Archive for Business Solutions

CorasWorks Solutions for Multi-Award IDIQ Prime Contractors

CorasWorks has an extensive customer base of Federal Government Contractors (see Federal Contractor micro-site on our web site).  We are used by them for internal operations, and, as part of their application delivery practices for solutions on SharePoint.  Recently, we’ve spent a lot of time working with the business development function of these customers to enhance their internal capabilities to win business.  Top of mind in BD these days is the ability to manage multi-award IDIQs as a Prime Contractor. Some are new to being a Prime Contractor, others have legacy systems that need enhancement or replacement to be competitive, and others, while not new to IDIQ prime contracts, are just beginning to move from Excel/Email chaos to an automated system.

We have provided solutions on SharePoint for IDIQ/GWAC BD since 2006 (see Case Study of IDIQ Center customer).  Over the years, the use of these vehicles has grown tremendously and the competition has increased.  With our new focus on solving this problem, we are raising the game and providing standardized yet flexible solutions that drive each customers’ competitive differentiation.

In this article I’ll drill down into the types of solutions we are delivering to address the needs of IDIQ Prime Contractors.  Our approach to this solution area is flexibility.  The “correct” solution simply varies. It depends on your experience, existing systems, success or failure to date, and also, on the fact that each IDIQ is different.  With that said, we have a standardized, modular, solution set that enables us to accommodate the different needs, but, do so in a standardized, cost efficient manner.

Solutions to Meet Different IDIQ Scenarios

We have seen 4 primary scenarios with Prime Contractors of Multi-Award IDIQs (and GWACs).  Accordingly, we have a standard “solution set” to address them.  Like any CorasWorks solution, each is very flexible and tailored to the needs of the scenario.  The scenarios and solutions are as follows:

  • IDIQ Task Order Management (TOM – Simple) – This is the core part of IDIQ/Task Order Management.  It is simple, extendable, but, very rich in its ability to automate activity and process around each task order and working with partners.  This is for organizations that are new to IDIQs as a first step towards automation.  It is also used for individual IDIQs that are new, not a high volume, or, not yet driving enough business to warrant “deeper” systems.
  • IDIQ PM (Deep – Single IDIQ) – This solution targets those Program Managers that are managing individual IDIQs at a “deep” level.  Typically, this is situation where you don’t want any Task Order opportunities to fall through the cracks.  They want a complete, integrated system where they manage the task orders, the proposal development, the partners, the knowledge such as past performance, and, all else.
  • IDIQ Center (Breadth – Multiple IDIQs/GWACs) – This solution is for those organizations that want to manage multiple-IDIQs/GWACs that are high-volume.  It is typically a replacement for or a new IDIQ/GWAC center where the work does not involve managing the responses but does require the overall reporting.
  • IDIQ Integrated (Breadth and Depth) – This is typically a distributed system where you support both breadth and depth scenarios together.  They are typically separate, but they work in concert, and, allow each group (IDIQ Center Management and specific IDIQ PM) to optimize their work.


Solution Modules

We deliver our solutions for IDIQ management on SharePoint.  Thus, by design they are distributed systems with many sites – each serving their purpose and supporting a principal user role.  The secret sauce with CorasWorks is the ability to tie all of the elements into an integrated system that allows users to work from one place with the information they need at their fingertips.  Our design works very well to balance the need for IDIQ specific depth with the desire to see a full picture of the activity across all IDIQs (and for all BD work).

Accordingly, we provide a set of modules that can be implemented as needed.  Each has its purpose.  Each can be easily modified or enhanced as needed.  This is cost-effective and gives you the flexibility to innovate as your need it.  The following table list each of the standard modules and the scenarios where they are most commonly used.

IDIQ Module Matrix -126

Click image to enlarge.

Below is a brief description of each module:

  • IDIQ Program Management – For the management of a specific IDIQ vehicle and its Task Orders.  This uses a stage-gate process through which each Task Order passes.  This module drives notifications, activities, and workflow such as Bid/No Bid decisions and Partner Surveys.  Click here to see a screenshot with a brief example in an article I wrote about stage-gate processes.  In addition, it supports the overall management of the IDIQ vehicle including partners, knowledge repositories, reporting and administration.
  • Task Order Site(s) – At a point in the Task Order life-cycle, these sites are auto-provisioned to contain the core Task Order request documents and support collaboration.  Usually, they are not highly structured. They are integrated with the Program Management site.
  • Combo Task Order/Proposal Development Site(s) – In lieu of the above, for depth scenarios the sites provisioned are designed with structure to support a much more evolved proposal development process incorporating task management, color reviews, supporting business processes and access to knowledge repositories.
  • Partner Portal – This is the main portal accesses by partners to respond to task order surveys, post opportunities, and/or participate in proposal development.
  • Partner Site(s) – In depth scenarios, teaming partners will often have their own “private” sites so that they can be deeply engaged in proposal development, opportunity management, and supporting activities.
  • Knowledge Repositories (Shared) –Most systems have a number of shared repositories such as Past Performance, specific IDIQ forms, policies, and information, and overall BD forms, policies and information.  CorasWorks enables users to access and “fetch” these repositories while working in each Task Order/Proposal Development site.
  • IDIQ Portfolio Management – This provides customizable overall reporting and analytics in a dashboard style with the ability  to drill down as needed.
  • Public Web Site Integration – This allows you to dynamically update web sites (SharePoint based or note) while maintaining the information within the system.
  • Customer Portal(s) – You can have a portal for each customer of an IDIQ where the information/reports are made available to them from across the environment and/that enables the customer to interact.
  • Supporting Process Modules – CorasWorks has a robust notification/workflow/process framework enabling you to drive supporting processes from any of the modules.  Examples are Bid and Proposal Budget Requests, HR Staffing Requests and Salary Approvals, Organizational Conflict of Interest Checking, and, At Risk Authorizations.  As part of this feature we often deploy new sites for different business functions to consolidate and manage requests.  An example would be an HR Site where staffing requests come in from multiple task orders across multiple IDIQs.
  • CRM-ERP-HR Integration – CorasWorks has a robust two-way integration framework.  Most commonly we integrate with CRM systems such as Deltek GovWin CRM,, Oracle Siebel, Microsoft CRM.  We also integrate with HR systems such as Taleo and Peoplesoft and ERPs such as SAP and Deltek CostPoint.

Getting You Your Solution

It just depends on who you are and what you need.  With CorasWorks your organization could use all of the above 4 scenarios over time.  Our uniquely flexible approach allows us to accommodate your needs as they appear..  We have a single Solution Platform (now in v11) that runs on SharePoint.  Then, you just add the solutions you need and custom tailor them.  It all runs on top of SharePoint.

For instance, you might have 4 different program managers that want to take slightly different approaches or are forced to based upon unique IDIQ requirements or their partnering requirements.  This can be accommodated using the same software (and effectively sharing costs).  Or, from the beginning you can design things so that management can get an overall picture of activity – alternatively, this integrated portfolio dashboard can be added later.  Or, you may even realize that while you are at it, it would be very useful to build out an entire new centralized Proposal Center using CorasWorks (see case study), and, get an overall view of all BD Operations’ activity.  No problem.  The key is that CorasWorks is designed to enable your system to evolve as needed.

It all starts with us understanding where you are and where you want to go.  We have a standard discovery process to help you ask the right questions.  We also have various demonstrations of different approaches.  I look forward to hearing from you.



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

Visit CorasWorks IDIQ Task Order Management for product information.

Using Stage-Gate Processes for More Effective Collaborative Work

Stage-Gate processes have been around for many years. They grew up to serve the needs of Product Development.  Over the last few years, we’ve seen a significant increase in the number of customers opting to use this type of design for their applications across many other functions (vs. role-based application design and classic workflow).  The main driver of this new adoption is that organizations are finding this type of design to be more effective for purposeful, collaborative work.  It lends itself to bringing a group of people together to collectively drive the results of the process.  In this article, I’ll look at the overall design of a Stage-Gate process, provide examples of different uses, and talk about how it drives effectiveness for collaborative work processes.

Stage-Gate Process Design

It starts with people aligning on the high-level Stages an item will go through.  Each Stage is then represented visually to make it easy for the group to see where things stand.  Within each Stage there are a set of activities, which must be completed for an item to pass through the Gate and progress to the next Stage.  This is really the power of this design in that the activity is separated from the top-level Stage flow.  The activities can change, but it doesn’t affect the Stages or the Gate.

Below is a screenshot of a standard CorasWorks-based Stage-Gate application.  It is used to manage an IDIQ (Indefinite Delivery – Indefinite Quantity) contract, which is a business development vehicle most often used by Federal Contractors.  The Contractor gets a contract.  The government then issues Task Orders, each of which is bid on by a number of contractors.  Each Task Order goes through a set of Stages along its life-cycle.  Decisions are made and work happens to drive the Task Orders forward.


IDIQ Program - New Task Order - ITES - annotated


Above we are showing the New Task Order stage.  The Task Orders come in here and are reviewed and prepped.  When ready, they are pushed to the Bid Assessment stage where the team decides whether to bid on the Task Order.  The key elements of the design are:

A. Stages – lay out your stages as you want them

B. Stage Management Display – where you see the items in that Stage and can access information, report, slice, dice, and take action

C. Actions/Activities – custom set of actions to be used in the Stage to get the work done that needs to be done


An important part of the design is considering what is actually moving through the Stages.  It is common to think of each item above as a record of information (list/database).  However, with CorasWorks you can associate related information and sites that act like folders.  For instance, in the example above when a new Task Order is entered, a related Task Order collaboration site is automatically provisioned.  This site is where the detail information is and the detail collaboration happens.  In other scenarios, it might be a project site.  Or, an item might just have related information from within SharePoint or external data sources which is surfaced as a virtual workspace.  The upshot is that you have a simple top-level process to track the flow through the stages, but you have access to a very deep set of supporting information and activity for each item.


Examples of Stage-Gate Processes

Now let’s look at examples of different types of stage-gate processes and how they might differ.


R&D Innovation Process for Consumer Products

This is a classic application.  One customer is using this design to manage the full-life cycle for molecules it creates to be used for fragrances and flavors in consumer products.  The molecules are created in a lab and go into the process.  They go through a multi-phase process with many detailed activities (more than 50 activities are individually tracked).  The process takes about 3 years and they have about 700 molecules at a time.


e-Policy Management for HR

One customer uses this design for their corporate policies.  They have converted more than 600 corporate policies from documents into living, digital articles.  Each policy is submitted, reviewed, and published through a series of Stages involving Finance, Legal, Admin personnel, and more.  Users are empowered to ask questions, rate the articles and make comments that can be used for revisions.


Demand Management: New Project Initiation for Everyone

This is a common use of stage-gate.  The objective is to have a visible, collaborative review process BEFORE projects are initiated.  It is part of the evolving approach for Demand Management.  We have a standard solution for this where projects are proposed and then put through the stages leading to an approved process.  When approved, this information is used to kick off the actual project management site (a downstream activity).


Application Development for IT

A stage-gate process is great for application development.  You have your basic stages of the application development process that can span the full life cycle from proposal to completion or that might just cover the development process itself (because you are using the New Project Initiation process above as an upstream activity-right!).  When the project is approved you can have a project management/collaboration site that is used to manage the development work and the related information.  This site is effectively what is going through the stages.


Proposal Development for Business Development

Many BD organizations, particularly our Federal Contractor customers, use a standardized Stage-Gate process (originated by a company named Shipley) to manage business development.   This is very high level.  In addition, each Proposal they are working on has its own Stage-Gate process using a standardized system for color reviews.  Thus, in this scenario, you have a system with two-levels of Stage-Gates.  The top level is the overall BD process with each “opportunity” being managed.  Then, each opportunity that has made it to the Proposal Development stage has a collaborative site for the actual proposal work.


Effectiveness for Collaborative Work

The power of the Stage-Gate design is that it gets a group of people on the same page of where things stand and what needs to happen to achieve desired results.  It is simple to understand and easy to use.  The key is that the people involved will be aligned on the top stages.  From there, the systems empowers all of the people involved to work together collaboratively to achieve the result.

CorasWorks has built in a number of features over the years that enable effective solutions for stage-gating.  They enable the core solution and the ability to flexibly support the many different types of activities and changes to activities to support the process.  In addition, with CorasWorks on SharePoint you have the ability to engage “external” people in the process for upstream, downstream and supporting activities.  Ultimately, the effectiveness of a stage-gate process comes by having the visibility, input and the work coming from different people, but, aligned on the core objective of your process.

Examples of Collaborative Resource Forecasting that Drive Global Manufacturing Results

It is a challenge to forecast, allocate and coordinate resources across a globally dispersed manufacturing organization.  It is even more challenging when the work spans functional groups or separate divisions making different products.  These kind of activities typically fall into categories such as Demand Management, Forecasting, and Resource Allocation.  However, the common objective is to simply get all stakeholders working off the same page and collaborating in their forecasting, estimating, and supporting activities.  The value of doing it well can be extraordinary.  In this article, I’ll look at two customers with different needs that leveraged CorasWorks on SharePoint to get the job done.  They cover two of the primary classes of resources where we need to forecast demand: people and material (others being capital, equipment, and facilities).  The solutions are relatively simple, however, leveraging collaboration they drive a new level of global effectiveness.

The General Challenge

Almost by definition, a global organization has a need for coordination and collaboration to forecast demand and allocation of resources.  However, we have lots of barriers to success.  In many situations, organizations reach for two classes of tools.  If the problem is “deep” they tend to leverage their ERP system and build or buy an app.  If the problem or opportunity is not as deep, the tool of choice is usually a bunch of spreadsheets.  However, there are a class of problems where what people really need is a simple way to work together off the same page.  They need an app that is visible, accessible to all stakeholders (even across divisions), easy to use, provides for collaborative work, and has a specific feature set that addresses the needs.  For such an app, the ERP approach can be too heavy and restrictive and the spreadsheet approach is usually a mess.

The Right Solution for Global, Purposeful Collaboration

When you need people to work together globally to coordinate and collaborate on demand forecasting, using CorasWorks on SharePoint, gives you an effective solution.  SharePoint provides the collaborative platform.  CorasWorks provides the application.

Lets see how it works by looking at two specific customer scenarios…


People Forecasting and Resource Allocation for Electronics Product Development

A global electronics manufacturer of 20,000 people has a global division that creates graphics products.  They have a rolling planning process with a five year horizon where new products/product revisions are submitted, approved, and planned.  They wanted a way to forecast the demand and coordinate the people (FTE’s) allocation across many different component functional groups.

They had tried a number of different approaches to the problem.  They first tried spreadsheets which was a mess.  Then, they tried their ERP which was far too heavy.  Then, they tried MS Project Server, which was too inflexible to meet the needs.  With CorasWorks they found a just right solution.

The application lives in their private cloud.  People submit their projects which go through an approval process.  Then, each of the component functional groups enters estimates of FTE’s on a monthly basis to allocate to the projects.  At any time a functional manager can update their estimates which may impact the overall plan.  Each functional manager is able to manage their estimates across projects.  Each product manager is able to see the estimates across functions and across other products.

The solution now provides all of global engineering with a single view of the project demand, the planning, and the resource commitments at a high level over the next five years.  The stakeholders get a full top down view that is consistent.  The level of detail is enough to coordinate the commitments from each of the groups.  Then, each group leverages their internal systems to take it to a lower level of detail to manage specific projects and resource utilization.  When they need to make a change, that change is reflected back up at the global level.


Forecasting Steel Consumption for Automotive Component Supplier

Now, for the flip side – we are looking at a scenario for demand management for commodity materials.  A 15,000 person $2B revenue, global supplier of automotive components wanted an effective way to forecast their demand and track their steel availability and consumption.  Steel is the primary material used in their products.  It is used across all of their main divisions and in plants in more than 15 countries.  Each division can track their purchases using their financial system.  However, given the financial impact of steel prices and supply/consumption they wanted a way to globally collaborate across divisions.

The solution was an application created using CorasWorks running on SharePoint.  Given the scale of the solution, it is a SQL Server database application, but, the front end is CorasWorks on SharePoint, thus, providing the global collaborative framework.  The application tracks forecast needs of steel by type and grade.  It tracks purchases including currency management.  It tracks and organizes the information by plant and supplier.

This application is elegantly simple to serve the needs of a mission critical process. It is global, cross-division, cross-plant in scope.  It puts all of the information at the fingertips of the users and the buyers allowing for the optimal efficiencies on purchases and consumption in the 100’s of millions of dollars per year.


Global Collaboration with a Purpose

At the heart of these applications is collaboration.  It is about people across functions (graphics products) and divisions/plants (steel) working together to get the best results. Each application only has a few hundred users but they have a lot of user interaction in a many-to-many, collaborative environment.  The apps provide a virtual place for many people to see and interact with many others – people they probably didn’t know.  And, note that the applications are for very specific purposes based upon hard data vs. soft collaborative activity.



The two customer scenarios above are very different applications for Demand Management.  One is about people allocation in complex projects.  The other is for commodity material purchases.  Yet, they are both about forecasting, estimating and tracking across a globally distributed manufacturing organization.  Simply put, they make it far easier for a distributed group of people to get a global job done.

Large Federal Contractor Drives Customer Intimacy and Value with Dedicated Program Workplaces on SharePoint

Our customer is one of the top 10 largest Federal Government Contractors.  Being so big you’d think that they would act it.  But, when it comes to contracts, performance, and customer value they have found a way to act small, local and drive very tangible customer value.  They are accomplishing this by creating dedicated Program Workplaces using CorasWorks on SharePoint.  In this article, I’ll tell the story of one $150M contract/program and how this has become a successful model that is spreading. By the end of 2012 this approach will cover 5 contracts/programs worth more than $1 Billion dollars.  And, as you’ll see, it is a story of organic innovation at the edge of the business, where the customer value is created.


The Challenge

Our customer won a contract worth $150 million over 5 years.  The contract is for services for a program for a Civilian Agency that involves delivering on a schedule of similar yet differing “projects”.  The user base is about 500 people with 200 of them being employees from our customer and the rest being customer and partner employees.  Our customer believed that the best results could be achieved by enabling their employees, partners, and Agency customer participants to work together in a dedicated, seamless, program work environment.


The Solution

A year ago the contract started.  Our customers’ Program Manager decided to invest in their Program Workplace out of their own pocket.  They deployed an extranet infrastructure based upon “vanilla” SharePoint.  They then used CorasWorks to build out their Program Workplace.  It took just a month to get the environment up, built and being actively used.

Now, this is not some passive intranet or a skinny extranet portal.  It is a dynamic, integrated, seamless, interactive, role-based workplace for everyone involved with the mission of the program.  Here is what this means:

- it is a dedicated environment for employees, partners, and customers working on the program

- it is role based – the Agency customer people have their work consoles, the functional managers have their work consoles, and the contributors have their consoles and places to go to get the work done.  They are enabled to see, act and contribute from wherever they work.  They see only the information and activities that they have rights to see.

- everything is there – it is a self-contained environment.  All of the information, reporting, processes, collaboration that relates to the program are there.

- it is about the mission and the work – it is a workplace dedicated to delivering the projects on schedule.  Effectively, the projects are managed through a structured set of stages with a final result.  All of the users have their roles and participate in the work.  Any supporting processes are part of the environment

- it evolves – effectively, the workplace gets better every month.  They learn with each project, they make changes in their work processes and the workplace, they get better.

Each project of this program is mission critical.  A project either succeeds or fails.  Everyone is accountable.  By having this workplace, the users share accountability.  And, in the last year they have succeeded with each project.


What makes this Workplace Different from an Extranet

Most SharePoint extranets are designed and built as appendages of an Intranet.  They are skinny – a place customers can go to maybe see reports and access information.  What happens is that the extranet is separate from the intranet where the internal people work.  Thus, the work and information environment have lots of seams (holes, gaps, barriers, cracks).  Lots of information, productivity and accountability thus gets lost – it is a seamy way to work with others.

With their dedicated Program Workplace, our customer has changed the game.  They designed it top down from the perspective of the whole team to accomplish the mission of the program.  Thus, everyone works equally together.  The result is that the work and information flow from person to person and task to task instantly and seamlessly.

Technically, the environment has more than 200 SharePoint sites.  But, unlike most SharePoint environments this fact is transparent and irrelevant to the users.  They do not have to navigate to the sites to see what is going on, contribute or act.  The majority of the sites just store information and establish security barriers.  Instead, the users see, contribute and act from their role-based consoles.  The information, work to be done, and results come to them.  You don’t prepare reports, you just do your work – the system takes care of the rest.  It is role-based and seamless. Imagine, a workplace that makes it easy and convenient to be productive.

What is truly unique here is that this customer invested from their own budget to bring up a dedicated environment, that they own, and that has become part of their service offering for this contract.  Plain and simply, it is a better solution for driving customer value and achieving contract success – breakthrough stuff.


A Cost Neutral Solution

Federal Contractors, particularly with service driven contracts, have to worry about costs – margins are tight.  Initially, this contractor made the investment up front – a minor miracle.  They were clear in their objective and how to get there.  They had planned that they would get change requests from their users.  They did.  So, in addition to the normal contract task orders, the Agency customer has been issuing change requests as task orders to enhance and extend the workplace.  In this first year they received more revenue in change request task orders then they had projected for the 5 year period.  This revenue has enabled the original team to stay on the project to maintain and enhance the environment and has made the environment a cost neutral part of their offering.


The Solution Becomes a Business Model – Organically

This Program Workplace has been very successful.  The approach is being adopted for other contracts/programs across our customer…

For instance, our customer has another contract with the same agency.  They are also a user of CorasWorks but have been supporting the customer via their internal Division Intranet.  The agency has now “guided” the Program Manager to move out of the Intranet and into an extranet workplace – to provide them the benefits that their other agency comrades have on the other contract.  In fact, they are consolidating the workplace of that program into the infrastructure of the first program.

In a new contract with a different Agency to be awarded this year, our customer is including a CorasWorks-based Program Workplace as part of their bid.  This contract will be about 3 times larger than the other two mentioned above.  They intend to leverage the same Program Workplace overall design with the primary difference being the workstreams and processes.

And there is more…  There are two other contracts/programs within the same customer, with different Federal Agencies, that are also following a customer-intimate, dedicated, Program Workplace model based upon CorasWorks on SharePoint. They have been running for years. The fascinating part is that until a couple of months ago these different programs and their managers did not know what the other groups were doing. CorasWorks has now connected them up.


Innovation Happening at the Edge of the Company

The miracle of it all…

This approach was not explicitly driven by Corporate or even the Divisions.  It emerged at the edge of the company.  This very large Federal Contractor has somehow magically created a culture that has enabled the drive towards customer intimacy on these contracts.  It empowered the local program managers to truly do what is best for the customer and the mission of their contract.  It delegated accountability.  Now that they know about each other, they are starting to share their designs, approaches, practices, even application templates.  So, without explicit corporate guidance, funds, or systems, there is an evolving common approach, to drive their customers’ success, that is driving the delivery of more than $1 Billion of business.  This is pure goodness.

In our increasingly hyper-competitive world, customer intimacy that delivers exceptional results, is a (if not the) key differentiator – particularly in services based sectors. The fact that this is happening organically in a very big company, sets a new bar for competition in Federal Contracting – one that other organizations large and small should take notice of.



$0 to $250 Million in 3 Years–Federal Contractor leverages CorasWorks on SharePoint to Support Growth, Productivity and Integration

Planning began in 2009.  Through a series of acquisitions and aggressive organic growth this Federal Contractor has gone from startup to a $250 Million/year business with 1,100 employees in 3 years. Their story is a testament to solid planning and knowing how you will execute before the tornado comes.  It has been very cool to be part of this ride from the initial planning stages.  Here is their story…


The Planning

In 2009, the CEO set very aggressive goals to build a big business quickly. They began planning.  A key part of the plan was the infrastructure, systems, and processes to enable very rapid growth, keep costs down, and drive productivity.  They would have no time for experimentation – this was about execution on a business strategy.  The target was to establish an agile infrastructure that could grow to support a $500m business.

Building this infrastructure fell on their seasoned CIO and a few key IT experts who had done it before.  In particular, they had helped build a Federal Government Contractor business before and leveraged a model of CorasWorks on SharePoint to deliver what they needed.  But, this time, the IT team could do it better and leverage new tools, methods, and capabilities.  To succeed, they had to be better.

They planned to rent hosted services online and build out their initial production environment to be operational after the first acquisition  Their objective was to create a unified, seamless, virtual work environment where employees, customers, and partners could all work together.   The key is that they understood how to manage the security of the environment while also eliminating the seams of the workplace (organizationally and technically).

The plan was that as they acquired companies and contracts these would be integrated into the environment – kind of like a workplace vortex.  As an example of the detail of planning, early on they decided that the environment would fully support the use of tablets (iPads primarily) for users to be able to see, contribute, and access information when working on premise or outside.


The Beginning of Execution

After the acquisitions started they migrated the initial hosted environment into a Private Cloud environment that they had custom designed.  This environment uses VMware with massive storage and fantastic connectivity.

At the core is a new Intranet running on SharePoint.  But, theirs goes far beyond the norm.  In effect, it is a virtual, unified, seamless work environment – their Federal Contractor workplace.  It is powered by CorasWorks that provides the user experience and the glue to enable people to see, contribute, and act from wherever they work.  This environment is a blend of information and all of the various work processes that are required by a Federal Contractor.  Powered by CorasWorks and some other secret sauce their workplace is integrated with their external ERP and CRM (from Deltek) and additional enterprise systems.


Growth and Integration

There are two types of growth: acquisition and internal growth.

Each new company acquired gets merged into the work environment.  This contractor does not leave them as separate operating units.   Instead it merges the people, information, and processes into their organization.  It acquires companies that will be a fit for their integrated model and expand their competencies as they grow.  There is one company, with one culture, and one system.  No redundancies, no loss of productivity to organization or system seams – a focus on win and deliver business and driving customer value.

They are also aggressive with contract acquisition.  For instance, in the last 2 years, they have added four new IDIQs as a Prime Contractor.  These new vehicles are managed using CorasWorks as part of their work environment.  They manage the task orders, proposal responses, teaming partners, all the way through to delivery and overall program management.



They started with 1-2 Terabytes of active SharePoint data.  In 2012, they completed the upgrade from SharePoint 2007 to SharePoint 2010 in a month without major issues.   Again, this was possible because of comprehensive planning back in 2009 that included the design of an architecture and inclusion of vendors that support this type of evolution.  (CW Technote: When they started they built their workplace using CorasWorks v11 running on SP2007.  When they migrated to SP2010 they did not even have to install a new version of CorasWorks, since the same v11 runs on both SP2007 and SP2010).

Their work environment evolves every month.  They continue to not just get bigger, but, better.  For instance, they are building a new data-smart system leveraging InfoPath forms and workflow to streamline and simplify operations.    Most information now becomes PDFs, including forms in processes.  This drives a level of consistency that is unusual which supports productivity.


My Take

This customer has done an exceptional job at building their business and providing an optimized environment to support growth, execution and evolution.  The fact that they had done the job before is critical.  Mind you, while they used CorasWorks on SharePoint before, it was in the days of SharePoint 2003, circa 2005.  Their current approach is much more holistic, integrated, current (using the latest and greatest) and just plan cooler (imagine their exec meetings where everyone is on an iPad with instant access to shared information).

As to the overall business model and workplace approach – they’ve set another new bar for competition.  For a mid-size federal contractor with a consistent set of service-based contracts, this is an optimal approach.  Instead of lots of separate siloes of work and organizations, they’ve shown how you can do it all in an integrated workplace run within your dynamic private cloud.  The way that they mapped their agile infrastructure, systems, and policies to their business strategy is just plain stellar.  And, they are setup to continually innovate – which they do.  The result is accelerated revenue growth, lower costs, and increased productivity.  It is a model that is working and that appears will take them to their objective of $500m in revenue within 5 years.


Customer Examples of Work Request Management apps for SharePoint

Over the last month, I’ve worked with a number of customers that are deploying applications for various scenarios of work request management.  This category of application is very common for all organizations and works great with CorasWorks on SharePoint.  It leverages the collaborative nature of a SharePoint environment and the work management feature set of CorasWorks.  The key design principal is to recognize that they are fundamentally cross-functional processes.  In this article, I’ll look at 4 different customer scenarios.  I’ll talk about what is common amongst them and how they differ.  I believe that any SharePoint Service Delivery Management team should make this category of app a staple of their offerings.  Once you get the core design pattern, you’ll find lots of applications for it.

Basic Work Request Management app

There are six core elements that are common to work request apps as follows:

  • They are an app, meaning there is a core site dedicated to this purpose vs. it being a feature added to a team site.
  • A requestor fills in a form to kick off a request.
  • The requestor can see, track, and engage with assigned “workers” on their requests.
  • Workers and Managers do various things (automated CorasWorks actions and forms) to respond to and complete the request.
  • Requestors and others are notified of activities and/or collaborated with.
  • You have reporting on the activity.

Customers Scenarios

Here are the 4 customer scenarios:.

Materials Storage for Pharmaceutical Manufacturing

This application is for requests to store chemicals (materials) within a manufacturing group.  People make their requests and others work the requests noting how long items are stored and where. Requestors are notified of the work and they get pinged when their storage expiration date is approaching.

IT Requests for SharePoint Work and Help Desk Tickets for Health Agency

This customer uses a couple of different WRM apps for IT to support the organization.  One allows users to log the requests for the SharePoint team for new sites, changes to sites, or new apps.  The SharePoint team then manages these requests.  The other is a WRM-based “Help Desk” app where users enter tickets and Help Desk folks work them.

Employee Requests of HR for Pharmaceutical

This customer is using WRM to enable employee across the enterprise to make requests of HR.  In this case, they created three request workstreams.  Each has a slightly different set of work management activities.  From the user perspective they are able to see the different requests in a single display from wherever they work.

HR Staffing Requests for Federal Contractor

An important process for many Federal Contractors is making requests of HR to find or recruit people to work on contracts.  In this case, a business development (BD) person working on a new proposal/task order makes requests of HR to staff specific positions.  The requests are related to specific Proposals/Task Orders.  However, HR manages all of the requests centrally.


All of the above follow the same basic design as described above.  People make requests.  People work on the requests.  There is back and forth.  The requests are closed out.  There is reporting.

The interesting part is that these are four very different “applications”.  In many organizations, they would presume that they would be looking to go out and buy or build completely different applications.  However, with CorasWorks on SharePoint each of these uses the same basic framework.  Thus, armed with one basic design you can now fill many different needs and save lots of time an money in the process.

Further, when you build them, the things that you will primarily change are also common:

  • The core data (fields) of the “work request” list are different.
  • The request form is different.
  • The worker roles are specific to the process.
  • The app navigation is different.
  • The displays and most importantly the worker/manager actions, work forms, and notifications are different.
  • Reports are different.

With CorasWorks, each of the above is easily modified using our wizards.  So, you have a common app design and you know the common things that you will be changing to accommodate the specific needs of the app.  If you look at it like an assembly line, you are all set to deliver.

Key Deployment Differences of the Apps

While the four apps have many core commonalities, there are differences in the overall deployment approach across the SharePoint environment.  This is important because work request management is fundamentally a cross-functional collaborative process.  Thus, where people go to engage, whether requestor, worker, or manager, can be different based upon the scenario.


In the Materials Storage app, all of the different users work in a single app site.  Requestors go there to make their requests.  Workers go there to do their work.  Managers go there to manage.  This makes it easier to create the app and is the way you would typically start.  However, it is not really a best practice given the ability to distribute functionality using CorasWorks.


In the IT Request app, the Requestors don’t go into the app app site to make requests.  They are able to be elsewhere across the SharePoint environment and enter their requests from their and see their requests and interact.  This makes it more convenient for the users.  Generally, you start by building the app as an All-in-one and then just distribute the displays.

Many Projects to Work Management Team (Hub and Spoke)

The HR Staffing app is a bit different.  In this specific scenario, you have many Proposal/Task Order sites (or could be project sites).  A team is working on these projects.  They enter their requests from the site.  However, the HR Work Request site is central – all of the requests feed into the one app.  HR is then able to manage it all in one place and interact with the requestors via their project sites.  This ends up as a Hub and Spoke deployment.


The Employee request design is different also.  In this case, there is a self-service page in the enterprise portal.  Users go to this one place and enter and see their requests across the three types.  The requests are funneled into the three different workstreams managed by HR.  HR is also able to work on them via a single display.

Getting You Spun Up for Work Request Management

The work request management category of app is a staple of SharePoint environments that have gone past basic site centric content sharing.  We often work with customers to train up their SDM teams to deliver this category of app.  We have a standard set of templatized apps and training to help get you going quickly.  Email for more information.


International Health Agency Gets More for Less through App Consolidation on SharePoint 2010

The potential is there.  SharePoint provides organizations with a platform that can be used to consolidate applications (existing and new) and add value through the native integration of the work of the users.  In this article we’ll look at the experience of a customer who drove this home over the last year with benefits in cost savings and organizational improvements.

Our customer is a 3,000 person non-governmental Health Agency.  Their mission is to improve health and standards of living for 35 member countries across the Americas.  Headquartered in Washington, DC they serve a broad and diverse community with 31 in-country offices in the member states.


Getting to the New Model

They have been a CorasWorks customer since 2004.  They have used CorasWorks on both SharePoint 2003 and SharePoint 2007.  On these environments, CorasWorks was used to enhance their Intranet with content services, collaboration, and work management.  In planning for 2011, they were preparing to move to SharePoint 2010 and to use CorasWorks v11.  They decided to expand their perspective of SharePoint from a collaborative environment to become an application platform.  To accomplish this they planned a shared services, Service Delivery model heavily leveraging CorasWorks that they would use to consolidate applications and build new apps.


App Consolidation during 2011

Armed with SP 2010, CorasWorks v11, and, a new App Service Delivery mandate, during 2011, they began building and consolidating applications on SharePoint.  Below is a list of the top 10 applications that they delivered based upon CorasWorks.

paho2 apps 2

The applications had a broad range of Types. “Typing” and understanding the design patterns behind the types is an important part of the standardization of their Service Delivery model.  In addition, in the table we list how the application was delivered.  While all of them are CorasWorks-based, their service team used a different set of resources to deliver the apps to their business customers.  Note that more than half of the apps were delivered using just internal resources.


Cost Impact of CorasWorks-based App Consolidation

We worked with the customer to do an analysis of the delivery cost impact for these applications.  We looked at each application and alternatives evaluated.  Many of the alternatives were apps delivered as separate Application Services.  Some were only possible as a custom project.  The comparison applications were the middle range of applications with a comparable feature set.

The result of the analysis is that using CorasWorks they saved $321,000 or 64% of the cost of using alternative 3rd party off-the-shelf apps and services.  Some of the details are as follows:

- The total cost to deliver the 10 apps above was $184,000 ($18k/app).

- This cost includes software license costs to CorasWorks, CorasWorks Professional Services, services from CorasWorks partners, and, the man-days used internally to deliver the apps. The organization used 75 man-days internally.

- The cost of the applications if delivered using 3rd party software/services was estimated to be $505,000 ($50k/app).

Further, it is estimated that over the next 3 years with the CorasWorks/SharePoint licensing model, the organization will save another $250,000 in additional licensing and services costs over the costs of CorasWorks for these 10 applications.  In addition, they are able to leverage their Corasworks/SharePoint investment and Service Delivery capabilities to build and consolidate additional applications over the three years with even greater savings per app.


Overall Success of Service Delivery Model

The cost savings noted above are significant.  But, in their annual review of the model, they highlighted additional benefits as follows:

- The projects were delivered, and, within time, budget, and feature set. By delivered we mean, made it to production.  A 100% success result was significant.  There were few surprises because they knew in advance where they could get to and what it would take.

- The business users got what they wanted.  Unlike the alternative apps that were initially reviewed before they decided on a CorasWorks solution, the business groups were able to get what they really wanted and needed.  Thus, in their opinion what they got was superior to the alternative.

- They did this with little impact on the operating environment.  Only one feature required custom compiled code.  Thus, the apps were delivered on top of the standardized CorasWorks/SharePoint environment which enhances the ongoing maintainability of the entire shared services environment.

- The cost of applications is declining as they gain on the learning curve.

- The user experience is improving as the apps become inter-connected across the environment.  Thus, instead of a user having to go to many separate apps and learn new interfaces they are able to access all relevant apps from wherever they work and use a common interface.


My Comments

Here are some of my general comments about this organization and their success with their App Consolidation and Service Delivery model.

- They have very good people managing Service Delivery.  They know SharePoint.  They know and have invested to learn CorasWorks.  They are exceptional at understanding the design patterns for collaborative applications and how to apply them and reuse the designs, frameworks, and components.  They are confident enough to deliver complete applications internally and know when to outsource.

- The Service Delivery group has the trust of the business groups and the support of IT and general senior management.  It helps that a number of the applications were specifically for the senior management of the organization.

- During 2011, they invested in the CorasWorks Solution Frameworks, Cim for Collaboration, and PPM for Project work, which they have leveraged for multiple applications and which had a significant impact on the reduced costs.  The Solutions were on top of the CorasWorks v11 platform.  (These costs are included in the costs analysis above).

- Their organization is really just learning to collaborate.  Six months ago I was speaking with the Service Delivery Manager and he told me “people in our organization don’t collaborate; they work and they share information when they have to”. This may seem odd for an organization that has had SharePoint for 8 years, and, has a globally distributed operating structure.  But, real collaboration is a lot more than sharing documents in a team site.  Over the last 6 months with SP2010, CorasWorks Collaboration and the collaborative applications they’ve delivered and on their roadmap this has started to change.



Federal Contractor Driving $800 Million Business with CorasWorks-based IDIQ Task Order Management System

The Federal Contracting business is very competitive and is getting more so.  A key mission critical business function is the winning of contracts, and, the winning of the right contracts that can be profitably delivered.  Over the last 5 years the use of IDIQ (Indefinite Delivery – Indefinite Quantity) contracts has dramatically grown – particularly for the procurement of information technology and services.   One of the top 20 Federal Contractors has been using a CorasWorks-based system running on Microsoft SharePoint for 6 years to manage their IDIQ-based business.  They started with one IDIQ vehicle and are now managing 14 IDIQ vehicles, 5,000 task order opportunities, and, have driven $800 million in business.  This article will drill down into this customers’ system and their business.

The Challenge

IDIQs are a primary vehicle for the Federal Government to contract for work in IT and related services. In 2011, 30% of all contracts in this space were based upon IDIQ vehicles, representing about $40 Billion.  The 5 year projection is an increase in the use of IDIQs to over 70%.  With IDIQs, the contractor bids to become an authorized vendor for a specific IDIQ vehicle.  This gets them no business, but, it gives them the right to bid for business among the select vendors for that IDIQ. Then, they need to manage and compete on each Task Order that the government releases and win the business.  Task Orders are usually many millions of dollars and span years.  Accordingly, the challenge for these systems is that they are both high volume and they require very detailed management throughout the life cycle of Task Orders.

Our customer wanted a system that would allow them to drive revenue, at high efficiencies, and that was effective at winning the right business (that which is profitable for them).  In addition, they wanted a system that was customizable to their needs so that they could continuously innovate to maintain a competitive advantage.  In addition, in this solution space there are a number of distinct challenges as follows:

  • each IDIQ has different requirements which need to be supported by the system
  • there is a high volume of Task Orders that need to be sorted, prioritized and managed closely – miss a date or a requirements and you are out>
  • each Task Order is different and needs to be managed separately with a process to determine whether to bid on it or not
  • the turnaround time to bid over the years has gotten shorter
  • many Federal agencies or specific Task Orders require teaming partners (small business, women owned, etc.) that are part of the bid, thus, the teaming partners need to have access to information and participate in the process and the delivery – thus security must be tightly managed


The Story, the Solution and the Business

Back in 2006, the customer won a single IDIQ (along with 10+ other vendors) that projected $10 Billion of Task Orders over 10 years.  They wanted a solution to manage the work.  They looked at various Project Management systems such as Primavera.  However, they believed that the IDIQ vehicle approach was going to grow in popularity and they wanted a system that would allow them to continuously innovate to competitively differentiate themselves.  Thus, they looked for a COTS product that was very flexible to build their own unique solution.  They selected CorasWorks running on Microsoft SharePoint 2003.

According to the customer, they built the initial system in a fraction of the cost and time of buying the COTS solution and trying to customize it to their needs.  They did this relying on their internal subject matter expertise and leveraging the CorasWorks product and CorasWorks training.  The key is that the customer a) was the subject matter expert, and b) the “builders” of the system.  Using CorasWorks, they were able to “build” the system and innovate without requiring custom compiled code.

Over the last 6 years, that single IDIQ has generated $250+ Million in business in 80+ won Task Orders.  They used the system to purposely bid less than 10% of the 2,000+ Task Orders that were released under this IDIQ to maintain high win rates and make sure that they were doing the business in their profitable “sweet spot”.

Over the years, they continued to innovate and improve the core system. They also migrated the system to SharePoint 2007 and multiple releases of the CorasWorks solution platform to continue to drive innovation. About 3 years ago, their was an enterprise reorganization.  Given the success of their IDIQ TOM system for the initial IDIQ it was decided to consolidate IDIQ operations across programs/practices within this team.  They have since grown to manage 14 different IDIQ vehicles and all of the Task Orders through this CorasWorks-based system on SharePoint.

The current state of the business is as follows:

  • The team/system manages 14 different IDIQ vehicles (including some GWAC contracts) and all of the task orders
  • They have processed and managed 5,000 task orders since 2006
  • They bid about 10% of the task orders received and have 300 active orders 
  • They have driven $800 Million of business
  • They have 250 teaming partners
  • Teaming partners have access to the Task Orders that they have teamed on through the proposal process and forward if the Task Order is won
  • Each Task Order ever issued is tracked for historical reasons
  • The system supports Opportunity Management so that the customer and their Teaming Partners can work on customer opportunities and then drive the process of getting Task Orders issued

The core modules of this system are as follows:

  • IDIQ Portal and Portfolio Management – looking across all 14 IDIQs and reporting on operations
  • IDIQ Task Order Management – process to manage capture, Bid/No Bid decision and full life cycle of Task Orders for each IDIQ
  • Task Order sites – one for each Task Order where information is stored, proposals are managed, status is updated and participants (including Teaming Partners) collaborate – throughout the life cycle of the Task Order
  • Teaming Partner Extranet and Partner Sites – where Teaming Partner go to access partner specific information, submit interest in participating on a Task Order, submit opportunities, access Task Order sites.

Here are some details on the overall scope of the system and some key features:

  • Every task order has a site that is automatically provisioned.  There are 1,000 active sites and a few thousand archived sites in the system.
  • There are 250 different Partner sites providing them with their place through which to work with the customer across IDIQs and Task Orders
  • Security is a key part of the system.  By separating each Task Order into a SharePoint site, the customer has a simpler way to manage security vs. attempting to use a role based approach with complex security.
  • The historical data, particularly the No Bid decision and explanation, is important to determine which Task Orders they bid on and also enabling them to return to rebid when the opportunity arises.
  • The opportunity management sub-system enables teaming partners to bring the opportunities to them, which they jointly pursue, and then, push through the appropriate IDIQ vehicle
  • The system is managed by two Technical people and the there are three Task Order Managers that do the functional work
  • The separate business groups that the team/system serve manage three elements using their own tools: large Proposal Development, Project Delivery, and Customer Portal(s).
  • The customer is planning to migrate the system to SharePoint 2010 this year and to take advantage of the CorasWorks “advanced” capabilities of version 11 to continue their innovation.  When done, over 7 years, they will have evolved the system across three cycles of the SharePoint platform (2003, 2007, 2010) and more than 7 versions of the CorasWorks solution platform.


My Comments on this Solution

This is a very valuable mission critical system – arguably the key type of system for Federal Contractors in the IT/Services space given the growing use of the IDIQ vehicle.  Note that while the use of the IDIQ vehicle is growing dramatically, the overall IT/Services spending is barely growing.  Thus, the Federal Contractors are fighting it out within a pie that isn’t growing – if you win, your competitor loses.  Having a system that gives you a competitive advantage for the type of business you want to win is simply core to winning this game.  With CorasWorks, this customer got what they needed.

It is a big system, based upon the vast number of sites.  However, in many key ways its design is simple.  This simplicity is important to drive efficiencies and to be able to effectively maintain the system – most importantly the security framework.  Complex security designs are subject to human error.  This design makes it far easier to get right.

The managers of this system/business function, two key people, have continuously driven this system forward over the last 6 years.  Their experiences and lessons learned are continuously built back into the system.  They just keep getting better and the results of the system get better.  The CorasWorks product and support services are ideally suited to this type of situation where the customer wants a competitive advantage and has the will and skill to build it out with our support. 

This particular customer could also use CorasWorks for some other core IDIQ system elements, in particular, large Proposal Development, Project Delivery, and Customer Portal(s).  However, since this is a very big organization with this operation spanning multiple organizational groups, at this time, each group uses its own tools to do these three things.  They are looking into providing CorasWorks solutions for these as opt-in additional services to the business groups.

The overall design of this IDIQ Task Order Management system is what I refer to as a Broad, Distributed Work System (see my intro article Putting SharePoint to Work).  This type of system is incredibly well suited to a SharePoint environment.  In fact, it is hard to imagine designing and building such a distributed system on an alternative platform.  The features and benefits of this system in terms of flexibility, maintenance, efficiency and business effectiveness would be tough to match.

It is interesting to note that this system is effectively a single app.  It is really large and its impact is critical.  Many SharePoint customers talk about the challenge of managing lots and lots of sites that aren’t used -  a feeling of chaos.  However, in this case all of those sites are part of a single, inter-connected, system.  The overhead of many sites actually increases the efficiency, effectiveness, and security of the business and every site has its purpose.




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

Visit CorasWorks IDIQ Task Order Management for product information.




CorasWorks Customers Putting SharePoint to Work

I spent a great deal of time in January talking with customers.  We did a lot of show and tell, mostly our customers showing what they have done using CorasWorks on SharePoint.  They cover a very broad range of solutions.  A common desire was to learn what others are doing.  In this blog, I’ll go over the general classes of solutions that customers are implementing using CorasWorks to drive value on SharePoint. In following articles, I’ll drill down into specific customer solutions and the business value.


Ways that Customers are Putting SharePoint to Work

In this section I’ll give you a sense of the different ways that customers are leveraging CorasWorks to put SharePoint to work by looking at general classes of solutions.  This is a bit of a “state of the union” as it reflects where they are today.


Investing in Work on top of Content – A lot of time, money and resources still go into the basic SharePoint infrastructure to support file sharing and good looking, and largely passive, content environments like Intranets.  Our customers tend to drive value when they break out of the general content environment context, and, focus on specific work to be done, i.e., apps. The delta is just a mindset: is SharePoint an application for content or is it an application platform to get work done and drive your business.  Thus, with CorasWorks, often either a business group drives the requirements or an IT organization does a really nice job of demand management and on-ramping applications onto the platform.  In effect, what is happening is the consolidation of business applications onto the SharePoint platform which a) reduces costs and avoids costs, b) promotes reusability, and c) gives them the value of the app and the value of apps working together across a common work environment.  But note, most of our customers also have nice looking Intranets, they just don’t focus on it.



Self-Service Work Management – With CorasWorks, basic work management is simply the ability to see, contribute, and act with information from anywhere. It is about doing structured work where you can control what users see, what they can and can’t do, and automate the work that they need and want to do. The basics are forms, displays, actions, and workflow/notifications that structure and automate the work of users.  With CorasWorks and our wizards, creating these work management applets is a snap, basically, self-service apps done by business users.  The majority of our customers are leveraging this broadly across their environments.


Project Work – This is really a staple of SharePoint and CorasWorks.  It is an extension of work management.  Many customers start with our straight-forward, pretty much out of the box, project portfolio approach where they have a portfolio dashboard and multiple project sites.  With our pre-packaged Project Portfolio Management solution customers are moving up a notch to a more robust and out of the box feature rich solution for project work that is supported as a product.  There is now a rather new trend to leverage our collaboration features with project work for enterprise wide, project collaboration.  In many cases we are finding the new style of project collaboration, that is easy, interactive, and convenient, to be what people really want.  Further, at the high end customers are creating custom “executive information systems” that surface project work and work in other project systems (like Microsoft Project/Server), SharePoint apps and external systems.  With project work, our customers often implement multiple solutions up an down this continuum.  We just make it much easier, standardized, and less costly to get this done.


Processes and LOB Apps – This is also a staple of CorasWorks customers.  Using our standard app framework, customers spin up apps to get work done.  A common one is a Help Desk.  This often morphs into Request processes, ticketing systems, approval processes. With CorasWorks, it is easy for customers to create processes/apps that follow a stage-activity-gate structure.  The work flows through stages.  At each stage there is activity.  We structure and automate what the user does and can do at a point.  As required we fire off notifications, flow the work to different user consoles, and/or kick off workflows to support the process.  These solutions may be simple point solutions, or, they can be very broad processes such as a multi-stage, multi-year, innovation process.  Yet, they are easy to create, change, enhance, and maintain.


Purposeful Collaboration – You’d really think that by now, most SharePoint users would have effective collaborative environments.  In truth, for most, collaboration is still sharing files within a team site, assuming they know it exists, have access, and, the will to navigate. Or, with SharePoint 2010 it could be social networking or social activity. Leveraging the newish CorasWorks collaboration solutions, customers are putting in place very effective, purposeful collaboration systems.  These are systems with specific collaborative apps for knowledge, team work, project work, ideas, processes, news, policies etc.  Each collaborative app has a purpose and becomes a visible and interactive resource across the environment that is easy, convenient, and interactive.  Very slick, very collaborative, but, focused on the purpose.


Blending of Collaboration and Work Management – This is newish as we’ve rolled out the collaboration solutions.  However, many customers are getting the hang of solutions that blend collaboration and work management.  At the core is the idea of having structured work with a broad collaborative footprint.  For instance, you might have the whole organization able to enter Product Change Requests and collaborate.  They then get feed into a Product Team to slice and dice and put to work.  Or, the inverse, you may have a small group that manages HR/Corporate Policies through a review and approval process that then publishes them out to the organization and enables people to comment, ask questions and interact.  The collaborative and process activity is all feed into users business activity streams so that they can easily know what is going on with what matters and act on it.


Deep, Unique Applications – Particularly leveraging the “Advanced” toolset now in CorasWorks v11, customers are building very deep, custom applications.  They may use SharePoint data, a database, or a mash-up of enterprise data, applications, and services.  The value is the CorasWorks 80/20/20 value proposition.  80% is CorasWorks COTS software.  20% is the customer getting just the features that they want.  The other 20% is the ability of the customer to continuously improve and extend the app.  Since, all of this can now be done on the CorasWorks v11 platform, we take care of the dll’s and upgrading – no new compiled code.  The result is that customers are able to create unique applications that drive competitive differentiation in a fraction of the time, risk and cost.


Broad, Distributed Work Systems – Certain customers are realizing fantastic benefits with distributed work systems that incorporate multiple activities across different phases of a workstream and allow people to engage from wherever they work.  Examples are Idea & Innovation systems, Project Portfolio systems, and Capture/Bid/Manage/Deliver workstreams.  These systems often have many sites, different processes at different phases, and, are loosely connected.  Because of this they also allow for great innovation and extension. It would seem to be a natural for a SharePoint environment.  In fact, I find it hard to imagine how such systems would be designed and implemented on any other platform.  This provides a big competitive advantage.  Yet, at this time most organizations just can’t wrap their minds and hearts around this.  Those that have are really rocking.


Dashboards, Interactive Work, Virtual Slideshows and the Apps – It is two sides of the coin: the app and the UI that enables top down visibility and interactive work.  Powered by the “Advanced” toolset, customers are creating very slick, interactive ways of surfacing information and getting work done.  They are using SharePoint as the host, but, incorporating data from SharePoint and external data, applications, and systems.  The secret sauce is the CorasWorks v11 “Advanced” toolset that allows them to structure the “middle-ware” in a SharePoint context.  They can also create apps in SharePoint using CorasWorks for people to do their work that get surfaced.  Because of CorasWorks’ flexibility, customers are able to evolve these systems as the need arises and do so much more quickly, easily, and for less cost.


What we have done to help our customers succeed

Let me start by saying that in most cases, success is customer driven.  Our most successful customers have people that know what they want and use us to get there.  You folks are the subject matter experts and the heroes of your success.  With that said, here are a few things that we have done that customers tell us have helped them succeed…


CorasWorks v11 Base Improvements – we did a lot of base work for this release which first came out in October of 2010.  It is going into v11.2 in March 2012.  A couple basic items are improved installation and upgrade process, greater system integration, enhanced native SharePoint integration such as actions directly driving Windows Workflow Foundation, and 100’s of small features.  It is also great that the same product runs on SharePoint 2007 and SharePoint 2010 which has made it easy for customers to migrate.


Adding “Advanced” Toolset to v11 – In v11 we added the Advanced toolset into the product.  This provides customers with the ability to greatly enhance and extend what they do.  It includes a componentized middle-ware framework, an XML transport layer, and provides a great deal of flexibility at all tiers, UI, business logic, and data.  This has allowed our customers to achieve just about whatever they want.


Our Pre-Packaged Solution “Frameworks” – Over the last couple of years we have built pre-packaged solutions for Collaboration, Process, LOB Apps, Idea Management and Project Management.  These solutions make it easier to get to the business solution customers want without having to deeply understand SharePoint, CorasWorks, or do design.  Usually, customers don’t use them right off the shelf.  They customize them and leverage them to do what they want.  With CorasWorks they are then empowered to maintain the solution and even enhance and extend it at will.


CorasWorks Product Learning Centers – Over the last year, we brought online product learning centers for the CorasWorks v11 Platform and for our packaged Solutions.  These provide articles, videos, and other information to help customers succeed.  It extends the existing resources in the CorasWorks Community such as Forums, Blogs, Online Help, Downloads.


Distance Learning – The recession put a crimp on travel budgets.  This made our classroom training less effective.  Since then we have been doing a lot more distance learning (virtual classes).  We have standard, monthly distance learning classes and we also create custom distance learning sessions to specifically get customers what they need, when they need it.


CorasWorks Professional Services and Partners – Over the last few years we have grown our Professional Services.  Our PS used to simply help customers create their own solutions.  Now, we implement our pre-packaged solutions to their specs.  We also do a lot of projects for custom solutions that we deliver to the customer and are accountable for.  At the same time we are working with a smaller group of partners and going deeper to empower them to deliver more advanced solutions.


As above, in future articles I will be drilling down into specific customer solutions.  Talk to you then…



Secret Sauce of Top 10 Custom Solutions of 2011 Powered by CorasWorks v11 Solution Platform

Welcome to 2012!  I want to start the year off properly by providing a solid plug for the CorasWorks v11 solution platform.  Last month, we released our Top 10 of 2011 list of Custom Solutions built with CorasWorks.  We got a lot of interest.  We also got some feedback saying basically, “You all need to talk more about these custom solutions and the power of the CorasWorks v11 platform?”.  It is true.  Last year we spent a a lot of time communicating about our productized solutions for Social Collaboration, Idea Management, Project Portfolio Management and how customers were leveraging them.  The reason is that they were new, they were hot, and, they have broad appeal. (I am guilty as charged).

So, to level the discussion in this article I’ll talk about the Top 10 Custom Solutions and the secret sauce of the CorasWorks v11 platform in delivering the business value.

First, at the bottom of the post is a summary chart of the Top 10 solutions.  The range of industries and business functions where the solutions are used is very broad.  In addition, most of these solutions are “mission critical” – very deep.  A couple quotes from customers about this.  “80% of our business relies on this solution ($10m business)”  “This app can’t go down, it would bring down our business (multi-billion dollar internet company).”

Second, congrats and hats off to the business owners – They deserve a great deal of the credit for the success of these solutions for two reasons a) it was the business user that understood what solution was necessary to drive the business value, and b) the flexibility of CorasWorks means that the business user has the ability and responsibility to tailor the solution to optimize the business result.  A couple quotes from customers related to the business value “It was a 6 month project. We got our payback for the CorasWorks software and services in one month of operation”  “We have gotten a 10,000% improvement in the efficiency of responding to customer requests” (BTW, I got the zero’s right).

Third, in effect for solutions in this category CorasWorks is delivering two levels of value.  One is the lower cost, time, risk of creating the solution and maintaining them.  Another is the operating business value the customer receives from cost avoidance, cost reductions, and revenue increases.  A third value that really started to be realized this year for our productized and custom solutions was the ability of our customers to avoid the cost of very expensive COTS solutions that they would have had to spend a lot to rip up and customize.  In effect, over the last couple of years, the cost to build a comparative “custom” solution leveraging CorasWorks v11 is often dramatically less (factor of 2 to 3) than the COTS option.  And, most customers would say that they are better because they really meet the precise business need, even as the needs change over time (cheers for flexibility).

Some key things about the building/delivery of these solutions:

  • They were all built with CorasWorks v11, running on either SharePoint 2007 or SharePoint 2010.


  • While the solutions are custom, they are not custom developed – meaning no custom compiled code. These incredibly powerful, broad and deep solutions, including database applications, where all built without having to install custom compiled code or for the most part ever crack Visual Studio.  This drives down the development costs, the risk, and, the maintainability of the solution over time.


  • It takes a community – each solution was built/delivered by CorasWorks Professional Services, CorasWorks Partners and/or customer IT.  In most cases the parties collaborated to deliver the solution.  Again, because we have the v11 platform, any of the folks can pick right up and maintain, enhance, or extend the solution.


  • Leveraging the Advanced framework of v11 – many of of the solutions leveraged the Advanced framework.  This toolset, incorporated into the platform in v11, enables the designer/builder to deliver very deep, custom solutions that functionally are all based upon a standardized, integrated, component framework.  It is really the secret sauce of the Top 10 and the reason that so many mission critical solutions got built with CorasWorks this past year.


  • In general, each solution came in within budget and time.  This is pretty tough since the expectation is that a CorasWorks solution will cost half of other options and be delivered much more quickly.  It is the way with CorasWorks because we are building with a configurable solution platform (not a development tool), with standard design patterns, largely repeatable solution frameworks, a standardized, reusable componentized framework, and, no need for custom developed code that introduces risk.  Thus, this allows the provider to accurately estimate what it will take to deliver the result.

Below is the table listing the Top 10 solutions.  You’ll note that there were actually 11.  This is because with CorasWorks you always get more than you expect Smile

Have a tremendous 2012!



Top 10 custom