Workplace Collaboration: Why Workflow Management in Storage Technology Is Critical to Team Success
Search for “workplace collaboration” and you’ll find self-improvement websites with recommendations covering how to brainstorm as a team, collectively work toward a common goal, manage participation levels from various contributors, and so forth. All good advice, but the impression is that these teamwork skills are nice-to-have personal capabilities.
In today’s business world, workplace collaboration is no more an option than the fuel in your vehicle. It’s a business requirement driven by global, interconnected economies, generational identities, optimizing workforces and sweeping technology changes. And it’s those businesses harnessing this collective power that are maximizing opportunities and outmaneuvering the competition.
- The globalization of the economy. Globalized companies have thousands of employees, global supply chains add thousands more suppliers, partners and customers. Collaboration in this setting is necessary for a business to function within this increasingly interconnected world.
- Millennials in the workforce. It’s a matter of debate how different millennial employees are from older co-workers. But there’s no arguing that millennials grew up with more technology tools at their disposal, including social media. Technology and collaboration are common working models for this generation.
- Leveraging talent. It’s one thing to maximize value from talent in a small firm or regional office. It’s another to tap into a vast global talent pool of tens of thousands of individuals. The technology available today allows companies to harness more value from larger, more dispersed employees.
- Technology. All three of the above drivers depend on advanced technical solutions that support more complex business operations. One commonly overlooked, yet extremely critical, area within this technical ecosystem is an organization’s data storage infrastructure. This category includes advanced tools and platforms for workflow management of large, complex processes, as well as massively distributed networks, such that data and content appear local to thousands of end-users no matter where in the world they reside.
Why Big Organizations Need Big Collaboration
|Media and Entertainment: Filmmaking||If filming a small movie is considered a big project, a Hollywood blockbuster is enormous. The myriad of steps from start to finish is overwhelming – filming, editing, animation and CGI, sound recording, and final editing, to name a few. These workflows encompass dozens of teams, hundreds of individuals and thousands of tasks. Workplace collaboration depends on technology and interconnected teams to shepherd the movie project from contract to distribution, on time and within budget.|
|Life Sciences: Drug Development
|Drug development in the U.S. takes many years and potentially billions of dollars to complete: hiring hundreds of scientists and researchers, undertaking dozens of research trials and complying with stringent regulations. On top of this complex workflow, drug projects generate massive amounts of data – in all, a huge investment and operational challenge.|
|Automotive: Smart Cars and Autonomous Vehicles||Automakers work in a complex global system of engineering, production, suppliers, delivery partners, dealers and customers. This global supply chain requires intensive data workflow and long-term storage technology. Now add smart cars and AV development to the mix, and you add intensive data streams from individual vehicles that the business needs to extract value from, as well as securely retain, for years.|
|Sciences: Radio Telescope Arrays||One of humanity’s largest collective science projects today is building the most powerful instrument ever to peer into the heavens – The Square Kilometer Array. The name says it all: one square km of radio telescopes being built in South Africa. It will generate 1TB of data per second 24x7, requiring massive storage systems and huge staff. The facility will share its data with hundreds of government and university labs involving thousands of people worldwide. It’s an immense project that couldn’t get off the ground without exceptional levels of collaboration.|
An Architectural Foundation for Collaboration
There are three major factors in choosing the right storage technology for complex collaborative workflows: comprehensive accessibility, centralized functionality and affordability.
- Accessibility to data across different OSes, platforms, and networks. With the large number of users requiring access to data, it follows that they will be running different operating systems, and possibly be connecting to the network in various ways. Having the flexibility to natively provide users with access to their data from their preferred platform – be it Windows, Linux or macOS – greatly affects how collaborative an environment can become. Choice of network access - ensuring users can have coordinated access with both NAS and SAN storage architectures – is also critical.
- Single global namespace and centralized functionality. Global collaborative teams need to view data as if it were local. A single global namespace and automated data replication presents distributed data as if it were local, and the shared file system manages file integrity across multiple users. This allows users to share data across both private and public clouds and enables organizations to optimize their storage so that the value of the data is best aligned to the storage tier in which it resides.
- Affordable purchase, maintenance, support, and scaling. Large-scale, enterprise-grade storage solutions with the aforementioned capabilities can be sizable investments but still economically cost-efficient, especially if they are architected in the correct way. Centralized storage that has the ability to tier infrequently accessed data to capacity-optimized tiers can save money and time, plus add an important level of data protection.
Let’s examine a handful of companies that implemented storage solutions with these characteristics to support their collaborative workflow environments.
Deluxe Entertainment provides digital delivery services for large content providers. Over the past several years, Deluxe transitioned to a fully digital workflow that produces 4TB of content daily and 7 million minutes of content per week. Compounding this difficulty further, they have to do this while simultaneously supporting 1,300 file formats. Collaborative workflows provide different Deluxe teams with parallel access to files, and the ability to transfer up to 10TB of content every day to waiting customers.
Visual Data Media Services
As a leader in media preparation and distribution, with an innovative approach to restoring film archives, Visual Data Media Services was recently presented with a potentially lucrative project to remaster a portfolio into 4K/UHD digital assets. Although the company could handle the process, the data storage foundation for completing this work was not capable of supporting the new workflow. This was even more true considering that the production process involved various team members requiring different levels of performance and accessibility. Ultimately the organization chose a solution that provided high performance over an all-IP storage architecture and allowed for the entire team to have accessibility to the content no matter how remote they were.
Best known for its Large Hadron Collider (LHC), CERN is the world’s leading particle physics laboratory. One major project is whimsically named ALICE (A Large Ion Collider Experiment), which generates billions of data bits per second and involves an international collaboration of more than 1,000 physicists, engineers and technicians from 30 countries. CERN is utilizing a highly secure HPC storage infrastructure and shared workflow that enables global research teams to generate and access ALICE data.
Effective workplace collaboration depends on a multitude of factors that extend from staff to the technical foundation of the entire organization. Ensuring that each one is tuned to run efficiently will require time and investment; this is not going to happen by itself, nor will it happen overnight. But without resourcing this area of the business effectively, it becomes siloed, and no business can thrive in a siloed environment.
Big business and government organizations must have the will to transform their siloed cultures and siloed storage technology into something that supports their global collaborative teams. Like most things in life, taking the more difficult path is the one that will deliver the most rewards – the ultimate choice is between gradual decline in the marketplace, or a thriving business that employs and benefits people and customers all over the world.
Jason Coari is director, high-performance storage solutions at Quantum.