Archive for Project and Program Management

Mastering the Core Federal Government Contractor Work-Stream

Its been almost 3 months since my last post.  No, no vacation.  Instead, I’ve been heads down supporting implementations with our Federal Government Contractors.  I’ve also been working on a suite of solutions being launched over the next few months that focus in on the core activities of Federal Contractors.  Sure, you’ve probably heard about Sequestration and Federal budget cuts.  This is putting even more pressure on our FC customers to get more efficient and effective.  So, we are helping by “productizing” solutions and pre-integrating them to increase the competitiveness of our customers.

In this article, I am going to cover the 3 activities that make up the “core work-stream” for the folks in this industry.  A work-stream is a set of “loosely coupled” activities that build on each other. They are independent activities but necessary elements to deliver the result.  Even if you are not a Federal Contractor you might find it interesting since at the heart of any industry, its participants have a set of solutions/activities that represent their core work-stream for success.  So, as you read this, think about what your core work-stream might look like.

Now, to Federal Government Contractors.  Below is a graphic depicting the core work-stream.  It consists of three activities (the ones in blue).  If you do them well, you’ll succeed; if you don’t, you hurt your chances of success.  They are different.  They are usually managed by different people.  They have different outputs.  They are managed by different metrics.  Yet, effectively, in this industry, they represent the critical path that transforms opportunities into money in the bank.


Over the last year, we’ve worked with customers to build out each of these three activities as separate “productized” solutions that can be part of one, integrated work environment. Below I’ll list each solution as it relates to each of the three activities of the core work-stream:

CorasWorks Capture and Proposal Management v2.1

This solution is used to manage the process of capturing business including the development of the proposal and the maintenance of all of the Proposal Assets that support the process.  It is a Stage-Phase-Step process that can be managed to be most effective.  This is the key first piece to get you going.

CorasWorks IDIQ Task Order Management v2.1

About a third of Federal Contractor business now comes through IDIQ/GWAC vehicles.  If you won a single award contract or a multi-award IDIQ, you then will want to process those task orders that come in.  With multi-award IDIQs you have to respond quickly, often with Teaming Partners, in order to really win the business.  You need to master the art of collaborative work that is fast, efficient and effective.

CorasWorks Project, Portfolio and Program Management for Delivery v3.2

So, now you have won the business.  You need to deliver on it.  This is where our PPM solution comes in.  Our solution focuses on helping the users to get the work done in a collaborative manner.  The key is the solutions flexibility which enables users to modify the solution to do very different kinds of “project” work.  Some may have tasks and classic GANTT.  While others may be just about collaboration and reporting or represent Programs of multiple activities by customers, employees, and partners.

The Core and the Supporting Activities

The core activities are the core.  You must do these well.  Surrounding these are a host of other activities that help to make you successful.  A very small list might be:

  • working with HR for recruiting
  • working with Contract Administration to get SOWs with teaming partners
  • managing an overall CMMI or ISO set of policies
  • integrating with CRM that is your database of opportunities and contact tracking
  • working with Legal
  • Partner Engagement
  • Customer Engagement
  • training
  • knowledge management and open collaboration
  • marketing activities
  • solution innovation management
  • executive and management dashboards, reporting, and drilldowns
  • integration with Financial systems/ERP

Using CorasWorks each of the above can also be added to your environment as supporting activities.  Each adds value.  However, to say it again, you need to get the core elements working properly to make money.

What Shape is Your Core In?

Most people can use some help with their core work-stream.  Many can use a lot of help.  Those that have been around for years usually have good practices, but, aging systems.  The possibilities for systems/tools have changed over even just the last 5 years.  With flexible systems such as CorasWorks on SharePoint you are able to extend and enhance existing systems or replace them quite quickly and cost effectively.  If you have the feeling that you are stuck with legacy, fixed, custom coded systems and may be missing the boat to staying competitive – then, there is a good chance that this is the reality.  If you are young and growing but need to put core work-stream systems in place, then, you can step to the front of the technology stack.  However, you will still need to go to work on learning and developing the right processes and practices.  It helps to have systems like CorasWorks’ where you can get started with a simpler approach that is also cost-effective and then change the system to adapt as your people and organization grow and learn.

No matter which situation you are in, with the competitive pressures of today and the foreseeable future, it is critical to continually make sure that your core is in good shape.


CorasWorks for Legal Work Management on SharePoint

In addition to everything else, we are doing quite a bit of work these days within the Legal departments of organizations and for Law Firms.  The standard needs of this department for legal matters, ad hoc requests, and case management fit well with the CorasWorks Work Management capabilities.  I’ll briefly cover a few examples in this article.

Matters Management – a 3,000 person Non Governmental Organization (NG0) used CorasWorks to create their Legal Matters Management process.  The work was done by a CorasWorks partner using our off the shelf framework.

Case Management – we are completing a project for an Arbitration Case Management system for an association.  This system is really a service to the legal community where they can request arbitration cases and then the arbitrator can manage the cases.  It is Case Management as a service.

Claims Management – we support a Law Firm that has built an extensive Claims Management system for insurance claims.  This office of this global 1,000 attorney firm does 80% of its business managing claims for Insurers.  It is a large system with thousands of claims.  A key part of this solution is its 360 degree Dashboard that puts all of the information about a claim, and all of the actions people need to do, at the fingertips of the attorneys.  The system was built by our customer and a CorasWorks partner specializing in Legal systems with support from us.

Leverage CorasWorks in your in house Legal departments

It is clear that our Work Management framework is a good fit for a lot of the work done by Legal departments.  In most organizations (vs. Law Firms), the Legal department is one those under-served departments that are low on the list of enterprise IT priorities.  But, if your organization is already using CorasWorks, you may want to look at re-purposing it to address needs of the Legal department.  Many of the needs of the Legal department are rather straight forward from a CorasWorks perspective.  And, the capabilities we provide are pretty slick when compared to many of the Legal products out there that are usually based upon legacy technologies and targeted at law firms and tend to be overly complex for an in-house legal department.

Legal Project Management – A Next Step In Innovation…

With that said, I also see a new area of innovation by CorasWorks for in-house legal departments and law firms.  Over the last few years, innovative and leading legal teams are starting to adopt a structured Project Management approach to large legal cases.  It makes sense.  Part of this is driven by a shift to fixed price work, part is just the idea that legal cases can be better managed.  I’m looking for some opportunities to apply our Project Portfolio Management solution to this need – any takers?


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.



Drive exceptional results by combining social business collaboration and project management

We kicked off October as an exhibitor at the SharePoint Conference in Los Angeles.  At our booth, we were showing our two core solutions for SharePoint 2010 – CorasWorks Cim for Social Business Collaboration and CorasWorks PPM for Project Portfolio Management. These are two robust solutions that work great stand alone.  However, we  got people really excited by demonstrating business scenarios where the two are combined to drive a new experience.  In this article, I’ll cover the three combo scenarios that we were showing and give you an explanation of how they come together.


Over the last year, we have driven each of these solutions forward in their own categories with at least 3 releases for each.  Each solution has its own competitor vendors.  Thus, your analyst reports treat them separately.  And, most customers see them as separate animals.  However, when you start to consider the scenarios where they work together on top of SharePoint – you begin to uncover business results magic.

The three scenarios are as follows:

- Project Collaboration

- Project Initiation, Approval, and Management (Demand Management)

- Innovation Management


Project Collaboration

In our PPM solution, people primarily work in project sites like many other solutions.  It has all of the great structured project management features you’d expect. Yet, how much of the success of a project is based upon structured management vs. collaboration (people communicating and working together)?  80/20? 50/50? 30/70?

With Cim we have collaborative communities that can be embedded into the CorasWorks PPM project sites.  Thus, smack dab in the middle of structured project work you have a very robust collaborative community.  In addition, users can be anywhere else in SharePoint and go to their Cim Activity Stream and see, contribute, and collaborate within any or all of the project communities for all of the projects that they watch.  Even further, other people that may not be part of the specific project team can be enabled to also watch the community and help drive success.

Here is a schematic depicting a typical user experience where Kim White, a web designer, is working on multiple projects.  She only needs to go to her Activity Stream to collaborate on multiple projects.



Let’s look at the types of items that you’d find in your project community.  How about: project updates and snapshots, meeting agenda and notes, issues and resolutions, all points bulletins for required resources and responses/volunteers, technical challenges and solutions, posts of core knowledge/information, announcements of handoffs, ideas to move the project forward and discussions…

One collaborative community to handle information, communication, discussions, and resolutions to drive the success of a project by getting the team and the expanded community to work together.  (NOTE: in many of the types of posts, you have two way communication, like a question and an answer or answers).


Demand Management: Project Initiation, Approval and Management Workstream

I previously wrote about this scenario with a focus on the New Project Initiation part of the workstream.  That article describes the business value of having a robust front-end project initiation process so that you make sure that you are doing the right projects.  More formally, this is often referred to as Project Demand Management.

Our full demonstration shows an integrated workstream where you start with people entering their ideas for projects.  This gives them visibility and allows for robust collaboration.  Then, the projects are evaluated via the Cim Process Management site that enables management and subject matter expert collaboration.  Once approved, you are ready to go into the project execution phase.  The approved projects may be pushed into the PPM Program Management Office.  Or, they can be pushed into a PPM Project Portfolio to kick off the project.

Thus, in this scenario the two solutions are aligned in a sequential workstream.  Again, at any point users can collaborate from their Cim Activity Stream.  Accordingly, a user that proposed the project can track the entire process and be engaged via the project community in the actual execution.  This is depicted in the following schematic.



Innovation Management

This is another workstream similar in design to the scenario above but delivering a different business value – innovation success.  In a typical innovation scenario you have a number of front-end communities.  They may be standing communities or challenges that capture ideas and allow for collaboration.  Then, the ideas go through a process where they are reviewed and worked on.  The additional boxes below at the process stage represent task management.  For instance, you may assign tasks to technical teams or marketing teams whose work supports the decision process.  The users can just use SharePoint team sites or they can use CorasWorks PPM sites so that the tasks can be more thoroughly managed in a programmatic manner.  The approved ideas are then pushed into project execution phase which might be managed by a Program Management Office, a Portfolio or Program Manager, or just a Project Manager.

As in the above scenarios there can be a great deal of collaboration at the front-end, amongst managers, subject matter experts, and, delegated teams in the process phase, or, as part of the project execution phase.  This collaborative activity is all surfaced via the users Cim Activity Stream wherever they like to work.




The Wrap

Typically, we have thought of the two types of solutions as separate animals.  They have been targeted at different user groups who see themselves working in very different ways. With CorasWorks, we have now designed the solutions so that they can be naturally integrated to drive the types of scenarios noted above.  They give you the structure you need to properly manage work and the power of robust collaboration to drive the results.  And, it all works on top of one platform – SharePoint.


Enabling Enterprise-Wide Social Business Processes

With the launch of Cim v2.1 last month, I’ve been engaging with a very different set of business groups amongst our customers.  These are groups that have really never gotten into leveraging SharePoint – even though their organization has it deployed enterprise wide.  They are now looking to leverage Cim on SharePoint 2010 to scale out and up enterprise-wide business processes that have been operating in limited, cumbersome environments.  This scenario that we call enterprise-wide social business processes (EW-SBP) is a targeted scenario for Cim and leverages the entire CorasWorks value proposition.  In this article, I’ll provide the overview of this scenario.  In future blogs, I’ll drill into specific business processes.


The Situation

These enterprise customers have existing business processes that require contributions from a large groups of users.  You might say that they have a big, front-end funnel.  The organizations have already determined what their process is and that it works for the business. They’ve been doing it, but, it has been painful. As they exist today, they are too limited in visibility and touch, they are cumbersome and not scalable (usually built or managed using spreadsheets and/or legacy systems such as SAP and Siebel), and, they are expensive and a hassle to maintain and move forward.

As Cim v2.1 has gotten out there, these business groups are bringing us their processes.  Here is what they want:

- Broad User Scale – They want to scale the front-end of the process to be able to engage a very broad set of users – the whole enterprise, a division, or their business group.  They want this to occur with very little upfront or ongoing effort.  They want to be able to launch new initiatives with just a bit of effort and not having to reinvent a new process/system.

- Robust Process Management – They want their core process, the way they manage it now (but better and easier), to be part of the solution.  They want it to be rich, configurable, and flexible without requiring a computer science degree.

- Enterprise Integration – They want this front-end engagement/process to be able to connect to their external back-end systems (like their project management systems) to a) push approved items into these systems or b) expose the enterprise data within the system to assist the users of the process.  NOTE: Some of these business groups are now considering the option of also leveraging SharePoint to do this also.


Some Examples

In many cases, the processes that these business groups are looking for are already part of the CorasWorks stable.  Some examples of them are as follows.

New Project Initiation – they usually have multiple project management systems, off SharePoint.  What they want is the front-end where people can submit new project ideas, get visibility and collaboration, and then, put them through a review, evaluation, and approval process.  The approved one then get pushed into their PMO or into Project Portfolios in their enterprise project management system.  Their objective is to reduce project duplication and make sure that the projects that even get considered are thought out and vetted amongst a broad, visible audience.

Change Request Management – We are seeing two main “flavors” of this.  One is driven by product groups, the other by IT.  In sum, they want to open up the front end to a broad set of users to be able to easily submit and collaborate on change requests.  Then, they want to run them through a review and approval process.  The approved ones will get pushed into their external system or into project sites or team sites within SharePoint for implementation.  The value is a broader funnel that allows for better collaboration before the change requests move into consideration.

New Product Innovation – We are getting multiple variations for this scenario.   But at the core, the business owners want to engage the full enterprise to capture ideas for new products and markets.  They want to put them through a review and approval process, and then, push them to external systems or SharePoint sites for people to incorporate into their next product cycle.  With this process they are looking to drive revenue growth and competitive strength through a bigger funnel for innovative ideas, the ability to get more varied collaborative input, and the means to target the “thinking” of the organization towards specific challenges/opportunities.

Continuous Improvement Programs – At the enterprise or division level, organizations are looking to capture ideas, projects, plans to feed into a program they are using to manage their Continuous Improvement.  Usually, these are operations oriented groups.  They are looking for ideas for cutting costs, decreasing cycle time, and overall efficiencies.  They want broad participation (sometimes mandatory), and then, they review and approve the ideas, and move them into implementation.


The Cim Enterprise-Wide Social Business Process (EW-SBP) Solution

The basic design of our solution is the same across all of the four examples above.  It is a distributed process that lays on top of and cuts across the SharePoint environment and beyond.  Below is a screenshot depicting a generic process.

Generic EW-SBP

The process breaks down into three distinct sets of activities as follows:

Collaboration: Users will have access to one or more communities to contribute and collaborate with others on the items.  They will do this from wherever they work across SharePoint using the Cim Activity Stream.  The items are all collected in one or more “communities”.

Process: The process owners then go about reviewing, evaluating, and approving the items.  It may be a simple process with a few core decision makers.  Or, they may use collaborative reviews that pull in subject matter experts and other managers.  Further, they can configure multiple stage-gates, with specific activities within each stage that need to be completed before the item is promoted.  Here they will make the decision.  And, they will manage the overall portfolio leveraging various reporting features.

Execution: They then push approved items into downstream project sites, processes, programs, or team sites.  These downstream activities may be in external enterprise systems or may exist within the SharePoint environment.  For instance, CorasWorks provides our Project Portfolio Management solution that runs on SharePoint and is integrated with Cim to make this phase a natural next step.

The core selling points of the CorasWorks Cim v2.1 solution are:

- it runs natively on SharePoint and thus they can leverage this existing enterprise infrastructure

- the CorasWorks Cim solution is largely off the shelf in terms of the core things they want for their process

- Cim is easy to use and feature rich, providing contributor users and process users with a good experience

- Cim is easily adaptable and they can see how they can tweak it where they need it

- Cim is based upon the CorasWorks Solution Platform, which is a mature platform (now in v11) and gives them the flexibility to extend the solution in the places where they require some deep enterprise integration

- the price is very competitive and they are able to launch additional processes using the same framework



In sum, we are seeing Cim v2.1 running on SharePoint 2010 being adopted for enterprise-wide social business processes.  Effectively, these customers are leveraging our solution to scale their existing processes.  They are targeting broad numbers of users (5,000 to 50,000).  The target is usually enterprise-wide or at the division level.  They want the front-end collaboration, a clean, robust process to get to the decision on items, and, the flexibility to then use different means for execution (building, implementing) and or extend the solution as needed.

In future articles, I’ll drill down into specific processes and talk about specific features and benefits.


Another Spirit-based Solution – IT Project Management Portal

In my previous post, I wrote about an Idea Management Community built with Spirit’s new Community Services Suite v1.2 release.  Here we’ll look at second solution which is a Portal for an IT Project Management solution.  I’ll follow the same format, some text graphic and video.

Our Project Portfolio Management application is very popular.  It is very flexible and allows you to build project based solutions with project, portfolios, and PMO’s distributed across your SharePoint environment.  With this Portal component, however, we add a new dimension that brings it all together – the Portal, a project user community, mobile access, Snaplets from the various sites. The Spirit CSS provides the foundation and the community services elements for this complete solution.

Below is a screenshot of the Home Page of the Portal.  If you watched the Idea Management Community video you’ll note that it is a different brand and UI – easy with the CSS styling options of Spirit Communities Services Suite.


Next is a screenshot of the Project User Community.  You’ll see this in the demo of the Portal.  However, here it is shown within our PPM project site.  The key is that this community can be distributed to any SharePoint site, and thus, provides the glue for all project users working anywhere in the solution to collaborate.  Note how they can create articles and upload documents from anywhere and socialized this information across the community.  We’ll point out uses in the video.

Article detail with documents in Project


Now the demo, click here to see a 5 minute walkthrough of the IT Project Management portal.


With the core functionality of the CorasWorks PPM and the easy to use, web experience of the portal based upon Spirit CSS you have the best of both worlds for a great IT Project Management solution.  I believe this solution is a good example of an emerging approach that blends functionally-rich business applications and easy-to-use community services/social collaboration.  There is a lot of productivity to be gained by work sharing vs. information siloing. Getting to an effective balance is the key.



The Project Guild: a Micro-community for distributed project environments on SharePoint

In my previous post, I provided an overview of distributed micro-communities built using the Spirit Group Blog Service and served up a “day in the life” video of Idea Central – a micro-community for contributing and collaborating on ideas.  In this post, I’ll look at another example of a micro-community called Project Guild that puts very useful collaborative capabilities at the fingertips of people working on projects across a SharePoint environment.

Project work is typical in a SharePoint environment.  Typically, the projects are separate sites, distributed across a SharePoint environment.  Apps such as the CorasWorks Project Portfolio Management (PPM) do a great job of integrating the hard-core, structured, project management elements.  You can have a PMO, multiple project portfolio dashboards, and many, many project sites – all operating as an integrated system.  And, it is all centrally configurable – which is great.

But, what we are missing is the project community.  Sure, people work on specific projects in a structured way.  But, in the real world, people need information, policies, processes, training, help, tips and additional resources to break through bottlenecks in the critical path.  What is missing is a collaborative community where all this unstructured information, collaboration, and communication can occur to support the success of the people working on all projects.  

This is where our example, the Project Guild micro-community comes in.  It differs from the Idea Central micro-community like this: Idea Central is for a broad community focused on contributing and collaboration; Project Guild is a narrower, more job focused micro-community driving content dissemination, collaboration, and communication (hence the Guild name).

As a solution, it is a distributed, community service.  The information and functionality is centrally managed.  Yet, the users are able to participate from everywhere across SharePoint and even beyond, i.e., no need to go to a place to participate.  Below we have a diagram of how it lays out with people participating from the PMO, Portfolio dashboards, Project Sites, Team Sites, regular SharePoint sites, and even via a Virtual RSS UI. Anyone from anywhere can listen in and chime in.

project guild

In the following “day in the life video” we’ll show you how various people that are part of the “Guild” collaborate via the Project Guild distributed, micro-community. They “socialize” documents, share information, collaborate, and engage in activities to help each other succeed.  Now, we show a lot of the work in the context of the CorasWorks PPM modules but you can be doing this with any SharePoint sites or even (dare I say) competitors solutions.

Click here to view the Project Guild video (runtime 11:20)

As you can see from the video, you can really start to add a whole new layer of rich collaboration to a project environment by adding a distributed micro-community along these lines.  The ability for the PMO to easily disseminate documents to every nook and cranny instantly is really a breakthrough.  The Resource APB (All Points Bulletins) process is just tagging applied to a real world situation that leverages the community.

I hope this video helps get your mind going.  I think this one has legs and is the type of solution where we can start to leverage the Web 2.0/Enterprise 2.0 approaches in a classically structured work environment on SharePoint.


CW PPM – Thinking Outside of the Box

Our Project Portfolio Management app was released in October.  It has been rapidly adopted by our existing customers and new customers.  Most users are drawn to it for the standard “Out of the Box” capabilities for solid project management and flexible portfolio management.  That is great.  But, the key differentiator is how it can evolve to meet your needs.  In this article, we’ll cover 10 “outside of the box” ways that YOU can enhance and extend PPM using the standard point and click wizards of CorasWorks.  They are things that may not have occurred to you at first, but, tend to be very powerful ways of leveraging PPM in a SharePoint environment.

First of all, let’s add some context.  CW PPM is designed to leverage a SharePoint environment – so it is a bit different.  By its nature SharePoint is a distributed environment.  The UI structure is distributed and the content is usually distributed.  Second, the PPM is usually just one app within this environment.  Not only does it typically not live alone, but, it is only practical to use PPM as an integrated part of your work environment.  Third, out of the box, CW PPM allows you to have many projects sites, located anywhere in the environment.  And, you can have many portfolio dashboards, located anywhere connected to any project sites.

This is the backdrop for thinking outside of the box about PPM.  You’ll find it powerful to think of it more as a system, then, just one app.  Now, let’s look at 10 ways that you can enhance, extend and integrate PPM as part of your SharePoint work environment.

1. Centrally upgrade the distributed PPM System – PPM has a single Application Configuration Site (“ACS”).  it can be located anywhere and is accessed by a CW Global Link. This is part of CW’s “One Touch” architecture.  This means that when you want to upgrade the basic functionality of project sites or portfolio dashboards, distributed across your environment, you just go to the ACS site, make your change and all of the parts of the PPM are updated.  You make your changes using the Action Wizard or the Central Views wizard.  Say you want to add a new Email action to your 100 project sites that allows users to send contracts to legal for review.  You create it in the ACS, attach it to a Central View, and you are done.  No need to touch the 100 project sites. This means that upgrading in-process project sites is now possible and practical.


2. Hybrid Project Site/Portfolio Customization – The ACS is the baseline for your PPM system.  But, a site owner can also customize any project site or portfolio dashboard to meet their specific needs.  Thus, you can have customized hybrids of central ACS functionality and localized changes.  This is done with the Display Wizard that lets you clone a Central View, and then, customize it.  Thus, you have a consistent baseline of functionality with the ability of site owners to customize, enhance and extend their instance.  Of course, they can then re-templatize their changes for the next project.  NOTE: You can also prevent this or limit who can do it using the CorasWorks Lock Down functionality – your call.



3. Role-Based Portfolios – When thinking PPM we typically think of a manager/executive with a portfolio of projects – to keep tabs on the status.  The CW PPM portfolio dashboard contains functionality at two extremes – for the manager wanting a high-level dashboard and for users to be able to do their contributing work on multiple projects form one place.  As such, you can create instances of portfolio dashboards for different roles.  You may have one for members of a team to do work on their 4 projects, another for a department manager, another for a portfolio by say partner or product, another for a program manager for related projects across departments, and, the PMO’s dashboard with just high-level metrics, risk charts, etc.  These changes are done using our Display Wizard.



4. Connect to Central Resources – You can centralize resources in the PPM ACS or elsewhere.  An example is a library of standard processes, an employee list, or a list of vendor contact information and rates.  Each of these can then have a CW Snaplet that is centrally configured and that you can drag and drop into your project site on demand.  You can build up a catalog of drag and drop Snaplets for use by project owners or portfolio users.



5. Push Info In and Out – Project Sites have data.  Often, you might have documents in a teamsite, such as the business case, that you want to add to a Project Site when you set it up.  You do this by adding a CW action to the teamsite/workspace which lets you pick a project to push the documents into.  You can standardize this because you know the schemas in the project sites.  You can also force the contributor to fill it a bit of metadata in the process.  To push documents out of a project site, you just add an action to push to any other sites.  You can also push any other type of information such as tasks, issues, meetings.  This is all done using the CW Publisher action type.



6. Integrating with External Data – You often have external data sources with information that is useful for projects.  Examples are vendor information, accounting codes, facility locations, etc.  You can set up central resources, using a CW Data Provider for all of these external data sources.  Then, you create Snaplets that project managers can drag and drop into their sites for instant external data integration.  Just add them to your Snaplet catalog.  If needed, you can also add read-write functionality to edit or add information to the external data source. The PPM administrator can centrally configure all of the aspects of this – the end-user just decides whether to use this or that Snaplet.



7. Other SharePoint Application Integration – Projects don’t work in a vacuum.  Imagine you want project managers to create Purchase Requests or Work Orders from within a project site (two off the shelf business apps by CW and partners).  You can add a Snaplet from the app to the project site, and viola, you can now kick off those downstream workstreams from within the project site.  As a portfolio manager, you may also want to look upstream at the potential projects managed in a PMO or activity within your Help Desk system.  Just connect them up with displays or actions or Snaplets.



8. Implementing Resource Management at a Manageable Level – PPM manages resources and effort at the project level.  These are attached to tasks and phases.  However, in more structured environments people want to manage resources (primarily people and their time) across projects.  You can see this in a portfolio dashboard.  However, often the level of granularity is too detailed.  One approach is to raise the Resource Management to the Project Allocation level vs. the task level.   You create a Central Resource of Employees and you “schedule” them to work on a project for a set of hours.  Thus, you can see at a high level who is committed to what projects for how much time – a level that you can manage instead of trying to manage resources at the task level.  You can also add a time frame to allocations.  So, provide easy resource allocation visibility and let people negotiate the details of their commitments.



9. Add a PMO (to come) – At this time, project initiation, review and governance is not in CW PPM – out of the box.  It is coming in v1.2, probably next month. Thus, you will have a process for initiating projects and managing them as a separate module.  A nice, clean process that is easily connected to the rest of the PPM system.



10. SaaS PPM (to come) – So, how about running PPM in a Software as a Service model.  CW will be launching its CW in the Cloud service over the next couple of months.  You can bring up PPM just in a Saas model for internal users.  Or, for an external user base.  And, you can integrate your PPM in the cloud with your PPM in your Intranet on premise.  This is done through remote data connections.  On premise, SaaS, or both.

Hopefully, these 10 items give you a flavor of thinking outside of the box about CW PPM. A key is that most of these YOU can do on your own when the need arises. For support on any of these items, ping our support at or post to the Community forums.  We’ll be fleshing many of these out in future blogs and Community Resources (videos, articles, etc.).