Archive for IT

IT at Your Service


A revolution is happening within the enterprise where IT is rapidly becoming much more focused on the business users as customers. The shift has been more than just philosophical. IT’s processes and systems are shifting to support this new focus and best practices have emerged to support this shift. For example, ITIL v3 is helping facilitate the shift through its inclusion of IT Request Management/Fulfillment.

The idea of IT Request Management is pretty straightforward. Make it easy for business users to find and access the various services offered by IT. Then, make it easy for them to request the service, track the request, get status updates, and finally get their request fulfilled to their satisfaction.

But what about IT?

This makes it easy for the business user, but what about IT? How do they benefit from IT Request Management? Well, there are several ways beyond the customer satisfaction you’ll get from your happy business users.

First, if done right, IT now has a much more efficient way to route the right request through the right process, and have the correct teams notified. No more having to route everything through the “help desk” and then forwarding it on. This streamlines the response times. Also each team can manage their own knowledge base to prevent users from asking the same things, over and over again.

Second, it sets expectations. When business users are requesting services, the service descriptions include an SLA and also a cost of the service. This way, business users know what they’re asking for and what the response time should be. No more miscommunications.

But these are not the biggest benefits to IT. Since each service is being tracked, there is transparency, and IT can run reports on the costs per business unit, and even per-person within the units. It makes it easy to show the business function leaders what their units are consuming from IT and why IT needs resources to make things happen. Now that is a really big benefit for anyone who has sat in front of the business functions and tried to explain why they should ante up to fund next year’s IT budget.

So how does an IT department get there?

One way is to purchase an ITSM system and implement it, along with all of the costly process consultants, and per-seat licensing fees. At CorasWorks, we saw this as a great use for SharePoint. Most companies already have SharePoint running internally so that makes it a good candidate for an IT Request Management solution. So we designed a purpose-built Request Management solution. What makes this unique? Well, to start with, it’s built on the CorasWorks platform and as such it not only comes out of the box addressing the specific scenario, but it’s built to be customized. Each company is different, so our solution allows you to define your service categories, service areas, and individual service processes to match your needs. And since it’s built on CorasWorks, it can grow with you.

So what are the feature of the CorasWorks Solution?

There are several key features of the CorasWorks IT Request Management Solution. You can see a complete list of the features here.

But what about people who already have existing ITSM systems but could really use a better front end?

It’s possible. You could leverage our really nice, user-friendly front-end for the business user and even for IT to use to manage the service catalog and requests, then populate the ITSM system at the appropriate time. This is not an out of the box feature, but it is something our services team can do. We’ll take a look at your current ITSM system, determine the best integration points, and using the tools that are part of the system, we will not only build the connections but show you how we did it so you can maintain it. It will also be far quicker and less expensive than you would expect when hear “integration.”

Just ask and we’ll be happy to work with you.

Welcome to “IT at your service.”


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.


IT Requirements Gathering with Cim: Reduce Costs, Drive Collaboration and Visibility, Improve Results

In my last post, I introduced a new way to leverage Cim for group-to-group Channels that increase interactivity.  In this article, we are going to look at a business scenario that takes the Channel approach and integrates it with a more standard innovation management workstream.  The scenario is IT Requirements Gathering and the solution provides a solid way to reduce costs, increase collaboration, and drive efficiencies and effectiveness.

Does your organizations’ IT department gather requirements for new applications, changes to existing applications or infrastructure, or new infrastructure projects?  How is this done?  Meetings perhaps?  Emails? (lots of both) Is it considered effective?  Are the “customers” all local or are they distributed? Do you ever get the questions later on as to who wanted a given requirement, or how important it was ranked, or whether it got into the project?

Requirements gathering is an art.  If you take a look at the normal requirements gathering process, in most organizations, it not easy or neat or efficient.  It is a challenge of engagement, balancing, documenting, feedback, prioritizations, and politics.  When you are working on requirements with “customers” that are across the earth, it is even more challenging.  Further, the flow from the “customers”, through the requirements manager/process, and to those that are doing the project is usually quite constrained – particularly the upstream visibility and interaction from the “developer” to the customer.  The historical record of how the requirements came to be is usually impossible to decipher or get your hands on in a convenient manner.  We can do better.

Below is a schematic that depicts a process leveraging CorasWorks Idea Management and the Channels approach.  The IT department has a management hub to gather and work up requirements and manage all requirements projects.  When a new potential project comes up, they create a Channel community between them and the associated “customer”.  Most often the customer is a single business group or department.  That customer then has the UI for this requirement process right there in their portal – very convenient.  If the potential project is with a cross-functional team, then, you create a Channel from IT to a site being used by the team (it is a cross-functional portal).



Then, the interaction starts.  IT may set a timeframe, say 30 days for the requirements process to happen.  The customers start entering requirements or the IT department can post those that they have.  Everyone within that Channel can review, rate, and comment.  There is high visibility.  The customer (usually many people) can “trade” amongst themselves and the Star Power ranking shows their prioritization.  IT can respond with feasibility information or comments. It is highly interactive.  It is asynchronous – meaning people can engage whenever they want or need to.

IT then processes the requirements in the hub.  They are already initially prioritized by the customer.  They may feed back summary documents or specs to the customer for vetting via the Channel.  Once they are set they push the approved requirements into the project sites that they have created.  The people working on the project can do their work and can interact directly with specific people from the customer on specific requirements.  If you leave the Channel open, new requirements or changes can flow through.  There is a visible and persistent history of what was proposed, said, by whom, decided, assigned, and the status.  Routine updates can be provided via the Channel as the requirements process becomes a development/implementation project.

This scenario is a standard idea to innovation workstream using Cim.  Except these are not individual ideas but a collection of related requirements for each IT project.  They use point-to-point Channels to make it convenient for people to engage from wherever they normally work and to enable a high level of visibility and interactivity for this specific project.  The Channel can be used for the Requirements process, the implementation/development process, and even, future change request management.

The upshot is that this solution can take a challenging and not so neat process of requirements gathering and make it considerably better.  Just add people…


IT Department App Trio for SharePoint Released

Over the last few days we’ve released a trio of plug-and-play apps that play nicely together to get an IT Department working productively on SharePoint.  They consist of the Department Dashboard, Work Order Approval app and Help Desk.  They all run on the AppEngine for SharePoint.  In this article, we’ll talk about how they work individually and together.

 Quick Start for an IT Department

So, you have SharePoint and want to get an IT Department working more productively.  The trio gives you a solid way to start.  Each of the apps is available from the CorasWorks App Store.  They are as follows:

- Department Dashboard – used as the primary collaborative site for the IT Department and for integrating in the apps, processes, and, connections across the IT department and to other departments

- Work Order Approval – a 3 stage approval process for internal work orders; can be used in many departments

image- Help Desk –designed for an internal Help Desk for your organization; includes the ability to distributed the end-user self-service displays to wherever they work


They can be used stand alone, but together, they provide a tight, integrated solution.  This diagram shows how they basically lay out.  It also shows how the apps in your IT Department can be connected with other departments (see Help Desk self-service scenario below).

How they Plug-and-Play together

The Department Dashboard is typically installed at the upper level of the group.  If you are starting from scratch, you’d make it the top level site of a new Site Collection.  It provides the basic collaborative environment for your department.  As you add apps they are integrated into the department dashboard and features of the other apps are snapped into the department allowing people to do their work from the dashboard.

(For more information about this app: see this 18 minute demo of the Department Dashboard, and, see the app in the App Store).

One thing you’ll do is set up your Department Global Menu (or tie it into your Global Menu).  This is all point and click driven and gives you the ability to centrally configure the menu across all the apps in the IT Department and/or your organization.

You then install the Work Order Approval Process below the dashboard.  It gives you a complete integrated business process with email notifications and 3 stages.  You integrate it with the dashboard through the Department menu.  You will also want to put some displays in your IT department dashboard for users.  For instance, you can add a display that allows end-users to enter new work orders and track their status while working in the dashboard.  You may also want to distribute the Review and Approval functionality to other departments (there are three stages for Department, Executive, and Finance – which you can modify).

(For more information about this app: see this 12 minute demo of the Work Order Approval app, and, see the app in the App Store)

Next, you move to the Help Desk.  This is a robust app that is great for an internal Help Desk.  You’ll also tie it into the Department menu.  It contains two Snaplets that allow you to distribute Help Desk functionality.  One is the End-User self-service display (the other is a Management Reporting Snaplet).   This is an important piece to start to offload the data entry work of help desk engineers.  You simply snap it into the IT Department dashboard, other departments’ dashboards, your portal, my site, or anywhere else and  end-users can enter new requests, track the status and history of requests, and pop-off emails – without having to go anywhere.  In addition, it is centrally configured.  This means that even though the Snaplet could be in 50 or 500 places, the Help Desk admin can make one change in the app and all instances of the Snaplet web part are updated.

(For more information about this app: see this extensive 27 minute demo of the Help Desk app, and, see the app the App Store)

Another connection you may want to do is to connect the Help Desk to the Work Order Approval app.  You do this by adding a CorasWorks action to the Help Desk.  The scenario is that you may have a Help Desk ticket that should spawn a work order, say for a purchase and some labor hours.  The user selects a Help Desk item, runs the action, which automatically enters a new work order tied back to the Help Desk item.  Then, the normal work order process moves forward.

Following the above basic approach, in a couple of hours you can have a robust, integrated environment for your IT Department that also connects with the rest of the departments in your organization.  It is a great way to start.


Getting the Apps

Each of these three apps is available individually via the App Store.  They run on the AppEngine or the Workplace Suite.  They list for $1,000, however, they are all free to CorasWorks customers on our Premier Annual Support & Maintenance program (“PASM”).  You “buy” them through the App Store ecommerce (make sure to login to get the $0 price if you are on PASM), download, install, and use them.  It will take you less than an hour to get each up and running.  You can then connect them up and customize them to meet your needs.  Each has rather extensive documentation that covers installation, use, customization, and connecting it with your environment.

Note that there are two editions of each app in the App Store – Local and One Touch.  the difference is the configuration of the app itself.  The editions released last week are the Local edition.  These are easier to install and use.  The One Touch editions, released previously, are a bit more sophisticated and used when you want central configuration and management.  Here is my blog that explains in more detail how One Touch editions work and the benefits of this configuration.  Both run on either the AppEngine or Workplace Suite.