SITA: A Case of Limitless Collaboration

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Article ImageCompany: SITA
Founded in 1949 as the Société Internationale de Télécommunications Aéronautiques, Geneva, Switzerland-headquartered SITA (as it's known today) provides IT business solutions and communications services to the air transport industry. Its international data and voice communications network reaches 220 countries and territories, delivering application and desktop solutions and services that help members and customers contain costs, enhance security, and increase operational effectiveness. Roughly 600 airline and global distribution system members, as well as 2,000 industry and government customers, rely on SITA for airport operations, integrated baggage, flight operations, air-to-ground communications, and end-to-end airline distribution and fares services. www.sita.aero

Business Challenge
SITA's official slogan is "The Sky Is Not the Limit," but its size and scope had gotten the better of it in recent years. What began as a small cooperative today employs more than 3,800 people from 140 countries, and although each employee is required to speak English on the job, as a group they are fluent in more than 70 languages. Moreover, SITA's employees are scattered in more than 100 offices around the globe, making enterprise collaboration and communication exceedingly difficult. 

For an organization as diversified and layered as SITA, the usual business communication tools "were clearly insufficient in delivering the level of performance we expect," says Raj Vardhan, SITA's head of sales business development. "We needed a tool that could be used for day-to-day communications and collaboration among a newly formed virtual team" of employees on several continents, he explains, "but we also needed a common repository where the most experienced and knowledgeable employees could share their expertise with the rest of the community."

Vendors of Choice: Traction Software and b-spirit.com
Traction Software's origins date to 1996 with the founding of Twisted Systems, a Providence, Rhode Island-based startup that aimed to eliminate team-communication and information-management inefficiencies by creating a web-based end-user hypertext journaling system that combines "the time-based communication strengths you see in blogs and the collaborative editing and linking strengths you see in wikis," says VP of marketing and business development Jordan Frank. The company officially adopted the Traction moniker in January 2002, and that July it commercially launched what's widely considered to be the first enterprise blog system. The Traction platform is available to users in limited (Communicator) and unlimited (TeamPage) configurations. www.tractionsoftware.com

Olivier Tripet founded b-spirit.com in summer 2004 to encourage self-publishing within organizations and to help them give their best thinkers a digital voice. Tripet, a former SITA employee and a long-time user and developer of information systems and collaboration tools, is positioning the company as a consultancy that specializes in corporate blogging solutions. In December 2004, he signed an agreement making the company an official Traction Software Partner for French-speaking prospects in Europe. To date, Nyon, Switzerland-based b-spirit.com has a dozen regular clients, large and small, using Traction TeamPage and other enterprise blogging tools. www.b-spirit.com


The Problem in Depth
From his time at SITA, Tripet knew all too well the communication and collaboration challenges SITA employees faced. "One of SITA's biggest challenges is its decentralization," he explains. "Aside from managing the obvious time-zone differences, you have to consider cultural differences, too. Cities around the world have different ways of working, talking, and collaborating."

Given these obstacles, "communication at SITA mainly consisted of two things: physical interactions and email," Tripet continues. "The process was totally inefficient," he adds, because employees didn't always have time to read and respond to emails, didn't necessarily have the right version of software necessary to open and work with attachments, and didn't always know how to share information with those who needed it. "SITA employees work on a lot of different things simultaneously," he says, but they lacked a common platform "where content could be archived automatically, available to anybody at anytime, and completely searchable."     

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