Tag Archive for Channels

IT Requirements Gathering with Cim: Reduce Costs, Drive Collaboration and Visibility, Improve Results

In my last post, I introduced a new way to leverage Cim for group-to-group Channels that increase interactivity.  In this article, we are going to look at a business scenario that takes the Channel approach and integrates it with a more standard innovation management workstream.  The scenario is IT Requirements Gathering and the solution provides a solid way to reduce costs, increase collaboration, and drive efficiencies and effectiveness.

Does your organizations’ IT department gather requirements for new applications, changes to existing applications or infrastructure, or new infrastructure projects?  How is this done?  Meetings perhaps?  Emails? (lots of both) Is it considered effective?  Are the “customers” all local or are they distributed? Do you ever get the questions later on as to who wanted a given requirement, or how important it was ranked, or whether it got into the project?

Requirements gathering is an art.  If you take a look at the normal requirements gathering process, in most organizations, it not easy or neat or efficient.  It is a challenge of engagement, balancing, documenting, feedback, prioritizations, and politics.  When you are working on requirements with “customers” that are across the earth, it is even more challenging.  Further, the flow from the “customers”, through the requirements manager/process, and to those that are doing the project is usually quite constrained – particularly the upstream visibility and interaction from the “developer” to the customer.  The historical record of how the requirements came to be is usually impossible to decipher or get your hands on in a convenient manner.  We can do better.

Below is a schematic that depicts a process leveraging CorasWorks Idea Management and the Channels approach.  The IT department has a management hub to gather and work up requirements and manage all requirements projects.  When a new potential project comes up, they create a Channel community between them and the associated “customer”.  Most often the customer is a single business group or department.  That customer then has the UI for this requirement process right there in their portal – very convenient.  If the potential project is with a cross-functional team, then, you create a Channel from IT to a site being used by the team (it is a cross-functional portal).



Then, the interaction starts.  IT may set a timeframe, say 30 days for the requirements process to happen.  The customers start entering requirements or the IT department can post those that they have.  Everyone within that Channel can review, rate, and comment.  There is high visibility.  The customer (usually many people) can “trade” amongst themselves and the Star Power ranking shows their prioritization.  IT can respond with feasibility information or comments. It is highly interactive.  It is asynchronous – meaning people can engage whenever they want or need to.

IT then processes the requirements in the hub.  They are already initially prioritized by the customer.  They may feed back summary documents or specs to the customer for vetting via the Channel.  Once they are set they push the approved requirements into the project sites that they have created.  The people working on the project can do their work and can interact directly with specific people from the customer on specific requirements.  If you leave the Channel open, new requirements or changes can flow through.  There is a visible and persistent history of what was proposed, said, by whom, decided, assigned, and the status.  Routine updates can be provided via the Channel as the requirements process becomes a development/implementation project.

This scenario is a standard idea to innovation workstream using Cim.  Except these are not individual ideas but a collection of related requirements for each IT project.  They use point-to-point Channels to make it convenient for people to engage from wherever they normally work and to enable a high level of visibility and interactivity for this specific project.  The Channel can be used for the Requirements process, the implementation/development process, and even, future change request management.

The upshot is that this solution can take a challenging and not so neat process of requirements gathering and make it considerably better.  Just add people…


Channels: Group to Group Inter-activity

A couple weeks back I got wind of a customer that wanted to address a very straightforward problem – getting Marketing and Sales to work better together.  This is an area that can benefit every commercial organization.  With a bit of inspiration, we came up with a rather nifty way of addressing this challenge by leveraging Cim to provide two-way, group-to-group interactivity.  Let’s take a look at the scenario and the solution.

So, what are some of the activities that these two departments typically interact on (or, should interact on).  Here are just a few:

  • Review and vetting of Marketing Collateral
  • Questions about upcoming events
  • Vetting campaigns and events
  • Customer stories that can be used by marketing
  • New market ideas
  • Ideas for new campaigns, events, product marketing
  • Prioritization of activities
  • Information from sales on competition, channel, field and market activity

In May, I wrote an article about the 4 C’s – 4 different types of ways to capture ideas (Idea Communities, Campaigns, Challenges, and Contests).  Last month, I wrote about the two primary ways that ideas flow in an idea and innovation workstream.  These articles address standard idea and innovation scenarios where a larger community of people are engaging with a smaller group of people that own a business process.

However, the situation of improving communication and inter-activity between the Sales department and the Marketing department is quite different.  It is two groups of people that need to work together on lots of things.  It is more of a point-to-point, communication, and interaction scenario.  Hmm…

Below is a graphic of the solution using a new approach that we will call “Channels” (another “C” use).  The objective is to get Marketing and Sales working better together.  What you see here are individuals within each department working in their own separate portals.  Historically, the twain do not meet.  They work in their silos.  To interact they need to go somewhere else.  However, now we introduce Cim and our Idea Communities, and, viola the Channel is born (the green connecting pipe).

idea channel-2-400


Here is how it works.  Each person continues working in their department portal.  A Cim idea community is deployed in the background working as a service.  The Community front-end UI goes into each portal.  The Channel is now in place.  To each department, it appears that they have a point-to-point communication channel with the other department – which, in fact, they do.

Now, they start to work.  A few scenarios:

  • The marketing department posts a new presentation for Sales to review.  A number of sales people rate it and make comments.  They upload a couple of presentations that they have done or their own.  Marketing reviews them.  Marketing sets up a meeting to discuss the presentation with all comers and gets feedback – with people logging comments in the virtual workspace.  A few days later marketing comes out with the final presentation which is posted and immediately available.
  • They set up a Section for Customer Stories.  The sales folks gradually start to enter stories – it is easy and convenient to do so.  Other reps rate the stories and make some comments.  Marketing reviews it and asks questions.  Marketing then creates a snapshot for the web site and asks sales to review it.
  • Over time, sales folks have posted ideas for marketing campaigns and events.  Just before the quarter marketing posts 5 fleshed out campaigns/events and allows sales to vet them for a week (rate and comment).  The deal is that marketing will fund the top 3 rated events.  At the end of the time, marketing posts the quarterly plan for all to see.

The list and interactivity goes on and on.  There is now a very rich Channel for collaboration, information, and interaction between the departments.  It is easy to use and convenient because no-one has to go somewhere to engage – they work from “home”.  It has high visibility and there is a persistent history.  It is easy to search and there is a simple Tagsnonomy for folks to use to filter information.  Everyone can see the most recent items entered and highest rated. It is a rich, collaborative way of working with rating, commenting, RSS feeds, notifications, file uploads, etc.

Department to department Channels like this can make a big difference.  It starts with accountability that comes from visibility, easy access, and being given a chance to have your say. So, how about a Channel between Sales and Product Management.  Or, a channel between IT and Operations.  After a while you would come to expect that each Department or Business Function will have a number of Channels to other key departments with which they have a high degree of interaction and information flow. 

With Cim, those items (like a really good idea) that should make their way into more formal process like product development or marketing campaign development can be siphoned off and processed via a Management Hub and flow into the implementation phase.  

Okay, formally, I am adding Channels to my list of uses of CorasWorks Idea Management.  It is now the 5 C’s.  The question for you is what other departments or business functions do you or should you be working closely with to improve business results?