Gaming powerhouse steels itself for innovation via enterprise cloud collaboration

Jessica Twentyman Profile picture for user jtwentyman June 18, 2014
Delivering high-performance gaming gear to give competitive edge requires high-performance collaboration between employees spread over four continents, says SteelSeries’ CIO Rune Berendtsen.

SteelSeries customers play to win. For these fiercely competitive computer-game players, some of them professionals competing for big-money prizes, their choice of weapon could make all the difference between them slaying a dragon or being burnt to a crisp.

So when they go into battle, they rely on the gaming peripherals manufacturer to arm them with the most responsive consoles and controllers, the most sensitive mice and with headsets that deliver the best sound quality possible.

Product innovation, then, has always been a top priority for SteelSeries, from its launch back in 2001 of the IceMat, a mouse pad in acid-treated glass designed to keep computer mice dust-free, to this year’s introduction of the first full-feature wireless games controller for the Apple iPad.

Delivering high-performance gaming gear to give customers a real competitive edge, meanwhile, requires high-performance collaboration between the company’s 160 employees, who are spread over four continents, says SteelSeries’ CIO, Rune Berendtsen.

That’s particularly true, he adds, for the company’s team of industrial design specialists, working in offices in Copenhagen and Chicago. “When I first joined the company in 2008, we ran the whole company on a bunch of servers in the basement of our headquarters in Copenhagen and that worked OK,” he says. “But as the company expanded into new markets and territories, performance and access to data started to become a real issue.”

The company’s designers and engineers typically work with heavy-duty computer-aided design (CAD) files and video content. Keeping those files on servers in Copenhagen, when they are frequently needed by staff in Chicago, was no longer an option, he says.

“It’s simply not efficient. Our company doesn’t need to deal with the kind of frustration it creates. We just need to innovate. I don’t want someone who has just had a great new idea to be waiting and waiting for a server to respond in order to contribute their idea and get their work done. We need to move faster than that.”

Collaborative thinking

Luckily, Berendtsen has a long-standing interest in enterprise collaboration: for his master’s degree, he studied how companies use collaborative technologies to facilitate knowledge-sharing and innovation. “That’s always been a big focus for me, so I’ve tried to push the company in that direction,” he says.

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Rune Berendtsen

With high performance and global accessibility as the goals, Berendtsen started looking for a way for SteelSeries employees not just to store files centrally, but also work on them together. “If I just wanted storage, I could have easily set up a couple of file servers around the world. That wasn’t the issue,” he says.

“My vision was bigger than that: I wanted a way that people could add comments to files, search for CAD content, a system that would gradually build out into an entire collaborative environment.”

But that vision also needed to include strict enterprise controls, he adds, particularly around security. After all, if SteelSeries’ customers are fiercely competitive, so are its market rivals - and the company’s ability to innovate rests very much on keeping its trade secrets to itself. “Our designs are our source of competitive advantage so we keep a close eye on them - and I was conscious that, if I didn’t provide employees with this kind of collaboration environment, they’d start using other cloud services over which I’d have zero control,” he says.

At the same time, he wanted staff to be able to manage their own access to content and share files with colleagues without relying too heavily on IT. When he benchmarked a number of cloud-based file synch and share services, Berendtsen found that Box was the best fit.

SteelSeries signed with Box in September 2012 and, to date, has rolled out the service to 130 of its employees - so as well as CAD files, the service is also handling marketing’s PowerPoint presentations, management’s meeting notes, IT’s personal keys for systems management, along with other company content. As employees have seen their colleagues use the system with ease, they’ve demanded it for their own departments.

This kind of ‘viral’ roll-out, he says, has provided the best implementation experience he could have wished for: “People request the technology and we just ask Box for new licences,” he says. “It keeps us moving forward at the speed and in the direction we require, when we’re working in an environment where winning is everything.”

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