Sonic Dash is the latest title in Japanese video game maker SEGA's long running hedgehog-based franchise.
The game, launched this month for Apple's mobile devices, was developed here in the UK, by SEGA's Hardlight development studio in Solihull. The project, however, was tracked and managed from the company's San Francisco office.
Back when the development project started, that transatlantic collaboration was handicapped by SEGA's IT infrastructure. Teams used shared network drives, FTP sites and email to share documents, but accessing those systems was not as easy as it might have been.
"We found our corporate infrastructure to be rather unwieldy," Chris Olson, vice president of SEGA Digital Business. "Our Internet servers are hard to get to if you're not within the firewall, which makes it difficult to have a central document repository."
Another issue was SEGA's reliance on spreadsheets as a project management tool, Olson explains.
"In Japanese business culture, they apparently love spreadsheets," he says. "They'll put everything through a spreadsheet, even if it's not necessarily the best tool for the job. Spreadsheets are handy for finances, but not calendaring or project tracking."
Collaborating in the cloud
Last summer, Olson began looking for a way to improve collaboration on the Sonic Dash project.
"We looked at some tools that were basically wikis with extended functionality, but they were very full-featured and perhaps even difficult for some people to get into," Olson says. "We also considered Yammer, which looked like it had good features."
The winner, though, was Huddle, the UK-based, cloud-hosted document collaboration provider, thanks mainly to its ease of use.
"You can get the perfect solution in place, but if nobody's going to use it then there's no sense in it," Olson says. "It was very important to have something that was easy for people to understand, get in, use and then quickly demonstrate its value."
Huddle's web-based system presents employees with personal 'workspaces', each of which contains the documents, messages, to-do list items and tasks that are relevant to their role.
SEGA also used Huddle to build a central document repository to store market research, notes from conferences and team contact lists.
Olson says Huddle also allowed SEGA US to share marketing materials, such as artwork, both internally and with third parties. "Sonic is a very important IP for us and we are constantly talking to various parties about how to further bolster awareness and reach of the little blue guy."
It stopped short of being a code-sharing platform for SEGA, but employees would use the tool to discuss improvements and changes in the latest builds of the game.
"We could see what had changed and then comment on Huddle," Olson explains. "Developers had easy access to that, and could rapidly iterate news versions as we were coming to market."
To help SEGA adopt the software, Huddle set up an engagement workspace where employees from both companies could raise issues and share tips, which has made for a remarkably easy adoption.
Since the deployment, Olson says, "we've noticed an increase in coordination and collaboration, which was the primary goal and worth the price of admission alone."
"We found Huddle to be a lot more effective in terms of getting information in one place and having it very easily accessible," Olson explains. "It has also helped reduce the email spam that was happening in the business.
"And it has helped people be aware of what other people were doing and see each other's comments, allowing people to opt out of discussions if they felt they didn't need to be in them."