Archive for SharePoint

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

Providing a secure BD extranet for partners and customers using CorasWorks on SharePoint

Lockdown

All Federal Government Contractor customers of our Business Development solutions will at some point face the need to provide secure access to their Partners (Vendors, Suppliers) and Customers.  This month, Steve Evangelista, one of our Lead Architects wrote a series of three articles that cover securing and hardening of your system for this scenario.  We use all of these methods in our BD solutions.  You can also use them in your own CorasWorks solutions.

The articles are:

Part 1: Securing & Hardening SharePoint Sites for External Users: Basic configuration using CorasWorks to support working with external parties.

Part 2: Securing & Hardening SharePoint Sites: How to modify SharePoint Master Pages to security trim common native pages (All Content, native web part pages, etc.).  This is a SharePoint best practice.

Part 3: Securing & Hardening SharePoint Sites: Leveraging CorasWorks to create a secure proxy account to tightly secure what external users can see and do.

Comment: Design for Multi-Party Usage

It is very common for people to design systems in a classic way in which we think about all users sharing the same user interface, with security as a back-end system issue.  However, in most collaborative systems and certainly BD systems, it is a better design approach to think of your groups of users as having separate interfaces.  CorasWorks and SharePoint easily support this approach.

So, imagine your employees, your partners, and your customers each having their own user interface.  It is their place to go.  This interface is then optimized for them.  It supports their role.  You may even get more granular so that you have interfaces for Executives, Managers, and Doers internally or different types of partners or partners in different roles.  Yet, effectively, all of these users are working off of the same data.  This design makes it far easier to manage the security by role in a different interface.  This makes it more secure.

william

SharePoint 2012 Conference: Let us not be distracted from Business Value

Last week we attended the SharePoint 2012 conference.  There was much new to see: SharePoint 2013, Office 365, Yammer, cloudy stuff, a bunch of new ISV tools, and hybrid and client-side development.  All of this is cool, maybe fun, and, as a technologist dripping in SharePointism, I find it great.  However, when you get to talking to customers, you get brought back to reality.  In fact, in many of my conversations, there appeared to be a backlash.  This was summed up best by a senior IT manager relating what he told his Microsoft rep “We are not a social enterprise; we are a business.”  Or, another person said, “Really, in the new world an Announcement list is an application; give me a break.”  What you are seeing, hearing, and feeling is the reflection of the two views of SharePoint: one is SharePoint as an application for collaboration, the other looks at SharePoint as an Application Plaform.

It is time for my “Emperor’s New Clothes” article…

Microsoft would love everyone to adopt Office 365/Yammer and subscribe and pay monthly for everything Microsoft.  They would love code developers to build lots of little apps to be more Apple-esque.  It feels both hot and cool, and it means a new, recurring revenue stream for Microsoft along with a defense against pirating.

However, for most enterprises it is just a distraction.  Those that are deeply committed to SharePoint, are committed because they see it as an application platform and they have invested to leverage it as such.  They see SP as an environment that they can leverage to build out their business applications that are inter-connected.  One that supports incremental improvements as they learn how to get their people to work better together.  One that they can control – which today and in the future means On Premise or a Private Cloud.  They want reduced complexity.  They want business groups to leverage it to be more productive with real business applications.  They want to use it to consolidate applications (Saas, Point solutions, other platforms) and thus save money, reduce complexity and risk, establish standards and best practices, and, create operational leverage.

Still, probably 50% of the SharePoint customer base is only at the base level of the SharePoint value continuum. They see SharePoint as a collaborative application – team sites, portals, Intranets, and, documents. This segment is at the greatest risk of defecting to Zimbra (email) and Alfresco and Jive and DropBox. Oddly, what Microsoft is doing is introducing a discontinuous innovation that will force this segment to choose.  There are lots of choices when you are at that level with SharePoint.  It is a commoditized part of the market.

Over the last 10 years CorasWorks has evolved from a focus on the base level (SP for collaboration) to leveraging SP as an application platform.  We are committed to the enterprise customer and most of our customers are firmly in the On Premise/Private Cloud camp.  We of course are driving the business value hard for our customers.  For instance, during the SharePoint conference, over at the CorasWorks booth we were showing a broad range of hard-hitting business solutions.  We had at our fingertips demos of about 30 Work Management solutions and 20 custom solutions that we have build for specific Industries and Business Functions.  All of these run on our one CorasWorks v11 Solution Platform and all are done with no coding so our customers can do powerful things without managing rogue code.  Thus, our conversations were focused on the busines challenges and solutions.

Let the Bifurcation Occur

There has always been a split between the camps of SharePoint as a collaborative app and SharePoint as an application platform.  I think that SharePoint as an app platform on premise is a winner and the momentum is growing as it gets more standardized vs. relying on custom development.  I believe that because of the SP2013 offerings, the bifurcation is just clearer, and that, you will see a clarification of strategy within the enterprise.  Most committed enterprises will deepen their commitment to SharePoint for its use as an application platform – it is clearly the best choice for this path at this time.  My bet is that over the next few years the average enterprise will simply become capable of becoming their own Enterprise Shared Application Services (ESAS) provider, in their own Private Cloud.  The enterprise will drive its own path because the technology curve has enabled it to do so and the business value far outweighs any incremental costs.

In fact, I believe that we are only at the beginning of a new curve of value, when enterprises start to figure out how to truly get their people to work better together.  If you spend your time talking to business managers like I do, you realize that they just don’t have practical applications at their fingertips to get the work done. There is alot more to do…

So for those that are committed to SharePoint as an application platform, just don’t be distracted by these new offerings and keep on adding business applications on premise and adding value to your organization.  By doing this, you continue to accelerate your business value today and you will be building a foundation for great innovation of your enterprise in the future.

Microsoft’s Acquisition of Yammer Tips the Workplace Into a New Era of User-Centric Productivity

Four hours ago the Wall Street Journal reported that Yammer agreed to sell itself to Microsoft for $1.2B.  It is a big deal (dollars) and it is a big deal (shift in technology and impact on the SharePoint community and all business information workers).  In this article I’ll give you my take on: a) why it is good business for Microsoft to do it,  b) why I believe it signals a significant change in the future of applications, the workplace, and end-user productivity, and, c) how we and other ISV’s will adapt and where it will take us.

First off, Yammer is a social networking company – many call it Facebook for the enterprise.  At the core of it is the Activity Stream.  People post updates, people follow people, and it all flows into their Activity Stream.  The stream becomes a single place to go for the user to see their social/collaborative activity.  Ostensibly, it is to be used for business purposes, yet, in reality it is at this time really a communications tool vs. a work tool.

On the surface, Microsoft bought Yammer for two good business reasons…

First, SharePoint was being disrupted at the low end of collaboration.  In 2003, SharePoint was the easy to understand, easy way to share content.  Over the releases it got a little better with collaboration.  But, since 2008, the outside vendors like Yammer started to disrupt SharePoint with an even easier way to share information.  Yammer, Jive, Box.net, Alfresco, etc. etc.  They started to eat market-share and mind-share at the base of SharePoint – those organizations that only use it for the low end work.  SharePoint/Office 2013 would have made the “social” feature set of SharePoint better, but, the independent social ISV’s were way ahead and unfettered by enterprise baggage.  Microsoft couldn’t afford to lag on this one.

Second, Yammer has a user based business model.  The SharePoint market is saturated.  Where will the next billion come from?  Office 365 is the big bet.  But, you need to own the disruptive engine to drive users to it.  Hence, Yammer.  $5/user/month – $60/year.  Just add this feature to the Office 365 package and you justify the price and get your next $1 or $2B in revenue.  And, since it is separate and hosted, you can get the $1-$2B without cannibalizing your on-premise enterprise business. (Note: You’ll see how this will work when I talk about what CorasWorks will do in this context.)

Okay, so what does this signal in terms of the future of technology and the user…

If you read the 100’s of articles to appear tomorrow you will read lots and lots about social this and social that.  As a technologist for enterprise business, this just isn’t that compelling.  Most social-social software is just about the conversation and following people and their conversations.  In its current incarnation, it doesn’t add much business value. Yet, it is super hot – you can sell a company with $30m in revenue for more than $1b.  But, it doesn’t really add much to the bottom line of enterprises, yet…

The significance is the impact on the business end-user experience over the next five years.  What you are witnessing is the tipping point to a new user-centric standard.  For 30 years, when we speak of a user interface we are talking about the interface to a single application – be it Word, Excel, Salesforce, Siebel, SAP, mainframe, any business app.  Now, take a visual look at Yammer.  What if that social activity stream was instead a business activity stream?  What if all of the work you do that you need to stay on top of flowed to you in one place and you could easily collaborate with others?  What if you could start to manage your work across applications from one place?  You, the user, would start to have control and life would be a lot easier than schlepping from app to app.  The user would have a new great experience.  Throw in real time communications technologies and you have the next generation user experience.

But, there is even more business value to be had.  I wrote about this user centric scenario in an article Engage the User with the Cim Activity Stream last year.  CorasWorks has an activity stream but it is a business activity stream vs. a social activity stream.  You follow work vs. following people. With ours all activity is around the work as part of our Work Management platform – programs, tasks, requests, knowledge content, policies, projects, opportunities, task orders, items in processes, etc.  So, we are a bit different.  The reason is that our core business is enabling organizations to build all of those business apps on SharePoint that add tangible business value without coding.  We simply saw the user experience of an activity stream, like the UI of Yammer, as a great way to bring all of those apps together and put work at the fingertips of the user.

So, the Microsoft purchase of Yammer signals a shift to user-centric activity stream experience today, which, over the next few years will extend to encompass more and more of users’ core business activity.  Thus, the real business user interface will move from many app UI’s to their activity stream.

 

Why only Microsoft should have moved on it?

Over the last year, a problem in this beautiful future started to occur – many ISV’s (independent software vendors) started adding activity streams.  If the purpose is a single user experience, then, how will it be good if every vendor had their own activity stream.  We had ours on SharePoint.  Newsgator has a social – social activity stream on SharePoint.  So, we federated ours into theirs. I wrote about the need to do this more than a year ago. We also began the process to federate into Yammer, Salesforce’s Chatter, Jive, Appian, and SharePoint in Office 2013, etc.  Believe me this is costly to support, but, a commitment to cross-federation was the only way to make it work for the users unless…

Viola, now Microsoft buys Yammer.  To us, this means that we can now federate to Microsoft Yammer and push business activity into that stream.  Will others ISV”s follow?  I believe so.  What you’ll start to see is the flow starting to go into this new UI.

Why Microsoft?  Because it is up to them to set the industry standard.  They are uniquely positioned to do so in mass as they have done many times before.  I think on this one, they can and will do it.  We the mass will accept them because there should only be one.  While we hate that it makes life easier in situations where you need a single standard.

 

Where CorasWorks stands in all this?

The base of SharePoint users is really just starting to move in mass up the stack from low end collaboration into work management apps – our sweet spot. We have always pushed the business value of an integrated workplace of inter-connected applications on SharePoint.  We’ve set the standard for configured apps vs. custom coded that accelerates the ability for customers to create the apps they need and drive tangible business value.  We’ve set the standard for cross app integration on SharePoint.    We added the business activity stream to drive that integration and end-user convenience further.

Over the last couple of years we worked to trumpet the move to this new user-centric approach to work.  We have a small trumpet compared to Microsoft.  I see Microsoft’s move accelerating the realization of organizations on how all of this comes together to serve the user which will drive more apps onto the platform to feed the experience.  We will do our part to federate and help drive the movement. My belief is that we are moving into a new era of a virtuous cycle that will simply make it easier and more productive for people to work better together.  It is a good day.

 

Stay tuned…

William

Tools and Best Practices for SharePoint Service Delivery Managers

I am spending a lot of time with our customers these days.  In particular, I am working with many Service Delivery Managers.  They usually own the application side of SharePoint (vs. the infrastructure) and serve the role of supporting the user community and delivering solutions to their customers.  They are in a pivotal role to add business value to the organization.  Many of the solutions they deliver are CorasWorks based.  However, in this article, I’ll cover the Top 10 uses of CorasWorks to create “tools” that they use in their work.

NOTE: In large enterprises, you often have a core SharePoint team working globally with SD teams for different business groups.  In this article, I am focused on the local SD teams tied to a Business Group or an SD team in a smaller organization that serves both the end-user community and the business group requests. (addition 7-22) – Increasingly, these SD teams are becoming Application Service Delivery Teams leveraging the enterprise’s private cloud offering.

 

Servicing the Customer

These tools are used to support and interact with their customers.

Site Request System – this is a high-volume system for users to request new standard sites (such as a Team Site) and then allow the Service Delivery team to review, approve, and manage the requests.

Change Request System – this system is used by users that want changes to sites or applications.  It can be combined with the one above, but, this is usually for larger application.

App Request System – this is really a project proposal system where business groups request project-based custom apps.  Typically, these apps go through a stage-gate review and approval process.

End-User Support Community – our best practice is to use a CorasWorks Cim community to make it easy to provide information as articles and provide a collaborative experience where articles can be rated and commented upon

Learning Center – like our CorasWorks Community Learning Centers, this system provides a more structured experience for users to learn.  These are also typically based upon Cim providing users with access to structured and community information.  In addition, it is a great place to surface the Request options, Support Options, and, examples of delivered apps with videos or even links to the apps.

 

The Work of the Service Delivery Team

This category consists of the tools that Service Delivery Teams use to manage their work and insure that they are prepared to deliver.

Work Request Management console – behind the Site Request system, the Change Request System and the App Request system is your teams Work Request Management console.  These requests flow into your team.  Via this console you manage the request process – review the requests, decide whether to them, interact with the user, delegate the task, track the tasks, let the system update the requestor, get reports, etc…etc

Task Management – a great number of items can be acted upon directly via the Work Request Console above.  But, some require that you assign a number of tasks to one or more people.  Using a CorasWorks-based task management solution, you can track the tasks and automate the work of people on them such as updating requestors and close out.

Project Management – some requests turn into projects that span weeks or months and require detailed task and resource management.  Leveraging CorasWorks PPM SDM’s are managing those projects that are big enough to require it.  A key element is that the SDM can track tasks, resources, issues across the projects as a portfolio.  In addition, the users can use see their tasks from projects as part of the day-to-day task management above.

App Catalog – this is a structured Cim-community based catalog of applications that you have delivered, can deliver, and want to be able to deliver.  It serves as both a knowledge base and the site to store and manage app templates, delievered apps, and published solutions.  It gives you a rich collaborative environment with as much structured taxonomy as you need.

Knowledge Base/Lessons Learned Catalog – again a Cim-community to capture knowledge.  There are lots of little tid-bits of useful knowledge.  This site serves as the grab bag.  Got some info, drop it in.  DO NOT worry about organizing or perfecting this knowledge.  Just collect, collaborate, and consume.  The knowledge will get better as people comment, enhance, and collaborate.  It is a resource.  From here, you may and will end up publishing finished product to the App Catalog.

 

Best Practice: Weekly Programmatic Reviews

All of the “tools” above effectively provide you with plenty of ways to track the flow of work and what assets are created. So, each week do a checkpoint and leverage the tools to give you the answers – easily and quickly.

In addition, with SharePoint and CorasWorks, Service Delivery teams have a great capacity to reuse knowledge and “artifacts” (templates, components, features, web parts, etc.).  To be most effective, you should measure each week what assets your team has created AND captured, in addition to, what work got done.   If you do this, after three months you will have a vast catalog and set of skills and your work should be a) more manageable, b) faster to deliver, and c) more robust because you will be better prepared to deliver more value.

 

william

Put a little Managed Work behind your Collaboration and Make Things Happen

In my post Top 5 Collaborative Apps to Liven Up SharePoint in 2012 I gave you some ideas to get people off to an engaged and lively collaborative start to the year.  A good dose of lively, self-managed, engaged collaboration is fantastic and it will grow on people.  And, if you prepare to drop a little Managed Work into the apps I mentioned you’ll really get a boost.

Here is how it works…

You set up your engaging collaborative community.  Let’s take the Workplace Concierge Community (one of the 5).  People are asking questions, answering them and helping each other to succeed. Let’s say you are watching the activity.  You find out that you are getting a lot of questions about the clarity of your HR or Sales Policies.  So, you look into it and realize that you aren’t doing a great job with how you are publishing that information.  With some CorasWorks Work Management magic you can screen the collaborative activity and then drive tasks to others to make improvements and track the progress.  You can then comment on the item when new and improved material is available.

For instance, below we show a collaborative community for an R&D Research Project.  It is a listing of various posts in this community.  Here the project people collaborate to get things done.

image

 

The next tab is Managed Work.  Behind the collaboration is the ability to look at the collaborative activity and drive things forward in a structured way.  Below we show a view of the posts in Managed Work display.  These are available for managers/moderators to drive forward using CorasWorks actions.  These automate work.  You can create a broad range of actions to meet your needs.  Below we are getting ready to create a task that will be tracked as part of the managed work for a particular item.

image

 

To the users that are participating, this back-end management may be invisible.  The users may just interact in the community and see collaborative activity in their Activity Streams as shown below.  They are focused on easy and convenient collaboration.

activity stream

 

However, to managers you now have great resources to work with.  Lets, take a look at the other 4 of the 5 collaborative apps I wrote about and see how a little work management behind the scenes can leverage the collaborative activity.

 

News Channels – you can set up a process for people to submit News that only they see.  You then approve it and it is public and the collaboration begins. 

 

SharePoint Users Helping SharePoint Users – As the users do their work, you now have the best source of information to drive formal support content, knowledge bases, and training.  So, you can start creating tasks and tracking them for individual articles.  The contributions by the community become the source for more formal output.  BTW, make sure to provide recognition to the contributor and collaborators.  A simply comment that you are using this for x does the trick.

 

What is Working? – This is vehicle to get ideas.  Thus, you would put a simple process behind it to evaluate the contributions as ideas and approve them and then task them out for implementation.  It is a great feeder for best practices.  Again, make sure to provide recognition.

 

Build-Our-Workplace Request Community – This is really a process at its heart.  People make requests and collaborate.  But, by design it is publicly known that Team ABC is screening these items, engaging as a collaborators, and, approving items and pushing them forward.  The Community will be looking and watching for action and results on their requests.

 

Wrap Up

So, just because you have lively collaborative communities doesn’t mean that you aren’t leveraging these resources to make things happen that are concrete and purposeful.  CorasWorks makes it easy to get both elements, engaging collaboration and structured work management, all wrapped up into one package.  

 

william

Why would you want just a Social Intranet?

I recently read an article by Toby Ward posted October 18th, entitled Despite SharePoint’s Success, The Social Intranet is Still Rare. He talks of the massive adoption of SharePoint. He does a good job of describing how Intranets are evolving and the use of social media tools to create a Social Intranet. Then, he provides data showing that users of Intranets with social media tools actually are showing low levels of satisfaction. He also says that enterprise Social Intranets are rare, particularly on SharePoint. Bottom line is that I agree with what he writes. In this article, I’ll give you my take on why this is and talk about the other half of the story which is about where else people are going with SharePoint 2010, and, how fast.

The beginning…

SharePoint 2010 was launched in the spring of 2010. Basically, the features that got in were those that were in the market circa 2008. Things like blogs, wikis, discussion forums, social networking, I Like It tags. So, when you implement SharePoint 2010 out of the box, this is what you get – various social media features that can be used in a Social Intranet.

Recognize there are two perspectives of what SharePoint is (even within Microsoft). About 70% of customers think that SharePoint is “an application”. From this perspective, a Social Intranet is probably the high end of the stack of where they plan to go on 2010. The other half (less than half) see it as a platform. They view SharePoint as an enterprise, distributed work environment. It is a canvas to use to meet their organizational goals. For these folks, they may not even go to the Social Intranet, because it isn’t relevant to their objectives – they just leap frog over it.

What you end up with is a bit of a desert in the middle in the range of the Social Intranet at this point in the life cycle. It is too high for most right now. It is too low and irrelevant for the others.

Now, companies like CorasWorks cater to the platform half. We enable these organizations to go to the next level. In our case, in the context of social collaboration, it is deploying Social Business Applications on top of this platform that deliver a new layer of value and leverage an entirely new set of technologies. This next generation of applications are designed to tap into all those zillion users, engage them, and most importantly, channel their collaborative potential into activities that drive business value.

Below we show two comparative lists of items. The ones on the left are the capabilities that the super majority (largely IT-focused) people talk about in the context of a Social Intranet. The ones on the right are the Social Business Applications that the other half (largely business group driven) talk about putting in place to leverage this collaborative work environment to achieve a business result.

 

When we talk to customers, we are talking about the apps on the right. The conversations are just different. They focus on specific scenarios and how you get there leveraging what we offer along with everything else the customer may have.

It is true that our solutions provide a whole new set of technologies that leverage that collaborative potential and put it to purposeful use -things like Business Activity Streams (that actually filter out social and email noise), Stage-Gate processes, Task Automation, Collaborative Management Reviews, Portfolio management, custom forms, supporting activities etc. But, they are the means to the end, not the end in and of itself.

An interesting change up is that the majority of our customers for these new solutions purchase our products and services BEFORE they deploy SharePoint 2010 in production. This is really new for the SharePoint 2010 cycle (it didn’t happen in SharePoint 2003 and SharePoint 2007). We believe that these customers absolutely get the new breakout potential for SharePoint 2010 and are immediately moving to leverage it to drive business value. In today’s world, it is a luxury to invest the time and effort on something like SharePoint 2010 for a nominal benefit. These organizations are simply looking for leverage to drive significant tangible business value.

Those that breakout

I go back to my original question, “Why would you want just a Social Intranet?”. My guess is primarily because that is what you perceive the high-end of the use case of SharePoint to be within a given view of the cost, time and risk. You are not alone. In fact, as stated above, right now you are in the majority. However, I have a feeling that at this point this position is a risk. These new technologies and the applications they spawn for purposeful collaboration are powerful. Plus, we’ve gotten a lot better at reducing the time, risk and cost to get there. SharePoint 2010 is one of the great platforms to make this happen. Those organizations that figure it out are simply going to outperform those that do not.

william

September 2011 releases for Cim Pros

We’ve just released a small wave of items that are able to be leveraged by Cim Pros using CorasWorks Cim on SharePoint 2010.  This wave consists of the following: 1) the v2.1.1 Hotfix release of Cim, 2) a new Community module flavor called “Quick Facts”, and 3) the New Project Initiation application.

These three items are all released to the Cim Pro community of the Cim Learning Center.  They are only available to Cim Pros that have access to the Cim Learning Center and are using these items in licensed environments of CorasWorks Cim.  Here are details for each.

 

Cim v2.1.1 Hotfix

This is a pure hotfix release containing fixes to issues in v2.1.  The majority of the issues are somewhat cosmetic UI issues.  They are documented in the release notes.  The release consists of updates to 11 of the 14 Cim modules.  It does not require the installation of any new DLL’s.  In addition, this release adds some new support for Cim Snaplets.  You’ll start to see the advantage of this over the next few months as we release some cool new Snaplets, particularly around the Activity Stream.

 

Quick Facts “Flavor” of Community Module

Technically, this is our first formal release of a separate “flavor” of a Cim v2.1 module.  A flavor is simply a customized version of a module that is enhanced with new features, styling, or look and feel. In general, flavors lend themselves to be used for certain scenarios.  Accordingly, you now have a fourth flavor of Community (this one in addition to the communities for Collaboration, Process, and Innovation).

The Quick Facts flavor of the Community Module allows you to easily expose fields of information from the Articles list of the Community in the web 2.0 listing and detail displays of the community.  It adds a box, the Quick Facts box, to do the job.  The release documents how to modify the Quick Facts box and some supporting features such as Pinpoint Search.

PS-We use this new flavor in the New Project Initiation application.

 

New Project Initiation application

The New Project Initiation (“NPI”) application is proving to be quite popular with customers.  We’ve gone ahead and psuedo-productized this for our Cim Pros.  The application gives you a comprehensive front-end process for managing the onramp of new projects.  For the business value of NPI see my post Driving Business Value with the New Project Initiation social business process  This release is designed for enterprise-wide implementations, but, it may also be implemented at more local levels (say for just IT Project Onramp).

The release contains three customized Cim modules (Portal, Community, and Management Hub).  These are complemented by other out-of-the-box Cim modules to deliver the complete solution.  The release contains an Implementation Guide that provides an overview of the application scenario, the deltas of the modules from the OOTB modules, the implementation tasks, customization options, and, appendixes covering technical items and extended deployment scenarios.

BTW, for those of you with both Cim and PPM, this application is a no-brainer bolt on to the front end of PPM.  The documentation covers the core integration scenarios for pushing approved projects into PPM.

 

Enjoy,

william

Use Challenges to Drive Results with Enterprise Innovation

There are a lot of organizations that are new to Idea & Innovation Management solutions such as CorasWorks Cim for SharePoint 2010.  One of the most significant best practices we emphasize for those new to innovation is the use of event-based Challenges to drive innovation vs. general idea communities.  In this article, I’ll drill down into Challenges as a key ingredient in the standard enterprise recipe for innovation.

 

Specific Challenges vs. General Idea Management

First off most organizations use both approaches, general idea management and specific challenges. A mix is the best recipe. Let’s look at each.

Most organizations initially come to the idea and innovation game with the thought of having a general idea community to capture ideas and sort through them and find the great ones. It is typically implemented as an open, ongoing community with a team or teams for evaluation.  What they are looking for is breakthrough ideas?  This does work.  People will randomly come up with novel ideas and you are providing a channel and a mechanism to work them when they pop up.

A Challenge-based approach to drive innovation is different.  A Challenge is a targeted, time-limited, request to your community for ideas that address a specific objective.  With this approach, we first decide what business objective we are after.  And, ideally, upfront we allocate resources to invest in ideas we approve.  We then set up the challenge community (like questions asked, information to be submitted) and evaluation process (how, who, when, etc.) in a way that specifically relates to the challenge.  Then, we launch the Challenge, gather the ideas, collaborate, review, evaluate, make decisions, invest, and drive results.

 

Specific Benefits of a Challenge Approach

A Challenge approach delivers specific benefits as follows:

It Focuses Management on Defining the Challenge – Management must get clear on the challenge and how to present it to the organization.  This insures that the challenge is a real one.

It Focuses Your Innovators and Collaborators Thoughts on the Challenge – Imagine saying to your employees “When you get around to it, submit ideas to make us better” vs. saying “You have 2 weeks to submit your idea for how we can grow the SMB market by 50% in 2012. We have $2m to invest.”  It is simply easier for most people to focus their thinking on something specific.  And, you therefore get specific ideas that are relevant to the challenge.

You Have the Resources to Act – If you get general ideas, they can come from anywhere.  Thus, you can’t know in advance if you have the will and resources to act.  But with a challenge you know what you are asking for.  Thus, you have the will.  You also can align the resources in advance to insure that you can and will act. You are telling your community that you intend to drive change that drives results.

You Uncover Options to Narrow Challenges – We typically address challenges and opportunities with a small group of people.  When you take a narrowed challenge to your organization you will almost always be surprised by three things: a) how many options you really have, b) how much information and experience you have already, and c) who are the people that have something to contribute.

You Drive A Result – With a Challenge, you are taping into the broad potential of your organization and channeling their thought and experience towards your objective.  With the breadth of ideas and the resources to back them up, you have your best shot at innovating around that targeted business objective.

 

CorasWorks Cim for Challenge Management

I’ll touch on five key features of Cim that make it particularly effective for managing challenges as part of a SharePoint 2010 work environment.

Separate, Customized Challenge Communities – With Cim, each challenge is a discrete entity.  You can customize the contribute form, the questions, the experience and even look and feel, the categorization within each challenge, the user options, the visibility, etc.  Further, the data is separated as with any Cim community it is technically a separate SharePoint site.

Multiple Challenges into Central Process – In a Challenge Management initiative you will have many challenges.  They are easy to set up. They can all feed into a central management process, your Challenge Management hub, where they are evaluated and processed.

Separate Challenge Workstreams – At the same time, you can also have challenges where the front-end community and the evaluation process are part of a separately managed workstream.  This provides you with the ability to have separate workstreams for say different types of challenges (Corporate vs. Technical vs. Market Development) or challenges driven by different business groups.

A Single, Easy and Convenient User Experience – With Cim, users have a single, consistent, easy and convenient user experience across multiple challenges, separate challenge workstreams, mixed with general innovation communities, and, with their other collaborative communities.  When you launch a Challenge it just lights up at the fingertips of the user in their Cim Business Activity Stream. Thus, they can see new challenges, contribute and collaborate from wherever they normally work vs. having to go somewhere.  In addition, all of the collaboration activity and process activity flows to them across all of the challenges and other communities. This drives visibility, engagement, and collaboration.

Drive Downstream Results – With Cim, after you have evaluated and approved the ideas in the Challenge you can push them into downstream activities to make them come alive.  You can push them into Team sites for teams to implement.  You can push them into a PMO to kick off and drive projects.  You can push them into Program sites to implement an idea as part of their program.  You can even push them into external systems, such as separate Project Management systems.

 

Wrap Up

In sum, challenges are designed to let you tap into the broad potential of your people across the organization to address targeted business objectives. They are a key ingredient of the standard enterprise recipe to drive innovation. Armed with Cim running within your SharePoint environment, you have the means to just light up your organization and channel their thoughts and experience to help you drive results when and where you need it.

william

Innovation on SharePoint 2010 Should be Different, Which Makes it Better

This week we’ll be doing a webcast on the new release of CorasWorks Cim for Idea & Innovation Management on SharePoint 2010.  Our approach to Innovation with this solution is different from the pack of other offerings in the space.  This is because our solution runs natively on SharePoint and we have designed it to really leverage the full potential of SharePoint to drive innovation.  In this article, I’ll give you a heads up of the reasons behind this which we’ll be talking to and demoing in the webcast.

With Cim we compete in the Idea & Innovation Management solution category with about 10 other main software vendors.  Every one of them offers their solution as a SAAS offering.  They have collectively centered on a certain group thinking about innovation systems.  It goes like this:

  • we have a great solution for Idea & Innovation Management
  • we have figured out how to optimize it and offer you the perfected application
  • and it runs SAAS, so you don’t have to maintain servers and software
  • just tell your users to go to this URL and your organization can start to innovate
  • using this application you’ll get breakthrough ideas that will become major growth businesses

Now, this may appear a bit simplistic.  It is.  However, when you distill it down this is the approach.  Innovation is supposed to be an application that you can send users to and all is great.  This may be true in certain limited scenarios.  However, for most organizations, their objectives with innovation initiatives are varied to start with and tend to evolve.  As a note, CorasWorks uses many very specific applications via the SAAS model.  When the application is very specific, for a specific set of users, with a tightly defined use case – SAAS apps are a very cost-effective vehicle.

But, we simply don’t believe that successful innovation meets this criteria.  Further, we think that the core challenge/opportunity for enterprise innovation requires a very different approach.  Enter SharePoint 2010 and the CorasWorks approach with Cim…

The Core Innovation Application

Like the others we start out with a very nice full featured Idea & Innovation Management application.  At first glance, feature by feature we do offer the same core I&IM solution as our competitors.  If we stopped here, the customer would be comparing the I&IM from the 10 SAAS vendors with ours that happens to run on the SharePoint platform.

The SharePoint 2010 Innovation Environment

Let’s say you are seriously thinking about CorasWorks Cim.  Okay, so you buy it and the application gets dropped on top of your SharePoint infrastructure.  Now, it is conceivable that you would treat it as a siloed application just like the SAAS ones.  In truth, this is almost always the first though of OUR customers – “Here is the new innovation application, and, here is the URL you go to to use it and be innovative.”

But, wait.  Your Cim application is running in the middle of a broad, distributed, multi-purpose collaborative workplace called SharePoint.  It is very broadly available across the enterprise.  People go to SharePoint, and, their place within it to do more and more things.  And, where they go to work is not the URL of your new innovation app.

To drive innovation, we want visibility and engagement amongst our users.  So, instead of thinking of your Cim I&IM system as a siloed application, think of it as a solution, that drives innovation across your SharePoint-based work environment.  With this perspective, we now open it up so that the innovation challenges, activity, listings, supporting tasks, downstream activities, reports, etc. are available to everybody no matter where they are working across this environment.  Below we show a schematic of the idea that this app (like other apps) now becomes part of the DNA of your collaborative workplace.  What we are talking about is making innovation part of the daily work of users wherever they work vs. a place to go.

image

 

The Full User Experience

Remember, a key to innovation is visibility and engagement.  Okay, so as above we are seeing innovation as being distributed across a broad collaborative workplace.  There is another step to take and this is to think about the full user experience.  Typically, when we think of the user experience we think of how the user experiences “our app”.  We think of what the user sees and does when they go to that URL to use the app.   But, it is not the full user experience in SharePoint 2010 (or in general).  A user with access to SharePoint may have access and need to engage with 5, 10, 20, or 50 information resources, communities, project sites, teams, and yes, idea management communities, corporate challenges, and, business processes that are part of your innovation initiative.

The full user experience is as depicted below for Kim White.  We have bolded the various “applications” that probably relate to your innovation initiatives.

image

As part of Cim we provide a unique feature called the Cim Business Activity Stream that is designed to provide users with a better collaboration experience across SharePoint.  It puts your innovation apps right at the fingertips of the user.  From wherever they are in SharePoint they can engage.  New innovation communities and challenges light up instantly.  They can watch them.  They can contribute and collaborate with others.  They can see the collaborative activity and the process activity.  They can see user profiles of people they don’t know and check out their My Sites and tap into that persons social network.  They control what activity they see and thus weed out the noise to focus on what is relevant to them.  All without every leaving “home”.

Now, if the innovation initiatives are relevant to Kim white, it is now easy and convenient for her to engage and stay engaged.  Further, innovation work is right there next to HR Policies, Sales Collateral, and Department Community.  As she works, if she has an idea, she just engages.  Kim White has one easy and consistent experience across many “apps” that span the environment.  Your innovation “apps” are now part of her daily work.

 

An Innovation System Designed for Evolution

Now, we have the user in our sights.  We know we can put just what we want at their fingertips.  From this new perspective, the key is now to put the right “apps” at their fingertips to drive innovation.  We believe that the key is that your organization will want to innovate in many different ways.  You’ll want some general innovation initiatives such as General Ideas and specific event-style Challenges.  You’ll also have far more targeted innovation initiatives such as challenges for specific technical solutions or specific processes such as change requests for a product that is being revised.  Some might be managed by a central “innovation team”.  Others will be driven by specific business groups.  Some may be enterprise wide, while others are for specific business groups or communities of users.

The reality is that the average organization will have many different innovation initiatives.  They will evolve.  They will change.  They will have different drivers and owners.  Accordingly, CorasWorks Cim is designed to be unusually flexible.  You can quickly drop in new Challenges that light up at the fingertips of users.  You can dream up specific innovation initiatives or processes and drop in “customized” workstreams that span your work environment.  To the end user, they have a consistent experience.  To the innovation business owner, they get a unique workstream modified to fit the business objective.

 

Bringing It All Together

The fact that your organization has invested to deploy SharePoint 2010 means that you have a unique work environment to leverage.  With Cim on top, you can now drive innovation across this environment and engage your users wherever they work.  You have tremendous potential.  You have little risk.  You have a flexible innovation system.  You can try, and learn, and improve – yes, you can innovate.

william

ENC