Archive for March 28, 2011

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.


How Cim v2.0 Communities Drive Enhanced Effectiveness of Social Collaboration on SharePoint 2010

A great number of organizations are in the midst of their migration to SharePoint 2010.  This migration carries with it a new set of expectations for the platform.  So, what are the key areas for new value?  A common one cited is potential network effect of social collaboration with your internal workforce.  In this article, I will drill down into Cim v2.0 Communities and how they enable a new level of organizational effectiveness and directly drive tangible business value through social collaboration.  

So, what is it that customers want from social collaboration that enhances the value derived from their SharePoint 2010 workplaces?  Here is my list of common wants:

- a richer set of interactive collaborative features

- greater visibility across the workplace and less navigation

- easier and more convenient to use

- reusability across varying scenarios

- drives improved efficiency AND effectiveness of purposeful activities

- results in tangible improvements in business value

Within Cim, social collaboration is driven through our Communities.  Cim includes a Community module, one of nine in the product. This module is at the heart of the overall social collaboration experience.  As you will see below, Cim Communities are not necessarily destination sites (although they can be and they may be part of one) as we have historically considered a community to be.  Rather, Cim Communities become core features of your SharePoint environment providing a robust Community experience and driving social collaboration.  This distinction makes Cim Communities able to be much more targeted at specific purposes that drive tangible activity and business results.

There are three core aspects of Cim Communities that work together to produce the above result – they are:

- Rich, interactive, social collaboration feature set

- Usage Flexibility

- Designed to Support Direct Alignment to Business Processes


Rich, interactive, social collaboration feature set

Because we designed our communities as drivers for business processes, they come with a very rich feature set.  I’ll list the top ones in three sections below.

First, the general features of Cim v2.0 Communities are (NOTE: for more technical people):

- Each is technically a native SharePoint site – thus, data, functionality, security and administration are in native SharePoint

- The user experience is delivered via a distributable Snaplet that can be snapped onto any web part page across your SharePoint environment.  The Snaplet is self-contained – one very robust web part.  The result is that you don’t have to navigate to the community to participate.

- It is a multi-content experience (technically a mash-up) – it is not data typed into separate web parts like those within a team site – the experience and content revolves around each item within a given community

- Customizable contributor web 2.0-style forms, with custom fields that can be set for public or private

- Each Community can be “fit to purpose” with the features and metadata for the purpose, including styling using our CSS-framework

- Communities support configurable Groups to slice the contributions and Managed Tags to further slice contributions – used by users for access and back-end processes

- Users can subscribe to the entire Community, a Group, a Managed Tag, an Author, or individual articles – they will then receive a feed of the relevant activity

- Users can perform searches within one community or across a portfolio of communities distributed across an environment

Now, to some specific collaborative features. Below we show a detail view of a posting to one of our communities whose purpose is to gather Product Ideas that are then put through a downstream stage gate process for approval.

recycled values


Here are some of the key features of this display:

- Custom Fields – you can expose custom fields used for management and downstream processes.  Above we expose Status, Group, and Pulse.

- Feedback – users can comment and do star rating (1-5) which translates to Star Power calculation used in supporting Top 10 Listings and Reports

- Documents – the author and community users can upload documents and add notes

- Peer Reviews – each community can have a peer review form tailored to its purpose.  The form is customizable.  You can have choice fields that are used in weighted scoring, and also, absolute fields for numeric and dates (for surveys), or text fields.

- Pulse Auto-Promotion – the administrator can set Pulse categories (such as Bubbling above, Hot, Cold, etc.) and thresholds based upon activity and data to auto-magically promote items to a different Pulse.  It can also trigger notifications and review gate changes.

- Managed Tags – each contribution can be tagged by the author using Managed Tags set by the administrator – these make it easy for users to access related items and subscribe to feeds

- Social tagging – each contribution can be tagged into SharePoint 2010 My Sites which then add it to the social network


Additional back-end/downstream features:

- You can create customized emails triggered by activity

- You can trigger notifications based upon changes (like Pulse changes) or time

- You can enable Content Approval to require approval before publishing or to be used in a one to many scenario such as when you use a Community to submit personal requests

- It supports a complete private collaborative display for downstream managers to comment, do separate Management Reviews (with different forms from Peer Reviews), and vote on items in a private environment

- It supports a downstream stage gate process with extensive configurable activities to drive Community contributions into and through a process


Usage Flexibility

The above feature set along with other modules of Cim v2.0 drive some typical and some unique usage scenarios.  Let’s start with the typical.  You can create Communities of Purpose.  Most other vendors target their communities for a scenario where you are deploying a site (like a team site) or a portal with features including a core community-like experience.  In our case, you’d create a portal with a Community at the core surrounded by other Cim features and SharePoint features.  These communities tend to be standing and somewhat passive sites.  

A new, more untypical approach with Cim Communities is to think of them as activity driving tools vs. passive sites.  We have found communities to be extremely effective as tools for event-driven activities such as in our Idea and Innovation management scenarios.  In this scenario, you would bring up a Community for a specific campaign, such as gathering product ideas for a business line.  It would be “open” for say 30 days.  Then, it is closed and the results are worked.  This has shown to driven great participation.

A key part of Cim Communities is that they are not Site dependent.  Thus, for instance, you can have many communities as part of a site.  Imagine you are building out the Product Management portal.   The users would work right in the portal with the full feature set of every community at their fingertips. Some communities could be:

- the general Product Management dept collaborative community

- a campaign for a new product line as above

- a standing community for Technical Challenges where needs are posted and resolved

- a community for Process Improvements with a back-end process to vett and approve them for implementation

- a customer stories community to capture stories from the field and expose them to collaborative feedback

- a Help desk, request community of the organization to capture requests (that is on every department portal) and managed by engineers using content approval

Following, this model you could use a Cim Community to augment an existing Extranet or Internet-facing site.  An example would be a community to capture online customer stories to feed into a marketing process.

You can also access a Cim Community from anywhere within SharePoint.  Because of the Snaplet architecture, the same community experience can be be snapped in the Product Management portal as above, and also, the Marketing department, and, the Enterprise portal.  A team may want the convenience of having this Community in their team site, or, the VP, Products may want it in their My Site.  This ability to distribute the “community experience” via a Snaplet enhances visibility, breadth of participation, and level of engagement. Below we show the Snaplet of the Product Ideas community in a My Site.  it is showing the article listing page of the community.  They can do all their work from within their My Site.

my site - product ideas


Designed to Support Direct Alignment to Business Processes

Within Cim, the Community is one of many modules.  Its role is to be the front-end for social collaboration.  It is common amongst social tools vendors to talk about how social capabilities and tools indirectly drive business value.  A common refrain is that a Community of Purpose say for an Engineering team adds business value by allowing engineers to share information and develop and improve better processes and techniques.  We definitely agree that this can add business value.  However, typically this Community of Purpose is not directly tied into a flow of business activity or a process which means that it may not really add tangible business value.

With Cim Communities, we have designed them so that they can be tied directly into back-end business processes. Let’s take the above Community of Purpose for Engineering.  Now, lets add a Cim Community to that site.  Its purpose is to capture the ideas for Process Improvements (new, changes, kill, etc.).  It is tied to a formal Process Improvement process. The engineers can share challenges and ideas and provide feedback and additional within the community.  It is a feature of that site.

Behind the scenes (the Management side of a Community) is a structured stage gate process to review and decide on whether to implement a given idea.  The Process Change Management team team has a private collaborative interface where they can comment, do formal reviews, and vote on each contribution.  It also is a Snaplet and may be accessed from any site across SharePoint.  Activity here updates activity in the Community in the site.  Below we show a sample of this Management Activity display. 

mgmtactivity - crop

This back end process is supported by other Cim features to manage the stage gate process, the portfolio, activity management such as delegating tasks, the portfolio, reporting etc.  Now, the Cim Community is directly tied into a business process that drives business value.

The result of this integration of a social community and a business process is that there is a more direct and tangible relationship to business value.  This also tends to drive engagement and participation since people know that this Community drives a formal process (what we call a Social Business Process).

Now, not every community should be tied directly to processes.  In a typical organization, perhaps 20-30%.  However, you will find that many Communities of Purpose come up with items that could and probably should then flow into a downstream business activity.  With Cim Communities, you can tap into these communities as a source to drive downstream processes.  


Cim and Cim Communities provide the rich, social collaboration experience that you expect with social software.  However, we have gone further to insure that you can take it the next step and very purposely leverage the powerful network effect of social collaboration to drive business value.  The fact that you can use Cim Communities with existing sites where and when you need it makes it a great way to incrementally add value to your organization.


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.



New Cim v2.0 Jump Start Enablement approach Accelerates Innovation on SP2010

With Cim v2.0, we have moved our solution for SharePoint 2010 from an app for Idea and Innovation Management to being an enterprise platform for innovation applications.  Initially, we delivered most of our customers directly working primarily with the business groups.  Now, we have a new model where we can work with IT and partners to turn them into enablers that empowers them to deliver multiple applications as part of their overall innovation initiative – we call it Jump Start Enablement.

Over the last 2 weeks, I’ve personally been involved in an implementation using this new model for UCB, a $5b, 8,000 person, bio-pharmaceutical, headquartered in Belgium.  In this article, I’ll walk through this implementation and the new Jump Start Enablement approach.  In effect, this is a story of how we were able to go from bare metal to an implemented system with pilots for two business groups in 8 days.

Our Customer

UCB is a very innovative $4b+ bio-pharmaceutical company with 8,000 employees and operations in more than 40 countries.  They focus on providing solutions to people and families for illnesses, such as epilepsy, that you have to learn to live with.  The way they say it is:

“At UCB our sense of purpose is to help people suffering from severe central nervous system or immunological disorders lead normal, everyday lives.”


They are very patient-centric, looking for solutions to make life better for these people.

We did our on-site work at their 24 hectare campus in Braine l’Alleud about 20 minutes south of Brussels, Belgium.


The Implementation

They wanted to implement an innovation system for the organization on SharePoint 2010.  Their approach is to have an innovation system that is a platform used to deliver many different social business processes across the organization that drive innovation.  This differs from wanting just a single app, say to do just idea crowd sourcing campaigns.  This fits into Cim v2.0 and our new Jump Start Enablement approach.

They have been using SharePoint for about a year.  They just migrated to SharePoint 2010 in the last few weeks.  The innovation system is the first major business focused solution on top of the new environment.

Our core team consisted of people from CorasWorks (the vendor), from UCB IT (the customer), and from Deloitte-Belgium (partner supporting their SharePoint implementation and innovation initiative).  

Below are members of the core team at work at the Braine l’Alleud facility.  We then incorporated representatives from two business groups in our process.  Braine-l'Alleud-20110302-00033-crop


There are four core phases to our Jump Start Enablement approach:

  • Preparation
  • Jump Start
  • Onramp
  • Enablement



During the sales cycle, we worked with each of the different players to understand their goals and objectives.  As part of preparation we then map their objectives into the Jump Start Enablement process.  There are about 10 different implementation approaches with Cim v2.0.  They range from simple one app solutions, like crowd-sourcing, to different types of platform approaches such as the one at UCB where you will be bringing up multiple applications that can be separately managed by individual business process owners, but, that are all part of a single system.


Jump Start

In the span of 4 days last week, we did our initial Cim Jump Start.  This is the technical piece to get them up and running. Working virtually with the IT tech team in Belgium, we started with a bare metal server and installed the Cim stack of Windows/SQL, then SharePoint 2010 Enterprise, then CorasWorks v11, then Cim v2.0.  At that point we do a validation exercise – what we call a walkthrough.  

Then, we implement what we call a Base Reference Implementation (BRI) of Cim.  BRI’s are off-the-shelf generic configurations that match to their defined implementation model.  By Friday, we were able to do a workout of the working BRI on their servers. A workout is a standardized set of steps to run items through a business process from ideation, to management, to downstream execution.  Thus, 4 days from bare metal to a working system that is able to be used.



On Monday I was in Belgium with a colleague to do the on-site part of the process.  We ran our Enablement process.  It is an intense, highly collaborative, three day process. 

On Day 1, we start by validating their general objectives, learning a bit about their business and then educating them a bit about Cim.  We then do a walkthrough of the existing system, basically showing the flow, as we work items through the process.

Day 2 is where the rubber meets the road.  It is intense.  We bring in the business groups (there were two) and we do an Onramp sprint.  This is a process of showing the business groups the generic process, then getting changes for their application, and then implementing them. This is done in real time, in a matter of hours. Each iteration is called a sprint following the agile methodology.  Significantly, CorasWorks doesn’t do the changes, but, our customer/partners make the changes.  In effect, it is a side-by-side hands on training, with real business people driving requirements.  Intense, a bit wild, and lots of coffee.

There are two things that enable this process to work.  First, the BRI is up and running already and is working, in fact, it could be used as is.  Second, is that with Cim v2.0, it is very easy to change things using our configuration Wizards.  This is important for the Onramp process and in the future as changes are required, which they always are, and new applications are launched.  The extensive flexibility of Cim, based upon the 8 years of CorasWorks products making this easy to do on SharePoint, is key to enabling quick changes to business processes. 

Our implementation with UCB was interesting because they had been capturing ideas in various other ways, from native SharePoint to Excel, to third party idea capture/crowdsourcing tools.  Part of our process was to migrate these ideas into the new Cim apps, instantly taking raw ideas and making them part of a robust social business process.  Pretty cool in a day.

We document the overall system changes and each of the business apps that we delivered in what we call Application Worksheets.  This documents the “knobs we turned”, the metadata changes, the branding, UI changes, navigation, etc.  It is the blueprint for each app for each business group used by IT.



During Day 2, our customer/partners have learned a lot.  But, it is learning under pressure.  On Day 3, we settle down.  We do core training towards two objectives: how to maintain, customize and extend the system, and, the process for them to onramp business groups/applications.  We explain our onramp methodology and provide them with working tools.  We are effectively enabling them as an enterprise services organization to serve the needs of their internal customers.

The enablement is further supported by global CorasWorks support, the CorasWorks Community online environment, and, our specialized online Cim Learning Center.  The Learning Center provides the documentation, articles, and self-service videos, tutorials, cheat sheets etc. to re-enforce the learning they have done and drive them further.


Some Notes about this Implementation

- With UCB and Deloitte, the entire process was done in 8 days.  That is unusually fast.  Normally, this process spans a month.  However, the UCB team and the business groups were very organized, very focused, motivated, collaborative and highly competent.  The resources and people had all scheduled their time and showed up ready to work.  Thus, we didn’t miss a beat.  Usually, quite a bit of time is required to gain alignment, coordinate schedules.  In fact, we usually deliver the whole process virtually to accommodate the gaps that occur.  When, we can do it in a focused way, however, it is much more efficient and effective. 

-  Usually, we would just use one business group and one application to start with.  Onramping two business groups, both in the same room during Day 2, makes it chaotic and a challenge.  However, the good part is that you do get very useful “real time innovation” by the cross-fertilization across the business groups.  The learning is accelerated as they see how and where we recommend changes to the other business group based upon the requirements.  Normally, this type of learning session is done, but, after the initial application for one business group is deployed as the initial pilot.

- Demand Manager: UCB’s IT has a model with a “demand manager”.  This individual works with the business groups on applications.  This person was part of the team.  Our Onramp process is designed for this type of person.  They can then use our base process to create a standardized approach for onramping new business groups or adding new applications.  This scales the usefulness of the system as well as providing governance and standards.

- Business Process Emergence: In some situations, business groups have their process all mapped out in detailed visios, spreadsheets, etc.  But, they don’t know how this translates into the UI and model of the tool they are using.  Again, the key is that we start with a BRI so they can see and experience the tool, and, the flexibility of Cim to be changed real time.  In effect, most business groups start to understand and evolve their process real time as they see it, work with it hands on, and discuss it.  This is the real power – software that you mold to your needs real time as you get smarter, clearer, and see what works.  Bottom line is that Cim is a great tool to use to “bake out” your business process.  You don’t need to have all of the answers up front, in fact, that is usually overkill.  Let the tool help you get there.



I’d like to thank the UCB and Deloitte folks that were part of this fun and world-wind 8 day process.  It sets a high standard for future implementations.  For others, the key is that this new Jump Start Enablement process is a solid way to move forward for enterprise services enablement on SharePoint 2010.  It is designed to empower IT, partners, centers of excellence to make our innovation system a platform you use that drives innovation and social business processes across your organization.