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3/12/2013
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SEGA's Sonic Creators Huddle In The Cloud

SEGA chooses U.K. firm Huddle's collaboration tool over SharePoint to link its California- and British-based teams.

Game developer SEGA's San Francisco- and U.K.-based teams had a problem: technology wasn't helping them collaborate efficiently on their joint projects.

"When you have a producer of a game in England and a marketing guy for the same game on the West Coast, you really want them to be working together a bit more in step than just sending lots of email back and forth," said Chris Olson, VP of digital business at SEGA.

In addition to email, the teams had Microsoft SharePoint. But Olson (who stressed that he is no anti-Redmond nut) found SharePoint intimidating and overly complex, and he wanted something "a bit more cutting-edge." "We had to have something a little more nimble than an Intranet and that kind of software; it was just not right," he told InformationWeek.

Olson explained that despite the fact that they spend their days creating fast-paced, colorful Sonic the Hedgehog mobile apps, some of his team members are not early adopters when it comes to enterprise technology. "That means it just had to be easy to use and pain-free to get up and running," he said.

[ Startups are strong in the U.K. again. Read In U.K., VC Cash Highest Since Dot Com Bust. ]

While his overall goal was to implement easy-to-use technology to promote better collaboration and knowledge-sharing over the 6,000-mile gap, Olson also wanted to stop fragmentation of information across teams; keep better track of content versions via full audit trails while reducing reliance on shared network drives, FTP and emails; and condense email and conversations that could more efficiently shared on a common resource.

Olson finally opted for a platform from London-based cloud collaboration developer Huddle. As a result, the entire SEGA team now has access to a central project knowledgebase, and communications among geographically dispersed colleagues and external contractors has improved significantly. According to Olson, all conversations and feedback on content are now stored in one place, SEGA game producers can effectively manage milestones on the games they're working on, and decision makers have full visibility to project status at any time.

In terms of easing the system into daily use, Olson said all he had to do was keep an eye on email chatter and occasionally nudge people by saying, "This conversation could have a much better home on Huddle." Less than a year after its summer 2012 rollout, he said, teams on both sides of the pond are happy users.

"Huddle has significantly reduced our dependency on email and the need for face-to-face meetings, which is fantastic," Olson said. Describing the cloud software as "simple to manage [and] flexible," he added that its easy-to-use interface meant that his staff didn't find it daunting or require hours of training.

"As well as enabling the team to get work done quickly, we could customize the platform to give it a familiar SEGA flavor for workers," he said, Pointing to the smooth, efficient release of one of the company's latest games, Sonic Dash, Olson noted, "We were able to get a lot better visibility on builds and spot issues than I think we'd have done otherwise."

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