Archive for CorasWorks v11

CorasWorks v11.3.2 wave includes Application Designer v4.0 and new Six Pack of Apps

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In the beginning of June, we launched our v11.3.2 wave of products.  This includes new builds of CorasWorks for SharePoint 2010 and 2013 with a bunch of new features – somewhat unusual for a minor (x.x.x) release.  In addition, we also released two key add-ons that make it easier for power users to build business applications with CorasWorks.  I’ll focus on the latter in this article.  They are free to CorasWorks customers.

The Objective

The objective of these two add-ons to v11.3.2 is to make it easier for power users/builders to create finished business applications.  It takes too much knowledge, too much skill, and too much time to try and use native SharePoint to deliver finished business applications.  With these tools and the CorasWorks platform it is much easier, more straight forward, and much more re-useable.

Application Designer v4.0

The core add-on is Application Designer (version 4.0).  I introduced v2.0 of this visual design and build tool in a previous article.  This v4.0 release has a host of new features for the builder/power user.  A key changeup is how we have changed the “widget” toolset of the Design Canvas to follow the logical order that people go through to “build up” a business application.  These are shown on the left in the screenshot below.

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So, what is logical as you build any business application:

  1. Create your content (lists and libraries)
  2. Lay out your navigation tabs, buttons, and pages
  3. Drop your displays on pages of different types
  4. Add your users forms
  5. Add your user actions and business rules
  6. Create your reports and add them to dashboards
  7. Set your role-based security.

Accordingly, this is now how we’ve organized the features.

Of all the new features, I believe the most powerful is the ability to make your application role-based using the Design Canvas.  You can apply roles for users or Groups to any tabs and buttons.  This removes the need to go down into the messy SharePoint content-based permissions to apply security.

You also now have a great new simple Report Designer with automatic two- level drill downs (chart sections to item listing and item details) along with drag and drop to add reports to dashboards.

Six pack of Apps

With the v11.3.2 wave, we have released a set of 6 sample applications.  These were all built using Application Designer v4.0.  They are easy to modify, enhance, and reuse leveraging the Design Canvas that is part of each.  The applications are:

  • Knowledge Base
  • Help Desk
  • Expense Management
  • Job & Interview Management
  • Time Clock Management
  • Work Order Approval.

You can leverage these applications as follows:

  1. Use them as-is out of the box
  2. Customize them and enhance them to meet specific needs using the Design Canvas
  3. Re-purpose them to similar but different applications, again leveraging the Design Canvas
  4. Use them to learn how a business application is designed using CorasWorks and then go off and create completely new applications.

Unlike sample apps of old like CorasWorks apps or the Fab 40 from Microsoft, the on-board Design Canvas makes it easy to a) visually understand how the applications are laid out, and b) customize and enhance using the wizards of the Design Canvas.

Getting them

These add-ons are free to CorasWorks customers on Premier Support.  They are available for download, by your administrator, via the CorasWorks Customer Center (http://help.corasworks.net).

Enjoy,

William

New CorasWorks Customer Center – the Details to Get You Going

This month we released our new CorasWorks Customer Center (http://help.corasworks.net). It replaces the CorasWorks Community as the primary place for customers to go to access resources.  Over the years our customer resources got spread out to multiple sites – it happens.  The new Customer Center brings them back together and raises the bar to make it easier for you to add value.  In this article I’ll walk you through what I think are important details to leverage it – why and how.

Before getting into details, I am going to give you one solid reason to access the Customer Center and go into the Platform Learning Center – we now have 20+ self-service videos with more than 6 hours of learning content that will save you time and money, and help you add value to your organization.  Use it for yourself and share them with others in your organization.

The Customer Center Tour

When you first visit the site, you will be taken on a tour of key features of the Customer Center. If you don’t have time to explore it now, no problem, you can launch the tour at any time from the main menu at to top of the screen.

The Home Page

Please go there and scan the contents of the page and look at the links.  Most key resources are just one click away. From this home page you can access:

  • Self-registration
  • Base information about our software and solutions
  • Download our software
  • All CorasWorks events
  • Access Requests to Learning Centers
  • Support contact information
  • Our blogs
  • The Learning Centers (Platform and CAPS).

Self-Registration

The first thing to do is register for the Customer Center.  It is a self-service system, so when you forget your username or password you can request them from the system.  To register, click the dropdown arrow next to Login. A Customer Success advocate will respond promptly and ensure that you are linked to your company account. This will allow you to access all of the great content in the Learning Centers.

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Accessing the Learning Centers

We have two Learning Centers that are part of our Customer Center:

  • Platform Learning Center (for all audiences)
  • CAPS Learning Center (for web developers).

To have access to a Learning Center you must be an employee of a customer on active Premier Annual Support and Maintenance.

To request access, from the home page, click on the Request Access link for the Learning Center you want to access as shown below in red below.  We will verify that you are part of an active PASM account and provide you with access.

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Platform Learning Center and Self-Service Videos

The Platform Learning Center has gotten simpler.  The primary contents are a number of self-service videos (the #1 reason to go here as above). We have found videos to be the easiest thing to consume and the fastest to broaden the base of usage.

Request access and access the videos.  You’ll see the menu of options on the left as shown below.  Share the links and content with others in your organization.

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CAPS Learning Center

The CAPS (CorasWorks Application Service) API is designed for web developers.  This Learning Center is web developer oriented with examples, code snippets, and configuration code generators.  Note that when we talk code in the CAPS world, we really mean a low code approach, it is for the web developer, no compiled C# here.  You just don’t need it anymore to do really cool stuff. For example, the entire Customer Center is built using CAPS, Bootstrap, and classic web developer tools. You just don’t need hard-core code anymore to do cool things on SharePoint.

Say, you are working on a solution and need to know how make a request to our API. You simply go to the Learning Center, find a comparable example, use the request builder and generate the code, and paste it into your app, updating the URL to match your own site.

Below is an example of just such as case.

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Quick Facts

What is the URL for the Customer Center?  http://help.corasworks.net

What do I do when I forget my username and password? Go to the home page and click the down arrow next to Log in at the top and make your request.  Takes 30 seconds.

Where do I go to watch self-service videos?  Platform Learning Center

Where do I go to get CAPS help? CAPS Learning Center

How do I download CorasWorks software? Click Downloads at the top of the home page (you must be specified as the active Download user).

If I just need help?  Email support at CustomerSuccess@corasworks.net.

Enjoy,

william

CorasWorks Today (November 2013) in 3 minutes

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What does CorasWorks offer?  Over the last 10 years, I’ve gotten this question more than a few times.  The answer has changed a bit as we’ve continued to innovate and refine our offerings.  Yet, we still remain focused on enabling organizations to create a flexible, cost effective work environment on SharePoint that meets their needs today and in the future.

Today, the CorasWorks Solution Platform is in version 11.  We have versions for SP2007, SP2010 and SP2013.  We have a rich set of off-the-shelf work management solutions to get you going quickly.  And, we enable you to have it your way through the industry leading flexibility of our platform and leveraging your internal people, our partners, or CorasWorks services.

Click here to see our current 3 minute pitch overview.

william

Taskboarding with CorasWorks v11.3–make work easier and better

With the release of CorasWorks v11.3 that includes CAPS you are able to create and deploy very rich, interactive web features for your work management applications on SharePoint.  A popular one to get started with is TaskBoards.  They provide a visual way to see where work stands, organize and prioritize it, collaborate, and, track the flow of the work.  The approach started with the Kanban method of working in automobile manufacturing.  This style has been adopted as a key piece of Agile software development, for instance when doing Scrum.  In the digital world, TaskBoards are all about drag and drop and interactivity.  In this article, I’ll show you what we offer out-of-the-box and explain how you can leverage this way of working to improve results in many areas across your organization.

TaskBoarding Demo

We first added TaskBoards to our Project & Portfolio Management solution about 6 months ago in version 3.2.  It gives users an easy way to manage  task work for a team, project, or Agile sprint.  The drag and drop user interface and interactivity make work seem and feel much easier. Our standard TaskBoard goes a step beyond most others by enabling users to add new tasks and do updates in a smart, guided, interactive way.  This makes the work more manageable.

In the video below, I’ll look at the use of a TaskBoard for a SharePoint Service Delivery Team whose purpose is to provide a great SharePoint environment and deliver new applications and enhancements.  The tasks/requests come in, then, the team uses the task board to organize the work and to get it done.

Let’s do some Taskboarding – just click the image below for a 6 minute demo.TaskBoard

 

From TaskBoards to Workboarding on SharePoint

The TaskBoard you just saw makes work easier, more effective, and, more manageable.  The common use of it would be for projects and teams.  Use it with a tablet and you’ll have a really great experience.

Being based upon CorasWorks v11.3 CAPS, it is now totally customizable, portable, and re-purposable. So, you can use this style of work, let’s call it “workboarding”, as a feature of any application.  Fundamentally, it gives you an easier way for a group of people to work together to move things forward.  It would make a great new feature for any Stage-based collaborative process.    So, how about:

  • ChangeBoards – to manage change requests
  • IssueBoards – to manage issues
  • IdeaBoards – to manage ideas and innovation
  • PolicyBoards – to submit HR policy changes and approve them
  • ProductBoards – to plan product features for a release
  • ProposalBoards – to manage the work of business development proposals
  • SalesBoards – to track sales opportunities
  • RecruitBoards – to manage the HR recruiting process

I could go on.  But, it is now time for you to get your creative juices flowing.  With CorasWorks CAPS, you are empowered to go far beyond the out-of-the-box and come up with your own applications of this feature.  You don’t have to wait for CorasWorks to make changes and release a new version of it.  Just go forth and innovate.  You can drop it into any CorasWorks Application template, or, any native SharePoint site, or, a custom SP site.  Workboarding can be put at the fingertips of users anywhere across your SharePoint work environment. Your users will love you for it.

william

CorasWorks v11.3 is Released-that makes 10 Years, 4 SharePoint Platforms-and now CAPS

On Monday, July 15th, we released version 11.3 of the CorasWorks platform to the CorasWorks download library.  The v11.3 release supports SharePoint 2013 and SharePoint 2010.  This is our first release for SharePoint 2013 (although we’ve worked with Microsoft on this release for 2 years). 

This means that over the last 10 years, we have released the CorasWorks Solution Platform for four SharePoint platforms:

  • SharePoint 2003
  • SharePoint 2007
  • SharePoint 2010
  • SharePoint 2013

With each SharePoint platform and each CorasWorks release we have enhanced the ability of our customers to address their work management needs within a CorasWorks-SharePoint shared application services environment.  We have also continued to perfect our “puttyware” approach that enables users to design, build, enhance and extend applications, without the need for custom compiled code to be introduced into the shared services environment.

CAPS – A Big Step Forward in v11.3 (SP2010 and SP2013)

While v11.3 is just a .dot release, it is also of major importance.  I believe that for CorasWorks customers, the most important part is not the support for SP2013, but rather, that we have included the CorasWorks Application Service (CAPS) technology

CAPS is just the right thing at the right time.  Client side web development is exploding and so is the potential for a mess.

CAPS is a REST-like service (runs server side) that enables client-side web developers to build very rich and performant apps and advanced features that leverage a clean server-side service.  We have been using it in our off-the-shelf Solutions and in custom solutions for the last 6 months.  With v11.3, it is now included in the CorasWorks platform. 

CAPS is targeted towards the web app developer.  It gives them a powerful service, including items like XSLT 2.0 support, one call joins, one call batch requests, Global Variables, mobile/tablet support and lots of good clean stuff.  But, it is also important because it simplifies and structures the architecture to avoid client-side chaos and bloat.

To launch CAPS, we have provided the new CAPS Learning Center (available in the Resources section of CorasWorks Community) that takes a more developer approach to learning with online examples, scenarios, and features that can be re-used, leveraged, and learned from.  If you can cut and paste, you can leverage CAPS in your work environment.

william

10 Fundamentals to Know When Delivering Apps in a CorasWorks-powered Environment

I’ve spent a lot of time with customers over the last year working with the internal people who are delivering apps to business users.  You are out there busily building apps, setting standards, listening, supporting and connecting things. Your technical skills range from beginning builders to workplace wizards.  Along the way it has become clear that core fundamentals of CorasWorks have gotten lost or are at least lumpy.  I am not talking about technical items, but, about how to think about what you are doing when delivering collaborative work management apps using CorasWorks.  I guess with the time, new folks coming in and churn it makes sense.  In this article, I’ll go over my list of Top 10 fundamentals of CorasWorks that every app builder and every application service delivery manager should know.

You can templatize an App and Reuse it for another Purpose/Group

A key value proposition of CorasWorks is the reusability.  Yet, a surprising number of people don’t even know that you can templatize and re-use an existing SharePoint site.  So, if you build a CorasWorks app, why not re-use/re-purpose it for another use.  Better yet, how about maintaining a central catalog of cleaned, re-usable application templates, and, giving it visibility across business groups.

Context vs. Content

I often hear business users say that the UI of a CorasWorks PS delivered app is simpler to use, easier to understand and much better than native SharePoint.  The reason is context vs. content.  An average native SharePoint user is used to working in a team site.  By design SharePoint is a content driven experience – really collaboration by proximity.  You go to some place (a site) and hit a page to access content.  CorasWorks changes this.  Effectively, what you do with CorasWorks is overlay a business context.  When our Professional Services does the work we use our in-house standardized application templates that strip away all of the ancillary content baggage like announcements and quick links and provide business users with an experience that is relevant to the business context.  This seems much “easier” to business users.  I recommend that you take a look at our PS standard and do the same.

Three Main Tiers of CorasWorks App Value

When using CorasWorks, you can add value in three main tiers.  Always triage your work into one these tiers as follows:

  • Self-service – this is where you expose native SharePoint and CorasWorks capabilities to a broad group of users that use them to enhance their team collaboration sites.
  • Standardized solution types – CorasWorks has defined, trains on, and supports about 15 types of standardized solutions for collaborative work management.  The idea is for your organization to understand these, buy or build your first one, catalog them, and reuse, reuse, reuse.
  • Custom solutions – These are solutions that are so unique that you need to do requirements and then build them out.  The box for doing this with CorasWorks is very, very big, particularly when leveraging the Advanced Framework of v11 (see next item).

NOTE: Most people are binary; either self-service or custom.  What is really lacking is the middle tier – this is probably the area of greatest opportunity to add value to your organization.

CorasWorks v11 and our Advanced Framework

The Advanced what???  The current shipping version of CorasWorks is v11.2. This is the 11th major release of our core platform since 2003. With CorasWorks all of the software (.dll’s) are in this platform product. Your solutions are created on top by configuration. v11 includes an Advanced Framework. This is a multi-tier app framework that allows you to build very custom extensions or new apps without doing custom compiled code. You can even go as far as to build a custom database app with a separate SQL server database and a CorasWorks front-end surfaced in SharePoint – again without custom compiled code. This means that your IT Governance model can be centrally managed, but, the business groups can get lots of value.  The box of what you can do with CorasWorks is probably a lot bigger than you think.

Basic Apps are Built Up – Like Layering

When you use our basic framework/components we call that a basic app.  A standard, single-site CorasWorks basic app is built up.  It is like an assembly line.  The standard steps are:

  • Create a new site using a standard base solution template
  • Add navigation
  • Modify the data – lists and libraries, custom “workplace” fields, and data relationships
  • Add basic displays (usually grids for apps)
  • Add forms (action forms for new items and in process action forms)
  • Add user task automation actions
  • Add email notification actions, activations and workflow
  • Add reporting
  • Add Advanced Framework extensions (after business user feedback, see last point)

CorasWorks Actions Control What Users Can Do

CorasWorks comes with its Actions Framework.  Using a wizard you can create actions for users to perform.  This is your control point.  It allows you to separate the user from the data (If you think about it with native SharePoint you are pretty much giving users direct access to the data).  So with your apps, think actions for users.  They need not know what magic the action does behind the scenes or what gets kicked off (emails, workflow, other actions, etc.).

CorasWorks Cuts Across Structural Barriers of SharePoint

Native SharePoint has a number of structural “barriers” that constrain your canvas for designing and building apps.  CorasWorks separates the user context from the content meaning that people can basically do anything from anywhere.  We make all of SharePoint your design canvas.  The main barriers we cut across are data types, lists, sites, site collections, web applications, and, even farms.  The impact is that for advanced designers they think in terms of the actual user experience wherever and in whatever context vs. the app user interface.

Apps: Single Sites vs. Distributed Systems

Most people are site bound.  They think of SharePoint site by site – because they have learned to live within the barriers.  In reality, SharePoint is a distributed system or even more correctly a “system of systems”.  Sometimes you will build a single site app, like a Help Desk.  Other times you are really designing and building systems – a collection of sites.  An example is a Portfolio of project sites where you might have a PMO, a couple of Portfolio Management sites, and a mere 50 or 100 project sites spread across departments working in different site collections.  The key is to design at the system level first, thinking about the user role and experience, with the local sites coming next.  Back to the Help Desk and that single site.  Where do the users enter in their Help Desk requests? Where do they see the status and activity?  Can they first search a knowledge base or access a self-service community?  Should it really be designed as just a single Help Desk site for 10 help desk engineers or is it really a system to help users be more productive with a user population of say 3,000?

Think Collaborative Application Design Patterns

Most users think that an IT Help Desk, a Chemical Materials Storage Request system for a Pharmaceutical, and, an IDIQ HR Staffing app are very different applications.  To a CorasWorks builder they are basically the same with a bit of work to customize the “language” of the app.  In effect, they are what we would call a “Request” collaborative application design pattern.  In this world of collaborative work management apps you begin to see that most apps fit into common, re-usable patterns.  This is what drives the repeatability of our Standardized Solution Types mentioned above.  Thus, a catalog of 10 standard base app templates representing each of the solution types can serve your needs to create 100’s of business function specific applications.

Think about the Work-Stream(s)

We are very focused on the app.  In practice, this allows us to focus and meet a need.  However, in reality often work in one activity kicks off work in the next.  Or, in order to get the work done of one app you need to tap into another set of teams/apps/processes. When you step back and see how these activities tie together, you are thinking about what we call the work-stream.  For instance, in the big picture, an Idea Management app, would hand off to a Project Approval App, that hands off to a Development Project app that feeds your Change Management app.  The project approval app may have a process to request a capital expenditure (from finance) or a market study (from marketing).  Each of these apps can live on their own and usually have completely different users and contexts and make up multiple work-streams.  But, they connect.  They are loosely coupled.  And, you can have them all inter-operating within a CorasWorks-SharePoint environment.

william

CorasWorks Customers Putting SharePoint to Work

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

 

Ways that Customers are Putting SharePoint to Work

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

 

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

 

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

What we have done to help our customers succeed

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

william

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

Have a tremendous 2012!

william

 

Top 10 custom