Request Management Solution (Beta) – One solution, many applications, much easier

About a year ago I wrote an article about “work request management” that drills into 4 scenarios and compares and contrasts them – Customer Examples of Work Request Management apps for SharePoint.  Lots of type of requests should be managed.  Examples are: Trouble tickets (IT), Requests for proposal (BD), Capital Purchase Requests (Finance), HR Staffing (HR), Contract Reviews (Legal), Material Storage (Manufacturing), Demo Requests (Sales) and Marketing Campaign Requests (Marketing) …

These types of Requests are important to respond to.  They generate work or use capital or other resources and should be managed.  Requests and the associated work need visibility, tracking, reporting, a structured and automated way of getting them approved and tracking the work.  They are a core way that work gets initiated and done across your workplace.  The problem is that often, the types of requests that should be managed end up instead being driven through ad hoc activity, mainly email.  This adds costs and risks to the organization.  Multiple the cost/risk of one scenario times the number of scenarios and it is a big cost with a lot of risk.

CorasWorks is very well suited for request management applications.  Over the last year, we’ve seen more and more CorasWorks-based applications created to address all sorts of types of request management needs.  The ROI on these apps is very good – however…

The practical challenge for organizations is that there are so many different scenarios. They are architecturally quite similar but differ in the details.  And, the details matter to the end customer.  While the end result is quite good using CorasWorks, it takes a bit of time and some knowledge to configure CorasWorks for each specific application and to modify it when things change.  Compared to other options, we have a good general solution.  But, we thought that with a bit of focus we could make it even easier, more approachable, more scalable, and, more cost-effective for you to meet the business needs.

So, we decided to create a “vanilla” Request Management solution.  This solution, now in Beta, leverages the new v11.3 feature set to make it much easier to crank out purpose-specific request management apps.  It is the “vanilla” version.  You use the solution and the new onboard features to create your flavor of it to meet the specific business needs. Thus, the value proposition is not that you get just one application, but, you get a one solution that allows you address a whole lot of applications.

The Demo – 6 minutes

Below is a video that shows the new Request Management solution.  It walks you through the “vanilla” solution and then shows you some of the new features to make configuration a snap such as the Application Designer, Process Designer, Business Rule Sets, and Stage-based Request Details (shown below).

Request Management Video image

 

The Solution Beta

The solution is now in Beta.  We are working with customers that want to try it out and have specific application scenarios in mind that they want to address.  If you are interested, send an email to info@corasworks.net or contact your account representative.

wiilliam

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

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

TaskBoarding Demo

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

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

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

 

From TaskBoards to Workboarding on SharePoint

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

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

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

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

william

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

william

Need help writing Management Section of IDIQ RFP response?

Are you writing a response to a IDIQ RFP that is a multi-award or single-award contract?  Most RFPs are incorporating the need for you to describe how you are going to manage the process and the work.  We help our IDIQ Task Order Management customers in writing the management section.  We also help our customers-in-waiting (some call them prospects).

To get help in writing up the Management Section, just send a request to info@corasworks.net.  It will get routed to our Federal Contractor team.  Typically, we’ll review the RFP language, provide you with boilerplate, and, work with you to get the right response in place including screenshots and system diagrams.

In addition to just writing it up, we are recently getting involved in demonstrations and even setting up live, evaluation environments for Federal Agency reviewers.  The Agencies are getting better at determining which vendors really have what they say they will use to manage the work.  For example, we recently had to actually bring up a live, evaluation environment of the contract work management system on the day that the proposal was submitted  (see the article Shared Contract Work Order Management System for Federal Agency and Contractor).

So, if you need an extra hand to win the business, ping us, we are here to help.

William

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See additional articles for IDIQ Task Order Management in this blog.

Visit CorasWorks IDIQ Task Order Management for product information.

Shared Contract Work Order Management System for Federal Agency and Contractor

How can we make the work on contracts more efficient and effective?  One powerful way is to enable people from the Federal Agency and the winning vendor Contractor team to work together in a shared environment to manage the work.  In this article, I’ll review a work management system that we just delivered that does just this.

The story is about how we were able to take our off-the-shelf IDIQ Task Order Management solution and rapidly apply it to meets the custom requirements of an RFP from a Federal Agency for a shared Contract Work Order Management System.  The story is partially about our solution, but, it is also about how a Federal Contractor can leverage CorasWorks (software and people) to outdo the competition, win business, and, stay close to their customer.

Situation

A civilian Federal Agency released an RFP as a small business set aside valued at about $100M over its term.  It is an outsourcing contract for IT-related Services.  The format of the contract is a single-award IDIQ with general Task Orders and specific Work Orders supporting about 30 core work areas.  The Work Orders are the primary method for getting the work done.

The new wrinkle is that the agency required, as part of the proposal, that the vendor provide a shared, collaborative, online work management system enabling the participants from the Agency to work with the participants from the Prime contractor and their team.  The system had to support the release of specific Work Orders that would come in as Agency requests, get released for estimates, get estimates, and drive the approval process.  In addition, the system had to support visibility into the work in progress including planning, tracking the work, ongoing collaboration, issue flagging, and reporting.

The big practical challenge for the Prime contractor and team was that the Agency required the vendor to have the system up and running on the date of submittal of the proposal.  It would be a live system, accessible by the Agencies review team during the proposal review phase and would then be migrated post-award.  This was a major compliance challenge that could have doubled or tripled the cost of submitting the proposal.  And, whatever system they proposed, they were going to have to live with for the duration of the contract.

Approach

A member of the Prime bidder’s team was a Top 10 Federal Contractor that is a CorasWorks customer and was familiar with our IDIQ Task Order Management solution that runs on Microsoft SharePoint.  This solution is designed for use within Federal Contractors, primarily in a multi-award situation, to manage the process of responding to task orders.  Upon review, it was decided that this solution would be the base for the required Work Order Management System.  The primary reasons were:

  • the core off-the-shelf feature set is very close to the needs of this contract work order management system
  • the configurability of CorasWorks would enable the team to deliver the required demonstration environment at a very reasonable cost and on time
  • CorasWorks is an open application environment, ie., not a proprietary code base, and thus, it be custom-configured, enhanced, and extended, by the Contractor team, to meet ongoing needs.

Solution

The solution was implemented by CorasWorks with our bidding team of the Prime Contractor and subcontractors.  We started with our off-the-shelf IDIQ Task Order Management solution running in a CorasWorks provided online environment.  We then applied it to the Agencies requirements.  This work took a couple of weeks of configuration and testing. Some key requirements for the system were:

  • The system was designed to support Federal Agency participants and Contractor participates within a common, online collaborative work environment requiring appropriate control of permissions and work action authority.
  • The system was setup up to support two workstreams (distinct stage-based processes).  One for Work Orders that cover the core contract work areas (the bulk of the work).  The other for new Task Orders that would be released to expand the scope of the contract.  Each workstream was a bit different.
  • Each workstream had to support 2 work Phases.  One was the Approval Process with the key stages of Request, Review, Estimating, and Approval.  The other was for approved work orders, Work In Progress, covering Working Planning, Work in Progress, and Closeout.
  • The system needed robust reporting to show process metrics and exception reporting across the life cycle of work.
  • Each work order or task order has its own Workspace that contains the detailed information for the item across its life-cycle and supports the collaborative activity required to drive the item forward.

Result

The system was delivered within cost and exactly on time which was objective one for compliance and is now in ongoing support mode.  The system met the compliance requirements of the Agency and included an interactive checklist to make it easy for the Agency to validate compliance.  While this system is not the core reason why the Agency will award the contract to a vendor team, it was perceived as a major reason why a team would be knocked out of the competition.

In addition, after working with the system, the Prime Contractor is now in process to procure CorasWorks for internal use and to leverage this Contract Work Order Management system to create a standard way of working on each of its major single-award contracts and for use for its IDIQ task order management.

My Comments

It is not uncommon for CorasWorks to be used to bring up collaborative work environments that bring together participants from Federal Agencies, Prime Contractors, and, contract teaming partners.  In fact, this particular agency has had experience working in similar CorasWorks-based environments for two other major contracts/programs with another Top 10 Federal Contractor (see Large Federal Contractor Drives Customer Intimacy and Value with Dedicated Program Workplaces on SharePoint).

However, this particular application of our IDIQ Task Order Management system was new.  Instead of focusing on winning the work, as in the typical multi-award IDIQ scenarios, it is all about getting the work done with visible participation of all members (Agency and Contractor).  Our existing solution provided 90% of the base system allowing the team to get where it needed to be very quickly.

I can see the use of CorasWorks for Contract Work Order Management in three scenarios.

  • One where a Federal Contractor uses it just within their organization and working with teaming partners to manage work requests on their single-award contracts.
  • Another is for a Federal Agency to manage their request processes within the Agency and the interaction with their vendors.
  • The third is an integrated, shared work environment as in this scenario.

I believe that this last scenario, the integrated work environment, is the top of the food chain in terms of driving efficiency and effectiveness of the work delivered on Federal Government contracts.  We’ve seen it before and it is proven.  However, you need an enlightened agency and a contractor that can handle the transparency to make it work.  Like any collaborative process, it takes the team some time to learn how to work together and how they work will continually evolve as they learn.

William

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See additional articles for IDIQ Task Order Management in this blog.

Visit CorasWorks IDIQ Task Order Management for product information.

Add Top-Down Capture & Proposal life-cycle management to enhance your SharePoint Proposal Environment

A great number of Federal Government Contractors use SharePoint for proposal development. Primarily, they use it to manage proposal content in individual SharePoint sites.  This works pretty well.  What is typically missing is the ability to programmatically manage the life cycle of opportunities from capture through proposal submission with a top down view.  The need for top down and full life cycle process has been trumpeted for years by consulting organizations such as Lohfeld Consulting and Shipley Associates.  In this article I’ll describe the situation and propose how you can drive value by just dropping in the CorasWorks Capture & Proposal Management Center – and keep your existing proposal sites as they are.

The Typical Situation

Very simple, SharePoint is widely adopted for proposal development.  Organizations create a site for each proposal.  These sites have proposal content in libraries.  They help users share content about proposals and manage versions.  However, the sites are siloed.  There is usually no provision for top down visibility and the ability to manage the life cycle of opportunities from capture through proposal submission. There is little support for managing and tracking key decisions and actions along the way.  Reporting out on activity, progress or comparative data is usually a manual process and one that is nearly impossible because the actions and decisions were not programmatically tracked.

Below is a schematic that depicts this typical situation.

image

The “Management Center” Solution

The solution is to add a top-down, process-oriented, management capability to your existing environment that auto-magically connects to your existing SharePoint proposal sites.   You can now easily accomplish this by dropping in the CorasWorks Capture & Proposal Management Center.  This is a single module from our Capture & Proposal Management System and possibly all that you need.  You just drop this module into your SharePoint environment.  It adds the management layer above your proposal working sites.  It gets wired up to your existing SharePoint sites and templates.  Here is what you now have:

  • A Management Center that provides top down visibility to all opportunities throughout the C&P process.
  • The ability to programmatically push opps through Stages and Gates and track the activity.
  • The ability to automate the key process steps (like Bid No bid decisions, Gate Reviews, Team Updates, Proposal Health Status, Updates for RFP release, PWIN calculations, Color Reviews) and drive notifications and approval workflow.
  • The ability to auto-magically provision new proposal sites and link them into the system – using your own standard proposal templates.
  • The ability to have a master calendar of key events like color reviews, gate reviews, due dates across all opps/proposals and the life cycle.
  • The ability to drive supporting activities for each opp and track them (like Organizations Conflict of Interest, Staffing Requests, Subcontractor SOWs, and ad hoc organizational tasks)
  • The ability to see opportunities by Stage, Customer, Practice/Capability, Events, Reviews and easily drill down into proposal working sites.
  • The ability to raise issues and get visibility (like the need for a resource or decision)
  • The ability to report on the C&P opportunities across the process life cycle and slice and dice the information just how you want it via tabular reports and pivot charts – and of course export to Excel, PDF, and Word.
  • The ability to quickly and easily change your process or top down way of working without affecting the ongoing proposal development efforts.

Easy to Get Better

The situation described above is common.  The CorasWorks Management Center module is new. It is now very easy and cost effective to add this to your environment and put these value capabilities at your fingertips – without disrupting ongoing work.

william

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See additional articles for Capture and Proposal Management in this blog.

Visit CorasWorks Capture and Proposal Management for product information.

Small Business IDIQ Prime–You Won! Now What?

So, you are one of the small businesses that just won a Prime contractor position on a major IDIQ contract.  Congratulations!  It was a lot of work, worry and risk. You are now in the drivers seat with the potential for a great deal of business.  So, how do you go about translating the opportunity into revenue and profits?  And, how do you now play the game as a Prime and compete along with other leading companies in the space?  An important part will be your ability to operationalize the process of managing and responding  to Task Orders.  This article explains how CorasWorks can help you succeed.

Our IDIQ Task Order Management Solution

Recently, we introduced version 2.1 of our commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) IDIQ Task Order Management solution for Federal Government Contractors (see the launch press release CorasWorks Announces New Version of IDIQ Task Order Management Solution on SharePoint ).  Over the last year this solution has become a market leader amongst the Top 100 Federal Contractors.  It is a comprehensive solution that operationalizes the full life cycle of managing Task Orders including the important activity of engaging Teaming Partners.

With version 2.1 of this solution we have made it more flexible and able to be configured to meet the different needs of Small Business Prime contractors such as yourself.  In addition, we introduced a new pricing model that enables smaller businesses to start on an annual, per user term basis.  This makes it far more affordable for smaller organizations.

Now, with this solution, as a Small Business IDIQ Prime you can now get going quickly with an industry leading way of working that is appropriate for your business and affordable.  To learn more about the solution and features see my overview article Overview of CorasWorks IDIQ Task Order Management v2.1.  For more detailed product information, including case studies and webcasts with demos, visit CorasWorks IDIQ Task Order Management on our website.

And Beyond…

The CorasWorks IDIQ solution is a great place to start.  The solution runs on Microsoft SharePoint.  So, once it is in place you will have a SharePoint environment, the CorasWorks Work Management platform, and, your IDIQ solution.  You can then leverage this work environment to add additional value.

Let’s say you are using the IDIQ solution for your major Prime contract.  You can add modules to be used to manage the work that you do as a subcontractor to other Primes.  The work as a subcontractor is slightly different.  But, it is just a “flavor” of your IDIQ solution that you can create by just reusing what you now have and tweak it to the new scenario.

This leads to an important point about CorasWorks software.  Our solutions leverage our Work Management platform, first introduced in 2003 and now in version 11.  It is the market leading platform for configurable business solutions on SharePoint.  This means that it is very easy to customize your solutions and enhance and extend them.  This is done using the CorasWorks Configuration Wizards and is so easy that empowered business users are usually the ones to get it done.  This ability is important for a Small Business as it enables you to continue to make changes and innovate on your own without the cost or dependency of leaning on CorasWorks or any one else.

You can go further.  For instance, you can just layer on the COTS CorasWorks Capture and Proposal Management (CnP) solution.  Since you will have already invested in SharePoint and the CorasWorks platform, you only have the incremental cost for the solution.  This solution will provide you with a way to manage the full life cycle of opportunities through the Capture and Proposal Development process.  It also includes a feature for Opportunity Management, which may be enough so that you don’t have to invest in a separate CRM solution at this time.  For more information on this solution see the overview article of CnP v2.1 and read a case study of a $30m Small Business graduate.

Of course, by design our IDIQ solution and our Capture and Proposal Management solution are integrated so that you can share elements.  Examples are shared Proposal Asset Libraries, the ability to see, contribute, and act on your work across the different solutions, and enabling Partners to engage with you on both IDIQs and RFPs.  You can also get reports and manage all of your Business Development activities across these solutions.

How about after you win a Task Order?  With CorasWorks, you can also set up Customer sites where your customers can go and access your IDIQ CDRL reports and interact with you – a common requirement of major IDIQs.  You can also spin up the COTS CorasWorks Project and Portfolio Management (PPM) solution to actually manage the delivery work on Task Orders.  This easy to use and pre-integrated solution becomes part of your integrated work environment.

CorasWorks for Small Businesses

We have been serving small businesses since our founding 10 years ago.  Small businesses represent about 1/3rd of our 1,000 customers.  A core value proposition for small businesses is that they are able to buy or build multiple applications that run within a single CorasWorks-SharePoint work environment and are natively integrated.  This reduces complexity and cost and increases your ability to control your destiny.  And, with our new solutions and pricing for Small Business Federal Contractors you can now quickly add these COTS solutions and compete at the level of other leading players in the industry.

You have a great opportunity.  We look forward to helping you reap the rewards…

william

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See additional articles for IDIQ Task Order Management in this blog.

Visit CorasWorks IDIQ Task Order Management for product information.

Overview of CorasWorks Capture and Proposal Management solution v2.1

Version 2.1 of the CorasWorks Capture and Proposal Management (CnP) solution for Federal Government Contractors has been released.  Over the next few weeks you’ll see articles, press releases, webcasts, and customer case studies for the solution.  This article will provide you with an overview of the solution to get you started.

Background of the Solution

Over our 10 years, we have supported many customers that have leveraged the CorasWorks Work Management platform to create custom Proposal Management solutions that run on SharePoint.  Over the last year, as we’ve built our Federal Contractor business we’ve found considerable demand for a Commercial-Off-The-Shelf (COTS) solution for Capture and Proposal Management running on SharePoint.  Version 2.1 delivers this COTS solution as a comprehensive, integrated, and flexible way to master the full life cycle of Capture and Proposal Management.  Its flexible design (technically and via pricing) enables it be leveraged by small and mid-sized businesses and the largest enterprises.

Overview of CnP v2.1

CnP v2.1 is a 3 module system.  It is designed to allow you to get started quickly with a COTS, comprehensive, integrated solution that can be easily customized, enhanced and extended.  The schematic below depicts the core three modules.

Modules of CorasWorks Capture and Proposal Management

Capture and Proposal Management Center – this module is the center of the system.  It allows you to manage all opportunities/proposals through a structured Stage-Phase-Step life cycle.  It provides you with the top down visibility and overall management of your proposal pipeline.  Typically, customers configure this module to reflect (visually and functionally, see screenshot below) their custom Shipley/Lohfeld/APMP process model.  CorasWorks then automates the work of the users to manage the process.

Proposal Working Sites – this is where the collaborative work takes place for each opportunity/proposal from capture through post-proposal.  It is full of CorasWorks enhanced Work Management features to organize and automate the work with integration with all CnP system features, native SharePoint and external applications and systems.

Proposal Asset Library – a key part of the system is the availability of the Proposal Asset Library (PAL) to manage assets such as Past Performance, Forms, Policies, Boilerplate, Graphics, Resumes etc. Leveraging the integrated nature of this solution these resources are made available to users as they work in proposal sites.

Below is the home page of the CnP Management Center.  In this implementation, a customers’ 4 Stage, 8 Phase, 22 Step “baseline” process is depicted visually to show where everything stands.

[Click on the image to enlarge]

Capture and Proposal Managment Home - Stage-Phase-Step: Shipley-Lohfeld process

Key Features of the Solution

Below I’ll highlight key features of the CorasWorks CnP v2.1 solution.

  • Support for custom Stage-Phase-Step Process -  flexible Stage-based process management and the ability to embed the solution with your customized way of working
  • Auto-provisioning and configuration of Proposal Working Sites
  • All Documents Work Management – special display allowing users to go to one place to see and act on all documents related to a proposal across multiple libraries
  • Color Review Workspaces – special workspaces for proposal color and gate reviews supporting review and commenting
  • Master Calendaring – central master calendar of events such as color reviews across all proposals in the system, editable and accessible from within each proposal working site
  • Pinpoint Search and Fetch – ability for users to search and fetch information from Proposal Asset Libraries while working within a proposal site
  • Writer Assignment Management – automation of the assignment, notification, and management of writer tasks
  • My Work – enable users to see, contribute and act on work related to them as individuals from across the system
  • Support for Role-Based Work Consoles – ability to create work consoles where users of a certain role, such as teaming partners, can go and work with information from across the system
  • Configurable reporting – off-the-shelf you have configurable reporting in Tabular Reports with one click to print, to Excel, PDF, and Word.  You also have configurable Pivot Charting.
  • Integration of third-party CRM Systems – ability to integrate the solution with the leading CRM systems  (Deltek GovWin, Salesforce, MS CRM) and just about any other external system (ERP, HR, Custom, SAAS app)

CnP v2.1: Flexibility to Accommodate and Innovate

If you are using any of the COTS legacy proposal management solutions in the market you are constrained by their proprietary, fragile, and custom coded design.  If you are using SharePoint that is heavily customized by IT or a proprietary system, while this may mean that it could be modified, the cost, risk, and time is so high that change is constrained.  If you use native SharePoint or Alfresco or file shares, you are probably working with tools that are feature constrained, relying on manual content-driven work, siloed document libraries, siloed proposal sites and an environment where assets like proposal asset libraries are siloed.

With CorasWorks CnP v2.1, you are in a different world.  The COTS solution is feature rich but is really your base solution.  As a solution on the CorasWorks Work Management platform, it is unusually flexible and unusually easy to change – so easy that it is normally business users that customize, enhance, and even extend the solution leveraging the market leading CorasWorks Configuration Wizards.  This flexibility enables organizations to get what they want today, change things on the fly to accommodate specific work needs, and to innovate as their needs change.

A new choice

Now, with CorasWorks CnP v2.1 you have a new choice.  If you have little in the way of formal CnP tools or are using native SharePoint, you don’t have to just make do.  Our affordable pricing model allows you to move up the value stack to a COTS solution on SharePoint with a rich feature set to optimize your work and stay competitive.  Or, if you are heavily invested in a legacy, costly system you can replace them or enhance them with just what you need often at less than it costs you to maintain them.

No matter where you come from, the key is that you are not switching to a locked-in COTS system.  CorasWorks CnP is open, flexible and will allow you to decide where you want to go from here.

For more information:

 

william

Getting to a Competitive Capture and Proposal Management system on SharePoint

We just published a case study about an implementation of our new Capture and Proposal Management v2.1 solution for a $30m revenue, 200 person, Federal Government Contractor who is graduating out of small business into the free and open market.  The driver is their need to get up to a full and open competitive level.  They wanted the next generation solution (vs. legacy proposal management solutions), they wanted it their way, they didn’t want to spend a lot for it, and, they wanted control over their future.

The case study gives you the general overview of the situation, the solution and the results.  It is a great story.  I recommend that you read it before reading this article.  Here, I’ll take a different perspective and drill into the details of the implementation that made it successful.

The reason that I am writing this article is that I believe that a Capture and Proposal Management solution is one of those types of solutions that require a strong dose of mind-melding of people.  It involves process at a high level and very detailed task activities.  You don’t just install the software.  You need a good implementation methodology and the right people to be really successful.  In addition, this article will point out the importance of the flexibility of CorasWorks software when it comes to this solution – it makes a big difference to the customers long term success.

As written in the case study this was a five week implementation.  That means that it happened over 5 weeks.  However, the budget included just 5 days of CorasWorks Professional Services.  And, we stuck to the budget.  This is impressive given that this was a soup to nuts implementation including a completely new SharePoint infrastructure and migration of 300 proposals from file shares and Alfresco into the SharePoint environment along with a very custom solution and a lot of empowerment training.

Getting it Right, Getting it Done

So, how did we all manage to get a comprehensive, very customized, rather large, fully integrated, Capture and Proposal Management system, up and running with trained, empowered business users from scratch with 5 days of our services?  Here are some of the elements that made it successful.

  • In our pre-sales, we showed them different “flavors” of our Capture and Proposal Management solution implementation enabling them to narrow down their approach in advance and be familiar with how it would look and feel and what could be customized.
  • Their IT people were very efficient to spin up the infrastructure in advance based upon our best practices (this was a new SharePoint environment) and then they got out of the way
  • The Business Users drove the solution implementation.  Thus, they knew what they wanted and were motivated to get it right and done quickly.
  • The Business Users came to the kick-off meeting armed with 3 core documents: 1) their modified Shipley 22 step “baseline” Stage-Phase-Step process, 2) a comprehensive information architecture for their system (basically top down all of the features/information to be captured and its logical structure), and 3) key dashboard reports with metrics they manage by.
  • The customer made their core business team available and they were able to commit to multiple weekly sessions to get this done.
  • The project had executive visibility from day one of pre-sales.
  • We stuck to our standard Walkthrough/Workout implementation approach.  Basically, we start by implementing our base solution.  Then, we conduct 1-2 hour sessions where we walk the customer through using the system.  Then, they take control and workout the solution following a prescribed process and we note desired changes.  Many of the changes are made real time.  Then, we work it out again.  This approach moves the custom solution forward very quickly and keeps the business users fully engaged and learning.
  • They were reasonable about where they had to get to because they knew that they were also being empowered to take control, customize the solution and move it forward on their own.
  • They began formal CorasWorks “essentials” training half way through the implementation and by the end they were making the changes and doing the work with us just advising them.
  • We set up a semi-automated migration onramp system and their business users did the rest.

Of the elements above, the most significant is that the core team of business users were directly involved and driving the implementation.  Often, we find that these users are “too busy” to be directly involved.  That is a key mistake.  You need to educate them in advance about the new possibilities with CorasWorks configurable solutions if you want them engaged and want to succeed like this customer.  If they understand what they can get and how the process works, then, they will not be too busy.  It helps to do multiple 1-2 hour sessions so that they can fit the work into their schedules.

End of the Beginning

Yes, the implementation is done.  However, it is really the end of the beginning.  They had what they wanted at the end of 5 weeks.  But, a week later we had our Engagement Review/Lessons Learned session and they had already enhanced and extended the solution quite a bit further.  They are rapidly perfecting and innovating on their own as they do “workouts” with other business teams and teaming partners.  (Yes, the business users are now conducting the workouts and making changes.)  This is really the key to long term success and the value of CorasWorks as a competitive platform for them – they are empowered to innovate.  As a growing and maturing business, over the next couple of years this one solution will go through many phases.  If they had gone with some fixed, legacy, proprietary solution or a native SharePoint approach that required expensive custom IT involvement – they would be stuck.

Instead, they are empowered to compete today and get better over time.

William

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See additional articles for Capture and Proposal Management in this blog.

Visit CorasWorks Capture and Proposal Management for product information.

Overview of CorasWorks IDIQ Task Order Management v2.1

Our newest version of the CorasWorks IDIQ Task Order Management solution for Federal Contractors is now available.  On April 10th, we did a webcast introducing the solution to the market.  For access to the recorded webcast, that includes about 30 minutes of demo time and the powerpoint deck used in the webcast – email info@corasworks.net.  In this article, I’ll provide an overview of the v2.1 release.

The Purpose

Simply put, the solution provides you with the means to efficiently and effectively manage Task Orders through their life cycle.  Below is a graphic showing the core stages of the life cycle supported by the solution.

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Solution and Implementation Scenario Flexibility

The solution consists of 6 modules leveraging the CorasWorks v11 Work Management platform running on SharePoint 2010.  It is designed to be flexible to meet a number of scenarios such as:

  • Corporate IDIQ/GWAC centers with many IDIQs
  • Prime, multi-award IDIQs
  • Sub contractor IDIQ Task Order Management
  • Single Award Task Orders
  • Business Units with multiple IDIQs and depth of working on Proposals and Delivering the Work
  • IDIQs with extensive partner engagement or no partners
  • Small Business with their first IDIQ as a Prime contractor

Core Features

At its core the v2.1 solution continues to support the core IDIQ work management workload with the following features:

  • Manage Portfolio of IDIQ Vehicles
  • Capture Task Orders
  • Auto-Provisioning of IDIQ Vehicles and Task Order Working Sites
  • Bid/No Bid Decisions
  • Manage Partners, Partner Surveys and Engagement
  • Business Unit Surveys and Engagement
  • Proposal development and review
  • Shared Proposal Asset Libraries (such as Past Performance, Forms and Templates, Boilerplate, and Graphics)
  • Stage-Gate Management Process and Activities
  • Task/Work Request Management
  • Shared Calendaring
  • Real time Reporting/Drill Down
  • Platform support for Integration with external CRM, ERP and HR systems
  • Highly configurable actions and workflow
  • Leverage SharePoint data, security and administration.

New Features in v2.1

This version has been extensively upgraded.  Below I highlight three key enhancements.

IDIQ Management Hub

This new module provides a single place for users to go to see, contribute, and act on work across many IDIQ vehicles and Task Orders.  From one place you can post task orders to different vehicles, see Task Orders across vehicles and their stages and drill down into the working sites, see and respond to partner and business unit expressions of interest (surveys), get reporting across vehicles that aggregates the information or that is comparative.

Below is a screenshot of this module (click to enlarge).

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Enhanced Partner Engagement Sites

In v2.1, each Partner has their own site where they do their work and engage with you.  From here they can view new Task Orders, submit their expressions of interest, and review previous EOI’s and your response.  In addition, in v2.1 we’ve added support for partners to submit “future opportunities” that you can then centrally manage.  These opportunities can be reviewed and moved into Watch Lists and eventually into the appropriate Task Order when it is released.

Below is a screenshot of the new Partner Site (click to enlarge).

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Increased Flexibility with new configuration wizard: Features Designer

All of the modules of the solution have been enhanced to make them even more flexible so that you can configure the solution to meet very specific needs.  For instance, you may want to configure vehicles and their processes to be slightly different.  Or, you may want the Proposal Working sites to be different.  Using CorasWorks configuration wizards, power users are able to make changes on the fly without affecting the overall system.  A new configuration wizard added in v2.1 is the Features Designer.  This allows power users to very easily turn on and off features of a module with a click or re-arrange their navigation with drag and drop.

Below is a screenshot of the Features Designer wizard (click to enlarge) for an IDIQ Vehicle site.  Note that the Watchlist, Pipeline, and Vehicle Library are greyed out.  To enable the feature just click the light-bulb.  You can change the names and drag and drop items to rearrange the navigation.

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With v2.1 – Comprehensive AND Flexible

If you are interested, watch the demo for the webcast mentioned above.  This will show you the comprehensive feature set of the solution out of the box.  However, it is the flexibility of this solution that really makes it work for customers.  In our implementations, we always start with our “base solution” and get the customer up and running quickly.  Yet, every customer at the end of the day is different.  It is typical for each Business Unit and often each Vehicle to need changes that allow users to optimize their work.  The unique configurability of the solution leveraging the CorasWorks wizards supports this.  Thus, with this solution you get the best blend of commercial off the shelf software that can be easily configured as if it were custom.

William

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See additional articles for IDIQ Task Order Management in this blog.

Visit CorasWorks IDIQ Task Order Management for product information.