Challenges of Swift, Broad
Deployment"> The projects quick deployment and massive scale were the biggest challenges, according to Groove and CH2M Hill officials. "It was a little more aggressive than we would have liked," Quirk said. "While we were thrilled that theyre using it, there were occasional technical problems, and we would have been able to deal with them better if we had an extra couple months."Fugate, however, said he was not discouraged by the early hurdles. "Any time you roll out something like this, youre going to have training issues [and] equipment issues," he said. FDEM gave the tools one of their first major tests in this years hurricane training exercise in Florida. Read more here about government response to the issue of disaster preparedness after Hurricane Katrina. "We wanted to expose people to it in a safe environment, but in a similar way to what a hurricane is actually like, so that when we got into hurricane season, we knew areas of concern," Fugate said. That strategy paid off, with staff better prepared to tackle the real thing. During Hurricane Katrina, Fugate said, FDEM stepped in to help Mississippi with its disaster recovery efforts. Using Groove Virtual Office, FDEM was able to move large GIS files containing information about where resources were located from a geographic information system lab in Tallahassee to local and county emergency operations centers in Mississippi. "We were easily moving around big chunks of data. Other systems couldnt handle that," Fugate said. CH2M Hill is eager to continue development and training efforts with FDEM after this years hurricane season ends, Waldrop said. "We plan to work with FDEM once they come up for air from this hurricane season," Quirk said. "What we will look to do in the fall with EM Constellation is to introduce some capabilities that will allow it to scale a little bit better. We have had some challenges around how ... we get hundreds of people invited quickly to a Groove work space. "Weve been working on solutions to those technical problems around the sheer magnitude of people and the amount of data moving back and forth," he said. Additional training will also be a focus. "Because of how aggressively Florida wanted to roll it out, we were able to do a fair amount of training but not as much as we would like," Quirk said. Although Grooves software is helping Florida respond better to hurricanes, Fugate said that technology alone does not make or break disaster preparedness and recovery. "Any software, including Groove, is not a substitute for a system thats not functional in the first place," he said. "Groove cant substitute for lack of planning or poor coordinating. If youve got a good system, it can enhance that." Check out eWEEK.coms for more on IM and other collaboration technologies.
David Waldrop, manager of the public-sector segment at Groove, agreed. "Time was the biggest challenge. Everyone rushed because of the timing of their hurricane season," Waldrop said. "We wish we could have started earlier and coordinated with the counties a little more to get them better trained and enabled."