Archive for Social Collaboration

Social Collaboration at Work– 4 business scenarios to drive value

Today, I did a presentation for the internal SharePoint Community of Practice (COP) for a large (Top 50) Federal Systems Integrator.  This COP is 700 people.  They have a current topical focus on Social Collaboration.  Microsoft gave a presentation a few weeks back on the Social Collaboration features of SP2013.  In my presentation, I introduced and demoed 4 different business solutions where social collaboration is being used in a business process/application.  These were all based upon the CorasWorks Cim™ solution framework.  For those of you interested in the potential of Social Collaboration on SharePoint, and, looking for hard-hitting business scenarios that demonstrate the value – this article is for you….

My presentation abstract was as follows:

Social Collaboration at Work (www.corasworks.net)

Social collaboration within SharePoint makes it easier for people to engage.  So how do you leverage this approach to drive organizational results?  In this presentation, we’ll look at four practical business scenarios where social collaboration is used to drive business results.  The scenarios are:

· Idea Challenge Management – purposeful, event based challenges to drive ideas and manage them through a review and approval process

· R&D Working Groups – designated working groups that then output results as proposals for new projects

· New Project Initiation – collaborative, stage-gate based process to review and approve new project proposals (partials feed from working groups)

· Collaborative Channels for Capture & Proposal Management – communities used for collaboration across a distributed capture and proposal management system

Let’s look at each of the business scenarios above…

Idea Challenge Management

The area of Idea & Innovation Management is pretty hot and ripe for social collaboration.  Organizations know that Innovation is necessary to succeed (and survive).  But, how to move the ball forward is a challenge.

We have found the most effective approach is for organizations to use Idea Challenges vs. creating a general idea “inbox”.  Challenges are typically event-based (time limited), purposeful, and, sponsored by a team who is responsible AND interested in reviewing and using the results.

The solution I showed provides organizations with the ability to spawn new Challenges.  These are sites and they are created and configured by the sponsor in a self-service way to meet the needs of the Challenge.  The Challenges are then exposed across the SharePoint environment.  People respond, contribute ideas, and collaborate using Star Ratings, Commenting, Document Upload and management, Peer Reviews, Sharing.  The Challenge managers have a robust stage-gate process to screen, review, and decide on the ideas. Of course, being CorasWorks-based the structured work management part is also greatly and easily customized to meet the needs of the specific team that sponsored the challenge.

R&D Working Groups

This solution addresses a scenario where you have multiple/many working groups where each is expected to have an output – a document, a project proposal for funding, a discovery, a new policy.  A Working Group differs from say a collaborative team site because an output is expected.  Each group is a community where the members collaborate.  Then, when they have something to output, from within their working group they have one or more channels to kick off the output process.

In the solution that I showed, the output of the R&D Working Groups is a project proposal for funding.  From within the Working Group site, they access a New Proposal “community” and post a form for the project proposal that goes to a central management team.  The central team reviews and works the proposals through a funding process.  The output side is also highly collaborative and visible with members of the Working Group able to interact with the central management team and with all others that are watching and collaborating across the system.  (Note that all Working Groups are feeding the central Project Proposal process – see NPI below).

New Project Initiation

This solution is for the “demand management” part of project management – the front end part where you determine which projects you will invest in.  It is a challenge to do this part well.  A good process means less duplication, more visibility, and more commitment to the projects that are funded.  To accomplish this, we showed how this process could be made more transparent and collaborative.

Actually, the demo I showed had the New Project Initiation process receiving the project proposals from the R&D Working Groups above.  Thus, when the various R&D Working Groups submitted a proposal, they all feed this process.  In addition, individuals can also directly submit proposals.

All of the proposals are seen by the entire R&D working community so you get the transparency and visibility.  Each proposal is then centrally managed through a stage-gate process.  Along the way the managers are able to collaborate with the proposals submitters and “watchers”.  In addition, the managers collaborate amongst themselves such as doing collaborative reviews.  Here they can Rate, Comment, and Score proposals separate from the general community.  This solution has all of formal features you’d expect such as portfolio management, downstream project/portfolio integration and extensive reporting.

Collaborative Channels

This is the simplest of the 4 solutions.  The scenario was a Capture & Proposal Management system for a Federal Contractor.  These are large systems with people working in many sites (100’s – Program Management, Proposal Sites, IDIQ Management, Task Order sites).  The challenge is how do you communicate and collaborate amongst this distributed “working community”.  For instance, if there are new forms, new policies, challenges, needs for a resource – how does the community know of this and how can they engage and collaborate.

The answer is Collaborative Channels.  What I showed was the Business Development Channel.  It is a community of sorts except it IS NOT a place you go to collaborate.  Rather within each of the hundreds of sites, users have access to the Channel.  There they can post, share information, and, collaborate.  Thus, no matter where someone is working across this “work community”, they have access to the Channel.  This Channel approach is a great way to get people working together across the distributed environment of SharePoint.  Think departments, business functions (sales, engineering, bd, global branch offices, plants, et al).

Wrap Up

The objective of this presentation was to get people thinking about the business value that social collaboration can bring.  In general, we start with the business application/process (often existing) and ask how can this process be improved by opening it up to greater engagement and collaboration.  Accordingly, we see social collaboration as a set of features that can be applied to business as opposed to something that adds value on its own.

In addition, if you review the above scenarios you will see my use of the term “working community”.  In most social collaboration feature-products (social-social) a community is a place you go.  In the above, there is a business context to each.  Thus, the idea of the “working community” is everyone that is interested in or should be a part of outputting the best work results.  Accordingly, you see that all of the business solutions span multiple sites and an entire SharePoint environment.  All part of bringing a broad set of people together and putting them to work.

So, that is a wrap on Social Collaboration at Work for now.  If you would like a private demonstration of these scenarios ping me or CorasWorks.

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

User Centric Focus Empowers Social Collaboration on SharePoint 2010

Service Pack 1 of SharePoint 2010 was recently released.  The “mainstream” of SharePoint users are now on their way to migrating to SP2010.  Where are the new quick wins and big wins for organizations on their new platform?  We believe that social collaboration on SP2010 offers great potential.  Can collaboration really be enhanced in a significant way?  The answer is yes.

With Cim v2.1, we have added a new solution, Cim Collaboration, for social business collaboration on SharePoint 2010, that enhances SharePoint to provide organizations a much more powerful way to drive business value.  In this article, I’ll provide an overview of the core elements of the solution.  As you’ll see, the key “big change” is a shift to a user centric focus that is the new driver for effective social business collaboration.

Let’s start by taking a look at the typical collaborative experience of SharePoint 2010.  Most organizations are following the same approach they did before – team sites and department sites as part of their Intranet.  How do we collaborate?  We navigate to a site, assuming we have access.  We find data typed content in lists and libraries with little relationship.  We review, edit, or add new items.  In effect, we have collaboration by proximity.  It works, but, couldn’t we do a whole lot better…

With Cim v2.1, we’ve add our new Cim Collaboration solution.  It brings together three core elements that work to provide an easier, more robust, and more effective collaborative experience on SharePoint 2010.  I’ll go over the 3 elements and describe the mechanics of how it delivers the result.

 

Collaborative “Communities” with Purpose

At the core of Cim is the “community”.  It is a new kind of site designed for a better social collaboration experience.  We use communities for many purposes from department collaboration, to idea communities, challenges, professional communities, and collaborative business processes.

-  At a very simple level, you could spin up a community for Marketing Collateral.  Marketing would be the primary contributor.  They would post new collateral.  Sales and others would “watch” the community.  They would rate, comment, and offer up their take on better collateral or needs for new collateral.

- A little more advanced community would be a community for departmental collaboration.  Here members of the department collaborate with each other.  It would segment types of topics, use managed tagging, and perhaps allow for peer reviews.

- Going further, you may have communities that specifically drive processes like Change Request Management.  People contribute and collaborate, and then, change requests are put through a structured, yet collaborative, process to review, approve, and implement them.

A “community” has a purpose, context and engages people to work better together to advance that purpose. However, it is not necessarily “Yet Another Place To Go” (YAPTG).  With Cim, a community owner can spin up a community quickly which is then available broadly.  They don’t necessarily have a separate “destination” site for which they have to worry about branding, other features, etc., or, that users have to navigate to in order to engage.  For instance, a departmental portal may actually expose many different communities from across a SharePoint environment.  Or, an Innovation Portal may have many idea communities and challenges.  The community is the context for collaboration.

 

Cim Community – Fit to Purpose

Now, this doesn’t mean that Cim communities are therefore simple.  In fact, with Cim each community can be easily and extensively customized to fit its purpose.

The Marketing Collateral community mentioned above may have a simple contribute form and a couple collaborative features.  Whereas a process community like Change Request above may have a contribute form with special fields, grouping and managed tags, custom listings and filtering, peer reviews, private management reviews with scoring, and, structured downstream review, approval, and reporting processes.  Below is a screenshot of an item from the Change Request community.

Collaborative Activities

Cim provides the community owner with the options to control the experience and the purpose.  This differs from other social business offerings that see social collaboration as a relatively flat, pure conversation approach.  We see the need to have communities that are different, and, more robust as necessary to meet their purpose.  When fit to purpose, communities are much more effective at channeling collaborative activity towards the business purpose.

With that said, the trick is that while the Cim communities may be distinctly different, the user experience is simple, convenient, and consistent across communities.  We do this by shifting to a user centric focus for collaboration.

 

User Centric Focus of Collaboration

Okay, so with Cim, we can have many communities of different types.  The big change in Cim v2.1 comes with a shift to a user centric focus for collaboration.  This is done by providing users with a separate user interface that they control to enable them to collaborate across communities and across the entire SharePoint environment.  This UI is the Cim Activity Stream.

The Activity Stream is a feature that can be snapped into any site in SharePoint.  It is where people go to collaborate – all of the relevant activity comes to them.  They can see new communities that have been launched (Community Listings).  As they contribute or collaborate this activity shows up in their My Activity.  They can watch a community or individual contributions (Watchlist).  Any activity by others on items they’ve watched or contributed will appear in their My Stream.  Below is a screenshot of an Activity Stream UI snapped into a department portal showing the core features.

Activity Stream

The relevant community collaborative activity (contributions, rating, comments, uploads, peer reviews) flows to them.  In addition, the downstream process activity for process-centric communities also appears in their activity stream.  This can include activities such as Management Reviews and Votes, Stage changes, Decisions, Task assignments, completion of documents, etc.

From the My Activity Stream UI the user can see what is happening, click to contribute, click to collaborate on an item or within a community – all without going anywhere.  In addition, they can see the user profiles of their collaborators and click into their My Sites and engage directly with that individual and with their social network.  Thus, from their Activity Stream they can now collaborate within any communities across the entire SharePoint environment and directly with other users.

With the Cim Activity Stream, we’ve made collaboration user centric vs. content and location centric as most of us experience in native SharePoint.  This is a big shift.  They have a single place to go and control over their collaboration experience.  The visibility is greater, the work is easier, the activity is relevant, there is less navigation, and less email and UI distraction.  It is fast, easy, relevant and convenient.

Summing Up Cim Social Collaboration on SharePoint 2010

The user centric Activity Stream is the big change.  But, it is this change combined with the ability to support many types of communities for different purposes that can be fit to purpose that gives our approach the breadth and depth to make significant impact.

Most of us invested in SharePoint originally to share information and have a better collaborative experience.  We’ve made progress.  Now, with Cim v2.1, you can leverage your investment in SharePoint 2010 and unleash the potential of social business collaboration to drive your business forward.

william

Social Business Collaboration Meets SharePoint 2010 Intranet

Many of our customers are in the midst of migrating to SharePoint 2010.  In most cases, the initial objective is to lay out an Intranet with multiple departments and business functions.  In this article, through a few videos, I’ll show you how your new Intranet on SP2010 can become a much more vibrant, engaging, inter-active, and productive place to work when it is enhanced with CorasWorks Cim Social Business Collaboration.

On SP2007, our Intranets tended to be quite passive and focused on collaboration defined by the location and type of content.  As you’ll see in these videos, Cim on SP2010 puts an entire new layer of activity on top of this environment.  Your environment provides a much richer collaborative experience, where information and activity is visible, that encourages greater participation, and gives the users a much easier and more convenient way to work.

I have three videos for you.  They all revolve around the portal of an IT Department.  This department has three core collaborative communities that are embedded into their department portal.  Users just get down to work, with very little navigation required.

NOTE: When you click to view the video, click the “full screen” option at the top – looks a whole lot better.

 

Cim – IT Department Portal, Communities, and Inter-Activity (runtime 4:53)

In this video we’ll show the inter-activity by just working via the home page of the IT Department portal.  You’ll learn about collaborative communities, Top 10 Listings, rich collaborative articles, and, the Cim Virtual Workspace.

 

Cim – Collaborative Community Experience – Drilldown (runtime 3:32)

Here we’ll drill down in the IT Post community.  This is the community for general collaboration across the IT Department.  You’ll see how easy it is to find what you need, contribute, share and collaborate.

 

Cim – Business Activity Stream (runtime 4:53)

In one place, you can now see all of your activity across many communities in your SP2010 environment (not just your department, but, the whole environment).  You can see what you’ve done and where you did it – new posts, comments, ratings, uploads, reviews, etc.  You can also see the activity of others on the items you’ve posted or that you’ve decided to watch.  In addition, you’ll see how this integrates into SP2010 User Profiles, My Sites, and the social activity of SP2010. 

 

I hope these videos have given you a taste of the new type of experience that you can look forward to for your Intranet with CorasWorks Cim on SharePoint 2010.  We hope that your expectations for your collaborative work environment have grown over the last 3 years.  Today’s Intranet can be a much more engaging and inter-active place to work, and, that’s good business.

 

william

Knowledge Pipeline: From Raw Information to Published (and improving) Knowledge

In my last article, Drive tangible results when Social Activity is “In-the-flow” of Business, I referenced people/sources over the years that have written about the importance of putting social activity “in-the-flow” of business in order to drive adoption and tangible business value.  In this article, I’ll discuss a specific application that follows this design approach with Cim v2.0 on SharePoint.  The application is a Knowledge Pipeline that works to capture raw knowledge, process it to transform it into publishable content, and then, serves it up to customers for them to consume and provide feedback.

Situation & Desired Objective

For many organizations, having quality knowledge at the fingertips of customers is very valuable to the organizations success.  In today’s world that knowledge is often being re-packaged and presented in different media forms or multi-media packages.  So, how are we doing?

We all have lots of raw information all over our organization – in SharePoint lists somewhere, on people’s laptops, in lots and lots of emails, in a forum, in videos online somewhere, in proprietary systems.  We also have other places where people consume refined, published, passive content.  We usually don’t have defined ways of getting the raw knowledge transformed into the right content in the right place.  We also don’t know what knowledge is really needed or wanted.  We also have issues of getting enough raw knowledge (ever try and get a developer to write some technical documentation) or the right raw knowledge.  And, how are we doing in our knowledge life cycle? Do you have solid visibility into your knowledge pipeline?

Here is my list of the top 10 things that people are looking for to improve the results of getting good knowledge to customers in:

  1. We would want to know the needs of our customers – from their voices. We want this to be easy for them and for us.
  2. We need for it to be easier and more convenient for people to share their raw knowledge and be able to know what knowledge is important to our customers.
  3. We want our people to be able to easily collaborate to generate raw knowledge, validate it and improve upon it.
  4. We also want the raw knowledge, and the published knowledge to be at the fingertips of our internal users – they are customers too.
  5. We’d like to have a repository of raw knowledge that we could draw on to meet the needs.
  6. We’d want a process to effectively transform raw knowledge to publishable knowledge of high quality that meets the needs of customers.
  7. We need a way to efficiently prioritize what raw knowledge gets processed – all knowledge does not have the same value/urgency.
  8. We want to capture feedback on the usefulness of our knowledge and the quality, including the best format of knowledge (we are in a multi-media, digital world)
  9. We’d like to be able to see and manage the life cycle of the process.
  10. We want happy customers that rave about the usefulness and accessibility of our knowledge.

it is about meeting the needs of our customers.  For most of this article, I am thinking of customer as an external customer.  However, everything also applies to our internal people, in  those cases where we want to treat them as customers.

Solution: Knowledge Pipeline Application

There are a number of very different activities that must occur to make a knowledge pipeline process work.  Here I’ll lay out a standard design for a Cim-based Knowledge Pipeline application that brings them all together.  At the heart of this solution is how it aligns the various activities into a broad, process that delivers the results. 

Below is a schematic that lays out the flow of the process.  It consists of four main elements.

knowledge pipeline 700

The schematic above briefly describe the activities that occur within each of the four elements.  In a SharePoint environment, each of the elements are typically completely separate SharePoint sites (or a cluster of sites) that may be located anywhere.  The Process connects them.

This Knowledge Pipeline application is a typical Cim-based social business process.  A core distinction is that it is not designed as a workflow, i.e., a sequential process to get ALL items from A to B.  Instead it is a loosely-coupled, work stream.  Each of the elements can operate and thrive on their own and are valuable in and off themselves.  However, in this application, they are aligned  and connected (loosely-coupled) so that those items that are prioritized CAN flow through a managed process.  In addition, each element has social collaboration activities that help improve the result, including helping to determine what should go through the process and what the output should be.  The result is that a process designed such as this helps to improve the effectiveness of the result and do it efficiently.  There is a cost to any item that goes through the process.  With Knowledge Pipeline, people are able to balance the desired and actual output with the costs.

Below I’ll look at each of the four stages and mention some key drivers of Cim on SharePoint that make for a more effective and efficient Knowledge Pipeline solution.

Source

This application is particularly well suited to a SharePoint environment.  In most organizations, SharePoint is a broadly adopted, distributed work environment.  This means that people often work in their own areas – a site or sites within a portal area.  The Knowledge Pool is a collaborative Cim community – a place to go and share.  However, the main collaborative user interface for the Knowledge Pool can be snapped off and distributed to any site across SharePoint.  Thus, the contributors are able to have it at their fingertips where they work.  For instance, they may be in a project site and access the Knowledge Pool from there and quickly post some raw knowledge.  They may be in a department portal, a team site, their My Site, or, an application – and post.  Thus, as they do their day to day work the Knowledge Pool is effectively at their fingertips.  In addition, they have the ability to search and access the finished product from the Customer Communities, again, from wherever they work.  Thus, a Cim implementation on SharePoint is an effective way to put social activity “in-the–flow” of the day to day work of business.  The result is more content, greater visibility, and more extensive feedback and collaboration.

Knowledge Pool

This is where the raw knowledge resides – it is the pool of knowledge waiting to be used.  It is a place that you can go, typically in its own portal or embedded into an existing one.    Users can find information by search, activity popularity, tagging, taxonomy, etc.  They collaborate on items – comment, rate items, upload files of supporting or contrasting information, even do semi-formal peer reviews.  Items get cumulative ratings and scores that can be helpful in prioritizing them for the knowledge process.  In addition, needs are entered here that come internally or flow back from the Customer Communities. 

A key part of the design is the ease with which people can just post information here in its raw form.  Got good information in an email; just cut and paste it in.  No need for formality – just share.    In addition, Cim creates listings of Most Recent, Highest Rated, Top Contributors, etc. that further drives visibility and provides recognition for ones efforts.  These can also be snapped in anywhere across a SharePoint environment to further increase visibility, participation, and collaboration.

Process

The Knowledge Pipeline application has a Stage Gate process. The Process is used to take the raw information from the Pool and put it through a number of stages that transforms it into publishable knowledge.  The transformation may be simple, like reforming text into a standard document template.  Or, it may involve creating wholly new content or supporting content such as videos, presentations, etc.  There is a cost to any item that goes through the process so only certain items are selected.  The collaborative activity that occurs in the Knowledge Pool helps to prioritize what should go through the process.

The Process itself is very configurable.  Typically, it consists of a number of stages such as Screen, Review, Finish, Decide, Publish, Portfolio.  The Screening Stage is really just a view into the Knowledge Pool from where you select and push items into the Process.  During each stage there are a number of activities – emailing, editing, reviews, comments, tasks, deliverables, votes, decisions, publishing, etc.   When an item meets a certain criteria, a decision is made (the Gate), and, it is moved to the next stage.  In a typical Cim implementation, the Process will have at least one primary collaborative review activity. The activity is tracked.  As items go through the process contributors and others are notified of progress.  Finished items then get published out to the Customer Community sites.

As a pipeline, you can see what is in each stage and make decisions to invest, expedite, hold, and, kill – you can manage it.  Without a process such as this, i.e., in a typical ad hoc environment – there really is no way to manage the Knowledge Pipeline.  Most organizations simply lack visibility.   In addition, there is built in reporting so that managers can look at what is in the Knowledge Pool (upstream), in process in the pipeline, or that has been published (downstream). 

Customer Communities

In a full Cim solution on SharePoint, the communities are also built using Cim or a Cim community is embedded into an existing Internet/Extranet/Intranet site.  If so, the Cim community information is not just static, passive content, rather, it is in the form of articles, with multi-media content – text, video, files, links, pictures – whatever is relevant to the topic.  In addition, it is interactive.  The users can easily find the content, consume it, and provide feedback via ratings and comments.  They can also be enabled to do soft reviews or survey-style more formal reviews.  In addition, the users can post their needs, questions, ideas for additional information which ties back to the Knowledge Pool and the Process and the process owners.  A well designed community provides visibility of new content and makes it easy for users to find the content based upon their need as opposed to the media format of the content.

Summary

The Knowledge Pipeline is a great use of Cim on SharePoint.  I know because we’ve implemented it within CorasWorks and it a key part of our drive for customer and partner success.  It is one of those apps that didn’t get designed on a whiteboard – it evolved through experience with our customers and our internal experiences.  In a future article, I’ll tell you the story of this evolution which I think will help you uncover additional opportunities for other applications that map to a similar pattern.

But for you, the Knowledge Pipeline application is good to go, and you can start with it today.  To summarize…

Each of the four elements can leverage Cim to make them effective in and of itself.  When they are aligned, as shown in this design, you then have an effective and efficient way to turn raw information into published knowledge in your interactive customer community.  It is effective, because the social collaboration provides the visibility and feedback in order to make the right decision about what gets through the process.  it is efficient because the application makes it easy and convenient to get structured work done.

The entire design of the application drives home the leverage that you can get when you align social collaboration activities with your business process – or as said by others – put social activity “in-the-flow” of your business.

If you want to see the Knowledge Pipeline in action, ask your CorasWorks sales rep or email innovation@corasworks.net, and they can demo our internal implementation of it.

william

How Cim v2.0 Communities Drive Enhanced Effectiveness of Social Collaboration on SharePoint 2010

A great number of organizations are in the midst of their migration to SharePoint 2010.  This migration carries with it a new set of expectations for the platform.  So, what are the key areas for new value?  A common one cited is potential network effect of social collaboration with your internal workforce.  In this article, I will drill down into Cim v2.0 Communities and how they enable a new level of organizational effectiveness and directly drive tangible business value through social collaboration.  

So, what is it that customers want from social collaboration that enhances the value derived from their SharePoint 2010 workplaces?  Here is my list of common wants:

- a richer set of interactive collaborative features

- greater visibility across the workplace and less navigation

- easier and more convenient to use

- reusability across varying scenarios

- drives improved efficiency AND effectiveness of purposeful activities

- results in tangible improvements in business value

Within Cim, social collaboration is driven through our Communities.  Cim includes a Community module, one of nine in the product. This module is at the heart of the overall social collaboration experience.  As you will see below, Cim Communities are not necessarily destination sites (although they can be and they may be part of one) as we have historically considered a community to be.  Rather, Cim Communities become core features of your SharePoint environment providing a robust Community experience and driving social collaboration.  This distinction makes Cim Communities able to be much more targeted at specific purposes that drive tangible activity and business results.

There are three core aspects of Cim Communities that work together to produce the above result – they are:

- Rich, interactive, social collaboration feature set

- Usage Flexibility

- Designed to Support Direct Alignment to Business Processes

 

Rich, interactive, social collaboration feature set

Because we designed our communities as drivers for business processes, they come with a very rich feature set.  I’ll list the top ones in three sections below.

First, the general features of Cim v2.0 Communities are (NOTE: for more technical people):

- Each is technically a native SharePoint site – thus, data, functionality, security and administration are in native SharePoint

- The user experience is delivered via a distributable Snaplet that can be snapped onto any web part page across your SharePoint environment.  The Snaplet is self-contained – one very robust web part.  The result is that you don’t have to navigate to the community to participate.

- It is a multi-content experience (technically a mash-up) – it is not data typed into separate web parts like those within a team site – the experience and content revolves around each item within a given community

- Customizable contributor web 2.0-style forms, with custom fields that can be set for public or private

- Each Community can be “fit to purpose” with the features and metadata for the purpose, including styling using our CSS-framework

- Communities support configurable Groups to slice the contributions and Managed Tags to further slice contributions – used by users for access and back-end processes

- Users can subscribe to the entire Community, a Group, a Managed Tag, an Author, or individual articles – they will then receive a feed of the relevant activity

- Users can perform searches within one community or across a portfolio of communities distributed across an environment

Now, to some specific collaborative features. Below we show a detail view of a posting to one of our communities whose purpose is to gather Product Ideas that are then put through a downstream stage gate process for approval.

recycled values

 

Here are some of the key features of this display:

- Custom Fields – you can expose custom fields used for management and downstream processes.  Above we expose Status, Group, and Pulse.

- Feedback – users can comment and do star rating (1-5) which translates to Star Power calculation used in supporting Top 10 Listings and Reports

- Documents – the author and community users can upload documents and add notes

- Peer Reviews – each community can have a peer review form tailored to its purpose.  The form is customizable.  You can have choice fields that are used in weighted scoring, and also, absolute fields for numeric and dates (for surveys), or text fields.

- Pulse Auto-Promotion – the administrator can set Pulse categories (such as Bubbling above, Hot, Cold, etc.) and thresholds based upon activity and data to auto-magically promote items to a different Pulse.  It can also trigger notifications and review gate changes.

- Managed Tags – each contribution can be tagged by the author using Managed Tags set by the administrator – these make it easy for users to access related items and subscribe to feeds

- Social tagging – each contribution can be tagged into SharePoint 2010 My Sites which then add it to the social network

 

Additional back-end/downstream features:

- You can create customized emails triggered by activity

- You can trigger notifications based upon changes (like Pulse changes) or time

- You can enable Content Approval to require approval before publishing or to be used in a one to many scenario such as when you use a Community to submit personal requests

- It supports a complete private collaborative display for downstream managers to comment, do separate Management Reviews (with different forms from Peer Reviews), and vote on items in a private environment

- It supports a downstream stage gate process with extensive configurable activities to drive Community contributions into and through a process

 

Usage Flexibility

The above feature set along with other modules of Cim v2.0 drive some typical and some unique usage scenarios.  Let’s start with the typical.  You can create Communities of Purpose.  Most other vendors target their communities for a scenario where you are deploying a site (like a team site) or a portal with features including a core community-like experience.  In our case, you’d create a portal with a Community at the core surrounded by other Cim features and SharePoint features.  These communities tend to be standing and somewhat passive sites.  

A new, more untypical approach with Cim Communities is to think of them as activity driving tools vs. passive sites.  We have found communities to be extremely effective as tools for event-driven activities such as in our Idea and Innovation management scenarios.  In this scenario, you would bring up a Community for a specific campaign, such as gathering product ideas for a business line.  It would be “open” for say 30 days.  Then, it is closed and the results are worked.  This has shown to driven great participation.

A key part of Cim Communities is that they are not Site dependent.  Thus, for instance, you can have many communities as part of a site.  Imagine you are building out the Product Management portal.   The users would work right in the portal with the full feature set of every community at their fingertips. Some communities could be:

- the general Product Management dept collaborative community

- a campaign for a new product line as above

- a standing community for Technical Challenges where needs are posted and resolved

- a community for Process Improvements with a back-end process to vett and approve them for implementation

- a customer stories community to capture stories from the field and expose them to collaborative feedback

- a Help desk, request community of the organization to capture requests (that is on every department portal) and managed by engineers using content approval

Following, this model you could use a Cim Community to augment an existing Extranet or Internet-facing site.  An example would be a community to capture online customer stories to feed into a marketing process.

You can also access a Cim Community from anywhere within SharePoint.  Because of the Snaplet architecture, the same community experience can be be snapped in the Product Management portal as above, and also, the Marketing department, and, the Enterprise portal.  A team may want the convenience of having this Community in their team site, or, the VP, Products may want it in their My Site.  This ability to distribute the “community experience” via a Snaplet enhances visibility, breadth of participation, and level of engagement. Below we show the Snaplet of the Product Ideas community in a My Site.  it is showing the article listing page of the community.  They can do all their work from within their My Site.

my site - product ideas

 

Designed to Support Direct Alignment to Business Processes

Within Cim, the Community is one of many modules.  Its role is to be the front-end for social collaboration.  It is common amongst social tools vendors to talk about how social capabilities and tools indirectly drive business value.  A common refrain is that a Community of Purpose say for an Engineering team adds business value by allowing engineers to share information and develop and improve better processes and techniques.  We definitely agree that this can add business value.  However, typically this Community of Purpose is not directly tied into a flow of business activity or a process which means that it may not really add tangible business value.

With Cim Communities, we have designed them so that they can be tied directly into back-end business processes. Let’s take the above Community of Purpose for Engineering.  Now, lets add a Cim Community to that site.  Its purpose is to capture the ideas for Process Improvements (new, changes, kill, etc.).  It is tied to a formal Process Improvement process. The engineers can share challenges and ideas and provide feedback and additional within the community.  It is a feature of that site.

Behind the scenes (the Management side of a Community) is a structured stage gate process to review and decide on whether to implement a given idea.  The Process Change Management team team has a private collaborative interface where they can comment, do formal reviews, and vote on each contribution.  It also is a Snaplet and may be accessed from any site across SharePoint.  Activity here updates activity in the Community in the site.  Below we show a sample of this Management Activity display. 

mgmtactivity - crop

This back end process is supported by other Cim features to manage the stage gate process, the portfolio, activity management such as delegating tasks, the portfolio, reporting etc.  Now, the Cim Community is directly tied into a business process that drives business value.

The result of this integration of a social community and a business process is that there is a more direct and tangible relationship to business value.  This also tends to drive engagement and participation since people know that this Community drives a formal process (what we call a Social Business Process).

Now, not every community should be tied directly to processes.  In a typical organization, perhaps 20-30%.  However, you will find that many Communities of Purpose come up with items that could and probably should then flow into a downstream business activity.  With Cim Communities, you can tap into these communities as a source to drive downstream processes.  

Summary

Cim and Cim Communities provide the rich, social collaboration experience that you expect with social software.  However, we have gone further to insure that you can take it the next step and very purposely leverage the powerful network effect of social collaboration to drive business value.  The fact that you can use Cim Communities with existing sites where and when you need it makes it a great way to incrementally add value to your organization.

william

Social Collaboration for Managers (they are people too)

Cim v2.0 has a lot of new social collaboration features such as Peer Reviews, Scoring, Auto-Promotion, Virtual Workspaces, My Site Snaplets, My Site Bookmarking/Tagging to Social Networks.  Most of these are oriented towards the general community (“the crowd”) and intended to drive broad visibility and participation.  But, what about the managers that have to wallow away actually reviewing, evaluating, and deciding on all of these great ideas, requests, proposals, projects, etc.  Well Cim v2.0 puts some social sizzle in their hands also…

In previous articles, I’ve talked about how Cim blends the two sides of the same coin – Social Collaboration and Business Process.  Generally, we talk about the general community being the spot for social collaboration, whereas, the Stage Gate process is for the managers, reviewers, decision makers.

In Cim v2.0, we introduced the Management Activity Panel.  Now, the managers have their own way to get social amongst their smaller group of people.  Below we show this new feature.

mgmtactivity 

On the left is a listing of the various items that they have to review.  It is like a speed review listing.  It uses a nice, fast and efficient incremental search. Note that they can also quickly see which items they have already reviewed and voted on vs. those that are open.

On the right, is where they do their social collaboration.  This is their private space.  Here they can see the submission description and details in one click.  They can make comments that are private to their group, ie., not shown to the general community.  They can do reviews.  Their reviews can be different from the peer reviews in the general community.  They can have their own review questions, choices, subjective, and absolute and the reviews can be scored with weightings of questions.  Lastly, they can Vote.  Note that their votes are shown to all of the other members of their group.  (Unlike in the community, where the Ratings are averaged and not shown by individual).  And, they can change their votes at any time (but they only get one).

Thus, in Cim v2.0, managers, reviewers, process owners, now have their own private, space to get social.  It is fast, efficient, robust, and compact.  This drives an effective conversation as they deliberate on items, and, it does it efficiently.

Simply, a better way to work.  Enjoy…

william

Channels: Group to Group Inter-activity

A couple weeks back I got wind of a customer that wanted to address a very straightforward problem – getting Marketing and Sales to work better together.  This is an area that can benefit every commercial organization.  With a bit of inspiration, we came up with a rather nifty way of addressing this challenge by leveraging Cim to provide two-way, group-to-group interactivity.  Let’s take a look at the scenario and the solution.

So, what are some of the activities that these two departments typically interact on (or, should interact on).  Here are just a few:

  • Review and vetting of Marketing Collateral
  • Questions about upcoming events
  • Vetting campaigns and events
  • Customer stories that can be used by marketing
  • New market ideas
  • Ideas for new campaigns, events, product marketing
  • Prioritization of activities
  • Information from sales on competition, channel, field and market activity

In May, I wrote an article about the 4 C’s – 4 different types of ways to capture ideas (Idea Communities, Campaigns, Challenges, and Contests).  Last month, I wrote about the two primary ways that ideas flow in an idea and innovation workstream.  These articles address standard idea and innovation scenarios where a larger community of people are engaging with a smaller group of people that own a business process.

However, the situation of improving communication and inter-activity between the Sales department and the Marketing department is quite different.  It is two groups of people that need to work together on lots of things.  It is more of a point-to-point, communication, and interaction scenario.  Hmm…

Below is a graphic of the solution using a new approach that we will call “Channels” (another “C” use).  The objective is to get Marketing and Sales working better together.  What you see here are individuals within each department working in their own separate portals.  Historically, the twain do not meet.  They work in their silos.  To interact they need to go somewhere else.  However, now we introduce Cim and our Idea Communities, and, viola the Channel is born (the green connecting pipe).

idea channel-2-400

 

Here is how it works.  Each person continues working in their department portal.  A Cim idea community is deployed in the background working as a service.  The Community front-end UI goes into each portal.  The Channel is now in place.  To each department, it appears that they have a point-to-point communication channel with the other department – which, in fact, they do.

Now, they start to work.  A few scenarios:

  • The marketing department posts a new presentation for Sales to review.  A number of sales people rate it and make comments.  They upload a couple of presentations that they have done or their own.  Marketing reviews them.  Marketing sets up a meeting to discuss the presentation with all comers and gets feedback – with people logging comments in the virtual workspace.  A few days later marketing comes out with the final presentation which is posted and immediately available.
  • They set up a Section for Customer Stories.  The sales folks gradually start to enter stories – it is easy and convenient to do so.  Other reps rate the stories and make some comments.  Marketing reviews it and asks questions.  Marketing then creates a snapshot for the web site and asks sales to review it.
  • Over time, sales folks have posted ideas for marketing campaigns and events.  Just before the quarter marketing posts 5 fleshed out campaigns/events and allows sales to vet them for a week (rate and comment).  The deal is that marketing will fund the top 3 rated events.  At the end of the time, marketing posts the quarterly plan for all to see.

The list and interactivity goes on and on.  There is now a very rich Channel for collaboration, information, and interaction between the departments.  It is easy to use and convenient because no-one has to go somewhere to engage – they work from “home”.  It has high visibility and there is a persistent history.  It is easy to search and there is a simple Tagsnonomy for folks to use to filter information.  Everyone can see the most recent items entered and highest rated. It is a rich, collaborative way of working with rating, commenting, RSS feeds, notifications, file uploads, etc.

Department to department Channels like this can make a big difference.  It starts with accountability that comes from visibility, easy access, and being given a chance to have your say. So, how about a Channel between Sales and Product Management.  Or, a channel between IT and Operations.  After a while you would come to expect that each Department or Business Function will have a number of Channels to other key departments with which they have a high degree of interaction and information flow. 

With Cim, those items (like a really good idea) that should make their way into more formal process like product development or marketing campaign development can be siphoned off and processed via a Management Hub and flow into the implementation phase.  

Okay, formally, I am adding Channels to my list of uses of CorasWorks Idea Management.  It is now the 5 C’s.  The question for you is what other departments or business functions do you or should you be working closely with to improve business results?

william

Business communities, social application portals, mobile, business apps – all on SharePoint?

Yup.  Yesterday, was a big release for us of our mobile adapter and initial mobile-enabled apps by CorasWorks and partners.  Tonight, I’ve blogged about a business-oriented Idea Community and a socially-oriented IT Project management application portal. You may wonder what is going on…

What you are seeing with CorasWorks is the Enterprise 2.0/3.0 convergence.  Yes, its taken a few years to get it right on SharePoint.  That is because basic collaboration with SharePoint, structured business applications, and cool social collaboration all started in different places across the industry.  The analysts still have them all in separate categories – go check out Gartner’s listing.

In fact, a month ago I was at the Gartner Portals, Collaboration and Content conference in Baltimore.  I’ve been there for years.  This year social collab, mobile, cloud et al was the talk of the analysts.  But, when you sat at the tables for lunch with your fellow enterprise customers – they would say straight out that that social stuff would never be in their enterprise.

I then went to a presentation by IBM of their new Websphere Application Portal – filled with widgets and nice social things.  And, the room was filled with all of the people that said that they were looking for serious application portals.  Yet, the IBM demo looked alot like the demos we do for our solutions on SharePoint.

My take is that we are starting to see the properly balanced convergence between structured business applications and unstructured, socially termed collaboration.  Mobile is a great glue for this.  The cloud is a solid option for infrastructure.  Private clouds are fine also.  And, the platform players are all getting it…

It has taken the industry and the customers years to start sorting through this battle between “real” business apps and this “social” consumer thing. I first blogged about this convergence last April of 2009, one year ago, specifically calling on Gartner to look at adjusting their categories over the next year.

Yes, there are pitch battle lines drawn.  But, over the years, we’ve started to sort out the proper way to balance the benefits.  There is emerging a set of standards, best practices and technologies that are indeed “bringing it all together”.  And, this convergence is going to be strongest on top of the super-power platforms.

SharePoint 2010 is simply going to move things forward.  You’ll start to see that all of the things that we have been doing over the last year are steps towards this proper convergence.  They’ll get greater exposure and adoption along with the adoption of SharePoint 2010.  It has been exciting to watch the software industry’s development over the last 3-4 years and the steps of the SharePoint community.

With the economy starting to move forward, productivity at a high in the US and a reluctance to hire, there is pressure to continue productivity enhancing investments.  I believe that this convergence can give organizations just the booster in 2010 they need to keep the profits rolling in in the short term and gain a new foothold with higher productivity levels for the longer term.

 

william

Spirit Community Services v1.2 – for an Idea Management Community

This week Spirit released v1.2 of their Community Services Suite. In this article we’ll cover our use of it to build an Idea Management Community that is the front-end to our Innovation Management solution.  Below you’ll find some text, the screenshot and a video…

The Idea Community is the web-front end used by a broad base of users, Intranet, Extranet, or Internet facing, to capture Ideas and collaborate.  The ideas then get reviewed and processed.  In our end-to-end Innovation Management solution they could then be feed into our Project Portfolio Management application to be built out (Products), implemented (Processes) or acted upon (General Ideas) or to address more specific objectives.

In this article and the following video we are focusing on the Idea Community only.  For the Community we make use of all 5 modules of the Spirit CSS.  We use the Navigation Template for the CSS-styled community, the centrally configured Link Service, the Group Blog module, the News Service, and most importantly the micro-communities.  The micro-communities provide a rich community experience for users with features such as tagging, tag clouds, tag categories (taxonomy), star rating and the ability to attach and upload documents.

Below is a screenshot with a close-up of the micro-community used for Product Ideas.  The demo has 3 standing idea communities.  In addition, it has communities for Idea Challenges.  These are used to “challenge” the organization with a request for ideas/solutions/collaboration around specific topics within a specific timeframe.  The micro-community design (separate micro-communities as sites with distributable UI’s) of Spirit works very well in this scenario because it allows our customers to have many separate micro-communities as part of their Idea Community and each can be tailored to the specific needs – be it a standing community or a Challenge, a Campaign, or a Contest.

innovation central - close

Click here to watch a 5-minute video of a walkthrough of the Idea Community.

As shown in this video, the 5 modules of Spirit CSS v1.2 give us just about everything we need to put together a slick Idea Community. In addition, all modules use CSS-styling and XSLT which makes it quite easy to customize and brand.  It is very easy to administer the various elements of the solution using its native SharePoint Administration interface.  It runs on the CorasWorks Data Integration Toolset and meets our OpenApp standard allowing you to customize it without compiled code.

Enjoy!

william