USA Gymnastics Flips Over Cloud Collaboration

As digital transformation ripples through organizations, more than a few business and IT leaders have discovered that the ability to collaborate and communicate is at the heart of a successful business. At USA Gymnastics, the governing and sanctioning body for the sport of gymnastics in the United States, a need for better and more streamlined collaboration and document sharing has led to a cloud-based strategy.

In the past, the organization relied heavily on email, shared drives, USB devices and other tools to manage documents and work across teams. “Things worked well as long as people were in the office, but once they stepped outside, the problems began to mount,” explains Jeff Smith, managing director of events and technology.

The situation came to a head in 2008 when an employee inadvertently overwrote files on a server. Although the organization recovered the files, “We wound up losing all the changes to the documents,” he says. “It immediately became clear that we needed a better way to synchronize documents.”

After evaluating a number of approaches and products, USA Gymnastics turned to Dropbox for Business to streamline internal collaboration. The system handles document management more efficiently: All the changes to documents from desktop PCs, laptops, tablets and other devices are automatically backed up. It ensures that employees and others have the latest file version available.

“In the past, we had a good backup strategy for our servers, but we had no real backup strategy for laptops and mobile devices,” Smith says. Now, if someone accidentally deletes a file, a backup is available.

The cloud-based file management approach also solved another problem. As the business landscape has shifted to mobile devices, almost everyone in the organization (outside of member services and accounting) now uses a laptop.

“If someone is stuck in a place where there’s no WiFi connectivity—such as on an airplane or in at the bottom of an arena where there’s no signal—they can still access documents and work on them,” Smith notes. In addition, IT can limit access to documents among groups and subgroups.

At present, about 50 employees use Dropbox for Business, but the organization also can add and remove independent contractors on an as-needed basis. It typically has about 40 outsiders working on projects at any given time.

This approach makes it easier to manage documents and workers dynamically, and also allows workers to share large photo and video files that would otherwise hog hard-drive space. What’s more, the files are automatically encrypted in the cloud.

“We can make scripts, timetables, videos and other files available and, at the end of a project, remove access,” Smith points out.

Finally, USA Gymnastics can provision new devices quickly and easily. “An IT manager can grab a new machine, install Outlook and other applications, set up a Dropbox account, and the user has the exact same environment and data access capabilities as before,” Smith says.

In the end, cloud-based collaboration has proved to be a winning strategy. “We have almost completely phased out the need for network drives,” he reports. “We’ve adopted an IT framework that allows IT to operate more strategically.”