Tag Archive for business process

Top 7 Enhancements for Capture and Proposal Management on SharePoint

SharePoint is broadly adopted by the Federal Government Contractor community for use in proposal development activities.  Leading organizations are leveraging CorasWorks to enhance and extend their existing capabilities to drive towards more efficient, effective and comprehensive capture and proposal management systems. In this article, I’ll walk through the top 7 enhancements that are most common amongst our customers and describe how they are leveraging the COTS software/flexible customization approach of CorasWorks on SharePoint.

Basic SharePoint Proposal Development

While SharePoint is broadly used, the level of use is typically rather basic and based upon document management features for just proposal development as opposed to a structured Capture process or as part of an integrated Proposal Management system.  For many, their approach is to use siloed SharePoint sites for managing documents within folders of SharePoint.  This approach is familiar to many long-time players as they have grown up this file/folder way of working.  It is a fine place to start (and we continue to support it), but, increased competition is driving organizations to raise their game to a new level.  They are leveraging us to be more efficient, to increase visibility and accountability, to cut out the noise of random and conflicting activities, to increase consistency and reduce risk, and overall, to increase the effectiveness of their investments.

Top 7 Enhancements for Capture and Proposal Management

In the following sections, I’ll briefly review each of the top 7 enhancements. While these are most common, they are not necessarily the ones applied by every organization nor are they the only enhancements we are delivering. The key here is the flexibility of CorasWorks to be used to drive you forward where and how you need it.  This flexibility includes support for standard approaches from consulting organizations such as capture processes by Lohfeld Consulting and color review stages by Shipley Associates, the ability to integrate with external CRM, HR, and ERP systems, and, the ability to accommodate the custom processes of each customer or even the differences between different groups within an organization.  Because most organizations have some basic SharePoint system in place, our approach is to enhance and extend rather that rip and replace with a completely new way of working.  On to the 7…

1. Capture & Proposal Process Management (PM)

As above, in most cases when we start, each proposal has been a single, siloed site.  Most organizations lack the top down process management capability that allows them to have a strong Capture process on the front end of proposal development and follow through to close out.  Thus, we usually start with an overall top level C&P Process Management site.  We set the stages and activities based upon the customers proprietary C&P process or leveraging the process of Lohfeld or another consulting organization.  This top level site captures all opportunities that have qualified for the C&P process as early as the Pursuit stage.  Along the way uses our auto-provisioning kicks off the Working Site where users manage information, activities and collaborate.  This provides you with the top down visibility and the ability to manage the pipeline of opportunities/RFPs across their life-cycle.  In addition, it provides you with the ability to automate the various activities that you want to happen at each stage.

Below is a screenshot that shows the various stages for a Lohfeld-style C&P process.  In addition, it shows a set of actions that have been made available at the Pre-Proposal stage.

(Click image for full screen view)



2. Cross-folder/Library Document Visibility & Task Automation

Okay, so now we turn to a Working Site.  This is where the detailed information is stored and the activity is managed.  Our standard is to start off by supporting the classic native SharePoint approach of folders and documents (the Documents tab).  The next level is to move customers up to more robust document management by providing increased visibility and task automation.

Below is a screenshot of our cross-folder, cross-library document management view.  Users are able to see what documents are available across folders and sub-folders and different libraries – instead of having to hunt and peck.  In addition, they are able to select multiple documents (again across folders/libraries as shown below) and use an action to automatically perform a task.  Managers are able to choose actions that they want to be available and modify the actions to tweak their processes or to create their own as needed.  The result is a much more convenient and efficient way of working.

(Click image for full screen view)



3. Master Knowledge Repositories and Fetch

C&P operations typically maintains shared knowledge such as Past Performance information, Policies, and standard Forms.  At best, these are usually siloed document libraries in SharePoint sites.  Many people are used to manually uploading these documents from their local drives into a proposal site.  A better way available with CorasWorks is to maintain centrally managed knowledge repositories that are interactively leveraged from where the users are working.  They can be centrally managed with structured approval processes.  Within each Working Site, users can access these repositories, search and filter, and then, they can “fetch” the information pulling a “hot” copy from the repository into the working site.  This drives greater efficiency and consistency.

4. Core and External Supporting Activities

Proposals don’t only include content (documents).  They also include activity – tasks that people need to perform to support the capture and proposal processes – often people outside of the core proposal team.  Within a working site you can spawn tasks of all sorts and drive the activity that needs to get done.  They can be standard core tasks such as assigning writer tasks or setting color reviews dates or kicking off a document review and comment cycle.  Or, they may be ad hoc tasks such as making requests for Vendor Reviews, Feasibility Studies, Conflict of Interest checks or Legal reviews. You can also create programmatic supporting activities when their frequency or importance is warranted.  For instance, you may create a permanent supporting activities with HR Recruiting so that each staffing request is funneled into their queue and then managed through a structure process.  All of these types of supporting activities can be accommodated and automated with CorasWorks to get people and teams to work more productively together.

5. Distributed Work Consoles

Using native SharePoint users have to do a lot of navigating to working proposal sites to see what work needs to get done and to do work.  With CorasWorks Work Consoles you can instead put the work right at the fingertips of users.  For instance, you can have a teaming partner or proposal vendor site where those people go to see and act on the things that they need to do.  With Work Consoles you can separately control what they see and what they can do without giving them full access to a working site.  These work consoles can be located anywhere across your SharePoint environment to optimize convenience.

6. Cross-Application/System Integration

Again, with CorasWorks your proposal sites are not siloed.  You can inter-connect any parts of your Capture and Proposal Management system with CRM systems such as Salesforce and Deltek CRM, HR systems such as Peoplesoft and Taleo, ERPs, contract management systems, custom external systems, and, any other SharePoint based systems such as CorasWorks IDIQ systems or other team sites or processes.  This is done through our advanced configuration and thus does not required custom code development and the associated cost and risk.

7. Cross-System Dashboards

Using CorasWorks you can create advanced dashboards that provide users with the charts, tabular reports, or interactive displays they want with information across the life-cycle.  The possibilities range from simple wizard driven reports and charts to customized user experiences using our advanced multi-tier framework.  The information can include information in SharePoint and/or any external information such as the systems referenced above (#6).  These dashboards can be interactive supporting drill-downs, pop-ups and dynamic query.  The result is increased visibility, accountability, and real time activity.

The Common Thread of CorasWorks C&P Enhancements

The primary thread across the above enhancements is the ability to go from a perspective of single proposal sites to a broader, more integrated, more automated capture and proposal management system.  It is a distributed system.  The system supports many proposals and each proposal is optimized to support the results of the system.

The key to our approach is that you can get to where you want to be in different ways and at the right time.  Each organization is different. While we provide you with the COTS software to enable you to enhance and extend your system at lower costs and risks we also provide you with the flexibility to customize the system to meet your needs today and evolve it as your needs change in the future.



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

Visit CorasWorks Capture and Proposal Management for product information.

Design More Effective Collaborative Processes by including “external” people and activities

Most of us are familiar with workflow approval processes using SharePoint.  These are targeted towards efficiently routing items for approval usually in a serial fashion with known actors.  However, a great deal of information work is done through collaborative processes.  And usually, this work has a large impact on organizational results.  The key here is to be organizationally effective.  In this article, I’ll define collaborative processes and look at a general design approach that includes not just the core process but the “external” people and activities that drive a higher degree of organizational effectiveness.

What I Mean by Collaborative Processes

Collaborative processes are ways of working where the work progresses through stages that involve a number of people and activities.  Basically, individuals are often not the decision makers.  Rather, work progresses via collaborative group decision making.  Often these processes are oriented towards making the right (or at least a better) decision through collaboration and incorporating relevant activities.  Examples of such processes are:

  • Demand Management: New Project Initiation – onramp to project management
  • Business Development-Capture and Proposal Management – working the process of responding to RFP’s/tendors
  • Policy Management – getting policies out and incorporating feedback
  • R&D Innovation – managing R&D proposals through the funnel
  • Idea Management – the process of capturing, reviewing and deciding on new ideas

The Core Process

When you go about designing such processes, in a SharePoint context, most people initially focus on the core process.  This is typically a single SharePoint site.  Usually, the process is defined as a set of stages for items to pass through (see this article for a more detailed discussion of stage-based applications).  In each stage, items are acted upon, people weigh in, and, an item must pass through a gate to move to the next stage.  The main participants are the core process members.  CorasWorks adds various features to this core process to enable and enhance collaboration amongst these participants.

In most situations, this core process meets the expected requirements. Just getting this done is worth declaring victory for your team. However, we have found that organizations are usually able to make the process more effective by going beyond this core process and incorporating external people and activities in their overall design of their system.

Broader Perspective of Collaborative Process

Below is a schematic illustrating a broader perspective of your collaborative process.  The items in green are the expected elements.  You have the core process and the engagement of the “standard” process members.  The three other elements (in blue) extend the process to engage additional people and activities to flesh out the system.  I’ll discuss each of these three extended elements below.


External People

Imagine you are part of a product team.  You all have your ideas.  You put a process in place to enable your product group to work on them in a more collaborative way.  This works.  However, you could broaden your scope of who is engaged in three ways to improve the effectiveness.  First, you could open up the idea funnel to enable people outside of the group to submit ideas.  Second, you can make those ideas visible to the broad community and allow them to collaborate and enhance the ideas – outside of your control.  Third, you can vet your ideas with the external community.  In effect, you take your internal idea and push it out to the broad community or to external targeted groups – allowing them to also engage with other in vetting your idea.

Simply, you are taking your black box process, that has historically been fully controlled by the few and opening it up to external communities.  The objective is to drive effectiveness by a broader set of eyes and experiences on the idea.

Supporting Activities and Teams

You are working to get things through your process.  Within each stage there are various activities.  Most are done by the process members.  But often, the activities involve people that are outside of the core process membership.  Imagine that you are working on business development proposals and you need to resource people.  You may want to drop in a programmatic activity that engages HR and other “sources” of people to check the box on the required people resources.

Some of these activities can be ad hoc.  Others that are common to your process deserve a more permanent and structured way of working.  In a SharePoint context, it is important to note that others work where and how they work.  So, HR might want your activity to nicely become a part of their place and way of working rather then HR folks having to go to your place and work your way.  Thus, you agree on how to work, and then, drop in the element to tie your process activity to their work space.  Over time these “activities” of your process start to become standard ways of working amongst a broader group of people.

Downstream Activities and Teams

So, your process is all set and you start processing.  Imagine that you are working to drive new projects for products and services.  At the end of your process, the approved projects appear in your Portfolio.  You are done – right?  Yet, the project is not.  So, what you now need is a nice, effective handoff from your process to the next downstream activity, maybe the PMO to handle a group of like projects, or, to a project manager.

The key to the handoff is to do it in a programmatic manner and set it up so that the receiver of the handoff has access to the information and decisions that were made upstream.  Likewise, as they do their work on the project, you’d want a certain access to or flow of information back to you to keep track of the results of your decision and help you improve the effectiveness of your process.

As you define this you are again starting to define a broader “workstream” of related activities.  As a design note, these types of workstream are loosely coupled.  This means that each process/activity can live on its own but connects to the other upstream and downstream activities.

Take a Broader Perspective, Start Small and Allow it To Evolve

Collaborative processes are very important to organization success.  You need them to be effective because you are making decisions with a broad impact.  By all means, start by focusing in on the core process and getting the stages and basic activities right.  However, step back and consider the three additional elements outlined above early in your thinking. This broader perspective will enable you to design more effective processes.  As always, I’d say think broadly, start small, and evolve.  The best processes evolve forward with input, lessons learned, and, results. CorasWorks provides you with the flexibility to start simply and enhance and extend your system to add the new elements – take advantage of it.


CorasWorks Customers Putting SharePoint to Work

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


Ways that Customers are Putting SharePoint to Work

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


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



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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


What we have done to help our customers succeed

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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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



Customers and Partners Show Their Stuff at CorasWorks Hosted Federal Case Study Seminar

Okay, we love to present.  But, we decided to turn the tables and host a Seminar where our Federal customers and their systems integrators showed off what they’ve built with CorasWorks on SharePoint.  This packed, standing room only, unclassified event was held last week at our corporate headquarters.  I was blown away by the breadth and richness of the applications and their mission-critical importance. Here’s the skinny…

First of all, thank you to all of the presenters.  You made it a great experience.  We had the following customers presenting:

- Department of State

- US Marine Corps – Headquarters

- US Marine Corp – Rapid Development and Deployment Office

- US Navy – Office of Naval Intelligence (ONI)

- US Navy – Commander, Navy Installations Command (CNIC)

We also had two systems integrator partners presenting and assisting presentations that have done a lot of work with CorasWorks on SharePoint in these accounts.  They were: Twin-Soft (Virginia) and Omnitec Solutions (Maryland).  Thank you to the presenters and all of our guests.

Collectively, these customers represent a couple hundred thousand users of CorasWorks on SharePoint.  They referenced more than 20 applications they have put to work.  These applications covered the full CorasWorks solution scope from Collaborative Portals, to distributed business processes, enterprise task management, project management, and idea and innovation management.  Many were truly mission critical (i.e., achieve the result or really bad things happen).  Some of the key one’s presented were:

- HR Portal Management – many different applications and processes to manage the business activity across the State Department’s portal

- Inspectors General Checklist System – system to manage 130 checklists of the Inspector Generals office of the Marine Corp (replaced 40 year old mainframe system)

- Training Registration – application to manage training classes and registrations for US Marine Corps Headquarters

- Enterprise Task Management – comprehensive tasker management and suspense tracking with 150,000 tasks, 3,000 users across ONI

- Urgent Unmet Needs System – extensive work stream to track and manage urgent unmet needs from the battlefield, through the Marine Corp process, and into the development and deployment of solutions

- Enterprise Best Practices System – end-to-end, idea management system based upon CorasWorks Cim v2.0 to drive enterprise best practices across the 50,000 person CNIC command covering 70 installations worldwide


Here are a few takeaways from the presentations…

- Broad Perspective of “SharePoint Work Environment” – many customers see SharePoint in a narrow context – often site-bound, and usually no more than site collection bound.  Our presenters all had a common and clear perspective of SharePoint as a broad, distributed, yet, unified work environment.  Thus, their apps were designed to be distributed, with role based consoles, Snaplets, and, with the assumption that data can be anywhere (within or outside of SharePoint).  Refreshing…

- Federal Technical Certifications – the fact that CorasWorks maintains Federal Technical certifications has helped the broad/viral adoption of it as a platform for applications

- Strong Adoption of OpenApp Standard – with CorasWorks v11, the OpenApp standard (based upon the advanced toolkit) is being increasingly leveraged by customers.  Most of the applications presented used it for data integration and custom UI’s.  The Tasker Management ONI application used it to build an application where all of the data is in SQL Server, but, the experience is all SharePoint (and so is the document repository).  Combining the OpenApp approach which allows you to build very deep custom applications without cracking Visual Studio (meaning that you don’t then have to convince infrastructure IT to certify a bunch of DLL’s) with the Technical Certifications has really empowered these customers to take SharePoint to a new level.

- CorasWorks for Distributed Business Processes – probably the best kept secret of CorasWorks is its usefulness to build out custom business processes.  Most of the apps fell into this category.  Typically, these are people-driven processes leveraging our Action framework.  In v11, the framework now allows developers to create the Actions separately and then use them in their custom displays.  Further, the Actions can now directly call Windows Workflow Foundation – thus, you get robust people-system automation.  Again, most of the applications were distributed, meaning that users with different roles, were engaging and working from different places across the SharePoint work environment.


Overall, just a stellar day.  We need to more of these types of seminars for Federal and Commercial (PS see my post about the Claims Management app built by Clyde & Co and shown in a webcast a few weeks ago).  If you have a great app that you want to show off ping your CorasWorks contact or email info@corasworks.net.



Cim for Process Improvements: It’s Official, It’s the BRI in Cim v2.0

Cim v2.0 is coming up next month.  We have Base Reference Implementations (BRI’s) that are part of the shipped product.  These are standardized, off-the-shelf solutions that are initially implemented to get customers up and running quickly.  They are then customized to meet the customers different application scenarios.  Thus, one BRI serves as the base for many applications within that solution type.

In Cim v2.0, we are adding the Social Business Processes solution type – what we call Cim Process.  We have a number of different applications that we’ve built running up to the launch for beta including Project Initiation, Customer Stories, Process Improvements, Technical Solution Challenges, Requirements Gathering, Product Change Requests, Strategic Planning, and Enterprise Best Practices.  We’ve done bake-offs/surveys/debates to decide which should be the BRI in the product.  The official decision is Process Improvements.

The somewhat obvious reason is that a Process Improvement app logically relates to a solution type that is about social business processes.  It makes sense to use it to get ideas, vet them and decide what business processes you want to create, change, etc.  However, an even more powerful reason was that very few of our customers actually had any structured way of managing the process of improving processes.  In addition, those that did only had methods that they could use to big, new, deep processes – this left a huge gap for improvements.  As we showed them Process Improvements, this became clear, and, most quickly recognized the gap and wanted to address it.

Below is a screen shot of the home page of the winner in all of its Blue and Red glory.

PI Home - red


Let’s talk a bit about this solution that will now be the BRI…

It is a powerful, yet simple solution.  The nuance of process change is that not all change means creating new processes.  Accordingly, within the application we provide for tagging your ideas for process improvements as New, Kill, More, Less or Change.  Also the biggest process change is not necessarily the one that has the most important result.  So, we let users tag their areas of impact.

It also helps that this solution amplifies the voice of the crowd.  There is no question that many organizations have too much process or the wrong process that hinder results.  So, finding out the reality, through visible social collaboration is a big advantage.  Then, we have the crowd to vet, collaborate, comment, and do peer reviews of suggested improvements.  

In addition, the app has a clean 4, stage-gate process to then put the suggestions through to make decisions on implementing the changes.  Below is our new style Management Activity display where process managers can privately review, vote, and comment on each recommended improvement.  Effectively, they have their own private “social eddie” in which to efficiently vet each suggestion – in both a subjective and empirical way.

mgmt activity

So, you put the crowd “social eddie” for capturing and collaborating with the management “social eddie” for getting the investment decisions made and you have an effective social business process app for driving change in processes. 

As the BRI for Social Business Processes it effectively comes in the box of Cim v2.0, so, this is one app that you can cross off your wish list.


Which drives you: More ideas or Better Processes

The driver to adopt Idea Management comes from two primary directions.  One is the desire to tap into your community for more and better ideas.  The other is to extend existing (or new) business processes to get more input and interaction from a broader audience.  Usually, people are coming from one or the other perspective.  Let’s look at it.

I had conversations with two customers last week coming from the two perspectives.  One is a global business software company.  They had tried to engage their customers for change requests (new features) via their web site, but, had limited success.  They wanted a better way to get more ideas and engage better.  The other is a global telecommunications company.  They have existing internal business processes.  They want to use Idea Management to extend those processes to a broader audience to get more input, interactivity, and transparency.

The most general distinction between these scenarios is that the first is focused on external customers whereas the second is on their internal workforce.  With this simple distinction, you will often start to uncover your driver.  But, lets look a little deeper.

Let’s face it, there is hype around anything social. The urge of many is to just go get some of those ideas and show that they want to engage.  It is well placed.  This outreach objective can be an end in itself.  The interactivity, engagement, and visibility amongst the community is indeed an end in itself.  You can succeed by becoming an enabler for your community to interact.  

On the other hand there is the driver for better processes.  These generally start with an internal objective.  You are trying to achieve a result such as a new product, process improvement, better RFP’s, smooth change management, uncovering new markets.   Then, you lay out your process – typically a workstream from idea to review and management to downstream activities to make it real.  Here you are leveraging idea management as the means to engage with those people that you want engaged in the business process.

In sum, what is Idea Management bringing to your business:

- With Ideation as the objective, it is bringing a brand new way of adding value via your community.  This is a new innovation.

- With the business process objective, it is typically making existing processes better and somewhat reinventing many business processes.


CorasWorks Idea Management addresses both of these drivers. Our ideation feature set is very robust and evolving quickly with our new releases.  A key is our ability to support many different scenarios on the front side with relevant feature sets vs. a one size fits all approach.  However, amongst competitive products in the space we are unusually or even uniquely strong on the end-to-end business process side.  This is because our business has been built up around applications first.  In addition, we take a platform approach with CorasWorks on SharePoint. Thus, you can lay out your end-to-end business process knowing that you have pre-integration with supporting and downstream applications/sites across your SharePoint environment.  We go a step further with an integration framework to also integrate external information sources, applications, and services.

So, where do we come from?  If we have to choose we are in the business process camp.  Our focus is on helping customers achieve the business outcome –the results through the end-to-end process.  And, via Cim to allow them to lay in new processes for different business scenarios.  

In sum, we are seeing Idea Management as a broad driver of innovation.  It is getting people managing existing processes to think outside of the box.  These legacy processes simply get more effective at producing better results.  And, it is creating a new process, lets call it Ideation, of engagement that is becoming an end in itself.

All good…


Process Improvement Workstream with Cim v1.1

In previous articles on CorasWorks Idea Management (Cim) I’ve talked about the full solution and the business approaches to using Cim to drive your innovation process.  In this article, I’ll look at how you would use Cim for a specific business scenario.  It is a 3-phase, end-to-end workstream for process improvements that moves ideas from capture through review and approval and into the implementation phase. 

The Scenario

Imagine that an organizational has three main process areas that they are driving forward: Information Worker Productivity, Sales Processes, and Manufacturing. This Process Improvement Workstream implements a 3-phase process that cuts across the SharePoint landscape and drives an end-to-end process supporting all three.   

Below is a graphic of the 3-phase workstream.  It starts with the Process Improvement Community (a Standing Idea Community) in the Idea Portal.  This is where you capture ideas and collaborate.  You then have a Review and Approval Management Site.  This is where you work through the ideas to approval and add to a portfolio.  Then, you have three different implementation teams.  The approved ideas are pushed into these sites for implementation. 


From an implementation standpoint in this scenario, you would be using the off-the-shelf modules of Cim for the Community and Management phases along with native SharePoint team sites for the implementation phase.  We also leverage Windows Workflow Foundation to kick off notifications based upon rules at each phase of the process.  In the following sections, I’ll walk you through the deployment for each phase.

Process Improvement Community: Capture and Collaborate

In the Idea Portal you would deploy a Cim Community module that is tailored for Process Improvement ideas.  The tailoring might include a custom tagsonomy and custom fields for contributors.  The general community of users go here, contribute ideas and tag them.  Then, the community rates, comments, attaches documents. Ideas get rated based upon their Star Power.

Below is a screenshot of an idea that has been contributed.



Process Management Site: Screen, Review, Approve, Manage Downstream

This site plays a pivotal role in the process – interacting upstream and downstream and doing their work in the middle.  You start with the deployment of the Cim Portfolio Management site.  From here, this smaller team works with ideas from the upstream community.  In the middle they play their role: screening the ideas, selecting them for review, finishing off the ideas to propose them as projects, and voting and approving them.  Then, they are set to push the approved projects to downstream teams for implementation which they then track as part of their portfolio.  

In the screenshot below, a manager has selected an approved idea and is pushing it into downstream team sites.  Note that they are only filling in a few fields in the form.  As part of any CorasWorks workstream, the Action uses information from the existing approved idea along with the few fields they fill out to complete the necessary downstream information.  You’ll see the complete result in the team site below.  They do this work from their Management site, without having to go anywhere else.



Downsteam Implementation: Work Team Sites

Now, it is time to implement.  In this scenario, we have three implementation teams for process ideas.  We have set up these work sites using standard native SharePoint team sites.  This is where the teams work on incoming approved process improvements.  The approved ideas appear in their team sites as tasks.  They manage their own work team.  Each team is able to organize their content and internal work as they please.

Below is a screenshot of how the incoming items look to users.  They have everything they need to implement the process idea.  In addition, they have track-back URL’s to the approved project in the Management site and further upstream to the original idea in the Process Improvement community.  While working, Windows Workflow Foundation is used to automate notifications based upon the information that has flowed downstream.

implementation task



This Process Improvement Workstream provides you with an end-to-end solution.  You implement it using Cim off-the-shelf, with a bit of WWF for notifications, and some team sites.  It is a great way to start, but, it is just the beginning.  You can beef up the process with more robust downstream modules such as the Project and Program sites from CorasWorks PPM.  You can extend the Management site to incorporate additional supporting processes (eddies if you will in the workstream metaphor) such as supporting sites for specialized Review Teams to flesh out the ideas before approval.  You can also have different communities to segment the ideation phase say by division or purpose.  And, of course you can follow the same workstream approach to implement other workstreams for different business scenarios.

An important aspect when designing workstreams such as this is that they do indeed cut across a SharePoint landscape.  You have different modules in different phases in different departments usually implemented as different Site Collections and even Web Applications.  CorasWorks connects across all of these boundaries to enable you to have a fully integrated, end-to-end process where people can work from wherever they work.  In addition, as described above CorasWorks solutions natively integrate with any other sites in SharePoint and with Windows Workflow Foundation to drive notifications and updates.

This particular workstream is pre-packaged for Cim users and can be provided as part of your Cim Jump Start.  Look for more business scenario snapshots like this in the future…