business hours to quickly get up to speed on actions taken, sometimes in different time zones, and take further actions. So it is really useful to see all this information stored in one place for one project."
Document collaboration: annotations with a single tool
"There is also a strong improvement around editing documents in V6," added Shinder. "It has improved annotations, and we can actually collaborate on top of the documents. So if it's a solution document or a business requirement document, we can actually manage all the discussions and back and forth. Instead of emails we actually use the annotation function in Clarizen. That's a powerful feature."
New V6 user interface: personalized views based on role
"Another benefit is the user interface (UI) uplift in Clarizen V6," said Shinder. "This allows people to tailor their views to specific roles and needs so that everyone can consult on that view and personalize it. We got amazing feedback from our users about the improved UI, compared to Version 5."
Excel Add-in: simpler data queries
"With Clarizen we are moving into data-driven management," explained Shinder. "We tend to make decisions based on where the data is.
"Clarizen's feature, the Excel Add-in," said Shinder, "allows us to easily query and search data around the projects, project budgets, and team utilization. So we actually use Clarizen as the infrastructure for many of our KPIs in Kaltura Professional Services. This is another key feature driving our organization."
Brian will do client work for AtTask.
Brian Taylor is a contributing writer for TechRepublic. He covers the tech trends, solutions, risks, and research that IT leaders need to know about, from startups to the enterprise. Technology is creating a new world, and he loves to report on it.