Archive for Productivity

Empowering business users to have it their way (Part 3)

This is a third is a series of articles posted today that all relate to how the CorasWorks Work Management system compares to CRM systems.  The first talked about our work automation and how it increases business user task productivity 30x.  The second addresses the difference in design between work management systems and CRM systems and why this enables your business users to be optimally productive.  This article will talk about how CorasWorks empowers business users to have it their way.  It ties into the previous two articles.

If you read my first article, I related a story about a demo I had today.  A business user (in Business Development of a Federal Government Contractor) was showing their application to IT and explaining how it helps them manage their work to win business.

Here is the back story…

I arrived early for the demo and was sitting with the business user.  They wanted to set up the demo for IT.  They were showing their production system so they didn’t want emails firing off to real workers.  They spun up our Action Wizard and modified the email notification to instead ping people from IT.  Then, they went into our Display Wizard and changed the display to use the new action.  Then, they decided to change the time when a site was auto-provisioned, so they changed a field in an action.

Now, remember this is a business user who was preparing their demo for IT.  And, it was a BD Manager (think Sales Manager).  Even that is a bit of a change up – right?

So, we did the demo and had a discussion.  During the meeting, the business user showed IT how easy it was to change things using the CorasWorks Wizards.  At the end of the meeting the business user was going to have a meeting with IT to talk to them about changes they wanted in their CRM system.

They were going to have the normal business user-to-IT type of meeting.  They were going to meet with IT and a CRM developer and detail their requirements.  The upshot would be that IT would put the changes into their project queue which would then go into their project schedule, assuming they had the budget and time.  Then, at some point in the future the business user may have their changes.  Then, most probably they’d have to go back through the process to make changes to the changes to get what they really wanted.

Two Points, One Observation, One Question

First, is that with CorasWorks the business user is empowered.  Note that they were using our Wizards to modify their business process and educating IT about the tool, the ease of configuration, and, the business value.  It seemed so natural, yet, in reality it was a startling role reversal.  In addition, IT was fine with it.

Second, IT is guarded about their CRM – for good reason.  The CRM is a single system.  IT wouldn’t allow a business user to make changes directly.  They could mess it up for everyone else.  The skill level required is too great.  It needs to be controlled.  It is a costly, time consuming process.

What I find interesting is that the application of our business user is a business critical application that is used to drive revenue.  It is their IDIQ Task Order Management system.  It is the way they actually do their work to drive business.  The CRM system is a database that our Business Development person “has to update”.  It seemed to be natural that the business person would be empowered to control what they deem to be business critical yet IT would control the corporate system that needs to be updated.

So, in this scenario things are as they should be.  But, I wonder if organizations go far enough to empower business users with the tools they need and want to produce better outcomes vs. corporate systems that support management.

william

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

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

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

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

The Difference of Business Context Design

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Overlaying Work Management on CRM

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

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

william

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

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

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

Specific Scenario

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Time Difference 1 Item

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

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

Impact for this One Task During a Year

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

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

Impact on Average of 50 Tasks

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

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

But I have 10 Processes like this?  That means…

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

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

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

What about consistency and data quality?

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

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

But it’s not apples to apples…

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

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

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

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

It is the reality

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

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

william