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by Chris Brown
Acquia, along with our partners Merlin International, Navigation Arts, Forum One Communications, and VML, is currently working with the Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) in the Department of Defense (DoD) to deliver a collaboration platform based on the latest Enterprise 2.0 concepts. The new platform is in support of two Initiatives at the DSCA: Partnership for Peace Information Management System (PIMS) and the Regional International Outreach (RIO) program. “The Partnership for Peace (PfP) is a major NATO initiative introduced in January 1994. The program aims to enhance cooperation and stability in Central and Eastern European countries while increasing interoperability between the Partner Nations (PN) and NATO. The core objectives PfP nations pursue are the transparency in national defense planning and budgeting processes; ensuring democratic control of defense forces; developing interoperable forces and command/control structures; and preparing PNs to contribute to operations under NATO authority.” The RIO program consists of the Regional Centers for Security Studies which provide education opportunities for students around the world to come together to discuss and collaborate on security and legal issues affecting the various regions around the world. There are education centers located throughout the world including Africa, Europe, and the United States.
While it is exciting to be working on a project that is truly global in scope, it does have the one major challenge: how can our team collaborate with stakeholders who are distributed across the globe? To help confront this issue the team decided to utilize Acquia Commons, an open source social Drupal distribution running in the Acquia Managed Cloud. As the project has moved forward through requirements gathering, design, usability testing and now into development, the platform has proven to be effective in gaining feedback and consent between each of the stakeholders.
So what are some of the benefits that the team has gained from by providing a platform for the development team and stakeholders to collaborate?
- Reduced Costs - This includes costs for international phone calls, in-person travel costs, web conferencing and other similar costs. This has helped to keep the project on budget by not having to travel to visit stakeholders in places like Europe or Africa on a consistent basis. Costs were also reduced because the system is hosted on Acquia Managed Cloud, eliminating the need for a lab and hardware.
- Quick Development Cycles - The development team is able to quickly get responses to questions and feedback on documents produced. Enabling this quick turnaround the team is able to keep the project on time by knocking down any roadblocks.
- Happier and more Productive Project Members - Admitted this is a bit subjective, but by helping to reduce the travel requirements on the project tends to lead to happier and more productive team members. As much fun as traveling can be, being away from home and family eventually take its toll. It also allows us to be working on tasks that directly influence the end product, versus traveling as often.
- Happier Stakeholders - Again a bit subjective, but so far the response from our stakeholder community has been very positive. By closely collaborating with them they feel more a part of the process, no matter where in the world they are located. Stakeholders are able to have more of a say in the decisions that are made, and able to be kept in the loop regarding the process of the project.
- Learning Experience - It has provided the team with a great learning experience on community management within this set of stakeholders. Every community has different needs and different processes, so one community management process will not work for everyone. We are lucky that we get to live and learn with a small set of users in preparation for launching the processes and policies to the wider community.
The use of Acquia Commons to help bridge the distance between the stakeholders around the globe has truly helped to make the project successful to date. As a bonus to the benefits of the platform, hosting on Acquia’s Managed Cloud allows the development team to focus on development and moving the project forward rather than running a lab. In the end it has been a win for the team and the project. We see this collaboration continuing after we launch to the wider community of users, expanding the reach of collaboration on project direction.