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How CMU Created an Efficient & Secure Workflow for Research Collaboration

Case Study

Client: CMU Robotics Institute – Carnegie Mellon University Mission: To support Big Data governance and data access controls by developing a workflow that takes requestors and approvers through a process that ensures authentication and proper access. With Valyr, CMU found a trusted partner that could architect and develop both the process and experience for data access requests, authentication, and secure distribution. “We needed the processes to be user-friendly and secure,” said Kitani, “We also sought a partnership that could align with our continued commitment to student leadership while also being sensitive to our timeline.” Valyr checked all of those boxes, welcoming participation from a student in the Computer Vision Program, giving him direct exposure to the development side of the project. Results 2-day average time to process 13 approvals for each data access request 27 separate steps now automated Estimated 1,200+ hours in manual effort saved annually Improved Research Collaboration Faster time to authenticate and access data When Kris Kitani, Associate Research Professor at the Robotics Institute at Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) in Pittsburgh, approached Valyr, the Computer Vision Program had just completed a vast data collection project. The research included hundreds of hours of wearable tech video footage but there was no straightforward way to continue research collaboration or authenticate distribution requests for the data. Because the project was an international collaboration between CMU and 12 other universities, there were essentially 13 “owners” of the data and, therefore, 13 different entities responsible for the data’s integrity and governance. This meant that for each request for data, 13 approvals would be required, which contributed to a time-intensive and burden-heavy process. Researchers, graduate students, and sponsors of the research expected downloadable content, but taking requests one at a time, collecting signatures authorizing their requests, and manually sharing massive amounts of unstructured data was not secure, sustainable, or aligned with expectations. As a result, international collaboration had reached a near standstill until data access could be streamlined. This forced significant pressure on developing a timely solution. CMU and their research partners knew they needed a user-friendly interface and digital workflow that could streamline this process. “Valyr did a great job from start to finish. They carefully listened to what we needed, outlined the specifics of the job, were upfront with costs AND they delivered on time. I’d certainly reach out to Valyr again for our development needs in the future.” Kris Kitani Associate Research Professor at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh Streamlining the Process with Electronic Signature and AWS  With multiple process steps and approvers, the path was not a straight line, but rather a carefully orchestrated sequence of between 25-27 steps (depending on conditional variances) designed to optimize efficiency and enforce governance. In a nutshell, here’s how it all unfolds:  The journey initiates through an inviting landing page, designed to encourage those needing access to submit a request. The process then calls for the requester’s electronic signature on a data usage agreement. The pivotal moment in this workflow comes after the requester’s electronic signature event. An approval workflow is triggered, ensuring that all 13 approvers authorize or deny the request. So that permissions didn’t slow down the process, this is a timebound event: if no response is given, the system would automatically approve the request. This process ensures that only the right individuals gain access, which in turn safeguards restricted content. If authorized, the process is completed by granting access to the downloadable data.  Throughout the workflow, the system was set up to provide notifications and real-time status, indicating whether a request was pending, rejected, or approved. The integration of HelloSign provides a secure and user-friendly electronic signature solution, while AWS plays the central role in data storage, safeguarding the integrity and accessibility of data. Now, everyone benefits from a faster and more transparent process that’s centralized and secure. Collaboration: The Driving Force What set this project apart was the emphasis on collaboration. It was important to CMU that its students contribute a vision and voice, and Valyr fostered a collaborative relationship with open communication. Together, CMU and Valyr ensured that the workflow and interface aligned with the project objectives and timeline. The launch of the new digital workflow went smoothly. For CMU and its research partners worldwide, having that kind of ready access to data with the proper safeguards and user traceability has dramatically reduced the number of manual requests while increasing the level of security in data sharing.