Providing a secure BD extranet for partners and customers using CorasWorks on SharePoint

Lockdown

All Federal Government Contractor customers of our Business Development solutions will at some point face the need to provide secure access to their Partners (Vendors, Suppliers) and Customers.  This month, Steve Evangelista, one of our Lead Architects wrote a series of three articles that cover securing and hardening of your system for this scenario.  We use all of these methods in our BD solutions.  You can also use them in your own CorasWorks solutions.

The articles are:

Part 1: Securing & Hardening SharePoint Sites for External Users: Basic configuration using CorasWorks to support working with external parties.

Part 2: Securing & Hardening SharePoint Sites: How to modify SharePoint Master Pages to security trim common native pages (All Content, native web part pages, etc.).  This is a SharePoint best practice.

Part 3: Securing & Hardening SharePoint Sites: Leveraging CorasWorks to create a secure proxy account to tightly secure what external users can see and do.

Comment: Design for Multi-Party Usage

It is very common for people to design systems in a classic way in which we think about all users sharing the same user interface, with security as a back-end system issue.  However, in most collaborative systems and certainly BD systems, it is a better design approach to think of your groups of users as having separate interfaces.  CorasWorks and SharePoint easily support this approach.

So, imagine your employees, your partners, and your customers each having their own user interface.  It is their place to go.  This interface is then optimized for them.  It supports their role.  You may even get more granular so that you have interfaces for Executives, Managers, and Doers internally or different types of partners or partners in different roles.  Yet, effectively, all of these users are working off of the same data.  This design makes it far easier to manage the security by role in a different interface.  This makes it more secure.

william

Empowering business users to have it their way (Part 3)

This is a third is a series of articles posted today that all relate to how the CorasWorks Work Management system compares to CRM systems.  The first talked about our work automation and how it increases business user task productivity 30x.  The second addresses the difference in design between work management systems and CRM systems and why this enables your business users to be optimally productive.  This article will talk about how CorasWorks empowers business users to have it their way.  It ties into the previous two articles.

If you read my first article, I related a story about a demo I had today.  A business user (in Business Development of a Federal Government Contractor) was showing their application to IT and explaining how it helps them manage their work to win business.

Here is the back story…

I arrived early for the demo and was sitting with the business user.  They wanted to set up the demo for IT.  They were showing their production system so they didn’t want emails firing off to real workers.  They spun up our Action Wizard and modified the email notification to instead ping people from IT.  Then, they went into our Display Wizard and changed the display to use the new action.  Then, they decided to change the time when a site was auto-provisioned, so they changed a field in an action.

Now, remember this is a business user who was preparing their demo for IT.  And, it was a BD Manager (think Sales Manager).  Even that is a bit of a change up – right?

So, we did the demo and had a discussion.  During the meeting, the business user showed IT how easy it was to change things using the CorasWorks Wizards.  At the end of the meeting the business user was going to have a meeting with IT to talk to them about changes they wanted in their CRM system.

They were going to have the normal business user-to-IT type of meeting.  They were going to meet with IT and a CRM developer and detail their requirements.  The upshot would be that IT would put the changes into their project queue which would then go into their project schedule, assuming they had the budget and time.  Then, at some point in the future the business user may have their changes.  Then, most probably they’d have to go back through the process to make changes to the changes to get what they really wanted.

Two Points, One Observation, One Question

First, is that with CorasWorks the business user is empowered.  Note that they were using our Wizards to modify their business process and educating IT about the tool, the ease of configuration, and, the business value.  It seemed so natural, yet, in reality it was a startling role reversal.  In addition, IT was fine with it.

Second, IT is guarded about their CRM – for good reason.  The CRM is a single system.  IT wouldn’t allow a business user to make changes directly.  They could mess it up for everyone else.  The skill level required is too great.  It needs to be controlled.  It is a costly, time consuming process.

What I find interesting is that the application of our business user is a business critical application that is used to drive revenue.  It is their IDIQ Task Order Management system.  It is the way they actually do their work to drive business.  The CRM system is a database that our Business Development person “has to update”.  It seemed to be natural that the business person would be empowered to control what they deem to be business critical yet IT would control the corporate system that needs to be updated.

So, in this scenario things are as they should be.  But, I wonder if organizations go far enough to empower business users with the tools they need and want to produce better outcomes vs. corporate systems that support management.

william

Why you can do more for less using CorasWorks Work Management vs. your CRM system (Part 2)

I just posted an article that works through the numbers of comparing the productivity improvement using the CorasWorks Work Management system vs. a CRM system.  The impact is a 30x increase in productivity at the task level.  It adds up – big time.

You would think that you could achieve productivity improvements and better business results by leveraging a CRM system.  At a base level, like reporting productivity, perhaps.  But, in general, business users are challenged to get real work productivity improvement.  The reason is that there is a fundamental difference in design between a Work Management system like CorasWorks vs. a CRM system.  In this article, I’ll discuss the difference.

Most CRM systems are designed as a database system.  They are organized by content.  You have Accounts, Opportunities, Contacts, Products, etc.  Items are related in parent/child constructs.  If you read my article you see that with CorasWorks it is easy to automate work tasks.  Technically, you may be able to do this in a CRM but at a much higher cost.  But the killer difference, is that it just doesn’t work for users.  In reality your CRM is a system of record.  Fundamentally, the user experience of CRM systems is not designed to support a variety of business activities in different business contexts. Yet, this is really the work of business users.  They are always working in a context.  They really don’t wake up in the morning thinking about having to update a database, they think in terms of the work they need to get done.

The Difference of Business Context Design

Let’s take a Federal Government Contractor.  The work that is done consists of things like this:

  • IDIQ Program Management
  • Task Order Management
  • Gate Reviews
  • Capture and Proposal Management
  • Contract/Program Management
  • Contract Administration
  • Partner Surveys and Expressions of Interest
  • Partner Subcontract Statement of Work and Agreements

With CorasWorks, each of these are applications (or think of them as discreet processes or activities).  Each is self-contained, providing the user with an optimized user experience.  Each is configurable.  Each automates the work that the business users do in that particular context.  And, all of them are actually part of a single integrated work environment running within a SharePoint context.  Thus, while each has its own business context they are natively integrated.

Now, think CRM.  How would you overlay the work of these 8 very different activities on top of your CRM? What is the user interface that puts them in the right business context? How would a user use the system?  How would they know what to do?

In most cases the answer is something like – when you need to Log a Bid Decision go to this place, change these fields, update this, send these emails, etc.  It is a document requiring training.  it relies on the user to get it right or else bad things happen.

You could individually try and add bells and whistles to your CRM to automate some portion of the 200 or so user tasks across the 8 processes above.  But, where is the business context.  How do I, the business user, know what context I am in and have the information I need along with the work automation to get it done.

With the unique flexibility of CorasWorks it is easy to spin up applications that automate work for a specific purpose.  Thus, you end up with the ability to make the users very productive because they have all of the information and automation at their fingertips to get done what they need to get done.

The key difference is that CorasWorks allows you to automate the work in the business context.  It makes a big difference in the results that you achieve.

Overlaying Work Management on CRM

But you say… “my CRM is my system of record. I need it updated”.  That may be correct.  So, the optimal approach works like this.  You use CorasWorks to serve as the front-end to your CRM (or any other system like ERP or HR system).  CorasWorks has a framework that let’s us connect with just about any external system and do reading and writing on behalf of the user.  Thus, you organize the business user work by “application” in CorasWorks and automate it such that as they do the work the information is updated in your CRM or other system.

The result is that you get the work results you need via CorasWorks and maintain the data integrity you want from your CRM or other system.

william

Increasing productivity using CorasWorks Work Automation over a CRM database system – by 30x(y) (Part 1)

NOTE: This is Part 1 in a 3 part series comparing CorasWorks Work Management to a CRM database system. They all relate to the same customer story. See part 2 and 3 that follow on the same blog day.

I was in a demo today where a business user within a customer was showing IT how they use CorasWorks.  The business user was showing and explaining how CorasWorks helps them be productive.  The IT folks were used to a CRM database.  So, I provided them with a comparison of CorasWorks Work Automation vs. what someone has to do using a database.  Below I’ll share the particular example I used.  I’ll detail the productivity numbers and scale them for a broader perspective vs. other ways of getting work done.  The numbers really add up to make a sizable impact on your business.

Specific Scenario

The scenario is simple.  In Federal Government Contractors, they manage responses to RFPs through a process that is a set of Stages.  At a stage often known as Pursuit, the Contractor needs to make an Initial Decision to Bid or Not to Bid.  Then, the decision needs to be recorded, people informed, next steps initiated, etc.

In the meeting I asked the business user what they would have to do if they were using the CRM system.  They said it would work like this:

  1. The decision is made.
  2. A user then goes to the CRM system and locates the opportunity.
  3. They then need to manually update at least 5 fields (Bid Decision, Decision Reason, Decision Date, Who/How Decided, Stage When Decided, Next Step).
  4. If it is a No Bid decision then they need to update some more fields to close out the opportunity like End Stage, No Bid Date, Reason for No Bid.
  5. In general, they will then go to email to send an email to the Capture/BD team informing them of the decision.
  6. If a partner is engaged, then they will send them an email.
  7. If it is a big deal, they may also inform management via email.
  8. If it is a go-forward bid decision, they need to go to another system to create a task or send out an email for users to then begin the next steps to work on the bid.
  9. Somehow, they should record the activity – that they actually took the action and what they did, by making a comment.

On average, getting the above steps done (say 1 to 2 emails) takes about 5 minutes of work.  In addition, this assumes that they get it all done in the first pass.

I then asked the business user to show how they did it in CorasWorks.  It went like this:

  1. The decision is made.
  2. They then goes to the CorasWorks BD app and locate the opportunity.
  3. They run the CorasWorks action called Bid Decision, a simple form pops up with 2 fields (Bid Decision and Decision Reason) that they modify and then click Okay.

This action takes about 10 seconds.  CorasWorks does all of the work.  It updates fields of information.  In understands what emails need to go out to whom and does that.  It knows what related tasks need to be created.  It documents the activity.

Time Difference 1 Item

NOTE: In my comparison, I am assuming in both cases the time it takes to go into the system and locate the record is the same.  However, in CorasWorks you have all of the opportunities in this stage already at your fingertips.

  • Manual CRM Database/Email – 5 minutes.
  • CorasWorks – 10 seconds
  • Productivity Improvement – 30x.

Impact for this One Task During a Year

Well, you might say that this is just one little task – exactly!!!  This little task is done about 1,000 times a year for most of our customers.  Using the comparison for single items the numbers are:

  • Manual CRM Database – 5,000 minutes (83 hours)
  • CorasWorks – 166 minutes (2.8 hours)

Impact on Average of 50 Tasks

In a normal Capture and Proposal Management process for Business Development there are at least 50 “little” tasks like this.  Things like promoting from Stage to Stage, assigning writer tasks, scheduling reviews, recording release of RFPs, creating requests for contract administration, etc.  So, let’s multiply the above times 50 to see the impact for this one process.

  • Manual CRM Database – 250,000 minutes (4150 hours, 518 days of work)
  • CorasWorks – 8,300 minutes (140 hours, 17 days)

But I have 10 Processes like this?  That means…

Yes, it does.  Your people are constantly switching between apps or doing things manually.  This assumes they even know what they should be doing.  If you apply the math the impact of CorasWorks across 10 apps/processes like this one are:

  • Manual – 5,180 days of work (20 people)
  • CorasWorks – 170 days of work (.7 people)

The upshot is that there is a tremendous amount of manual “work” going on in your organization that is costing you a tremendous amount of time and money.

What about consistency and data quality?

The productivity benefits are really important.  But, the consistency and the resulting data quality are very important for your effectiveness.  Bad things happen when the data is bad.  In the CRM scenario, we are assuming that each user is trained really well and does all (100%) of the things required (a mess occurs if they forget to update that one field with the Bid Decision date).  They also need to follow the business rules on who to update with what information.  In general, this does not occur.

With CorasWorks, the system gets it right the first time and every time.

But it’s not apples to apples…

Ah, you caught me.  You might say that you could go into a CRM system such as Salesforce or MS CRM or Deltek GovWin CRM and program workflows and build custom forms and you might be able to accomplish something similar.  We use Salesforce.  To accomplish this one task, partially, would probably take 40 hours of development by an IT professional.  Assuming you the skills, time, budget, requirements, etc.

With CorasWorks, it would take about 30 minutes – all done with our magical configuration wizards.  And, the work could be done and modified by a business user.  They can also change it when they need to.

So, here is what happens.  In a CorasWorks world all 50 of those work automation tasks for this process are automated because it is so easy and cheap and fast to do.  And, the 9 other specific processes are also automated.  Whereas in the CRM world only a few special items are automated, if any at all.

So, the “developer” productivity of CorasWorks means that 1) you get automated whatever you need to and 2) it is really easy and fast to change so you stay current and innovate.

It is the reality

The above numbers reflect what is actually happening.  Most of us think that because we have some database system or custom app we are more productive.  The reality is that we often don’t have enough time and resources to take it to the right level.  These legacy systems aren’t really designed for Work Automation like CorasWorks.  I cannot underestimate the positive impact that CorasWorks has because of the ease of automating the work of the business user.

Usually, it is not a question that something is not technically feasible.  It is the cost, skill and time it takes to innovate.  If the bar is too high, as it is with most other legacy software, it just never happens.  Thus, most organizations numbers actually look like the ones above.

william

CorasWorks as the GoTo Application Platform for Your Private Cloud

There is a lot of chatter about the public cloud these days.  But, the data tells us that the majority of enterprises are actually investing heavily in “Private Clouds” (see article about Gartner Private Cloud report). They are starting with efficient virtualized infrastructures and moving up the stack to “infrastructure platforms as a service” (IPAAS).  The reality is that the new cloud technologies are enabling the enterprise to get the cost benefits they seek on their own without losing control.  So, the private cloud trend is accelerating and maturing.

This article talks about the next step in the Private Cloud stack for the enterprise.  Now that they are gaining this highly efficient infrastructure platform, what are they doing about the application tier of the enterprise stack.  For most, they are still following legacy approaches based upon custom development.  80% of the applications are based upon .Net or Java.  Largely these are the “mission critical” apps.  Yet, all enterprises have a huge set of applications that are now referred to as “business critical”.  These applications are less transactional and more about collaboration and work management processes.  These are the apps driving the programs, processes, projects, requests, tasks, analytics, collaborative work that drive the bigger decisions and work in enterprises.  This is where CorasWorks plays.

So, if you are an enterprise company, and want to leverage your private cloud to address your business critical application needs – what direction do you go?

Let’s look at the status quo scenario.  You invest in your Private Cloud.  This provides you with an efficient, scalable, and stable infrastructure.  You open it up to your horde of custom development professionals (internal IT and external vendors).  They start custom building all of your business critical applications, as well as, porting or building your mission critical applications.  Or, you start buying COTS applications from third party vendors and loading them all onto the shared infrastructure and learning to support them.  Basically, those organizations following this approach are using the same application delivery paradigm that the enterprise has followed for the last 20 years.

So, you gain infrastructure efficiency, but, your application delivery capacity is the same as it always has been.  What if you could gain similar efficiencies up the stack at the application tier?  Let’s look at a CorasWorks enhanced alternative…

CorasWorks provides an integrated work management application platform that runs on Microsoft SharePoint.  It enables you to buy and build a very broad range of business critical applications.  Yet, it enables you to change your approach to drive a new level of effectiveness at the application tier.

Okay, so let’s first talk about the application stack (the what) before we talk about the new value drivers that CorasWorks brings to the enterprise.

  • You start with your wonderful Private Cloud infrastructure as above.  You get the same efficiency gain – that is good.
  • On top of this you deploy SharePoint (say SharePoint 2010 or SharePoint 2013). This gives you the core information worker infrastructure and the base capabilities for content management. But, before you revert to custom development on this platform, let’s keep going.
  • Then, you drop in the CorasWorks v11 Application Platform.  This contains the enabling work management application software – all of the  actual complied code.
  • On top of this you start to deploy all of the business critical applications that you need.  You buy then from CorasWorks or partners or you build them using the CorasWorks platform.

How does this change things in the application tier?

  • The CorasWorks application platform is designed to enable “builders” (our word for the next gen developer using configuration vs. coding) to create applications or customize existing applications without new compiled code – just using the browser.  This means that your SharePoint environment and infrastructure remain unusually pure and stable.
  • Talented web developers can go to town doing very cool, jazzy, and business rich things, leveraging client-side CSS, Javascript, JQuery, XML, XSLT 2.0 etc. but with a structured server-side API and no new compiled code.
  • The business critical applications range from simple work management applications, to complex composite applications even integrating with external enterprise systems and public cloud applications, and, broad and deep inter-connected, distributed business systems.  So, you have a broad range of supported applications within this one, stable environment.
  • The environment is an enterprise, multi-tenant environment.  Many apps of different types across the environment based upon a common platform.  A couple times a year you upgrade CorasWorks and keep going.
  • It is an OpenApp system.  Any employee, vendor, or CorasWorks can come in and modify an application (if allowed) or create a new one or enhance and extend an existing one without a) waiting for a change by an application vendor (comparative to COTS apps) or b) being dependent on some custom development professional to modify the code and then get it deployed and supported.
  • Business users are empowered to make simple, but important and relevant, process/application changes with proper training vastly reducing ongoing requirements gathering, development, and support costs and accelerating the positive impact of business innovation and continuous improvement.
  • The applications and their design patterns are extensively re-usable. Many would think that an HR Staffing Request app, a Manufacturing Materials Storage app or a Legal Organizational Conflict of Interest app are very different applications.  In this new app platform world you find out that they are all based upon a common “request management” design pattern and easily repeatable reusing existing generic apps.  This has a vast reduction in costs, risks, and increase in stability and supportability.
  • All of the applications in this next generation work environment are natively integrated.  They are all based upon CorasWorks and running within the SharePoint based work environment.  CorasWorks has the unique capability to bridge common structural barriers of SharePoint to enable inter-connection of applications – natively.
  • Because the cost of change (new apps, integration, enhanced features, process changes) is so much smaller and easier, your enterprise business becomes more agile and more innovative.
  • Based upon the above, you can now standardize your application service delivery operations leveraging re-usable generic app catalogs, application design patterns, portable features, agile delivery processes, self-service and empowerment, and native integration (reducing enterprise duplication).

The Result

CorasWorks’ customers have been realizing the benefits of the above for more than 10 years at the application level.  The difference over the last few years is that the ramp to Private Clouds has provided a more efficient and scalable operating environment.  It has also started driving a common view of the stack – folks are looking to do at the application tier what they are doing at the infrastructure tier.  We are now seeing this full stack approach using CorasWorks being implemented in the largest enterprises (100,000+ users) down to small 15 person companies (that yes have a very scalable efficient Private Cloud infrastructure).

In the status quo scenario the enterprise is not getting the benefits at the application level of their private cloud.  Their progress gets stuck in the same old paradigm.  By adding CorasWorks and SharePoint to the stack they change the outcome.  The result is a reduction in the cost and risk of application delivery.  It drives a much, much greater degree of re-usability and re-purposability and therefore application delivery efficiency.  And, it enables organizations to be far more agile with their business critical applications, which is where the innovation and continuous learning and improvement really makes a difference.

Note that I am not saying that we will address all of your business critical application needs.  But, assume that we can address half or just a third of this vast and growing part of your application portfolio within the above model.  It makes it the GoTo platform – if the app fits then it is the way to go.  What value does that create for your enterprise?

william

Using software to improve your capture competitiveness in 2014

execs-at-the-starting-line

Next week the 2014 Federal Government Contractor race begins.  The competitive landscape will just get more intense.  Last week, Bob Lohfeld, CEO of Lohfeld Consulting Group, wrote the article 2014 realities force companies to change tactics in Washington Technology.  They surveyed 300 Federal Contractors to assess where they are today in their capture process and where they plan to invest in 2014 to improve their capture competitiveness.  The article tells you why change is needed by most and what most intend to change.  In this article I address the how – as in how you can actually get to where you need to be and beyond.  I explain how software, the new generation of Work Management systems represented by CorasWorks, can be a differentiator in this increasingly competitive marketplace.

First, a few key takeaways from the Lohfeld article:

  • Only 22% of the 300 companies surveyed felt that they had a competitive capture process that was a) defined, b) repeatable, and c) well-managed.
  • 49% of the survey respondents planned to invest to improve their capture process.
  • Another 24% believe they need to improve pricing methods and 22% need improvement in the quality of their proposals.

In summary, most Federal Contractors have a lot of room to improve the effectiveness of their capture process, capture analytics, and pricing approaches to be at a top competitive level.  It starts by defining your process, including the phases, activities, methods, and decision making approaches.  But, to be competitive in 2014 you have to ensure that you not only have a process but ensure it is standardized across your company, is repeatable, is flexible enough to tailor as things change, is measurable, and provides good management visibility to enable educated decision-making. Translating this defined approach into software systems that drive the process and support its management will accomplish this. The new generation of Work Management systems like CorasWorks makes this practical and raises the bar.  The mix of people, process, and technology as applied to the capture function of Federal Contractors is in a big state of transformation.

Let’s look at where most competitors are in terms of their systems to support their capture process…

The Situation

Based upon my many discussions with Federal Government Contractors, here is what I would define as the norm for mid-size to larger organizations:

  • They have a commercial CRM/Opportunity Management system.  The most common are Deltek GovWin CRM, Microsoft CRM, Salesforce and Oracle Siebel.  For small businesses, Zoho CRM is up-and-coming.
  • They have a “modern” document management (DM) system.  They are off file shares.  The most common are SharePoint, Documentum, eRoom, and Alfresco. I estimate that half are using SharePoint as their primary DM system.
  • The majority use their DM system to manage Proposal Development, basically to store documents.  Each proposal is usually siloed.  A smaller portion also have a commercial, proprietary Proposal Automation system such as Privia or VPC.
  • Reporting is all over the map, pulling from different systems.

Limitations of the Status Quo

The current status quo noted above is limiting and constraining.  Here are the realities of this situation:

  • Siloed, mostly proprietary systems – the core systems noted above are greatly siloed.  The systems aren’t usually connected.  Even within systems, like the DM systems, the information is in silos. In addition, within the same organizations they often have different systems or instances of the system for the same purpose. The glue for capture activity is ad hoc email, excel, and navigation links. It is everything except a unified, manageable system to support a defined capture process.
  • The process is not embedded in the software – if they have a defined process it is usually on the whiteboard, in a 100+ page manual, and, in people’s heads.  At best, they might have broken the activities of the process into sections stored as documents or web page narratives. The capture process, the activities, the work to be done is not “instantiated” in a software system that structures the process, captures the activity, drives the results, and measures progress.
  • No Phase-Gate based process system – the religion of capture is by definition a Phase-Gate based process. The best processes have systems to track the activities and automate the work. Yet, most organizations don’t have a process-based system to use for capture. Instead, they tend to leverage CRM databases or document management to do parts of the work. Then, to address process needs they do a great deal of manual work.  They simply lack a process-based system.
  • Lack of Work Automation – the day-to-day work is still incredibly manual vs. automated which results in lost productivity and inconsistencies in results.
  • Little Real time Visibility – given the above, the real-time visibility of executives, managers, and contributors into capture is limited. In most cases organizations invest a great amount of effort to manually put information together for gate reviews, executive reviews, and briefings, often repeatedly “repackaging” the same data (hosted in myriad documents) into templates or formats du jour—an unbelievable waste of time.
  • Advanced Management Tools are missing – capture process analytics, portfolio optimization, real-time reporting, capture M&S/B&P burn-down, resource allocation management – largely doesn’t exist. The core data for capture activity isn’t captured in a way to drive these management capabilities.

If the above sounds a bit like where you are, that is okay because 60-70% of your competitors are also in that place. The question is how to do better.

How to Get Ahead of the Pack

The design of software systems has greatly changed over the last 5 years to accommodate collaborative processes such as capture. We provide software, particularly Work Management software that, when combined with good capture process definition, will get you ahead of the pack. Our approach is simply different than the databases, document management systems and proprietary applications of the past.  Here are the core elements…

  • Purpose Built, Off-the-Shelf Solution – We put the capture process front and center. We have a purpose-built, off-the-shelf base solution called CorasWorks Capture and Proposal Management. It is built specially to address the full life-cycle of capture. This provides an out-of-the-box integrated system. It brings all of the core parts of the capture process together.  But it is— by design—just the start.
  • Phase-Gate Based Process System – Our solution is designed from the ground-up to support the full capture life-cycle. This means that at its core it is designed to support a collaborative Phase-Gate based process and to automate and track the capture activity. Our design gives you the foundation for your process.
  • Unique Flexibility - Our solution is built using the CorasWorks Work Management platform which runs on Microsoft SharePoint. This platform approach makes the solution open (vs. proprietary) and uniquely flexible. Thus, organizations are able to easily embed their defined process, their language, their data to capture, and their activities into the system. In fact, it is so open, flexible, and non-proprietary that our customers are able to customize it and enhance it on their own, and even, create new features and completely separate applications that support the capture process. As a result, organizations are able to create a capture system that is a competitive differentiator.
  • On and Within SharePoint – As above, our solution and our platform runs on SharePoint which we use for data, security and administration. If you already own SharePoint, then we leverage your existing investment and skills and lower your costs. In addition, it means that it is a native part of your existing work environment on SharePoint and can natively connect to and interact with other existing information and applications.
  • Work Automation Drives Consistency and Analytics – With the above, a great deal of the work becomes automated. By automating the user actions and activities based upon your defined process, the work is done more efficiently, in a consistent way, and you are then empowered to have real-time visibility, reporting, and analytics.
  • The Glue for Capture – Our Work Management platform contains a comprehensive integration framework to integrate with external systems such as your CRM, HR, ERP, Contracts and Program and Project Management systems. This puts your CorasWorks based Capture system in the middle of the activity serving as the glue to bring it all together. For instance, many Federal Contractors leverage Deltek products.  A common integration for capture processes is with Deltek GovWin IQ and GovWin Capture Management (their CRM, read a case study of this in Leveraging CorasWorks to integrate Deltek GovWin CRM with SharePoint-based Capture and Proposal system).

Quick ROI and Continuous Improvement

There are two practical benefits to adopting a CorasWorks-powered approach for capture: Quick ROI and Continuous Improvement.

The pricing and cost of our software and solutions is incremental so you have a low cost to start. You can also get up and running very quickly, usually faster than proprietary systems and way faster than custom development.  And, the flexibility of our software allows you to decide where and when you want to address needs.  The result is a Quick ROI from the start.

In addition, in the past, when you had to buy proprietary software or invest to custom develop it, you were locked in. Improvement was too hard and costly. Where CorasWorks really excels is empowering you to continuously improve your process (now instantiated via software) and the results you get. The unique flexibility of CorasWorks means that you can have it your way to start, learn, then easily and cost-effectively change the software to get better.

People, process, technology – have the right mix and you’ll be on top.

william

A Top 10 Pharmaceutical Leverages CorasWorks for Program Management of $200M Global Product Serialization Initiative

drugs

The pharmaceutical industry is going through a significant change in manufacturing and supply chain management driven by emerging global government mandates for them to “serialize” their products.  Each unit of product must have a unique ID that can be tracked through the full supply chain to the end user customer. This is to insure quality, to enable tracing, and also, to suppress the use of counterfeit drugs (estimated at 10% of the worlds’ drugs).  The mandates have been coming out across the globe over the last few years.  The US is on the verge of putting their “mandate” in place this year.  (Click here to learn more about pharmaceutical product serialization.)

In this article I will look at how our customer, one of the top 10 pharmaceuticals, used CorasWorks to create a Program Management solution that is used to manage their $200M global product serialization manufacturing change program.  I will also address how the process worked as this story is a great example of how customers are able to achieve breakthrough results without the risks, costs, and time delays that are common for most enterprise application projects.

The Challenge

This customer is a very large manufacturer of pharmaceuticals – one of the worlds largest.  These mandates from around the world are requiring them to update all of their manufacturing lines to support the unique ID serialization requirements for each unit that is produced.  Different mandates from different countries/regions also have different requirements.  This process will cost our customer 200 million dollars over the next five years.  They will need to upgrade more than 100 different manufacturing lines in 400 different projects around the world in more than 20 countries.

The objective of our customer was to be able to centrally manage the program across the globe.  They had a strategic team in place to drive this initiative globally.   They had very precise requirements such as:

  • They needed top down management visibility and the ability to then drill down in details.
  • They wanted to be able to see all of the projects by a) defined KPI’s for the b) defined stages of work.
  • Their process requires that each local manager provide updates on each project each month.
  •  Most projects actually had two workstreams, so two different updates, for a total of 400 managers providing updating.
  • They wanted the ability for comments for each update.
  • These updates drive the KPI’s from the bottom, up the stack.
  • There were very complex KPI roll-up calculations so that KPIs would cascade upward from the base project to the top of the Mandate, Geography, Country, Product, etc.
  • The customer then wanted to be able to see where everything stood by different pivots such as by Mandate, by Country, by Product, by Workstream, by Line within in a real time, interactive interface.

The customer had detailed, application specific requirements for the Program Management system. Yet, time was short.  Some projects were already under way, so they wanted the system relatively quickly targeting about 4 months. They had evaluated options of custom development however the cost, risk of delivery, and length of time to delivery deterred them from this option.  They also looked at leveraging other owned Project Portfolio Management systems, however, they needed very precise features and in effect this made the use of these systems as risky as custom development.

So, the challenge was how to:

  • get a Program Management system that met their very precise requirements
  • in a relatively short time frame
  • at the lowest cost possible and without “breaking the bank”
  • with an acceptable level of risk of delivery
  • that would support changes as the program evolved and lessons were learned
  • and that was acceptable to IT today and supportable over the 5 years of the program.

The Solution

This customer uses SharePoint 2010.  In fact, they are in the Top 100 of SharePoint deployments supporting more than 80,000 users across four global regions.  They have adopted an Enterprise Shared Services Environment (ESSE) model in which they have a common infrastructure that is shared across all global geographies, all business groups, and, all employees.  They have three different farms (server environments) for different categories of work.

  • The Enterprise Shared Services Environment for those applications that do not require any custom compiled code.
  • A Custom Environment that allows custom code but is much more expensive to manage.
  • A Regulated Environment that is certified for regulated processes and information such as Clinical Trials.

They have been a CorasWorks customer since 2004.  The CorasWorks  v11 Work Management Platform is part of the infrastructure on the Enterprise Shared Services Environment available to all 80,000+ users.  The complex requirements of this Program Management application were more sophisticated than just about any other application running on ESSE.  However, they believed that it might be possible to build and deploy it on ESSE.  This would mean that it would have to be created without requiring custom coding, just leveraging the CorasWorks Work Management Advanced Configuration Tools.  If it worked, it would also mean that they could meet all of the challenge criteria noted above.

Working with the customers’ Service Delivery Team for the manufacturing group (that delivers applications to that group on ESSE) we did a quick pilot to simulate the applications’ operating requirements in the ESSE environment.  This was successful and the business customer decided to go with CorasWorks software and CorasWorks Professional Services to build the application on the ESSE environment.

This was a joint application development project.  The Service Delivery Team had built other applications using CorasWorks within ESSE so they were familiar with the core capabilities of CorasWorks.  They were able to work closely with CorasWorks on the design, the requirements, the testing, and changes.  They also handled the interactions with the business group.  The teams approach was an Agile methodology with the objective of having an early working solution in place, that would be built through sprints with user input.  In sum, it was a highly collaborative project between CorasWorks, the customers’ Service Delivery Team, and the business user group.

The Result

The base application was deployed for initial testing within 60 days.  The ability to quickly get the base application with a full information data set up and running was important for real time user input and changes.  It went through a series of sprints for additional phases and changes.  In addition, the application was re-factored three times in order to accommodate the changes and stay within the specified end user performance limits.

In sum, within 5 months the system went from development to enterprise production within the ESSE environment. Comparing the results to the challenge criteria stated above, the system was delivered:

  • meeting the specified technical requirements and the ones that came up through ongoing changes
  • almost within the time frame (it actually took an extra month to finish the project due to elapsed time delays with changes, user testing, and data loading) – but the project was still 2x faster than alternatives had been estimated
  • within the specified budget – that was about half of the initial estimate for competitive alternatives
  • the risk was mitigated by the known factor of CorasWorks capabilities on the ESSE environment
  • the resulting system is fully supportable by the customers’ Service Delivery Team since it is built on the open standard CorasWorks platform
  • and IT was already supporting ESSE and CorasWorks and will continue to support it as part of their global ESSE environment

My Wrap Up

This customer now has the capability to manage the global product serialization program.  They are in a great position to work towards success.  The program, an important one for them (remember counterfeiting is 10% of drugs), is also very important to the health and safety of all of us.  By investing to put the proper, well specified, program management system in place to support their defined process they have decreased their risks and increased their probability of success because they are providing a lot more visibility which drives greater accountability for results.

The General Challenge.  Most business-driven Program Management solutions are very custom.  It is the nature of the beast.  It is also a key to competitive differentiation.  Your programs/initiatives tend to be your big value creating or risk reducing activities.  But, it is very difficult and almost counter-productive for a vendor to try and build a general product for this purpose.  There are some COTS Program Management systems, but, if you try to use them for a significant program like this one you’d have to basically rip them apart to deliver on a typical set of requirements.  The unique flexibility of the CorasWorks Work Management platform makes it a very effective way to deliver on these custom Program Management applications.  As shown in this example, effectively they used a COTS product (CorasWorks) on an existing enterprise shared services (ESSE) platform to create a very custom Program Management solution without requiring any new custom compiled code.

william

Managing CDRL deliverables for Post-Award IDIQ Contracts and Task Orders

Best9

I just posted an article about the use of CorasWorks to enhance a large Contract/Program Management system to support the CDRL deliverable process.  This was a custom enhancement to their post-award Program Management system.  It is a broad and big system.  However, many of our customers using the CorasWorks IDIQ Task Order Management solution also require this capability within a more specific scope.

The capability to programmatically interact with Customers for CDRLs and other purposes could be part of a corporate system.  However, usually this concern rests with Program Managers that are managing a specific IDIQ program.  They are fully responsible for the whole life cycle of the IDIQ and Task Orders from winning the task order through delivery and task order completion.  So, they often want this capability for just their IDIQ.

As part of the Task Order post-award work, the Program Manager or designee often has to provide CDRL deliverables or other information for a customer of the Task Order.  In addition, the Program Manager needs to provide CDRLs or other information to the Contracting Officer for the IDIQ.

This CDRL deliverable capability is just an extension to the basic IDIQ Task Order Management system.  It is usually implemented in a similar way to which we implement the Partner Portal and Partner Work Consoles.   The main work process is very similar to that described in the article above.

A good way to think of how you are working is the metaphor of an airplane.  Your CorasWorks IDIQ Vehicle Management site is the middle of the airplane (the fuselage).  On one side you have your Teaming Partners (a wing).  On the other side, you are now adding a wing for your Customers to interact with you.  Working in this way you are able to manage the work in one place and interact with your Teaming Partners and Customers.  They have there place to go to See, Contribute, and Act with information that you determine.  You have the ability to control the flow from one place.

It is a better way to fly…

william

$1B+ Top 25 Government Contractor Enhances Contract/Program Management for Customer and Supplier Interaction

Hub-Spoke PM

This customer is a top 25 Federal Government Contractor with more than $1B in annual revenue.  They are an existing CorasWorks customer using CorasWorks in their Extranet and Intranet work environments running on Microsoft SharePoint 2010.  This is a story of how they have enhanced their Program Management environment (Contract, Programs, IDIQs, Task Orders, etc) to support managed, interactivity between their Employees and their Customers and Suppliers.  The key interactive process they are focused on is Customer Reporting, primarily CDRL deliverables.  The article will describe the design of their solution, what we call the Hub and Spoke design, which enables this managed, configurable type of “role-based” interactivity. 

Situation

They have defined and are building out a broad Integrated Program Management System (IPMS) with multiple sub-systems.  They are doing this leveraging their SharePoint environment.  They are using CorasWorks for specific sub-systems of this environment such as IDIQ Task Order Management.  They are also using CorasWorks to enhance certain custom built sub-systems such as the subject of this article.

They had a version 1 of a Program Management sub-system that is targeted to encompass more than 1,000 contracts/programs when fully rolled out.  Their objective is to be able to manage the work for each contract/program that they have as part of a unified system.  Like most SharePoint systems, with v1, they had a basic framework with a Program site at its core.  This is where the Program Manager and internal team could collaborate.  But, the v1 lacked the key capability to interact with Customers and Suppliers, particularly around CDRL deliverables. With customers, they wanted to structure the Customer Reporting (primarily CDRLs) workstream.  They also wanted customers to be able to make requests.  With Suppliers, they wanted them to provide their reports to them in a structured way which then became part of the reporting to customers.  They also wanted to be able to interact with the Suppliers.

Their key design objective was for the internal employees to be able to see and manage all of the activity, but, the Customers and the Suppliers would only be able to see, contribute, and act with information/tasks that were specifically available to them.  In addition, they needed flexible.  Effectively every contract/program is somewhat different.  So, the system had to accommodate the need to make changes at the Program level to meet the specific needs of the customer.

Solution

They leveraged CorasWorks to get to their new version 2.  For this version, they shifted the system to their Extranet environment.  This reflects the key recognition that program interactivity between Employees, Customers, and Suppliers simply has to live outside of the Intranet.   

As above, the core new process was the management of the CDRL deliverables for each Contract/Program.  The general design is as follows:

  • Each contract/program has a site – lets call it the Program hub.  This is where the internal employees work.
  • When a Program Hub is created they can auto-provision a separate Customer site and one or more Supplier sites as required.  We refer to these as Consoles.  They are effectively Spokes of the Hub. 
  • The Program Manager manages their work and interactivity with Customers and Suppliers through the Program Hub.
  • With CDRLs, they define each CDRL in the Program Hub.  Effectively, it is a task with a due date that can be tracked and managed.
  • When it is time, they prepare the reports, which might include interactivity with Suppliers.
  • The CDRL deliverable is then “published” for access by the Customer.  They are automatically notified and can go to their Customer console to view the information and interact. 

In addition to the enhancement around Customer Reporting, they enhanced a number of other features. Two key enhancement were:

  • Integration with their external ERP system to provide real-time updates to the Program Manager.
  • Task (Action Item) management for the Program members with work automation.

Results

So far, they have brought up more than 100 Contracts/Programs into the new system.  For each contract/program the CDRL process is managed as above.  Some Programs don’t have Suppliers, while others do.  The full cycle is now tracked (to insure completion of the deliverable) and documented (for auditing).

The flexibility that they wanted is achieved just by their use of CorasWorks.  This enables the Program Managers to modify the CDRLs that are delivered and to turn on and off features as required by the contract.

 

Wrap Up and Summary

This solution is a good example of how to leverage CorasWorks to enhance a system that you already have on SharePoint.  I’ll drill down into two important capabilities that make a big difference in the success of this solution.

Cross-Connect – CorasWorks has the native capability to enable you to See, Contribute, and Act across SharePoint Sites and SharePoint Site Collections.  This “cross-connect” capability enables the Hub and Spoke, interactive design that was used for this solution.  Effectively, you are creating role-based “work consoles” that only enable uses to see, contribute, and act as you determine.  This means that you DO NOT have to give these external parties direct access into a SharePoint site.

Feature Flexibility – A key benefit of their use of CorasWorks is the feature flexibility on a program by program basis.  If you have a fixed, custom built, proprietary system, then, it would either a) be very difficult to change to accommodate each customer/program (unlimited permutations) or b) be very costly to set up and maintain separate systems for each program and customer to accommodate their specific needs.  Using CorasWorks, the customer has the flexibility to add new interactive features on a program by program basis.  These features become part of the framework and may be simply turned on and off (by business users such as the Program Manager) to meet the needs of the Customer and/or Supplier.  Features enabled for one program do not affect other programs.

william

Leveraging CorasWorks to integrate Deltek GovWin CRM with SharePoint-based Capture and Proposal system

  A common scenario is to use CorasWorks to integrate work management on SharePoint with external CRM (customer relationship management) systems.  In this article I’ll review how one customer did this to integrate their Capture and Proposal Management system with Deltek GovWin CRM (a popular CRM for Federal Government Contractors).  I’ll also give an example of how you can go beyond just integration and use work automation to get more work done, more easily and more consistently.

The Situation

Our customer is a $200M Federal Contractor.  They use CorasWorks for their Intranet and many of their work management applications.  They are using Deltek GovWin CRM as their CRM.  They had created a Capture and Proposal Management system using the Lohfeld Consulting Group’s Capture Command Center solution and methodology on SharePoint 2010. So, you had CorasWorks in the middle, the Lohfeld solution running in a siloed area of SharePoint, and, the CRM system running in its silo elsewhere within the enterprise.

They wanted to eliminate the silos and make work more efficient and consistent.  They wanted one seamless work environment.

The Solution

They started by upgrading the Lohfeld solution using CorasWorks to enhance the UI and automate the work.  Viola, one seamless work environment using CorasWorks on SharePoint.  Then, they turned to the integration of the Capture and Proposal Management solution and their CRM system.

The schematic below shows how the resulting system lays out.

image

In addition to the end user work management features, the CorasWorks platform comes with robust integration middleware.  This part of the platform allows you to integrate CorasWorks-based work management solutions with just about any external system – database, web service, cloud service or app.  CorasWorks supports two-way integration.  It is also all done via configuration, without requiring custom compiled code.

In this situation, they decided to use the CorasWorks capability in a one way scenario.  Within the enhanced Lohfeld Capture Command Center they created a virtual directory of opportunities.  When users come in they see all of the opportunities organized by their capture stages.  If they are in a specific business group then they see only the opportunities for that business group.  The virtual directory information is coming from the CRM system yet surfaced within the SharePoint environment and in the context of the user.  The user can then drill down into the working proposal site or into the CRM record.

The Result

This simple solution goes a long way to eliminating the silos and seams of the system.  The benefits are as follows:

  • The users have a structured way to see the opportunities and drill down into where they need to do the work.
  • The CRM remains the “source of truth” about the opportunity data.
  • They eliminate the seams and any need for duplicate work.
  • The virtual opportunity directory is dynamically updated in real time.
  • It is context sensitive so that users will see what they should see based upon their business group.

Getting Better: Let CorasWorks Do More of the Work

Now, this is a great beginning.  But, they can do better by allowing CorasWorks to do more work for the users.  This customer uses CorasWorks Actions to automate work within Capture and Proposal.  They could extend this use to also have CorasWorks automatically update the CRM system for key changes – two way integration.

Let’s imagine that an opportunity is in the Pre-Proposal stage.  The RFP is now released and you need to do some things and move it into the Proposal Development stage.  The user would run a CorasWorks Action and it would do the following:

  • capture a few fields of information about the RFP in a single task specific form
  • update information in SharePoint
  • move the opportunity from Pre-Proposal to Proposal Development
  • update the corresponding fields in Deltek GovWin CRM
  • log the action for tracking and reporting in the work management system
  • send emails out to the Proposal Team, Capture Owner, BD Owner, and business unit manager
  • spawn a couple of pre-defined tasks to kick off the Proposal Development effort such as scheduling a Gate Review, Color Review, Kick Off Meeting, or, task to develop a Compliance Checklist

All of these activities are done by CorasWorks with just one action by the user.  Clearly it would increase the user’s productivity by eliminating work.  It also means that the user doesn’t have to leave SharePoint to go over to the CRM and do data entry.  Accordingly, it insures that all of these pre-defined important items get done – fully and correctly.  Once instructed, CorasWorks doesn’t forget what needs to be done or get distracted.  It just gets it done.

The organization gets the same seamless result as they did before, and, they also get the productivity benefits and consistency of CorasWorks work automation. 

william