How IT Impacts Collaboration and Communication

How IT Impacts Collaboration and Communication

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By Jim Carter – IT Specialist, Alford Media

Information technology — that mix of software, networking, and cloud services — continues to have profound effects on the events industry. Attendee-focused offerings ranging from webcasting to event apps to event technologies like Crowd Mics or Interactio are changing the meeting experience. IP-based signal distribution technologies are promising a future where lighting, video, and audio replace their dedicated cabling with a single unified network. The area where IT often gets overlooked is in the planning and collaboration long before the first piece of gear is wheeled into the ballroom. That third leg of the technology stool deserves more attention.

Every producer has a toolbox for their own task tracking: whether it’s a dedicated platform like Eventuosity; a more general task tracking system like Asana, Microsoft Tasks, or Trello; or the good old spreadsheet shared through the cloud or through email. Cloud-based solutions are popular for ease of sharing with other producers and event technology partners, while local files offer a bit of insurance against a flight or a hotel that lacks reliable Internet.

As the producer starts working more closely with their event partners collaboration tools come into play. That’s a catchall category, encompassing needs like file sharing via Box, Dropbox, Google Drive, Microsoft OneDrive, and others; video chat and screen sharing services like Google Hangouts, GoToMeeting, Skype, or WebEx; cloud-based messaging like Microsoft Teams or Slack; and run-of show software like Shoflo or Show Pro. Old standbys like email, phone calls, and even more spreadsheets fill in the gaps. We at Alford pride ourselves on our flexibility and responsiveness to our clients, which means we’ll use the tools the client prefers. This can border on overwhelming as our sales and show staff must be ready to pick up a new tool at a moment’s notice, but it’s all part of delivering Burgundy support to our clients.

Internal collaboration among our Alford team is critical to making every client’s project a success. Alford’s industry-leading Backbone platform was developed internally to handle an event from bid to pull to show to invoice, and to make it possible to share that information as broadly as possible. Dave Pooser, Alford’s Director of Product Innovation, was the product manager for the Backbone project. “Everybody will tell you that they have the best people,” Dave says. “What’s important is having the best team, and that’s about hiring people who are a great fit for a role and then making sure they have all the information they need to get a job done. With Backbone and with Backbone Web Access, we’re presenting everyone involved with the show, including freelancers, with all the information we have available…in real time. There’s a saying in software development, ‘Given enough eyeballs, all bugs are shallow.’ It’s amazing how quickly an ‘impossible’ technical hurdle melts away when the whole team focuses on it.”

Alford used to share that information via email, but that wasn’t the best approach because of crew changes. “Shows change; sometimes positions are added, sometimes a date change forces a substitution, sometimes someone gets sick or has a family emergency,” Dave explains. “Because everything is in Backbone, as soon as a new staffer or freelancer is added to a show, that person gets access to all the information. Nobody has to send out an email recapping the discussion; the discussion happens right in the comment thread attached to the show. All the drawings and venue information and travel and schedules are right there, along with contact details for all the crew.”

Communication doesn’t stop at the event’s end, either; Alford is actively developing our Digital Show Kit, another Web application for show reports. Debriefing from the crew after every client project helps Alford deliver on our commitment to continuously improve. Nora Fanelli, Alford’s Production and Travel Manager, who is leading this project stated, “Digital Show Kit is a more robust show report and allows for an easier debrief of the show. Our on-site staff will be able to report in real-time instead of after the event with a web app that allows for collaborative communication and intuitive input pulling information directly from Backbone.” Some of the added features include the ability to rate positions, the show pull, and load-in and easy access to company resource sites. Nora added that, “This app will affect every department; payroll, billing, operations, support and all our roadies. The ability to use the information we gather and improve not only our operations, but the experience for the client in the future will be incredibly impactful”.

Information technology keeps helping all of us do more — manage more projects, keep on top of more details, and communicate with more people around one office or around the globe. As our clients’ expectations keep getting higher, smart use of technology is crucial to Alford’s continuing commitment to exceed those expectations and deliver on our clients’ vision.




Alford Media