Structural engineer Barry Keung's firm Hardesty & Hannover, LLC was seeking a solution in the cloud to replace legacy systems such as Lotus Notes and to enable more effective peer collaboration and project management.
"We have a lot of expertise spread out geographically outside of headquarters," said Keung, "so the need to get a lot of these offices started lent itself to our emphasis to look for a product like Huddle. The two people at our office charged with this were myself and a principal here, Keith Griesing, who is in charge of document control and deliverables."
Founded in 1887, Hardesty & Hannover (or H&H) is a full-service infrastructure engineering firm specializing in complex projects for highways, fixed bridges, and heavy kinetic structures. The firm employs engineers in various locations, including New York City, Boston, Washington, Miami, France, and Brazil.
Hardesty & Hannover, said Keung, was "not really able to collaborate with all the other offices as efficiently as we would want, for a modern firm. We used conference calls, and occasionally a WebEx."
"There are plenty of enterprise options to bring everyone together," explained Keung. "There is also very expensive engineering-related software for things like document control. But Huddle presented us a very economical alternative to doing a large overhaul with the engineering software."
They looked at Symantec Enterprise Vault and Buzzsaw as potential solutions. "We found out those were prohibitively expensive, for a firm of our size. So Huddle was very attractive on a subscription basis and enabled us to collaborate between offices," Keung added.
"A good example," of their former collaboration challenges, explained Keung, "was when we finished a set of drawings or calculations. We would put it up on the network, and whoever was doing the edits would call that final. And then someone reviewed it, and you bounced that back and forth, and you ended up with six versions of a PDF that were called 'final.' And you really lost the tracking of the reviews because you were just dumping files into the same place."
"And we didn't realize Huddle would be so beneficial until we actually had it," added Keung. "So now if there is a revision, we place files on Huddle and then lock them for archiving. That is one of the main benefits, compared to how we used to do approvals."
"The choice ended up between Box and Huddle," said Keung, "and since Huddle had a calendar, that sealed the deal for us. We used to have Lotus Notes, and it was cumbersome to set up project calendars. So we went with the Huddle calendar, and used it on a test basis for a bridge project in Canada."
Huddle trial project in Canada
During the Canada project, "The large majority of our documents are generated over here in HQ, and we were pushing them out to different higher-ups outside of the office for approval," explained Keung. "So the point in the workflow when we used Huddle was to print PDFs of drawings and calculations, and then get approvals from the higher-ups. And then we would archive the final versions to Huddle, in case anyone had any questions about it."
"After that project," added Keung, "we expanded Huddle to another project, and then eventually rolled it out to the whole firm, depending on a given project manager."
"And the firm as a whole began using it on an intranet of sorts," said Keung, "where we are posting our HR documents and items to our engineering knowledge base. What we have now is sort of a Hardesty & Hannover intranet posted on Huddle. So they were using that a lot to push documents back and forth."
Online collaboration brings new life to an old knowledge base
"Our engineering knowledge base has little bulletins, and details of connection and design — the proprietary knowledge that the firm has learned over 130 years doing these bridges," said Keung.
"And getting them up on Huddle sort of gave new life to these engineering bulletins. A lot of our older engineers would peek in there, and check these bulletins, and if there was new information to apply they would comment and have a conversation on that over Huddle. Previously we had them in a Lotus Notes database that no one used with any frequency."
More accountability with document management
"From a project management standpoint," added Keung, "I would say accountability is more easily achieved with Huddle. Who has seen a file, when it was uploaded, when it was reviewed — that transparent auditing has improved accountability, and people are more cognizant of the file that they are uploading and downloading. That's a huge benefit for our workflow."
Increased productivity with mobile collaboration
"Compared to prior projects, productivity has increased just by the fact that approvals can be done after hours," said Keung. "So if my boss needs to approve something, and he has to catch a train out to Long Island, I can upload a file to Huddle, alert him, and he can check it on his iPad on the way home. Things are more available than they used to be, and that has increased productivity in our approval process."
Responsive customer support
"Huddle has been very open to us as customers and to our feedback," said Keung. "About a month ago I knew that the engineering file support was popping up between a lot of our customers and potential customers. So I had a conference call with the Huddle's head of product development and with one of our younger engineers over on the production side. We discussed this, and talked over some features that we wanted them to consider."
"Huddle has been a great partner," added Keung, "and we are not a very large firm, so in terms of planning out document control and other business processes, we are basically up against much larger competitors, and many solution providers are very expensive. So we've had very good partnership with Huddle."
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.