The Power of CorasWorks Rollups–10 Years Later

It really amazes me.  We are coming up on our 10 Year anniversary on February 7th.  We first introduced the term “rollups” in 2003 with our first technology product the CorasWorks Rollup Suite.  This week I was on a call where the customer was trying to solve a seemingly intractable problem around Proposal Management that was killing her teams productivity.  In 30 minutes the solution was in place.  Effectively, it was a rollup: classic CorasWorks, same problem, and, still the best thing since the Post It note for SharePoint business users.  In this article, I’ll give some background on the “rollup” and explain how it solved this customers problem who needed to see new information and act on it from across 100 Proposal Sites.

The Rollup

We invented the Rollup in 2003 to meet a core issue with SharePoint.  SharePoint 2003 focused on an Enterprise Portal.  With that, on the side you had this capability to have these little team sites.  But, there was no connection between the two except the ability to see a listing of the sites one level down from the portal.  We knew that at the end of the day, the collaborative sites would be the key to creating collaborative work management solutions for business and that this is really where the productivity is.  We knew that they’d have deep hierarchies and that people would want to share and work in those little team sites.  BTW, in 2003, other collaborative products like eRoom also saw the world as a bunch of disconnected sites (rooms), so, the siloed approach of SharePoint 2003 team sites was not alone.

So, in order for us to build the business solutions we needed as part of an inter-connected work environment, we created the “rollup”.  This technology allowed you to very easily create a display that would allow you to connect to information anywhere across the SharePoint environment (across data types, lists/libraries, sites, site collections, and web applications).  Accordingly, from a single display you could see any content from across SharePoint – filter it, search it, contribute and act on it. Effectively, what we did is separate the end user display and actions from the data.  You could now work from anywhere and anything could be at your fingertips.  What business users got was convenience, visibility and productivity.

Quickly, the CorasWorks rollup display became the standard for connecting to distributed information on SharePoint.  It was used in three key scenarios: a) to cross-connect to information in other sites and get work done and b) to connect to a number of similar types of sites, like projects or proposals, and aggregate the information and c) as the core grid-style display to build collaborative business applications where users could see, contribute, and act on information in a structured, business context.

Over the years, our approach has matured a lot.  We now just talk in terms of web-based business applications and custom displays.  The capabilities are multi-tier with Wizards at the Display level and to automate work with CorasWorks actions.  Our displays can connect to external information and mash it up.  And, more and more…

Yet, fundamentally it is still about enabling people to work with information across the distributed work environment that is SharePoint.

Our Proposal Management Scenario

Now, roll the story 10 years ahead to this week.  I was on the phone working with a Program Manager for an organization where we are implementing an IDIQ Task Order Management solution in a business group.  This PM also has a team of people that drive and manage RFP proposals.  While we were talking she told me about a pain point with the proposal work and asked if we could help.  Here is the background:

  • They have another place (a Site Collection) where they are doing proposal development in native SharePoint (we haven’t gotten to upgrading this to CW yet)
  • They have 6 Business Groups
  • Each Business Group has their own section
  • Each business group manage their own Proposals
  • Each proposal has its own site
  • Each site has a document library with about 8 folders representing different parts of proposal work
  • Each folder has documents in it or could have documents in it

In order to know what is new, i.e., what is going on and what needs to be done, a Proposal person (on her team) has to go into each proposal site and check all of the folders.  You could say that they could get emails, but, unfortunately, that is if email notification is enabled, if her person gets it, and, if they see it and remember.  If you miss something, it is your fault for missing a deadline.  So, her team does a tremendous amount of navigating and checking.

So, what she asked for was a magical way for her team to have a single Dashboard/Work Console where they could go to one page to see all of the new documents that have been added or modified across all of the Business Groups, Proposal Sites and Folders.  And, she wanted her people to be able to act on them from the Work Console (like pop off emails, change status, etc.) without going anywhere else.  Tall order?

If took me about 30 minutes.  We deployed a CorasWorks Work Console.  We dropped on a Display (formerly known as a “rollup”).  We cross-connected it to the various business groups and configured it to pick up the appropriate information across the proposals and the folders.  Viola, all of the new work in the last 7 days was in the display.  Then, I had her go in and customize the display to meet her needs and create a couple new ones that sliced and diced the information differently.  We then added some actions to automate her work.

To say the least, she was amazed and wanted to jump off the phone to show her team.  I hate to say it, but, I’d estimate that 80% of SharePoint users think that they need to navigate around from site to site looking for information.  They have to go somewhere to do work.  It seems ridiculous given a work environment 10 years later.  But, most people think of SharePoint as siloed sites that you go to.  That is what the Internet is – right?  The ability for our little, old “rollup” to make this huge pain go away is just awesome.

If you know of anyone that is experiencing this type of pain, then, have them call the CorasWorks Solution Hotline at 1-866-580-3115 and just have them ask for relief from work druggery.  We’ll take care of the rest.



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