DE recently interviewed Rick Llewellyn, director of systems, vice president and senior professional associate of HDR, Omaha, NE, to see how his company shares large engineering files using products from TIBCO (formerly Proginet).
Q: Tell us a little about HDR.
Rick Llewellyn (RL): HDR is one of the largest architectural and engineering firms in the world, with 7,800 professionals in more than 185 offices worldwide. We exchange design files with other architectural and engineering firms and contractors, as well as clients.
Q: Can you describe how you shared large files before starting to use TIBCO in July 2010?
A: Even relatively simple two-dimensional design documents were often too large to send via e-mail. In addition, our designers were using more 3D modeling designs to increase accuracy, save time and reduce costs. However, the files became so enormous that it was extremely difficult to share the information with others.
The types of files we share are everything from Word documents and PDFs to 2D and 3D CAD design documents, including .DGN and .DWG, and .RVT BIM files.
Q: What was your previous system like?
A: We had maintained a number of FTP servers to provide the file transfer functionality, but the system was confusing and often led to problems being reported to the help desk. Many of our employees expressed dissatisfaction, because the old system had limited functionality and was difficult to use, service and manage.
In an average month, we were receiving approximately 140 incidents being reported to the support group related to the sharing of design files, both internally and with outside partners. We were also receiving negative feedback from clients who had to use FTP to come and access their design files.
Q: What made you decide to look into changing the system?
A: We were losing productivity as a company—spending hours and days trying to sort through the file transfer mess. In fact, the help desk at our Minneapolis office had three to eight incidents per month at one to 20 hours in length, possibly resulting in 1,800 hours lost companywide.
In addition, clients were complaining, and a significant number of employees were using outside services to help them overcome their file-sharing challenges. We had no control or visibility into the data that was leaving HDR, and confidential information was being stored using systems that were not reviewed or authorized by our IT and security staff.
Q: Why did you choose TIBCO as your solution?
A: TIBCO offers a user-friendly software solution that makes it easy, reducing the number of tickets our help desk was receiving per month. Users are able to send files of any size as easily as they send e-mails—accessing enormous files the same way they would access e-mail attachments in Outlook. There is no experience change for the user, so there is no user burden or reliance on user adoption. TIBCO also solves issues surrounding security threats and lost data.
We are rolling out TIBCO in a phased implementation; the total process from purchase to companywide implementation should take approximately five months.
Q: What TIBCO products are you using?
A: We were able to deploy different components of TIBCO’s CyberFusion Integration Suite (CFI) to address specific business issues.
TIBCO’s Slingshot simplifies the process of accessing files for both employees and clients. TIBCO’s Platform Server allows a person to drop files in a folder on one file server, and have those files automatically transferred to file servers located at other offices around the world. TIBCO Internet Server allows us to standardize on CFI, yet still maintain the existing FTP sites we had in place for many of our long-term projects.
In addition, by using the Internet Server, we were able to gain greater visibility over what information was exchanged and when.
Q: What is the file-sharing process like now for HDR employees, using TIBCO?
A: The process is so streamlined. HDR employees are able to send files of any size as easily as they send e-mails today. Internal users access the files the same way they would access e-mail attachments, so there is no user experience change. For outside recipients, such as clients or contractors, a link within an e-mail brings them directly to the files using any standard browser.
The entire process is simple and secure—giving us the control and visibility we needed.
Q: Were there any challenges in making the switch?
A: The “file transfer” use case was easily transitioned to using Slingshot. However, our biggest challenge is in our “file sharing” business use case. Our business users have been using an FTP site where they have complex folder structures, and they keep files in that location for the life of the project. They feel they need to continue with that functionality, but maybe as we see more adoption of Slingshot, this will lessen.
We intend to pursue a replacement for file sharing with CFI Internet Server and Platform server. Either solution (Slingshot or Internet Server) will need some “how-to” training, but are user-friendly enough to not require more.
Q: What benefits have you seen?
A: Moving files within and outside of an organization is a bigger challenge than most realize, especially in the engineering industry. The greatest benefit has been having one solution to address all of our needs.
There has been a significant improvement in productivity, as TIBCO is so easy to use and maintain. We’ve retired two systems, but have also been able to leverage existing investments—for example, our anti-virus infrastructure.
Reducing user frustration was critical, and TIBCO does that. In addition to the improved user experience, TIBCO provides increased reliability and ensures that all file transfers meet federal security requirements. Project managers now know when partners or clients download the files.
Time is money. The amount of time and frustration TIBCO is saving, for both our engineers and our clients, is immeasurable. Help desk calls are down more than 90 percent.
We like to call it our “easy button,” and anything that makes the file transfer process so easy is well worth the upfront investment—especially given the extra layers of data security we now have in place.
Q: Would you recommend TIBCO to large and/or small engineering firms?
A: Yes, I would recommend TIBCO to any engineering firm that needs better control and visibility of their file transfer process. In fact, I already have.