Archive for CorasWorks

CorasWorks v11.3.2 wave includes Application Designer v4.0 and new Six Pack of Apps

sprouting

In the beginning of June, we launched our v11.3.2 wave of products.  This includes new builds of CorasWorks for SharePoint 2010 and 2013 with a bunch of new features – somewhat unusual for a minor (x.x.x) release.  In addition, we also released two key add-ons that make it easier for power users to build business applications with CorasWorks.  I’ll focus on the latter in this article.  They are free to CorasWorks customers.

The Objective

The objective of these two add-ons to v11.3.2 is to make it easier for power users/builders to create finished business applications.  It takes too much knowledge, too much skill, and too much time to try and use native SharePoint to deliver finished business applications.  With these tools and the CorasWorks platform it is much easier, more straight forward, and much more re-useable.

Application Designer v4.0

The core add-on is Application Designer (version 4.0).  I introduced v2.0 of this visual design and build tool in a previous article.  This v4.0 release has a host of new features for the builder/power user.  A key changeup is how we have changed the “widget” toolset of the Design Canvas to follow the logical order that people go through to “build up” a business application.  These are shown on the left in the screenshot below.

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So, what is logical as you build any business application:

  1. Create your content (lists and libraries)
  2. Lay out your navigation tabs, buttons, and pages
  3. Drop your displays on pages of different types
  4. Add your users forms
  5. Add your user actions and business rules
  6. Create your reports and add them to dashboards
  7. Set your role-based security.

Accordingly, this is now how we’ve organized the features.

Of all the new features, I believe the most powerful is the ability to make your application role-based using the Design Canvas.  You can apply roles for users or Groups to any tabs and buttons.  This removes the need to go down into the messy SharePoint content-based permissions to apply security.

You also now have a great new simple Report Designer with automatic two- level drill downs (chart sections to item listing and item details) along with drag and drop to add reports to dashboards.

Six pack of Apps

With the v11.3.2 wave, we have released a set of 6 sample applications.  These were all built using Application Designer v4.0.  They are easy to modify, enhance, and reuse leveraging the Design Canvas that is part of each.  The applications are:

  • Knowledge Base
  • Help Desk
  • Expense Management
  • Job & Interview Management
  • Time Clock Management
  • Work Order Approval.

You can leverage these applications as follows:

  1. Use them as-is out of the box
  2. Customize them and enhance them to meet specific needs using the Design Canvas
  3. Re-purpose them to similar but different applications, again leveraging the Design Canvas
  4. Use them to learn how a business application is designed using CorasWorks and then go off and create completely new applications.

Unlike sample apps of old like CorasWorks apps or the Fab 40 from Microsoft, the on-board Design Canvas makes it easy to a) visually understand how the applications are laid out, and b) customize and enhance using the wizards of the Design Canvas.

Getting them

These add-ons are free to CorasWorks customers on Premier Support.  They are available for download, by your administrator, via the CorasWorks Customer Center (http://help.corasworks.net).

Enjoy,

William

New CorasWorks Customer Center – the Details to Get You Going

This month we released our new CorasWorks Customer Center (http://help.corasworks.net). It replaces the CorasWorks Community as the primary place for customers to go to access resources.  Over the years our customer resources got spread out to multiple sites – it happens.  The new Customer Center brings them back together and raises the bar to make it easier for you to add value.  In this article I’ll walk you through what I think are important details to leverage it – why and how.

Before getting into details, I am going to give you one solid reason to access the Customer Center and go into the Platform Learning Center – we now have 20+ self-service videos with more than 6 hours of learning content that will save you time and money, and help you add value to your organization.  Use it for yourself and share them with others in your organization.

The Customer Center Tour

When you first visit the site, you will be taken on a tour of key features of the Customer Center. If you don’t have time to explore it now, no problem, you can launch the tour at any time from the main menu at to top of the screen.

The Home Page

Please go there and scan the contents of the page and look at the links.  Most key resources are just one click away. From this home page you can access:

  • Self-registration
  • Base information about our software and solutions
  • Download our software
  • All CorasWorks events
  • Access Requests to Learning Centers
  • Support contact information
  • Our blogs
  • The Learning Centers (Platform and CAPS).

Self-Registration

The first thing to do is register for the Customer Center.  It is a self-service system, so when you forget your username or password you can request them from the system.  To register, click the dropdown arrow next to Login. A Customer Success advocate will respond promptly and ensure that you are linked to your company account. This will allow you to access all of the great content in the Learning Centers.

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Accessing the Learning Centers

We have two Learning Centers that are part of our Customer Center:

  • Platform Learning Center (for all audiences)
  • CAPS Learning Center (for web developers).

To have access to a Learning Center you must be an employee of a customer on active Premier Annual Support and Maintenance.

To request access, from the home page, click on the Request Access link for the Learning Center you want to access as shown below in red below.  We will verify that you are part of an active PASM account and provide you with access.

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Platform Learning Center and Self-Service Videos

The Platform Learning Center has gotten simpler.  The primary contents are a number of self-service videos (the #1 reason to go here as above). We have found videos to be the easiest thing to consume and the fastest to broaden the base of usage.

Request access and access the videos.  You’ll see the menu of options on the left as shown below.  Share the links and content with others in your organization.

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CAPS Learning Center

The CAPS (CorasWorks Application Service) API is designed for web developers.  This Learning Center is web developer oriented with examples, code snippets, and configuration code generators.  Note that when we talk code in the CAPS world, we really mean a low code approach, it is for the web developer, no compiled C# here.  You just don’t need it anymore to do really cool stuff. For example, the entire Customer Center is built using CAPS, Bootstrap, and classic web developer tools. You just don’t need hard-core code anymore to do cool things on SharePoint.

Say, you are working on a solution and need to know how make a request to our API. You simply go to the Learning Center, find a comparable example, use the request builder and generate the code, and paste it into your app, updating the URL to match your own site.

Below is an example of just such as case.

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Quick Facts

What is the URL for the Customer Center?  http://help.corasworks.net

What do I do when I forget my username and password? Go to the home page and click the down arrow next to Log in at the top and make your request.  Takes 30 seconds.

Where do I go to watch self-service videos?  Platform Learning Center

Where do I go to get CAPS help? CAPS Learning Center

How do I download CorasWorks software? Click Downloads at the top of the home page (you must be specified as the active Download user).

If I just need help?  Email support at CustomerSuccess@corasworks.net.

Enjoy,

william

CorasWorks Today (November 2013) in 3 minutes

corasworks-50

What does CorasWorks offer?  Over the last 10 years, I’ve gotten this question more than a few times.  The answer has changed a bit as we’ve continued to innovate and refine our offerings.  Yet, we still remain focused on enabling organizations to create a flexible, cost effective work environment on SharePoint that meets their needs today and in the future.

Today, the CorasWorks Solution Platform is in version 11.  We have versions for SP2007, SP2010 and SP2013.  We have a rich set of off-the-shelf work management solutions to get you going quickly.  And, we enable you to have it your way through the industry leading flexibility of our platform and leveraging your internal people, our partners, or CorasWorks services.

Click here to see our current 3 minute pitch overview.

william

A Top 10 Pharmaceutical Leverages CorasWorks for Program Management of $200M Global Product Serialization Initiative

drugs

The pharmaceutical industry is going through a significant change in manufacturing and supply chain management driven by emerging global government mandates for them to “serialize” their products.  Each unit of product must have a unique ID that can be tracked through the full supply chain to the end user customer. This is to insure quality, to enable tracing, and also, to suppress the use of counterfeit drugs (estimated at 10% of the worlds’ drugs).  The mandates have been coming out across the globe over the last few years.  The US is on the verge of putting their “mandate” in place this year.  (Click here to learn more about pharmaceutical product serialization.)

In this article I will look at how our customer, one of the top 10 pharmaceuticals, used CorasWorks to create a Program Management solution that is used to manage their $200M global product serialization manufacturing change program.  I will also address how the process worked as this story is a great example of how customers are able to achieve breakthrough results without the risks, costs, and time delays that are common for most enterprise application projects.

The Challenge

This customer is a very large manufacturer of pharmaceuticals – one of the worlds largest.  These mandates from around the world are requiring them to update all of their manufacturing lines to support the unique ID serialization requirements for each unit that is produced.  Different mandates from different countries/regions also have different requirements.  This process will cost our customer 200 million dollars over the next five years.  They will need to upgrade more than 100 different manufacturing lines in 400 different projects around the world in more than 20 countries.

The objective of our customer was to be able to centrally manage the program across the globe.  They had a strategic team in place to drive this initiative globally.   They had very precise requirements such as:

  • They needed top down management visibility and the ability to then drill down in details.
  • They wanted to be able to see all of the projects by a) defined KPI’s for the b) defined stages of work.
  • Their process requires that each local manager provide updates on each project each month.
  •  Most projects actually had two workstreams, so two different updates, for a total of 400 managers providing updating.
  • They wanted the ability for comments for each update.
  • These updates drive the KPI’s from the bottom, up the stack.
  • There were very complex KPI roll-up calculations so that KPIs would cascade upward from the base project to the top of the Mandate, Geography, Country, Product, etc.
  • The customer then wanted to be able to see where everything stood by different pivots such as by Mandate, by Country, by Product, by Workstream, by Line within in a real time, interactive interface.

The customer had detailed, application specific requirements for the Program Management system. Yet, time was short.  Some projects were already under way, so they wanted the system relatively quickly targeting about 4 months. They had evaluated options of custom development however the cost, risk of delivery, and length of time to delivery deterred them from this option.  They also looked at leveraging other owned Project Portfolio Management systems, however, they needed very precise features and in effect this made the use of these systems as risky as custom development.

So, the challenge was how to:

  • get a Program Management system that met their very precise requirements
  • in a relatively short time frame
  • at the lowest cost possible and without “breaking the bank”
  • with an acceptable level of risk of delivery
  • that would support changes as the program evolved and lessons were learned
  • and that was acceptable to IT today and supportable over the 5 years of the program.

The Solution

This customer uses SharePoint 2010.  In fact, they are in the Top 100 of SharePoint deployments supporting more than 80,000 users across four global regions.  They have adopted an Enterprise Shared Services Environment (ESSE) model in which they have a common infrastructure that is shared across all global geographies, all business groups, and, all employees.  They have three different farms (server environments) for different categories of work.

  • The Enterprise Shared Services Environment for those applications that do not require any custom compiled code.
  • A Custom Environment that allows custom code but is much more expensive to manage.
  • A Regulated Environment that is certified for regulated processes and information such as Clinical Trials.

They have been a CorasWorks customer since 2004.  The CorasWorks  v11 Work Management Platform is part of the infrastructure on the Enterprise Shared Services Environment available to all 80,000+ users.  The complex requirements of this Program Management application were more sophisticated than just about any other application running on ESSE.  However, they believed that it might be possible to build and deploy it on ESSE.  This would mean that it would have to be created without requiring custom coding, just leveraging the CorasWorks Work Management Advanced Configuration Tools.  If it worked, it would also mean that they could meet all of the challenge criteria noted above.

Working with the customers’ Service Delivery Team for the manufacturing group (that delivers applications to that group on ESSE) we did a quick pilot to simulate the applications’ operating requirements in the ESSE environment.  This was successful and the business customer decided to go with CorasWorks software and CorasWorks Professional Services to build the application on the ESSE environment.

This was a joint application development project.  The Service Delivery Team had built other applications using CorasWorks within ESSE so they were familiar with the core capabilities of CorasWorks.  They were able to work closely with CorasWorks on the design, the requirements, the testing, and changes.  They also handled the interactions with the business group.  The teams approach was an Agile methodology with the objective of having an early working solution in place, that would be built through sprints with user input.  In sum, it was a highly collaborative project between CorasWorks, the customers’ Service Delivery Team, and the business user group.

The Result

The base application was deployed for initial testing within 60 days.  The ability to quickly get the base application with a full information data set up and running was important for real time user input and changes.  It went through a series of sprints for additional phases and changes.  In addition, the application was re-factored three times in order to accommodate the changes and stay within the specified end user performance limits.

In sum, within 5 months the system went from development to enterprise production within the ESSE environment. Comparing the results to the challenge criteria stated above, the system was delivered:

  • meeting the specified technical requirements and the ones that came up through ongoing changes
  • almost within the time frame (it actually took an extra month to finish the project due to elapsed time delays with changes, user testing, and data loading) – but the project was still 2x faster than alternatives had been estimated
  • within the specified budget – that was about half of the initial estimate for competitive alternatives
  • the risk was mitigated by the known factor of CorasWorks capabilities on the ESSE environment
  • the resulting system is fully supportable by the customers’ Service Delivery Team since it is built on the open standard CorasWorks platform
  • and IT was already supporting ESSE and CorasWorks and will continue to support it as part of their global ESSE environment

My Wrap Up

This customer now has the capability to manage the global product serialization program.  They are in a great position to work towards success.  The program, an important one for them (remember counterfeiting is 10% of drugs), is also very important to the health and safety of all of us.  By investing to put the proper, well specified, program management system in place to support their defined process they have decreased their risks and increased their probability of success because they are providing a lot more visibility which drives greater accountability for results.

The General Challenge.  Most business-driven Program Management solutions are very custom.  It is the nature of the beast.  It is also a key to competitive differentiation.  Your programs/initiatives tend to be your big value creating or risk reducing activities.  But, it is very difficult and almost counter-productive for a vendor to try and build a general product for this purpose.  There are some COTS Program Management systems, but, if you try to use them for a significant program like this one you’d have to basically rip them apart to deliver on a typical set of requirements.  The unique flexibility of the CorasWorks Work Management platform makes it a very effective way to deliver on these custom Program Management applications.  As shown in this example, effectively they used a COTS product (CorasWorks) on an existing enterprise shared services (ESSE) platform to create a very custom Program Management solution without requiring any new custom compiled code.

william

$1B+ Top 25 Government Contractor Enhances Contract/Program Management for Customer and Supplier Interaction

Hub-Spoke PM

This customer is a top 25 Federal Government Contractor with more than $1B in annual revenue.  They are an existing CorasWorks customer using CorasWorks in their Extranet and Intranet work environments running on Microsoft SharePoint 2010.  This is a story of how they have enhanced their Program Management environment (Contract, Programs, IDIQs, Task Orders, etc) to support managed, interactivity between their Employees and their Customers and Suppliers.  The key interactive process they are focused on is Customer Reporting, primarily CDRL deliverables.  The article will describe the design of their solution, what we call the Hub and Spoke design, which enables this managed, configurable type of “role-based” interactivity. 

Situation

They have defined and are building out a broad Integrated Program Management System (IPMS) with multiple sub-systems.  They are doing this leveraging their SharePoint environment.  They are using CorasWorks for specific sub-systems of this environment such as IDIQ Task Order Management.  They are also using CorasWorks to enhance certain custom built sub-systems such as the subject of this article.

They had a version 1 of a Program Management sub-system that is targeted to encompass more than 1,000 contracts/programs when fully rolled out.  Their objective is to be able to manage the work for each contract/program that they have as part of a unified system.  Like most SharePoint systems, with v1, they had a basic framework with a Program site at its core.  This is where the Program Manager and internal team could collaborate.  But, the v1 lacked the key capability to interact with Customers and Suppliers, particularly around CDRL deliverables. With customers, they wanted to structure the Customer Reporting (primarily CDRLs) workstream.  They also wanted customers to be able to make requests.  With Suppliers, they wanted them to provide their reports to them in a structured way which then became part of the reporting to customers.  They also wanted to be able to interact with the Suppliers.

Their key design objective was for the internal employees to be able to see and manage all of the activity, but, the Customers and the Suppliers would only be able to see, contribute, and act with information/tasks that were specifically available to them.  In addition, they needed flexible.  Effectively every contract/program is somewhat different.  So, the system had to accommodate the need to make changes at the Program level to meet the specific needs of the customer.

Solution

They leveraged CorasWorks to get to their new version 2.  For this version, they shifted the system to their Extranet environment.  This reflects the key recognition that program interactivity between Employees, Customers, and Suppliers simply has to live outside of the Intranet.   

As above, the core new process was the management of the CDRL deliverables for each Contract/Program.  The general design is as follows:

  • Each contract/program has a site – lets call it the Program hub.  This is where the internal employees work.
  • When a Program Hub is created they can auto-provision a separate Customer site and one or more Supplier sites as required.  We refer to these as Consoles.  They are effectively Spokes of the Hub. 
  • The Program Manager manages their work and interactivity with Customers and Suppliers through the Program Hub.
  • With CDRLs, they define each CDRL in the Program Hub.  Effectively, it is a task with a due date that can be tracked and managed.
  • When it is time, they prepare the reports, which might include interactivity with Suppliers.
  • The CDRL deliverable is then “published” for access by the Customer.  They are automatically notified and can go to their Customer console to view the information and interact. 

In addition to the enhancement around Customer Reporting, they enhanced a number of other features. Two key enhancement were:

  • Integration with their external ERP system to provide real-time updates to the Program Manager.
  • Task (Action Item) management for the Program members with work automation.

Results

So far, they have brought up more than 100 Contracts/Programs into the new system.  For each contract/program the CDRL process is managed as above.  Some Programs don’t have Suppliers, while others do.  The full cycle is now tracked (to insure completion of the deliverable) and documented (for auditing).

The flexibility that they wanted is achieved just by their use of CorasWorks.  This enables the Program Managers to modify the CDRLs that are delivered and to turn on and off features as required by the contract.

 

Wrap Up and Summary

This solution is a good example of how to leverage CorasWorks to enhance a system that you already have on SharePoint.  I’ll drill down into two important capabilities that make a big difference in the success of this solution.

Cross-Connect – CorasWorks has the native capability to enable you to See, Contribute, and Act across SharePoint Sites and SharePoint Site Collections.  This “cross-connect” capability enables the Hub and Spoke, interactive design that was used for this solution.  Effectively, you are creating role-based “work consoles” that only enable uses to see, contribute, and act as you determine.  This means that you DO NOT have to give these external parties direct access into a SharePoint site.

Feature Flexibility – A key benefit of their use of CorasWorks is the feature flexibility on a program by program basis.  If you have a fixed, custom built, proprietary system, then, it would either a) be very difficult to change to accommodate each customer/program (unlimited permutations) or b) be very costly to set up and maintain separate systems for each program and customer to accommodate their specific needs.  Using CorasWorks, the customer has the flexibility to add new interactive features on a program by program basis.  These features become part of the framework and may be simply turned on and off (by business users such as the Program Manager) to meet the needs of the Customer and/or Supplier.  Features enabled for one program do not affect other programs.

william

Taskboarding with CorasWorks v11.3–make work easier and better

With the release of CorasWorks v11.3 that includes CAPS you are able to create and deploy very rich, interactive web features for your work management applications on SharePoint.  A popular one to get started with is TaskBoards.  They provide a visual way to see where work stands, organize and prioritize it, collaborate, and, track the flow of the work.  The approach started with the Kanban method of working in automobile manufacturing.  This style has been adopted as a key piece of Agile software development, for instance when doing Scrum.  In the digital world, TaskBoards are all about drag and drop and interactivity.  In this article, I’ll show you what we offer out-of-the-box and explain how you can leverage this way of working to improve results in many areas across your organization.

TaskBoarding Demo

We first added TaskBoards to our Project & Portfolio Management solution about 6 months ago in version 3.2.  It gives users an easy way to manage  task work for a team, project, or Agile sprint.  The drag and drop user interface and interactivity make work seem and feel much easier. Our standard TaskBoard goes a step beyond most others by enabling users to add new tasks and do updates in a smart, guided, interactive way.  This makes the work more manageable.

In the video below, I’ll look at the use of a TaskBoard for a SharePoint Service Delivery Team whose purpose is to provide a great SharePoint environment and deliver new applications and enhancements.  The tasks/requests come in, then, the team uses the task board to organize the work and to get it done.

Let’s do some Taskboarding – just click the image below for a 6 minute demo.TaskBoard

 

From TaskBoards to Workboarding on SharePoint

The TaskBoard you just saw makes work easier, more effective, and, more manageable.  The common use of it would be for projects and teams.  Use it with a tablet and you’ll have a really great experience.

Being based upon CorasWorks v11.3 CAPS, it is now totally customizable, portable, and re-purposable. So, you can use this style of work, let’s call it “workboarding”, as a feature of any application.  Fundamentally, it gives you an easier way for a group of people to work together to move things forward.  It would make a great new feature for any Stage-based collaborative process.    So, how about:

  • ChangeBoards – to manage change requests
  • IssueBoards – to manage issues
  • IdeaBoards – to manage ideas and innovation
  • PolicyBoards – to submit HR policy changes and approve them
  • ProductBoards – to plan product features for a release
  • ProposalBoards – to manage the work of business development proposals
  • SalesBoards – to track sales opportunities
  • RecruitBoards – to manage the HR recruiting process

I could go on.  But, it is now time for you to get your creative juices flowing.  With CorasWorks CAPS, you are empowered to go far beyond the out-of-the-box and come up with your own applications of this feature.  You don’t have to wait for CorasWorks to make changes and release a new version of it.  Just go forth and innovate.  You can drop it into any CorasWorks Application template, or, any native SharePoint site, or, a custom SP site.  Workboarding can be put at the fingertips of users anywhere across your SharePoint work environment. Your users will love you for it.

william

CorasWorks v11.3 is Released-that makes 10 Years, 4 SharePoint Platforms-and now CAPS

On Monday, July 15th, we released version 11.3 of the CorasWorks platform to the CorasWorks download library.  The v11.3 release supports SharePoint 2013 and SharePoint 2010.  This is our first release for SharePoint 2013 (although we’ve worked with Microsoft on this release for 2 years). 

This means that over the last 10 years, we have released the CorasWorks Solution Platform for four SharePoint platforms:

  • SharePoint 2003
  • SharePoint 2007
  • SharePoint 2010
  • SharePoint 2013

With each SharePoint platform and each CorasWorks release we have enhanced the ability of our customers to address their work management needs within a CorasWorks-SharePoint shared application services environment.  We have also continued to perfect our “puttyware” approach that enables users to design, build, enhance and extend applications, without the need for custom compiled code to be introduced into the shared services environment.

CAPS – A Big Step Forward in v11.3 (SP2010 and SP2013)

While v11.3 is just a .dot release, it is also of major importance.  I believe that for CorasWorks customers, the most important part is not the support for SP2013, but rather, that we have included the CorasWorks Application Service (CAPS) technology

CAPS is just the right thing at the right time.  Client side web development is exploding and so is the potential for a mess.

CAPS is a REST-like service (runs server side) that enables client-side web developers to build very rich and performant apps and advanced features that leverage a clean server-side service.  We have been using it in our off-the-shelf Solutions and in custom solutions for the last 6 months.  With v11.3, it is now included in the CorasWorks platform. 

CAPS is targeted towards the web app developer.  It gives them a powerful service, including items like XSLT 2.0 support, one call joins, one call batch requests, Global Variables, mobile/tablet support and lots of good clean stuff.  But, it is also important because it simplifies and structures the architecture to avoid client-side chaos and bloat.

To launch CAPS, we have provided the new CAPS Learning Center (available in the Resources section of CorasWorks Community) that takes a more developer approach to learning with online examples, scenarios, and features that can be re-used, leveraged, and learned from.  If you can cut and paste, you can leverage CAPS in your work environment.

william

Shared Contract Work Order Management System for Federal Agency and Contractor

How can we make the work on contracts more efficient and effective?  One powerful way is to enable people from the Federal Agency and the winning vendor Contractor team to work together in a shared environment to manage the work.  In this article, I’ll review a work management system that we just delivered that does just this.

The story is about how we were able to take our off-the-shelf IDIQ Task Order Management solution and rapidly apply it to meets the custom requirements of an RFP from a Federal Agency for a shared Contract Work Order Management System.  The story is partially about our solution, but, it is also about how a Federal Contractor can leverage CorasWorks (software and people) to outdo the competition, win business, and, stay close to their customer.

Situation

A civilian Federal Agency released an RFP as a small business set aside valued at about $100M over its term.  It is an outsourcing contract for IT-related Services.  The format of the contract is a single-award IDIQ with general Task Orders and specific Work Orders supporting about 30 core work areas.  The Work Orders are the primary method for getting the work done.

The new wrinkle is that the agency required, as part of the proposal, that the vendor provide a shared, collaborative, online work management system enabling the participants from the Agency to work with the participants from the Prime contractor and their team.  The system had to support the release of specific Work Orders that would come in as Agency requests, get released for estimates, get estimates, and drive the approval process.  In addition, the system had to support visibility into the work in progress including planning, tracking the work, ongoing collaboration, issue flagging, and reporting.

The big practical challenge for the Prime contractor and team was that the Agency required the vendor to have the system up and running on the date of submittal of the proposal.  It would be a live system, accessible by the Agencies review team during the proposal review phase and would then be migrated post-award.  This was a major compliance challenge that could have doubled or tripled the cost of submitting the proposal.  And, whatever system they proposed, they were going to have to live with for the duration of the contract.

Approach

A member of the Prime bidder’s team was a Top 10 Federal Contractor that is a CorasWorks customer and was familiar with our IDIQ Task Order Management solution that runs on Microsoft SharePoint.  This solution is designed for use within Federal Contractors, primarily in a multi-award situation, to manage the process of responding to task orders.  Upon review, it was decided that this solution would be the base for the required Work Order Management System.  The primary reasons were:

  • the core off-the-shelf feature set is very close to the needs of this contract work order management system
  • the configurability of CorasWorks would enable the team to deliver the required demonstration environment at a very reasonable cost and on time
  • CorasWorks is an open application environment, ie., not a proprietary code base, and thus, it be custom-configured, enhanced, and extended, by the Contractor team, to meet ongoing needs.

Solution

The solution was implemented by CorasWorks with our bidding team of the Prime Contractor and subcontractors.  We started with our off-the-shelf IDIQ Task Order Management solution running in a CorasWorks provided online environment.  We then applied it to the Agencies requirements.  This work took a couple of weeks of configuration and testing. Some key requirements for the system were:

  • The system was designed to support Federal Agency participants and Contractor participates within a common, online collaborative work environment requiring appropriate control of permissions and work action authority.
  • The system was setup up to support two workstreams (distinct stage-based processes).  One for Work Orders that cover the core contract work areas (the bulk of the work).  The other for new Task Orders that would be released to expand the scope of the contract.  Each workstream was a bit different.
  • Each workstream had to support 2 work Phases.  One was the Approval Process with the key stages of Request, Review, Estimating, and Approval.  The other was for approved work orders, Work In Progress, covering Working Planning, Work in Progress, and Closeout.
  • The system needed robust reporting to show process metrics and exception reporting across the life cycle of work.
  • Each work order or task order has its own Workspace that contains the detailed information for the item across its life-cycle and supports the collaborative activity required to drive the item forward.

Result

The system was delivered within cost and exactly on time which was objective one for compliance and is now in ongoing support mode.  The system met the compliance requirements of the Agency and included an interactive checklist to make it easy for the Agency to validate compliance.  While this system is not the core reason why the Agency will award the contract to a vendor team, it was perceived as a major reason why a team would be knocked out of the competition.

In addition, after working with the system, the Prime Contractor is now in process to procure CorasWorks for internal use and to leverage this Contract Work Order Management system to create a standard way of working on each of its major single-award contracts and for use for its IDIQ task order management.

My Comments

It is not uncommon for CorasWorks to be used to bring up collaborative work environments that bring together participants from Federal Agencies, Prime Contractors, and, contract teaming partners.  In fact, this particular agency has had experience working in similar CorasWorks-based environments for two other major contracts/programs with another Top 10 Federal Contractor (see Large Federal Contractor Drives Customer Intimacy and Value with Dedicated Program Workplaces on SharePoint).

However, this particular application of our IDIQ Task Order Management system was new.  Instead of focusing on winning the work, as in the typical multi-award IDIQ scenarios, it is all about getting the work done with visible participation of all members (Agency and Contractor).  Our existing solution provided 90% of the base system allowing the team to get where it needed to be very quickly.

I can see the use of CorasWorks for Contract Work Order Management in three scenarios.

  • One where a Federal Contractor uses it just within their organization and working with teaming partners to manage work requests on their single-award contracts.
  • Another is for a Federal Agency to manage their request processes within the Agency and the interaction with their vendors.
  • The third is an integrated, shared work environment as in this scenario.

I believe that this last scenario, the integrated work environment, is the top of the food chain in terms of driving efficiency and effectiveness of the work delivered on Federal Government contracts.  We’ve seen it before and it is proven.  However, you need an enlightened agency and a contractor that can handle the transparency to make it work.  Like any collaborative process, it takes the team some time to learn how to work together and how they work will continually evolve as they learn.

William

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See additional articles for IDIQ Task Order Management in this blog.

Visit CorasWorks IDIQ Task Order Management for product information.

Overview of CorasWorks Capture and Proposal Management solution v2.1

Version 2.1 of the CorasWorks Capture and Proposal Management (CnP) solution for Federal Government Contractors has been released.  Over the next few weeks you’ll see articles, press releases, webcasts, and customer case studies for the solution.  This article will provide you with an overview of the solution to get you started.

Background of the Solution

Over our 10 years, we have supported many customers that have leveraged the CorasWorks Work Management platform to create custom Proposal Management solutions that run on SharePoint.  Over the last year, as we’ve built our Federal Contractor business we’ve found considerable demand for a Commercial-Off-The-Shelf (COTS) solution for Capture and Proposal Management running on SharePoint.  Version 2.1 delivers this COTS solution as a comprehensive, integrated, and flexible way to master the full life cycle of Capture and Proposal Management.  Its flexible design (technically and via pricing) enables it be leveraged by small and mid-sized businesses and the largest enterprises.

Overview of CnP v2.1

CnP v2.1 is a 3 module system.  It is designed to allow you to get started quickly with a COTS, comprehensive, integrated solution that can be easily customized, enhanced and extended.  The schematic below depicts the core three modules.

Modules of CorasWorks Capture and Proposal Management

Capture and Proposal Management Center – this module is the center of the system.  It allows you to manage all opportunities/proposals through a structured Stage-Phase-Step life cycle.  It provides you with the top down visibility and overall management of your proposal pipeline.  Typically, customers configure this module to reflect (visually and functionally, see screenshot below) their custom Shipley/Lohfeld/APMP process model.  CorasWorks then automates the work of the users to manage the process.

Proposal Working Sites – this is where the collaborative work takes place for each opportunity/proposal from capture through post-proposal.  It is full of CorasWorks enhanced Work Management features to organize and automate the work with integration with all CnP system features, native SharePoint and external applications and systems.

Proposal Asset Library – a key part of the system is the availability of the Proposal Asset Library (PAL) to manage assets such as Past Performance, Forms, Policies, Boilerplate, Graphics, Resumes etc. Leveraging the integrated nature of this solution these resources are made available to users as they work in proposal sites.

Below is the home page of the CnP Management Center.  In this implementation, a customers’ 4 Stage, 8 Phase, 22 Step “baseline” process is depicted visually to show where everything stands.

[Click on the image to enlarge]

Capture and Proposal Managment Home - Stage-Phase-Step: Shipley-Lohfeld process

Key Features of the Solution

Below I’ll highlight key features of the CorasWorks CnP v2.1 solution.

  • Support for custom Stage-Phase-Step Process -  flexible Stage-based process management and the ability to embed the solution with your customized way of working
  • Auto-provisioning and configuration of Proposal Working Sites
  • All Documents Work Management – special display allowing users to go to one place to see and act on all documents related to a proposal across multiple libraries
  • Color Review Workspaces – special workspaces for proposal color and gate reviews supporting review and commenting
  • Master Calendaring – central master calendar of events such as color reviews across all proposals in the system, editable and accessible from within each proposal working site
  • Pinpoint Search and Fetch – ability for users to search and fetch information from Proposal Asset Libraries while working within a proposal site
  • Writer Assignment Management – automation of the assignment, notification, and management of writer tasks
  • My Work – enable users to see, contribute and act on work related to them as individuals from across the system
  • Support for Role-Based Work Consoles – ability to create work consoles where users of a certain role, such as teaming partners, can go and work with information from across the system
  • Configurable reporting – off-the-shelf you have configurable reporting in Tabular Reports with one click to print, to Excel, PDF, and Word.  You also have configurable Pivot Charting.
  • Integration of third-party CRM Systems – ability to integrate the solution with the leading CRM systems  (Deltek GovWin, Salesforce, MS CRM) and just about any other external system (ERP, HR, Custom, SAAS app)

CnP v2.1: Flexibility to Accommodate and Innovate

If you are using any of the COTS legacy proposal management solutions in the market you are constrained by their proprietary, fragile, and custom coded design.  If you are using SharePoint that is heavily customized by IT or a proprietary system, while this may mean that it could be modified, the cost, risk, and time is so high that change is constrained.  If you use native SharePoint or Alfresco or file shares, you are probably working with tools that are feature constrained, relying on manual content-driven work, siloed document libraries, siloed proposal sites and an environment where assets like proposal asset libraries are siloed.

With CorasWorks CnP v2.1, you are in a different world.  The COTS solution is feature rich but is really your base solution.  As a solution on the CorasWorks Work Management platform, it is unusually flexible and unusually easy to change – so easy that it is normally business users that customize, enhance, and even extend the solution leveraging the market leading CorasWorks Configuration Wizards.  This flexibility enables organizations to get what they want today, change things on the fly to accommodate specific work needs, and to innovate as their needs change.

A new choice

Now, with CorasWorks CnP v2.1 you have a new choice.  If you have little in the way of formal CnP tools or are using native SharePoint, you don’t have to just make do.  Our affordable pricing model allows you to move up the value stack to a COTS solution on SharePoint with a rich feature set to optimize your work and stay competitive.  Or, if you are heavily invested in a legacy, costly system you can replace them or enhance them with just what you need often at less than it costs you to maintain them.

No matter where you come from, the key is that you are not switching to a locked-in COTS system.  CorasWorks CnP is open, flexible and will allow you to decide where you want to go from here.

For more information:

 

william

Overview of CorasWorks IDIQ Task Order Management v2.1

Our newest version of the CorasWorks IDIQ Task Order Management solution for Federal Contractors is now available.  On April 10th, we did a webcast introducing the solution to the market.  For access to the recorded webcast, that includes about 30 minutes of demo time and the powerpoint deck used in the webcast – email info@corasworks.net.  In this article, I’ll provide an overview of the v2.1 release.

The Purpose

Simply put, the solution provides you with the means to efficiently and effectively manage Task Orders through their life cycle.  Below is a graphic showing the core stages of the life cycle supported by the solution.

image

Solution and Implementation Scenario Flexibility

The solution consists of 6 modules leveraging the CorasWorks v11 Work Management platform running on SharePoint 2010.  It is designed to be flexible to meet a number of scenarios such as:

  • Corporate IDIQ/GWAC centers with many IDIQs
  • Prime, multi-award IDIQs
  • Sub contractor IDIQ Task Order Management
  • Single Award Task Orders
  • Business Units with multiple IDIQs and depth of working on Proposals and Delivering the Work
  • IDIQs with extensive partner engagement or no partners
  • Small Business with their first IDIQ as a Prime contractor

Core Features

At its core the v2.1 solution continues to support the core IDIQ work management workload with the following features:

  • Manage Portfolio of IDIQ Vehicles
  • Capture Task Orders
  • Auto-Provisioning of IDIQ Vehicles and Task Order Working Sites
  • Bid/No Bid Decisions
  • Manage Partners, Partner Surveys and Engagement
  • Business Unit Surveys and Engagement
  • Proposal development and review
  • Shared Proposal Asset Libraries (such as Past Performance, Forms and Templates, Boilerplate, and Graphics)
  • Stage-Gate Management Process and Activities
  • Task/Work Request Management
  • Shared Calendaring
  • Real time Reporting/Drill Down
  • Platform support for Integration with external CRM, ERP and HR systems
  • Highly configurable actions and workflow
  • Leverage SharePoint data, security and administration.

New Features in v2.1

This version has been extensively upgraded.  Below I highlight three key enhancements.

IDIQ Management Hub

This new module provides a single place for users to go to see, contribute, and act on work across many IDIQ vehicles and Task Orders.  From one place you can post task orders to different vehicles, see Task Orders across vehicles and their stages and drill down into the working sites, see and respond to partner and business unit expressions of interest (surveys), get reporting across vehicles that aggregates the information or that is comparative.

Below is a screenshot of this module (click to enlarge).

image

Enhanced Partner Engagement Sites

In v2.1, each Partner has their own site where they do their work and engage with you.  From here they can view new Task Orders, submit their expressions of interest, and review previous EOI’s and your response.  In addition, in v2.1 we’ve added support for partners to submit “future opportunities” that you can then centrally manage.  These opportunities can be reviewed and moved into Watch Lists and eventually into the appropriate Task Order when it is released.

Below is a screenshot of the new Partner Site (click to enlarge).

image

Increased Flexibility with new configuration wizard: Features Designer

All of the modules of the solution have been enhanced to make them even more flexible so that you can configure the solution to meet very specific needs.  For instance, you may want to configure vehicles and their processes to be slightly different.  Or, you may want the Proposal Working sites to be different.  Using CorasWorks configuration wizards, power users are able to make changes on the fly without affecting the overall system.  A new configuration wizard added in v2.1 is the Features Designer.  This allows power users to very easily turn on and off features of a module with a click or re-arrange their navigation with drag and drop.

Below is a screenshot of the Features Designer wizard (click to enlarge) for an IDIQ Vehicle site.  Note that the Watchlist, Pipeline, and Vehicle Library are greyed out.  To enable the feature just click the light-bulb.  You can change the names and drag and drop items to rearrange the navigation.

image

With v2.1 – Comprehensive AND Flexible

If you are interested, watch the demo for the webcast mentioned above.  This will show you the comprehensive feature set of the solution out of the box.  However, it is the flexibility of this solution that really makes it work for customers.  In our implementations, we always start with our “base solution” and get the customer up and running quickly.  Yet, every customer at the end of the day is different.  It is typical for each Business Unit and often each Vehicle to need changes that allow users to optimize their work.  The unique configurability of the solution leveraging the CorasWorks wizards supports this.  Thus, with this solution you get the best blend of commercial off the shelf software that can be easily configured as if it were custom.

William

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See additional articles for IDIQ Task Order Management in this blog.

Visit CorasWorks IDIQ Task Order Management for product information.