Archive for Work Management

Application Delivery Therapy for IT and Business

pond

With our v11.3.2 wave, Application Designer, the Design Canvas and our 6 pack of sample apps we are in the process of providing a new service – Application Delivery Therapy - to IT and Business Groups within our customers.  Well, not really.  But, these simple additions to our product line have enabled our customers to rethink how they get the job done.  We are now often engaging pretty much as a therapist to help both IT and Business readjust to a better way to work together.  Let’s talk about it.

Should be easy and painless – right?

The vast majority of the business applications we address on SharePoint are what I would call “business critical” vs. mission critical.  They are departmental level apps, generally around work management, involve some business process vs. just content, and would seem to be rather tightly scoped.  So, you think the work would be easy and painless.  Yet, in most cases, if both IT and Business have to get involved, the situation devolves into a classic battle filled with tension.

Regular SharePoint – normal IT and Business misalignment

In a normal SharePoint world, IT and business are coming from two different places.  IT is looking to bring up and deliver an infrastructure service within a particular SLA.  Business is after unique, business applications that can drive better results.  When the two meet it is usually in a situation where IT is being asked to deliver a custom application on top of SharePoint for business.  The conversation quickly becomes about IT’s needs for the detailed requirements (like all good custom app shops), budget allocations, a long lead time, and business pushing back.  The tension mounts.  Business tries to get around IT…

CorasWorks changing the dynamic of delivering apps

CorasWorks has always had a play here to simply make it faster and easier for IT or Business IT to get the job done in a more agile manner.  However, the new wave of App add-ons actually changes the dynamics of the work.  It goes like this:

  1. With the 6 pack of Apps, IT is able to have instances of a bunch of apps that cover a common spectrum of application cases.  These aren’t necessarily the exact app but close enough for business to “get it and see how they would apply it.”   Seeing is a big piece of believing.
  2. They can then do what we call “walkthroughs” and talk about which is the most relevant app and design for the business need.  This gets them on the same page very quickly.  It allows them to specify their joint approach.
  3. Armed with the CorasWorks Design Canvas, IT is able to quickly make changes – usually in real time as they discuss things. They can ask what Business wants and talk options.  Requirements details come out of the process – naturally and relatively reasonably.
  4. Then, they can do what we call “workouts” to workout the app, both IT and Business hands on.  Through the workout, business refines their requirements and IT has the attention to figure out the best way.
  5. Gradually, working side by side, the apps take form.  Usually, rather quickly, business is ready to begin using it, knowing that it can be changed.
  6. Advanced enhancements can now be dropped in with a bit more lead time as a phase 2.
  7. The new app can then be added to IT’s catalog of sample apps to serve the next business group.

Some Comments

  • Initially, business thinks their app is completely unique.  It isn’t – 80% is the same as others.  It is very odd to see how quickly business folks will “apply” an existing app to their needs – once they see it.  What they need is the extra 20% that is unique – which we support.
  • The above flow eliminates that upfront confrontation around requirements and business’s lack of confidence that IT can deliver.  Often, the battle happens before IT and Business have even engaged.  To make this really work well, the desired app needs to fit into the “wheelhouse” of what IT already has at its fingertips.  The 6 pack of apps is a starter.
  • You don’t even talk budgets until you reach step 3 above.
  • It is a virtuous cycle.  The more apps you do this way, the bigger the catalog of apps in IT and more skilled they are at the process – so the more business needs fall into the “wheelhouse,” the quicker the success.
  • The best results are achieved when you can make someone from IT and someone from Business jointly accountable in real time for the results.  It is side by side and collaborative.  It is about the shared objective.  It is Joint Application Building.
  • Force as much real time changes as you can.  Sometimes it is best to have two people from IT involved – one talking and taking notes and one building (“the person behind the curtain”).  Real time makes a difference.
  • In this way you are building up a new Application Delivery capability.  It is not just ITs job but also the job of business to leverage the capability to deliver improved results.
  • IT should be willing to empower Business to use the Design Canvas to make certain changes in the application.

Application Delivery Therapy

We are helping customers change.  We help you get set up with CorasWorks v11.3.2, things IT needs to know, and your catalog of apps.  We help you get your approach for working with business in place.  We often help with getting business to try it out.  We often support your team on the first few apps.

Like any good therapy our approach is to seek alignment, remove distractions, and put in place positive tools and behavior to reinforce success.

 

william

IT at Your Service

atyourservice

A revolution is happening within the enterprise where IT is rapidly becoming much more focused on the business users as customers. The shift has been more than just philosophical. IT’s processes and systems are shifting to support this new focus and best practices have emerged to support this shift. For example, ITIL v3 is helping facilitate the shift through its inclusion of IT Request Management/Fulfillment.

The idea of IT Request Management is pretty straightforward. Make it easy for business users to find and access the various services offered by IT. Then, make it easy for them to request the service, track the request, get status updates, and finally get their request fulfilled to their satisfaction.

But what about IT?

This makes it easy for the business user, but what about IT? How do they benefit from IT Request Management? Well, there are several ways beyond the customer satisfaction you’ll get from your happy business users.

First, if done right, IT now has a much more efficient way to route the right request through the right process, and have the correct teams notified. No more having to route everything through the “help desk” and then forwarding it on. This streamlines the response times. Also each team can manage their own knowledge base to prevent users from asking the same things, over and over again.

Second, it sets expectations. When business users are requesting services, the service descriptions include an SLA and also a cost of the service. This way, business users know what they’re asking for and what the response time should be. No more miscommunications.

But these are not the biggest benefits to IT. Since each service is being tracked, there is transparency, and IT can run reports on the costs per business unit, and even per-person within the units. It makes it easy to show the business function leaders what their units are consuming from IT and why IT needs resources to make things happen. Now that is a really big benefit for anyone who has sat in front of the business functions and tried to explain why they should ante up to fund next year’s IT budget.

So how does an IT department get there?

One way is to purchase an ITSM system and implement it, along with all of the costly process consultants, and per-seat licensing fees. At CorasWorks, we saw this as a great use for SharePoint. Most companies already have SharePoint running internally so that makes it a good candidate for an IT Request Management solution. So we designed a purpose-built Request Management solution. What makes this unique? Well, to start with, it’s built on the CorasWorks platform and as such it not only comes out of the box addressing the specific scenario, but it’s built to be customized. Each company is different, so our solution allows you to define your service categories, service areas, and individual service processes to match your needs. And since it’s built on CorasWorks, it can grow with you.

So what are the feature of the CorasWorks Solution?

There are several key features of the CorasWorks IT Request Management Solution. You can see a complete list of the features here.

But what about people who already have existing ITSM systems but could really use a better front end?

It’s possible. You could leverage our really nice, user-friendly front-end for the business user and even for IT to use to manage the service catalog and requests, then populate the ITSM system at the appropriate time. This is not an out of the box feature, but it is something our services team can do. We’ll take a look at your current ITSM system, determine the best integration points, and using the tools that are part of the system, we will not only build the connections but show you how we did it so you can maintain it. It will also be far quicker and less expensive than you would expect when hear “integration.”

Just ask and we’ll be happy to work with you.

Welcome to “IT at your service.”

william

CorasWorks Application Designer – The “Just Right” Way to Create Business Applications on SharePoint

justright We just released the CorasWorks Application Designer.  It is a tool that you use to rapidly build the most common types of work management business applications.  In this article, I’ll provide you with an overview and explain why it should become the “Just Right” tool for a lot of your business applications.

Getting Started and Building Momentum

It is available for free to all CorasWorks customers on active Premier Support and Maintenance.  You’ll find it in the Download section of the new Customer Center.  It is available for download by any employees that have been given access to the Learning Centers of the Customer Center (see this article for information on the Customer Center).  It requires that you are running v11.3.1 of CorasWorks or greater.

To get going, read the rest of the article, download the tool, upload it to a site collection, create a site with it, and then, build your first app.

When done, templatize that first app, make 10 changes in 30 minutes, and then, deliver your second app for a similar but different need.

Repeat, to create more apps.

Why “Just Right”?

February 13th was our 11th anniversary.  For 11 years, we have been committed to helping our customers deliver business applications on SharePoint.  Principally, we have done this by offering a powerful Work Management platform and COTS purpose-built solutions.  It has worked for many.  However, we think there is a large group of people out there that still haven’t been enabled to add business value.  We believe that there is a “just right” spot that we haven’t tackled yet.

Let me explain.  Our platform requires that you know CorasWorks technology, some SharePoint, and that, you can design a business application.  Our off-the-shelf applications deliver the value quickly — if it is the application you need.

So, for some the platform is Too Cold – they can’t get that deep, don’t have the app design skills, not enough time, just not enough there to get over the hump…

For others, the purpose built apps are too much or just don’t apply – let us say Too Hot.

What we’ve done with the CorasWorks Application Designer is to build a “generic” tool that lets you build very quickly and within a well defined application framework to meet that middle majority of application needs.  The tool is not overbuilt so that it applies only to a narrow application need.  Nor, does it require you to learn much technology to deliver robust apps.  It is in the middle – just the right place to start.

All of the elements are there for you to quickly create work management applications.  And, whatever you build is a) polished and ready to be put to work, b) very easy to modify and c) even quicker and easier to re-configure to deliver for the next similar, but different, application.

So, not too hot, not too cold, just right.

A Sample Application

What does it looks like? What kind of apps are just right?  Here is an example.

I do a lot of work with Federal Government Contractors.  They have a department– Contract Administration–that manages their government contracts.  They get a huge volume of requests, normally by email, from all parts of the organization.  The application is to funnel the requests into a work management application to be centrally managed, assigned, tracked, and reported on.  Below is a sample page, All Open Requests, from the application.

image

How You Get There with Application Designer

You start by creating a new site using Application Designer (or re-using an app already delivered based upon Application Designer). The Application Designer is packaged as a SharePoint template, so it’s as simple as creating a new site using the Application Designer template. Once you create the site, you’re ready to start creating.  The Application Designer design canvas shown below is what you use to layout your application.image

This easy-to-use designer allows you to lay out your navigation and drop “widgets” into it that provide the functionality.  Widgets are navigation items (tabs, buttons), web part pages, displays, actions, and links that build out the user interface.  It is rather amazing how productive people can be just because it is easy to visually lay out the application with pre-built functionality.

You can reuse web part pages with web parts as features.  So, you can create your first one, and populate it with CorasWorks displays and actions and then clone it for use for other similar pages.  For instance, each page above in the “Manage Requests” tab is a clone of New Requests showing different information and with different user work actions.

Each page can be managed here via the Application Designer design canvas.  A key feature is the ability to secure each feature/page to a SharePoint Group or one or more users.  This enables you to easily design a robust role-based UI within a single app.

You then leverage the CorasWorks Application Wizards (Display Wizard, Action Wizard, Activation Wizard, etc.) to get into details for each feature you’ve added to the app such as custom tailoring the user actions or notifications or reports.

Branding.  Yes, people want it to look their way.  The Options feature of the Application Designer console allows you to control the look and feel.  We’ve incorporated ThemeRoller into the solution.  As it sounds, it lets you “roll your own” theme for branding or use one of the default options.

Quick Answers

How do I get it?  Go to the CorasWorks Customer Center, Download link at the top.  You need to be a user that has access to the Learning Centers of the CorasWorks Customer Center.  If you are an employee of a customer and don’t have access, just request access from the home page of the Customer Center.

How to learn to get started?  See the Application Designer video in the Platform Learning Center.  You need to have access to that Learning Center.

How to learn to build with CorasWorks?  See the “Essentials” videos in the Platform Learning Center.

Who can help me at CorasWorks?  Contact us at CustomerSuccess@corasworks.net.  We’ll also set up 1-on-1 sessions with our solution consultants to help you get started.

Enjoy,

william

CorasWorks Work Management vs. CRM Database System (3 Part Series)

apples and oranges

This month I wrote a 3-part series that provides a comparison and discussion of CorasWorks Work Management system vs. a CRM database system.  This discussion was triggered by a Federal Government Contractor customer demonstration I attended and the discussions between IT and the Business Users of our customer.

The point of these articles is not an argument for why you should buy a CorasWorks Work Management system vs. a CRM database system.  It is about explaining how they are different and play different roles in your enterprise work environment.

In sum, the CorasWorks work management system provides you with a flexible, business user friendly way to optimize your productivity while the CRM system is an enterprise system of record.  Knowing their proper roles, which is best for what purpose and having them work together can yield you big dividends without the pain of unmet expectations and needs.

The articles are as follows:

william

Why you can do more for less using CorasWorks Work Management vs. your CRM system (Part 2)

I just posted an article that works through the numbers of comparing the productivity improvement using the CorasWorks Work Management system vs. a CRM system.  The impact is a 30x increase in productivity at the task level.  It adds up – big time.

You would think that you could achieve productivity improvements and better business results by leveraging a CRM system.  At a base level, like reporting productivity, perhaps.  But, in general, business users are challenged to get real work productivity improvement.  The reason is that there is a fundamental difference in design between a Work Management system like CorasWorks vs. a CRM system.  In this article, I’ll discuss the difference.

Most CRM systems are designed as a database system.  They are organized by content.  You have Accounts, Opportunities, Contacts, Products, etc.  Items are related in parent/child constructs.  If you read my article you see that with CorasWorks it is easy to automate work tasks.  Technically, you may be able to do this in a CRM but at a much higher cost.  But the killer difference, is that it just doesn’t work for users.  In reality your CRM is a system of record.  Fundamentally, the user experience of CRM systems is not designed to support a variety of business activities in different business contexts. Yet, this is really the work of business users.  They are always working in a context.  They really don’t wake up in the morning thinking about having to update a database, they think in terms of the work they need to get done.

The Difference of Business Context Design

Let’s take a Federal Government Contractor.  The work that is done consists of things like this:

  • IDIQ Program Management
  • Task Order Management
  • Gate Reviews
  • Capture and Proposal Management
  • Contract/Program Management
  • Contract Administration
  • Partner Surveys and Expressions of Interest
  • Partner Subcontract Statement of Work and Agreements

With CorasWorks, each of these are applications (or think of them as discreet processes or activities).  Each is self-contained, providing the user with an optimized user experience.  Each is configurable.  Each automates the work that the business users do in that particular context.  And, all of them are actually part of a single integrated work environment running within a SharePoint context.  Thus, while each has its own business context they are natively integrated.

Now, think CRM.  How would you overlay the work of these 8 very different activities on top of your CRM? What is the user interface that puts them in the right business context? How would a user use the system?  How would they know what to do?

In most cases the answer is something like – when you need to Log a Bid Decision go to this place, change these fields, update this, send these emails, etc.  It is a document requiring training.  it relies on the user to get it right or else bad things happen.

You could individually try and add bells and whistles to your CRM to automate some portion of the 200 or so user tasks across the 8 processes above.  But, where is the business context.  How do I, the business user, know what context I am in and have the information I need along with the work automation to get it done.

With the unique flexibility of CorasWorks it is easy to spin up applications that automate work for a specific purpose.  Thus, you end up with the ability to make the users very productive because they have all of the information and automation at their fingertips to get done what they need to get done.

The key difference is that CorasWorks allows you to automate the work in the business context.  It makes a big difference in the results that you achieve.

Overlaying Work Management on CRM

But you say… “my CRM is my system of record. I need it updated”.  That may be correct.  So, the optimal approach works like this.  You use CorasWorks to serve as the front-end to your CRM (or any other system like ERP or HR system).  CorasWorks has a framework that let’s us connect with just about any external system and do reading and writing on behalf of the user.  Thus, you organize the business user work by “application” in CorasWorks and automate it such that as they do the work the information is updated in your CRM or other system.

The result is that you get the work results you need via CorasWorks and maintain the data integrity you want from your CRM or other system.

william

Increasing productivity using CorasWorks Work Automation over a CRM database system – by 30x(y) (Part 1)

NOTE: This is Part 1 in a 3 part series comparing CorasWorks Work Management to a CRM database system. They all relate to the same customer story. See part 2 and 3 that follow on the same blog day.

I was in a demo today where a business user within a customer was showing IT how they use CorasWorks.  The business user was showing and explaining how CorasWorks helps them be productive.  The IT folks were used to a CRM database.  So, I provided them with a comparison of CorasWorks Work Automation vs. what someone has to do using a database.  Below I’ll share the particular example I used.  I’ll detail the productivity numbers and scale them for a broader perspective vs. other ways of getting work done.  The numbers really add up to make a sizable impact on your business.

Specific Scenario

The scenario is simple.  In Federal Government Contractors, they manage responses to RFPs through a process that is a set of Stages.  At a stage often known as Pursuit, the Contractor needs to make an Initial Decision to Bid or Not to Bid.  Then, the decision needs to be recorded, people informed, next steps initiated, etc.

In the meeting I asked the business user what they would have to do if they were using the CRM system.  They said it would work like this:

  1. The decision is made.
  2. A user then goes to the CRM system and locates the opportunity.
  3. They then need to manually update at least 5 fields (Bid Decision, Decision Reason, Decision Date, Who/How Decided, Stage When Decided, Next Step).
  4. If it is a No Bid decision then they need to update some more fields to close out the opportunity like End Stage, No Bid Date, Reason for No Bid.
  5. In general, they will then go to email to send an email to the Capture/BD team informing them of the decision.
  6. If a partner is engaged, then they will send them an email.
  7. If it is a big deal, they may also inform management via email.
  8. If it is a go-forward bid decision, they need to go to another system to create a task or send out an email for users to then begin the next steps to work on the bid.
  9. Somehow, they should record the activity – that they actually took the action and what they did, by making a comment.

On average, getting the above steps done (say 1 to 2 emails) takes about 5 minutes of work.  In addition, this assumes that they get it all done in the first pass.

I then asked the business user to show how they did it in CorasWorks.  It went like this:

  1. The decision is made.
  2. They then goes to the CorasWorks BD app and locate the opportunity.
  3. They run the CorasWorks action called Bid Decision, a simple form pops up with 2 fields (Bid Decision and Decision Reason) that they modify and then click Okay.

This action takes about 10 seconds.  CorasWorks does all of the work.  It updates fields of information.  In understands what emails need to go out to whom and does that.  It knows what related tasks need to be created.  It documents the activity.

Time Difference 1 Item

NOTE: In my comparison, I am assuming in both cases the time it takes to go into the system and locate the record is the same.  However, in CorasWorks you have all of the opportunities in this stage already at your fingertips.

  • Manual CRM Database/Email – 5 minutes.
  • CorasWorks – 10 seconds
  • Productivity Improvement – 30x.

Impact for this One Task During a Year

Well, you might say that this is just one little task – exactly!!!  This little task is done about 1,000 times a year for most of our customers.  Using the comparison for single items the numbers are:

  • Manual CRM Database – 5,000 minutes (83 hours)
  • CorasWorks – 166 minutes (2.8 hours)

Impact on Average of 50 Tasks

In a normal Capture and Proposal Management process for Business Development there are at least 50 “little” tasks like this.  Things like promoting from Stage to Stage, assigning writer tasks, scheduling reviews, recording release of RFPs, creating requests for contract administration, etc.  So, let’s multiply the above times 50 to see the impact for this one process.

  • Manual CRM Database – 250,000 minutes (4150 hours, 518 days of work)
  • CorasWorks – 8,300 minutes (140 hours, 17 days)

But I have 10 Processes like this?  That means…

Yes, it does.  Your people are constantly switching between apps or doing things manually.  This assumes they even know what they should be doing.  If you apply the math the impact of CorasWorks across 10 apps/processes like this one are:

  • Manual – 5,180 days of work (20 people)
  • CorasWorks – 170 days of work (.7 people)

The upshot is that there is a tremendous amount of manual “work” going on in your organization that is costing you a tremendous amount of time and money.

What about consistency and data quality?

The productivity benefits are really important.  But, the consistency and the resulting data quality are very important for your effectiveness.  Bad things happen when the data is bad.  In the CRM scenario, we are assuming that each user is trained really well and does all (100%) of the things required (a mess occurs if they forget to update that one field with the Bid Decision date).  They also need to follow the business rules on who to update with what information.  In general, this does not occur.

With CorasWorks, the system gets it right the first time and every time.

But it’s not apples to apples…

Ah, you caught me.  You might say that you could go into a CRM system such as Salesforce or MS CRM or Deltek GovWin CRM and program workflows and build custom forms and you might be able to accomplish something similar.  We use Salesforce.  To accomplish this one task, partially, would probably take 40 hours of development by an IT professional.  Assuming you the skills, time, budget, requirements, etc.

With CorasWorks, it would take about 30 minutes – all done with our magical configuration wizards.  And, the work could be done and modified by a business user.  They can also change it when they need to.

So, here is what happens.  In a CorasWorks world all 50 of those work automation tasks for this process are automated because it is so easy and cheap and fast to do.  And, the 9 other specific processes are also automated.  Whereas in the CRM world only a few special items are automated, if any at all.

So, the “developer” productivity of CorasWorks means that 1) you get automated whatever you need to and 2) it is really easy and fast to change so you stay current and innovate.

It is the reality

The above numbers reflect what is actually happening.  Most of us think that because we have some database system or custom app we are more productive.  The reality is that we often don’t have enough time and resources to take it to the right level.  These legacy systems aren’t really designed for Work Automation like CorasWorks.  I cannot underestimate the positive impact that CorasWorks has because of the ease of automating the work of the business user.

Usually, it is not a question that something is not technically feasible.  It is the cost, skill and time it takes to innovate.  If the bar is too high, as it is with most other legacy software, it just never happens.  Thus, most organizations numbers actually look like the ones above.

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

Leveraging CorasWorks to integrate Deltek GovWin CRM with SharePoint-based Capture and Proposal system

  A common scenario is to use CorasWorks to integrate work management on SharePoint with external CRM (customer relationship management) systems.  In this article I’ll review how one customer did this to integrate their Capture and Proposal Management system with Deltek GovWin CRM (a popular CRM for Federal Government Contractors).  I’ll also give an example of how you can go beyond just integration and use work automation to get more work done, more easily and more consistently.

The Situation

Our customer is a $200M Federal Contractor.  They use CorasWorks for their Intranet and many of their work management applications.  They are using Deltek GovWin CRM as their CRM.  They had created a Capture and Proposal Management system using the Lohfeld Consulting Group’s Capture Command Center solution and methodology on SharePoint 2010. So, you had CorasWorks in the middle, the Lohfeld solution running in a siloed area of SharePoint, and, the CRM system running in its silo elsewhere within the enterprise.

They wanted to eliminate the silos and make work more efficient and consistent.  They wanted one seamless work environment.

The Solution

They started by upgrading the Lohfeld solution using CorasWorks to enhance the UI and automate the work.  Viola, one seamless work environment using CorasWorks on SharePoint.  Then, they turned to the integration of the Capture and Proposal Management solution and their CRM system.

The schematic below shows how the resulting system lays out.

image

In addition to the end user work management features, the CorasWorks platform comes with robust integration middleware.  This part of the platform allows you to integrate CorasWorks-based work management solutions with just about any external system – database, web service, cloud service or app.  CorasWorks supports two-way integration.  It is also all done via configuration, without requiring custom compiled code.

In this situation, they decided to use the CorasWorks capability in a one way scenario.  Within the enhanced Lohfeld Capture Command Center they created a virtual directory of opportunities.  When users come in they see all of the opportunities organized by their capture stages.  If they are in a specific business group then they see only the opportunities for that business group.  The virtual directory information is coming from the CRM system yet surfaced within the SharePoint environment and in the context of the user.  The user can then drill down into the working proposal site or into the CRM record.

The Result

This simple solution goes a long way to eliminating the silos and seams of the system.  The benefits are as follows:

  • The users have a structured way to see the opportunities and drill down into where they need to do the work.
  • The CRM remains the “source of truth” about the opportunity data.
  • They eliminate the seams and any need for duplicate work.
  • The virtual opportunity directory is dynamically updated in real time.
  • It is context sensitive so that users will see what they should see based upon their business group.

Getting Better: Let CorasWorks Do More of the Work

Now, this is a great beginning.  But, they can do better by allowing CorasWorks to do more work for the users.  This customer uses CorasWorks Actions to automate work within Capture and Proposal.  They could extend this use to also have CorasWorks automatically update the CRM system for key changes – two way integration.

Let’s imagine that an opportunity is in the Pre-Proposal stage.  The RFP is now released and you need to do some things and move it into the Proposal Development stage.  The user would run a CorasWorks Action and it would do the following:

  • capture a few fields of information about the RFP in a single task specific form
  • update information in SharePoint
  • move the opportunity from Pre-Proposal to Proposal Development
  • update the corresponding fields in Deltek GovWin CRM
  • log the action for tracking and reporting in the work management system
  • send emails out to the Proposal Team, Capture Owner, BD Owner, and business unit manager
  • spawn a couple of pre-defined tasks to kick off the Proposal Development effort such as scheduling a Gate Review, Color Review, Kick Off Meeting, or, task to develop a Compliance Checklist

All of these activities are done by CorasWorks with just one action by the user.  Clearly it would increase the user’s productivity by eliminating work.  It also means that the user doesn’t have to leave SharePoint to go over to the CRM and do data entry.  Accordingly, it insures that all of these pre-defined important items get done – fully and correctly.  Once instructed, CorasWorks doesn’t forget what needs to be done or get distracted.  It just gets it done.

The organization gets the same seamless result as they did before, and, they also get the productivity benefits and consistency of CorasWorks work automation. 

william

Request Management Solution (Beta) – One solution, many applications, much easier

About a year ago I wrote an article about “work request management” that drills into 4 scenarios and compares and contrasts them – Customer Examples of Work Request Management apps for SharePoint.  Lots of type of requests should be managed.  Examples are: Trouble tickets (IT), Requests for proposal (BD), Capital Purchase Requests (Finance), HR Staffing (HR), Contract Reviews (Legal), Material Storage (Manufacturing), Demo Requests (Sales) and Marketing Campaign Requests (Marketing) …

These types of Requests are important to respond to.  They generate work or use capital or other resources and should be managed.  Requests and the associated work need visibility, tracking, reporting, a structured and automated way of getting them approved and tracking the work.  They are a core way that work gets initiated and done across your workplace.  The problem is that often, the types of requests that should be managed end up instead being driven through ad hoc activity, mainly email.  This adds costs and risks to the organization.  Multiple the cost/risk of one scenario times the number of scenarios and it is a big cost with a lot of risk.

CorasWorks is very well suited for request management applications.  Over the last year, we’ve seen more and more CorasWorks-based applications created to address all sorts of types of request management needs.  The ROI on these apps is very good – however…

The practical challenge for organizations is that there are so many different scenarios. They are architecturally quite similar but differ in the details.  And, the details matter to the end customer.  While the end result is quite good using CorasWorks, it takes a bit of time and some knowledge to configure CorasWorks for each specific application and to modify it when things change.  Compared to other options, we have a good general solution.  But, we thought that with a bit of focus we could make it even easier, more approachable, more scalable, and, more cost-effective for you to meet the business needs.

So, we decided to create a “vanilla” Request Management solution.  This solution, now in Beta, leverages the new v11.3 feature set to make it much easier to crank out purpose-specific request management apps.  It is the “vanilla” version.  You use the solution and the new onboard features to create your flavor of it to meet the specific business needs. Thus, the value proposition is not that you get just one application, but, you get a one solution that allows you address a whole lot of applications.

The Demo – 6 minutes

Below is a video that shows the new Request Management solution.  It walks you through the “vanilla” solution and then shows you some of the new features to make configuration a snap such as the Application Designer, Process Designer, Business Rule Sets, and Stage-based Request Details (shown below).

Request Management Video image

 

The Solution Beta

The solution is now in Beta.  We are working with customers that want to try it out and have specific application scenarios in mind that they want to address.  If you are interested, send an email to info@corasworks.net or contact your account representative.

wiilliam