Archive for Idea and Innovation Management

Social Collaboration at Work– 4 business scenarios to drive value

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

My presentation abstract was as follows:

Social Collaboration at Work (

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

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

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

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

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

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

Idea Challenge Management

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

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

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

R&D Working Groups

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

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

New Project Initiation

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

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

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

Collaborative Channels

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

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

Wrap Up

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

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

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


CorasWorks Solutions for Engineering

Hard core engineering is at the heart of all companies products and systems. Increasingly, success depends on how effectively globally dispersed individuals are able to work better together.  In this article, I’ll review several CorasWorks solutions that we have delivered recently for the Engineering business function. I’ll look at 3 customers and cover 7 work management solutions that address the “soft side” of engineering – how you get the engineering function to work better together.  The solutions are are all based upon the CorasWorks Solution Platform running within a Microsoft SharePoint environment.

Engineering Work Management Hub for Automotive Supplier

The customer is a 4,000 person division of a Top 100 Global Industrial company.  This global division provides components and systems to the automotive industry.  The Engineering function is a 250 person organization.  The customer wanted to create a central Hub where engineers could go and access the core information and participate in key processes.  Using CorasWorks on SharePoint they wanted the Hub to be a single place where the engineers could to access information and to do their work WITHOUT having to go to a different application interface.   They wanted to avoid the app interface proliferation that they experience with the multiple legacy PLMs that they have used over the years.  Accordingly, the specific applications were designed as “services” so that they all surfaced within the Engineering Work Management Hub. Below I will cover three specific applications that are part of the Hub.  Each is a custom application created jointly by CorasWorks and the customer using the CorasWorks v11 Solution Platform.

Design & Engineering Work Standards (DEWS)

This is both a resource and a process.  It provides engineers with access to the approved design and engineering work standards.   In addition, it provides the full process to manage the creation and change control of proposed and published DEWS.  This process consists of three core roles of Engineers, Document Control and Design Engineering.  The system is automated to keep all parties informed of review update reminders, new updates, reviews, and newly approved items.  All work is done within the Hub.

Equipment Management

A key role of engineering is the maintenance of manufacturing equipment and the use of equipment for testing and calibration.  This application manages all pieces of equipment used by engineering.  It serves as the system of record for the Certificates of Inspection for all equipment.  In addition, it includes check out processes for testing equipment and maintenance and calibration alerts.  A nice feature is the inclusion of images of the equipment as part of equipment descriptions.

Purchase Requisition

Engineering is responsible for a large number of purchase requisitions.  This application supports the full process from request through final approval.  The requestor receives constant updates via email and within the Work Management Hub.


Resource Planning and Demand Management for Electronics Component Manufacturer

This customer is an 11,000 person manufacturer of components for computers and consumer products with $5B in revenue.  The engineering function was looking for a better way to manage their global resource planning and allocation process and to provide visibility into the project load for their product roadmap.  Their standard planning cycle is 5 years ahead with a rolling quarterly estimate of engineering resources by technical function.

The customer had tried a number of approaches in the past to address this need ranging from spreadsheets to Microsoft Project Server.  They wanted something in the middle that provided a structured work process but was highly visible and collaborative.  They had found that the most effective estimating was a rolling solution where the more near term estimates should be very accurate, but, they are able to generally project the needs as far as five years out in order to manage the demand side of their project portfolio.

The CorasWorks-based solution provides a central place where engineers from around the world get a single view of all projects in the product pipeline.  The function managers then make estimates of the required resources from their function and by team (skill) on a quarterly basis.  This information is then correlated to provide resource estimates by projects, by function, and by skill (overall resource allocation).  The solution integrates with Microsoft Project Server which is the system of record for the project portfolio and actual project activity.

They now have a single place where global Engineering management can collaborate and get a single view of the allocation of their resources.  They have ongoing and historical estimates for each manager (which has become quite interesting as they can see how the estimates change over time).  In addition, they have a robust. real time dashboard reporting system with drilldown into actual project work.

Idea Challenge Management for Engineering Function of Defense Systems Integrator

This customer is a 10,000 person organization providing advanced systems and services to the Federal Defense Agencies.   The organization had been a customer of CorasWorks for a number of years.  Over the last two years they had been evaluating third party Idea/Innovation Management solutions at the enterprise level but had made no decision due to cost and common lack of core process management capabilities.  One of their business divisions is a 1,000 person organization with 550 engineers that provide systems services primarily on a cost plus basis. This unit wanted a solution that would enable them to drive timed, specific idea challenges out to the engineering group with a detailed downstream review and management process.  They selected the CorasWorks Cim solution for Idea and Innovation Management for this purpose.

Their solution was implemented in a 3-month pilot.  During this time they launched 6 idea challenges across the 550 engineers of their division.  Three of the challenges were general to all 550 engineers and 3 others were specific engineering challenges for 3 different lines of business.  The ideas went through a detailed initial management screening by their Engineering Management team including a Quadrant (Impact High-Low, Cost High-Low) to provide a quantitative approach.

An important element of their pilot approach was that they had a structured set of downstream activities to drive to conclusions.  The resulting initial actions on the submitted ideas broke down as follows:

47%   Deferred (largely not priority)

12%   Requiring more research

26%   Promoted to Line of Business

12%   Process Improvements promoted to Working Groups

3%     Approved for immediate implementation

The pilot was successful with ideas approved for immediate implementation and with subsequent Integrated Research and Development (IRADs) fundings being approved by the lines of business.  Remaining ideas continue to be managed through the funnel.  The customer has since moved up to an enterprise license of Cim for the organization.  However, they envision a two step approach moving forward.  First, they are working on cross-pollinating their challenge model across the engineering groups of the 4 other business divisions (a total of 3,500 engineers across the 10,000 employees).  Then, they will open up the model to the broader organization managed at the business division level.   The interesting part is that there is no definite commitment whether they would even role out enterprise-wide idea management initiative as they now believe that the greatest business value is a challenge approach driven by specific business needs of specific groups (a bottom up approach to innovation).

The Soft Side of Hard Core Engineering

Information technology solutions in engineering have tended to focus on the hard core aspects of engineering like their CAD/CAM diagrams.  What you see above are solutions that address the softer side of engineering, the way that work is managed and how engineers are enabled to work better together across globally distributed organizations.

Exploring Different Adoption Continuums for Idea and Innovation Management

We’ve been active in the Idea and Innovation Management solution area for a few years.  Initially, we introduced a point solution, CorasWorks Idea Management on SharePoint, to compete with the primarily SAAS solutions in the market.  Over the years, we have evolved to look at the “right” solution for innovation as a flexible set of modules/solutions that can be applied at the right time with the right stuff to match where our customer is along their continuum.  In this article, I’ll take a look at quite different adoption continuums (phased rollouts) from two organizations.  I’ll then provide you with my thoughts on which is most right.

The Top Down “Enthusiastic” Continuum

I was recently on a call with a new prospect that has a newly assembled “innovation team” representing their 18,000 person company.  They brought a great deal of enthusiasm to the task of evaluating us, vetting their approach, and seeking to understand product alternatives.  Leveraging the range of CorasWorks solutions and the flexibility of our software, we came up with a continuum for a phased approach to adoption.  it goes like this…

1. General Enterprise Idea Capture and Collaboration – Let’s call it the “idea exchange”.  They want to start off with an enterprise-wide idea capture and collaboration portal.  The reference site/solution is My Starbucks which is basically an inbox for public ideas with collaboration.  It is for the capture of general ideas about anything.  Our customer wants to start off with a similar type of site, but, only for internal employees across the enterprise.

2. Idea Management – They realize that they will have to then manage the contributed ideas through a process to decide what they will implement.  This is the necessary, but, mostly un-fun part of the equation. The “innovation team” will layout and manage the process.

3. Specific Challenges – Once they have that going, they want to engage business groups and launch specific, event-driven challenges.  Each challenge will be “owned” by the business group and they will manage their own process.  CorasWorks supports challenges and separate processes.

4. Collaborative Communities – This customer recognizes the value of introducing collaborative communities into the mix.  This would come after the basics above.  They are used for recognition, knowledge, communities of purpose, and, as hotbeds for collaboration to lead to ideas. In their case, this step is very powerful because they have a distributed organization with 100’s of offices and many services so they can greatly benefit by enabled this virtual collaboration.

5. Portfolio and Execution Integration – Assuming success as above, they envision the ability to look top down and across the activities.  Thus, they want to be able to see the broader innovation portfolio that includes the Idea Exchange and the specific Challenges.  They also want visibility into the downstream execution of ideas done with various project-oriented tools.

6. Open Innovation – Lastly, once the internal innovation is up and going, they will be looking to open it up to their external communities. 

The above 6 phases of the continuum represent logical enhancements/extensions to innovation.  This continuum is common for those that are new to innovation and armed with a top down enterprise mandate.  CorasWorks supports each of these phases.  They could be implemented separately as different modules or as the customer advances through their continuum, the extensions would be added on.

The Bottom Up “Practical” Continuum

For comparison, we recently implemented a customer using a more bottom up “practical” continuum.  The customer is a 9,000 person division of one of the top 10 largest federal systems integrators/government contractor.  They have been a CorasWorks customers for about 5 years.  We started talking to them about Idea and Innovation Management 2 years ago.  They came to us with an enthusiastic “innovation team” evaluating product alternatives as in the above example and following a top down approach.  For 2 years, nothing happened.

A couple of months ago a business group of 800 people within the division came to us and said basically “okay, we are ready to go”.  They were implemented within 2 weeks of the start of the project.  They had their Idea Portal up and running with 6 challenges across 3 departments.  They were capturing ideas and starting the review process.  Their continuum looks like this…

1. Challenges for Their One Business Group – launch a few very specific challenges for one business group that are each managed through a simple and common process by one team within the business group

2. Get better within the Business Group – their objective is to get better at launching more relevant/effective challenges (think about it as evaluating the challenge and the result vs. just the ideas) and at managing the process.  Their approach is that the particulars of their management/decision process will be baked out by using the software.  As an existing CorasWorks customer, they are very aware of the ability to change processes on the fly as needed.

3. Division/Other Business Group Challenges – The division is trying to innovate also using manual methods.  The idea is that at a point where the approach is validated at the business group level, they will take it up to the division level or to other business groups to do their own challenges.  Note that in this phase, they are effectively creating separate clusters for challenge management that are managed locally.

That’s it at this time…

Which is the right approach

I’d like to say it depends.  However, our experience is that the top down, enterprise approach is not effective as measured by the perceived business results and the longevity of an innovation initiative.  In fact, for most organizations that come to us with this top down “enthusiastic” approach, not much happens, and if they do get started, a year or so later the initiative fades away.  While it is logical, the real world doesn’t seem to work that way.  Thus, in the case of the prospect noted above, while we laid out their continuum, I did my best to educate them on our experience with that approach and made some progress. 

There are a host of factors here.  However, at the core is that innovation is a process that requires work, trial, learning, maturation, and, success.  People these days often enthusiastically come to the game to leverage collaborative technologies to tap their workforce, but, they lack the commitment necessary to follow through the full life cycle to show the results.  If you are asking people to take the time to contribute ideas and collaborate, and you fail to follow through with decisions and results, do not expect to build momentum. 

Alternatively, if you start bottom up, with very specific challenges, and build on your success (as in the bottom up “practical” approach) you simply have a much greater chance of succeeding over time.  You build momentum.  Think Facebook.  They did not start by launching a broad social web portal to compete against MySpace.  They built it up one college at a time to become the massive, multi-cluster network that it is. 

On the flip side, too much process discussion and diagramming to start can also kill an innovation initiative.  You need some process to start or else you have no credible way of evaluating ideas, making decisions, and investing. However, your process should evolve as you learn.

As you might conclude, we do support all of the different solutions mentioned above that might appear on Your continuum.  Each solution is modular and they can all be phased in and inter-connected as your system evolves. Yet, CorasWorks is really taking a fundamentally different approach from most pure product vendors.  By design, our software is unusually flexible and therefore supports continuous innovation of your system. The real value with CorasWorks is not necessarily what you get from “the box” when you get started, it is about having a solution that is easy to get started and evolves as you move through your innovation continuum. 


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.


The What is Working? Solution. Using Cim to Drive Continuous Improvement

We often talk about CorasWorks Cim to be used as a tool to drive innovation.  Therefore, we tend to think of new ideas, processes, and creating something novel.  However, one of the biggest opportunities for larger organizations is taking things that are already working and get them working in other parts of the organization. I’ll present you with a solution we call “What is Working?” and describe how this simple mechanism can drive continuous improvement.

Your organization is already innovative.  If it wasn’t you’d be out of business.  Your people already are doing really effective things.  They came up with ideas and implemented them, usually at a local level.  Someone, somewhere, is doing something valuable in the most effective way.  Who are they and where are they?  What if you could find out and then give it visibility so that others could also be doing things that way?

The problem is that people don’t necessarily think of good practices that they are doing as brand new innovations. They don’t know, what others don’t know.  So, instead of just focusing on innovation, you have to use messaging and provide a channel to your organization that is explicitly focused on getting people to share what is working for them.

Let’s call this solution “What is Working?”.  Your objective is to get your people to tell the rest of the organization what is working for them, their team, their group.  What you find out is that what is working for people at a local level, maybe they’ve been doing it for years, is not common knowledge or practice.  To that local group, it isn’t a novel, innovative idea.  But, to lots of others, it is brilliant.


How you would implement it

- You launch a “What is Working?” campaign

- You tell your organization “We are often so overwhelmed with how innovative you all are.  You just come up with great ways of doing things.  We really want you to share what you are doing so that others can learn.  If other people pick up your way of working, we will reward you for sharing.  We are providing a channel to make this easy and natural to do.”

- You then provide a Cim community for people to share and collaborate.

- You enable the Cim peer review mechanism so that others can try out a “way to work”, get results, and share the results with the community.

- You have a group of people to keep track of and manage the flow.

- You then provide a mechanism to provide recognition and rewards for things that people are doing that they share, that are copied, and, that prove to work.

-  You use “What is Working?” to then drive other activities such as an Enterprise Best Practices process, to kick off bigger idea, and to augment your Training curriculum.


Wrap Up

In sum, launching a “What is Working?” campaign is an easy and effective step to drive continuous improvement.  It starts with the recognition that people don’t know what others don’t know.  By sharing what works for them others learn and can collaborate.  In many instances, people that share will find even better ways of doing something and/or just validation from others.  They also make connections with others from around the world that are working in areas where they are working and care about getting better.

The nice thing about “What is Working?” is that you don’t need a lot of back end process.  In effect, the community, through sharing and collaboration, becomes self-innovative.  People now have a channel to share what they do and learn what others do in an open way.  It puts a mechanism in place and a burden on people to self-improve.  The management group participates to encourage, recognize, reward, and take findings to drive bigger adoption and better results.


Use Challenges to Drive Results with Enterprise Innovation

There are a lot of organizations that are new to Idea & Innovation Management solutions such as CorasWorks Cim for SharePoint 2010.  One of the most significant best practices we emphasize for those new to innovation is the use of event-based Challenges to drive innovation vs. general idea communities.  In this article, I’ll drill down into Challenges as a key ingredient in the standard enterprise recipe for innovation.


Specific Challenges vs. General Idea Management

First off most organizations use both approaches, general idea management and specific challenges. A mix is the best recipe. Let’s look at each.

Most organizations initially come to the idea and innovation game with the thought of having a general idea community to capture ideas and sort through them and find the great ones. It is typically implemented as an open, ongoing community with a team or teams for evaluation.  What they are looking for is breakthrough ideas?  This does work.  People will randomly come up with novel ideas and you are providing a channel and a mechanism to work them when they pop up.

A Challenge-based approach to drive innovation is different.  A Challenge is a targeted, time-limited, request to your community for ideas that address a specific objective.  With this approach, we first decide what business objective we are after.  And, ideally, upfront we allocate resources to invest in ideas we approve.  We then set up the challenge community (like questions asked, information to be submitted) and evaluation process (how, who, when, etc.) in a way that specifically relates to the challenge.  Then, we launch the Challenge, gather the ideas, collaborate, review, evaluate, make decisions, invest, and drive results.


Specific Benefits of a Challenge Approach

A Challenge approach delivers specific benefits as follows:

It Focuses Management on Defining the Challenge – Management must get clear on the challenge and how to present it to the organization.  This insures that the challenge is a real one.

It Focuses Your Innovators and Collaborators Thoughts on the Challenge – Imagine saying to your employees “When you get around to it, submit ideas to make us better” vs. saying “You have 2 weeks to submit your idea for how we can grow the SMB market by 50% in 2012. We have $2m to invest.”  It is simply easier for most people to focus their thinking on something specific.  And, you therefore get specific ideas that are relevant to the challenge.

You Have the Resources to Act – If you get general ideas, they can come from anywhere.  Thus, you can’t know in advance if you have the will and resources to act.  But with a challenge you know what you are asking for.  Thus, you have the will.  You also can align the resources in advance to insure that you can and will act. You are telling your community that you intend to drive change that drives results.

You Uncover Options to Narrow Challenges – We typically address challenges and opportunities with a small group of people.  When you take a narrowed challenge to your organization you will almost always be surprised by three things: a) how many options you really have, b) how much information and experience you have already, and c) who are the people that have something to contribute.

You Drive A Result – With a Challenge, you are taping into the broad potential of your organization and channeling their thought and experience towards your objective.  With the breadth of ideas and the resources to back them up, you have your best shot at innovating around that targeted business objective.


CorasWorks Cim for Challenge Management

I’ll touch on five key features of Cim that make it particularly effective for managing challenges as part of a SharePoint 2010 work environment.

Separate, Customized Challenge Communities – With Cim, each challenge is a discrete entity.  You can customize the contribute form, the questions, the experience and even look and feel, the categorization within each challenge, the user options, the visibility, etc.  Further, the data is separated as with any Cim community it is technically a separate SharePoint site.

Multiple Challenges into Central Process – In a Challenge Management initiative you will have many challenges.  They are easy to set up. They can all feed into a central management process, your Challenge Management hub, where they are evaluated and processed.

Separate Challenge Workstreams – At the same time, you can also have challenges where the front-end community and the evaluation process are part of a separately managed workstream.  This provides you with the ability to have separate workstreams for say different types of challenges (Corporate vs. Technical vs. Market Development) or challenges driven by different business groups.

A Single, Easy and Convenient User Experience – With Cim, users have a single, consistent, easy and convenient user experience across multiple challenges, separate challenge workstreams, mixed with general innovation communities, and, with their other collaborative communities.  When you launch a Challenge it just lights up at the fingertips of the user in their Cim Business Activity Stream. Thus, they can see new challenges, contribute and collaborate from wherever they normally work vs. having to go somewhere.  In addition, all of the collaboration activity and process activity flows to them across all of the challenges and other communities. This drives visibility, engagement, and collaboration.

Drive Downstream Results – With Cim, after you have evaluated and approved the ideas in the Challenge you can push them into downstream activities to make them come alive.  You can push them into Team sites for teams to implement.  You can push them into a PMO to kick off and drive projects.  You can push them into Program sites to implement an idea as part of their program.  You can even push them into external systems, such as separate Project Management systems.


Wrap Up

In sum, challenges are designed to let you tap into the broad potential of your people across the organization to address targeted business objectives. They are a key ingredient of the standard enterprise recipe to drive innovation. Armed with Cim running within your SharePoint environment, you have the means to just light up your organization and channel their thoughts and experience to help you drive results when and where you need it.


Innovation on SharePoint 2010 Should be Different, Which Makes it Better

This week we’ll be doing a webcast on the new release of CorasWorks Cim for Idea & Innovation Management on SharePoint 2010.  Our approach to Innovation with this solution is different from the pack of other offerings in the space.  This is because our solution runs natively on SharePoint and we have designed it to really leverage the full potential of SharePoint to drive innovation.  In this article, I’ll give you a heads up of the reasons behind this which we’ll be talking to and demoing in the webcast.

With Cim we compete in the Idea & Innovation Management solution category with about 10 other main software vendors.  Every one of them offers their solution as a SAAS offering.  They have collectively centered on a certain group thinking about innovation systems.  It goes like this:

  • we have a great solution for Idea & Innovation Management
  • we have figured out how to optimize it and offer you the perfected application
  • and it runs SAAS, so you don’t have to maintain servers and software
  • just tell your users to go to this URL and your organization can start to innovate
  • using this application you’ll get breakthrough ideas that will become major growth businesses

Now, this may appear a bit simplistic.  It is.  However, when you distill it down this is the approach.  Innovation is supposed to be an application that you can send users to and all is great.  This may be true in certain limited scenarios.  However, for most organizations, their objectives with innovation initiatives are varied to start with and tend to evolve.  As a note, CorasWorks uses many very specific applications via the SAAS model.  When the application is very specific, for a specific set of users, with a tightly defined use case – SAAS apps are a very cost-effective vehicle.

But, we simply don’t believe that successful innovation meets this criteria.  Further, we think that the core challenge/opportunity for enterprise innovation requires a very different approach.  Enter SharePoint 2010 and the CorasWorks approach with Cim…

The Core Innovation Application

Like the others we start out with a very nice full featured Idea & Innovation Management application.  At first glance, feature by feature we do offer the same core I&IM solution as our competitors.  If we stopped here, the customer would be comparing the I&IM from the 10 SAAS vendors with ours that happens to run on the SharePoint platform.

The SharePoint 2010 Innovation Environment

Let’s say you are seriously thinking about CorasWorks Cim.  Okay, so you buy it and the application gets dropped on top of your SharePoint infrastructure.  Now, it is conceivable that you would treat it as a siloed application just like the SAAS ones.  In truth, this is almost always the first though of OUR customers – “Here is the new innovation application, and, here is the URL you go to to use it and be innovative.”

But, wait.  Your Cim application is running in the middle of a broad, distributed, multi-purpose collaborative workplace called SharePoint.  It is very broadly available across the enterprise.  People go to SharePoint, and, their place within it to do more and more things.  And, where they go to work is not the URL of your new innovation app.

To drive innovation, we want visibility and engagement amongst our users.  So, instead of thinking of your Cim I&IM system as a siloed application, think of it as a solution, that drives innovation across your SharePoint-based work environment.  With this perspective, we now open it up so that the innovation challenges, activity, listings, supporting tasks, downstream activities, reports, etc. are available to everybody no matter where they are working across this environment.  Below we show a schematic of the idea that this app (like other apps) now becomes part of the DNA of your collaborative workplace.  What we are talking about is making innovation part of the daily work of users wherever they work vs. a place to go.



The Full User Experience

Remember, a key to innovation is visibility and engagement.  Okay, so as above we are seeing innovation as being distributed across a broad collaborative workplace.  There is another step to take and this is to think about the full user experience.  Typically, when we think of the user experience we think of how the user experiences “our app”.  We think of what the user sees and does when they go to that URL to use the app.   But, it is not the full user experience in SharePoint 2010 (or in general).  A user with access to SharePoint may have access and need to engage with 5, 10, 20, or 50 information resources, communities, project sites, teams, and yes, idea management communities, corporate challenges, and, business processes that are part of your innovation initiative.

The full user experience is as depicted below for Kim White.  We have bolded the various “applications” that probably relate to your innovation initiatives.


As part of Cim we provide a unique feature called the Cim Business Activity Stream that is designed to provide users with a better collaboration experience across SharePoint.  It puts your innovation apps right at the fingertips of the user.  From wherever they are in SharePoint they can engage.  New innovation communities and challenges light up instantly.  They can watch them.  They can contribute and collaborate with others.  They can see the collaborative activity and the process activity.  They can see user profiles of people they don’t know and check out their My Sites and tap into that persons social network.  They control what activity they see and thus weed out the noise to focus on what is relevant to them.  All without every leaving “home”.

Now, if the innovation initiatives are relevant to Kim white, it is now easy and convenient for her to engage and stay engaged.  Further, innovation work is right there next to HR Policies, Sales Collateral, and Department Community.  As she works, if she has an idea, she just engages.  Kim White has one easy and consistent experience across many “apps” that span the environment.  Your innovation “apps” are now part of her daily work.


An Innovation System Designed for Evolution

Now, we have the user in our sights.  We know we can put just what we want at their fingertips.  From this new perspective, the key is now to put the right “apps” at their fingertips to drive innovation.  We believe that the key is that your organization will want to innovate in many different ways.  You’ll want some general innovation initiatives such as General Ideas and specific event-style Challenges.  You’ll also have far more targeted innovation initiatives such as challenges for specific technical solutions or specific processes such as change requests for a product that is being revised.  Some might be managed by a central “innovation team”.  Others will be driven by specific business groups.  Some may be enterprise wide, while others are for specific business groups or communities of users.

The reality is that the average organization will have many different innovation initiatives.  They will evolve.  They will change.  They will have different drivers and owners.  Accordingly, CorasWorks Cim is designed to be unusually flexible.  You can quickly drop in new Challenges that light up at the fingertips of users.  You can dream up specific innovation initiatives or processes and drop in “customized” workstreams that span your work environment.  To the end user, they have a consistent experience.  To the innovation business owner, they get a unique workstream modified to fit the business objective.


Bringing It All Together

The fact that your organization has invested to deploy SharePoint 2010 means that you have a unique work environment to leverage.  With Cim on top, you can now drive innovation across this environment and engage your users wherever they work.  You have tremendous potential.  You have little risk.  You have a flexible innovation system.  You can try, and learn, and improve – yes, you can innovate.



Presentation on Social Business to Federal SharePoint User Group

This past week I made a presentation to the Federal SharePoint User Group on CorasWorks Cim v2.0 for Social Business on SharePoint 2010.   I’ve attached the presentation for your reference.  The presentation was oriented to a standard SharePoint audience, particularly one that is looking to migrate or beginning to leverage SharePoint 2010.  I’ll cover some of the key points made in the Social Business Overview and in the live Demonstration.

Key Points of Social Business Overview

- Social Business software is used to enhance engagement of users and collaboration across an enterprise.  It is gaining rapid adoption amongst early adopters.  SharePoint customers are gradually adopting it, a bit slower than the early adopters in the general market.

- The association AIIM has done some quality work in the area.  They have 65,000 members and have specialized in document/record management for 60 years – going back to film.  They are educating their members on the difference between Systems of Record (like SharePoint for Enterprise Content Management) and the new Systems of Engagement (Social Business Systems) and how enterprise IT needs to plan for the addition of such systems in their environments.  Here is a link to the white paper Systems of Engagement and the Future of Enterprise IT written by Geoffrey Moore and based on an AIIM task force on the subject.

- CorasWorks Cim v2.0 allows SharePoint users to drop an integrated System of Engagement on top of their SharePoint environment.  This differs from other market offerings which are advocating for customers to buy separate Systems of Engagement, often running SAAS.  Our message is that you are able to drive a great deal more business value by sticking with SharePoint and laying Cim on top.

- We lay out a Social Business Value Continuum with three main levels of business value.  Most Social Business vendors stop at the first level – Social Collaboration.  Cim enables organizations to drive up the stack into Social Business Processes (that combine Social Collaboration with structured Business Processes) and Social Business Systems (that go the next step and allow for distributed, interconnected systems across a SharePoint environment and to external services/applications, such as our Idea and Innovation Management solution).

- In addition, while other offerings, including SharePoint 2010 itself are primarily targeting the Social side of the equation, highlighting features such as social network, profiles, tagging and personal activity, CorasWorks Cim is focused on the Business side with features such as communities of purpose, business activity stream (no friend feeds), integration of communities with structured business processes, stage-gate support, configurable business actions and activity, reporting and analytics.  And, because we leverage SharePoint, we integrate the pure Social side into the equation, but, within the Business context.

- Cim runs natively on SharePoint, storing its data in SharePoint and leveraging it for administration and security as well as additional capabilities.


Key Points of Demonstration

The demonstration was a scenario of “A Day in the Life of a Process Improvement Idea”.  It showed how an idea flowed through a process that includes all 3 stages of the Value Continuum.  The key points where:

- Cim provides a “collaborative community experience”.  Thus, communities are not necessarily sites you have to go to.  Users are able to engage in a “community/process” from any place across SharePoint – team sites, my sites, department portals, etc. From there, they can See, Contribute, and Collaborate in one or more Cim communities, business processes, or systems across SharePoint.

- Communities may be for collaboration such as for departmental collaboration or for project managers across an organization and/or they may be tied to more specific business purposes and processes such as application change requests, knowledge pipelines, new product development.

- With Cim, users create Articles – a new rich, robust, collaborative document.  Each article is a living document that over its life-cycle may contain text, documents, comments, ratings, peer reviews, management reviews, stage approvals, final decisions, tasks and more.  We don’t talk about collaborating on or processing a Word document any more.  We talk about working on an Idea, a Contract, a Proposal, a Project, a Policy, a Solution, an Issue, an Initiative, etc. 

- The activity of users across communities or by others on items you submit (either collaborative or as part of a business process) are available to you via your personal “business activity stream” (a new Cim v2.1 feature). 

- We showed how the Process Improvements community is tied to a structured Stage-Gate based Business Process.  Management puts the contributions through a set of stages, each of which has business activities that get kicked off and completed, to move it to the next stage.  The process may be light and quick or longer and more involved with complex business activities.

- We also showed how one business activity within a stage can be to task a team to do something.  The system creates a task item in the SharePoint team site of that team.  It is related to the Article and users can interact, ie., the people in the team can do their work on the task and the managers of the process can see and act accordingly.

- After a decision is made on the idea, we showed how the user could push the idea into a “downstream” and related business process.  We showed pushing the idea into a Program Management Office to kick off a project and pushing it into a SharePoint team for implementation. 



The core message of the presentation is that organizations using SharePoint are in a fantastic position to leverage their environment to layer on Systems of Engagement that dramatically improve their efficiency and effectiveness.  It is much more than just Social Collaboration.  It is about enabling your organization to drive up this new business value continuum by leveraging collaboration within business processes that drive results. 

In addition, vendors such as CorasWorks are rapidly creating innovative solutions that can be added to your SharePoint environment.  And, since our solutions are designed for SharePoint, they inter-operate.  In reality, SharePoint is arguably the most “open platform” for Enterprise 2.0.  It isn’t about open-source code, the key to value, is to have an open application environment where users can collaborate, see activity and participate in processes enabled by product vendors, service providers, customer IT, and, the day-to-day activity of business users.

Imagine that – Microsoft SharePoint 2010 – the open Enterprise 2.0 application environment. Move over Open-Source folks, it is Open-App time.


Drive tangible results when Social Activity is “In-the-flow” of Business

In my last post about about Cim v2.0 Communities, I talked about how our native design enables social communities to be directly tied into business processes on SharePoint 2010.  The importance of putting social activity into the flow of business is not a novel thought – it has been talked about by the social software/Enterprise 2.0 gurus over the last four years.  In this article, I’ll give you references to their original writings on the topic, and then, I’ll discuss the CorasWorks approach that makes this happen for enterprise businesses.

I’d say the person who coined the idea of “in-the-flow” was Michael Indinopulos, VP of Services at SocialText.  They were one of the first social software companies and Michael is an avid does, thinker and blogger. He coined the term in his post on December 26, 2007 called “In-the-Flow and Above-the-Flow”.  In this article he makes the distinction about social tools being either activities that are within the routine flow of people doing their work (in-the-flow) vs. activity that is not part of their routine work (above-the-flow).  The point of his discussion is that it is hard to drive adoption of social tools that are above-the-flow.  However, if the tool is part of their day jobs, ie., what they get paid to do, then, social tools get high adoption.  Thus, strong adoption will occur where you implement social tools “in-the-flow”.

In 2009, Andrew McAfee published the seminal book on social software in the enterprise called Enterprise 2.0.  He is a Harvard/MIT professor/scientist widely known as a guru in social in the enterprise.  He is credited with coining the phrase Enterprise 2.0 in 2006.

In Enterprise 2.0, he does a great job of explaining various social software tools and the deeper mechanics that make them work.  He calls them ESSPs for Emergent Social Software Platforms. What I really like is the way that he distinguishes the mechanics between the different ESSPs.  He then goes on to talk about the core issue that with all social tools implemented in the enterprise – adoption and tangible business value are issues.  He lays out 6 core approaches.  In the section “Move ESSP’s into the Flow” (page 184), he specifically references Michael Indinopulos’s blog article referenced above.

He says “From what I’ve seen, ESSPs that are perceived as being purely above the flow have difficulty sustaining momentum and often wither over time.  For this reason champions of Enterprise 2.0 often work diligently to move ESSPs into the follow of their organization’s work.”

This line of thinking continues today.  In fact, the conviction is just getting stronger as the research and experience confirm the basic premise.  Just last month Michael wrote an article called “Companies aren’t Communities” (February 18, 2011) that again has at its core the need for in-the-flow approaches to social activity in the enterprise vs. above-the-flow communities.  A related post (February 28, 2011) was written by Andy Jankowski, another Enterprise 2.0 guru, called “How to Ensure Your Enterprise Social Effort Succeeds”.  He refers to Michael’s post and continues to drive the theme of the importance of being in-the-flow of business.  He goes one step further and lays out four core questions to ask as you implement social software.  At their core is the realization that the business problem and the business processes that surround that problem should be addressed first, then, you apply the social tools as part of the solution. 

CorasWorks has been tracking Enterprise 2.0 since 2006.  We decided to take a different tack then the pure-play social vendors.  Our legacy has been about delivering tangible business value with business processes and business applications designed and deployed on top of SharePoint (starting in 2003). Thus, we come from business value/process first within a distributed, virtual collaborative environment.  With CorasWorks Cim on SharePoint 2010, over the last year we have enhanced and extended our “toolset” with the solutions and capabilities that natively open up business processes to incorporate social activities. 

Accordingly, just about every Cim solution is designed to natively be “in-the-flow” of business.  We target solutions that are “just right”, with pre-integration of social collaboration and business process.  Take Cim for Idea & Innovation Management.  We focus on rich ideation and collaboration tied directly into a flexible, very robust stage-gate business process.  The process is what transforms the idea into tangible business value.  However, the richness and breadth of participation of the social activity that drives our ideation provides huge leverage and greater effectiveness to the front-end of the innovation process.  We then enhance the downstream process itself with social collaboration activities that make it more effective and efficient. 

With Cim v2.0, we have gone even further and added a new solution called “Cim for Social Business Processes”. It natively integrates social collaboration with stage-gate business processes in a design that allows customers to flexibly apply it to many business problems.  Our approach is to provide the just right solution for the business need.  We are not too social, nor, are we too BPM (business process management).

Today the distinction may be a bit “cloudy” (sign of the hype cycle).  But, the experience of many over the years has shown us that within pragmatic enterprise businesses the middle ground is where the real value lies – over the next year it will become much clearer.


Understanding the World as you Innovate

There are side benefits to getting out of the office and flying half way around the world to do an implementation (see my article on UCB in Belgium) – you can learn interesting things.  Courtesy of Koen Dehaen of UCB he shared with me some very interesting videos on how to view the world.  I highly recommend that everyone looks at these to get a real world view of things over the last 200 years. 

Many of us have a mental model of what the world is based upon our traditional view of industrialized countries vs. developing countries.  As you will see, your mental model may need to be upgraded to a new world view….


World life expectancy and income over the last 200 years by Hans Rosling

This is just way cool. Hans visually shows how radically the world have evolved, for the better, over the last 200 years.  Just look at the last 50 years.


Analog Way of seeing Development of the World over the last 50 years

Again Hans does it again, using the analog method to educate people on countries development over the last 50 years.