We're all familiar with the concept of learning portals within the workplace. Usually found on the company intranet, they offer a one-stop-shop of resources where employees can up-skill their knowledge and absorb information on what's happening within the industry. In many organizations, these platforms are also a big part of the on-boarding process for new hires, including everything from self-paced training tutorials to compliance testing and company policy documentation.
For the last 14 years, Bridge2Think has been focused on educating business leaders to help them develop the requisite management and leadership skills through their Bridge2Know knowledge platform. I recently caught up with CEO Stefan Kahlert to talk more about how they've been enabling this:
Hi Stefan, what can you tell us about Bridge2Think and how the company came to existence?
We started the company wanting to focus on providing a knowledge platform suitable for companies wanting to give their business leaders access to relevant content. When you think about the broad set of skills required by managers today, it's essential for them to be exposed to the right information, industry news, business dynamics and skill competencies they need to be supported with through-out their career.
Our primary product Bridge2Know is a multi-tenant platform we license to companies for building educational content and providing knowledge curation. We have registered users across the globe and host in excess of 50,000 pieces of material spanning editorial, multimedia and tutorial assets. This is a mixture of syndicated content, original content and a collection of curated 3rd party material, which we audit for quality purposes prior to inclusion. Companies can embed our software into their own internal applications to work with single sign-on, saving them a lot of time and effort if they were to attempt to build their own bespoke knowledge hub.
What are some examples of how your customers use the platform?
The software is designed to support any kind of learning preference the customer may have. Some of our clients use the platform as part of a blended learning approach where content is partially delivered via classroom learning, with materials and follow-up exercises posted to Bridge2Know.
The portal has built-in alerts for whenever new content is posted, and subscribers can get news feeds on topics most relevant to them. There are widgets to learn what types of content to display and feeds for showing what they want to be alerted about. Many of our customers have integrated their internal communication tools (i.e. chat, Yammer, Chatter, etc...) with the platform to encourage social learning and content sharing.
Our customers love the guided search functionality where subscribers can enter a search query - for example 'I have a difficult employee or client, how do I build a better relationship with them?' - and the site is crawled for matching content that's been created by their editorial staff. There's filtering capability so you can sort the source of content, published date, language or subject matter.
What do you think is unique about Bridge2Know?
Most content curation platforms expect the customer to find and aggregate the specialist content. These customers are time strapped and want something that's not only ready made, but also tailored to their business environment. That’s the value add we provide, as we do a lot of the heavy-lifting for them.
When we started building the product, we also knew that many of the tools being used in the enterprise space were a little clunky. That's why from a UX perspective, we've kept the interface intuitive and device friendly. We designed the portal to be customizable, and built plugins at the code level for easy integration of content.
Can you talk us through your infrastructure set-up?
We have a fairly straightforward stack, which consists of Rails 4.2, a MySQL database, Redis, Memcache and Rescue housed on AWS servers and our own registered servers here in Switzerland for our Swiss-based customers.
The only exotic part of the stack is our use of Apache Solr for the native search engine. This is where working with Cloud 66 has been hugely convenient for us. If for instance we were still using Heroku, we would have had to get a 3rd party to integrate this for us. With Cloud 66, we were able to install it ourselves.
Speaking of Cloud 66, how've you found working with us?
Hugely beneficial. About two years ago, we signed a new North America-based client who had a specific requirement around serving their content out of the U.S using Azure. In theory we were equipped to support this, but in practice what we needed was a quick way to deploy our current AWS environment to Azure, and a platform to be able to switch at a moments notice.
Within the timeframe we needed to accomplish things, Cloud 66 was really the only option for achieving this. The pricing was much better than what we had anticipated and the features allowed us to have low-level access to the customer's servers, without needing to support them ourselves. Cloud 66 helps us throughout the deployment cycle, automatically adjusting the resources needed based on the application's requirements, which is a huge benefit when compared to other comparable providers.
What are some of your favorite Cloud 66 features?
Cloud 66 saves our small engineering team so much time. It allows our developers to maintain a lot of the infrastructure themselves, despite not being DevOps specialists. That’s surely the biggest advantage of using the service. Even if we did hire a dedicated ops specialist, we wouldn’t know if we'd need to have them full-time. The speed of deployment is unparalleled - you just click a button and the update goes online. When we do run into problems, it's usually to do with code.
With the customer example I gave above, the only other way we could have handled this would have been to maintain or manage the server architecture ourselves, to make sure everything ran secure as needed. The customer didn't want to give us direct access to their admin panel, so by simply using Cloud 66 to input the key and secrets, everything just worked. We didn’t have to write our own deployment scripts and had tons of cost and time savings in the process.
Thank you Stefan for sharing that and congratulations on the ongoing success of Bridge2Know. We love hearing stories of how Cloud 66 is helping customers with their technical challenges and look forward to continuing our collaboration together.