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I wanted to highlight a new case study on how the Bella Center in Copenhagen is using Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007 to plan the climate conference in December 2009. The solution has included making it easier to share technical drawings with subcontractors as well as to coordinate the extensive volume of work with government bodies.
Once it became clear that Bella Center would be the location for a worldwide climate conference, the management of the largest congress and exhibition center in Scandinavia was very happy but also very aware that it was an enormous challenge. Because as the conference looked like being one of the most important worldwide political events of the past 20 years, it would also demand planning work of such a scope that Bella Center's IT infrastructure could not support it.
“For example, we had no structured knowledge sharing, but instead sent files around by e-mail and stored them in server folders on the local drives. So we had a significantly poorer overview of where documents were to be found. At the same time, there was often doubt about which version of a technical drawing, for example, was the newest” said Michael D. Andersen, Sales and Project Manager for Bella Center.
For several years, Bella Center had considered a collaboration solution based on Microsoft SharePoint technology, but Michael D. Andersen was only convinced that the technology would be the right way to go for Bella Center when a consultant from Stratiteq demonstrated in a very few hours how a simple collaboration solution could be built up from scratch in a relatively short time using Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007.
“SharePoint Server 2007 could do much more than previous versions, and we did not need to make the solution unnecessarily complicated. That fitted well with the fact that we originally only wanted to use it to share technical drawings internally – which in itself was an enormous step for us,” explains Michael D. Andersen.
But as he and his colleagues got to know more about the possibilities, they decided to go the whole way, which resulted in a complete collaboration solution. It was ready at the start of 2009 and included three separate sites with different levels of security. In this way, Bella Center could – partly because of demands from the Foreign Ministry – prepare and share highly confidential documents and planning drawings with security agencies, for example. At the same time, it was possible to have less critical information on another site which was shared with a broader audience.
“At the same time we got version control and an overview of who was responsible for a particular document, a library or a task. We can also easily give external partners from police, security agencies or ministries access to documents and task lists on a "need to know" basis. That makes the planning easier, gives insight and makes it easier for everyone to be prepared and complete their specific tasks before we come to meetings” says Michael D. Andersen.
The climate conference demands not just extensive planning of logistics and security, but also requires that the meeting and exhibition areas are modified to a very significant degree. Bella Center has therefore used the possibilities SharePoint Server 2007 gives for building workflows. In this way an architect drawing, for example, can automatically be forwarded for approval to the right person internally, sent to the responsible building or budget manager and other interested parties, as well as being forwarded to architects, craftsmen and other subcontractors.
“Everyone can stay informed along the way through alerts/e-mail when a decision about something has to be taken. For example, with the planning of how a room will precisely be built and what it will cost. In this way, the workflow functions make jobs easier, while also ensuring that a task does not get stranded in another location. We can also always see who currently has a task and where all the associated documents can be found. That is extremely useful. Both in our daily work, but also if a key person happens to fall under the proverbial bus” says Michael D. Andersen.
He agrees though that the SharePoint solution also places a number of demands, namely on users at management level, and that "we could not avoid a certain amount of user education." Similarly, building up three separate sites has been challenging as regards getting Microsoft Outlook 2007 to work with them. On the other hand, Michael D. Andersen emphasizes that the learning curve and the few growing pains have not hindered SharePoint 2007 from spreading like wildfire. With the result that more than 120 internal and external users now use the system to share everything from drawings to Word and Excel documents and PowerPoint presentations, etc.
“Right now everything is about this climate conference. But if I have to look further into the future, I think that we will be implementing SharePoint 2007 as a focal point in the planning of future events, as it literally makes us more productive in a large number of areas. But I still think – all things considered – that we have only seen the tip of the iceberg so far” says Michael D. Andersen.